Beatrice “Betty” Burgos Bael and Edwin Doremon Ball





A Memoir Dedicated to U.P.

By Edwin and Betty Bael“And now that we have returned to the desultory life of the plain, let us endeavor to import a little of that mountain grandeur into it. We will remember within what walls we lie, and understand that this level life too has its summit, and why from the mountain-top the deepest valleys have a tinge of blue; that there is elevation in every hour, as no part of the earth is so low that the heavens may not be seen from, and we have only to stand on the summit of our hour to command an uninterrupted horizon”. ~Henry David Thoreau

Part One

Prologue. A product of all-girls Catholic schools, Betty had learned all the finer things of a sheltered life but not much about what was beyond the four walls of those schools. It was only when she met Edwin that the real world and the bigger picture took some meaning. Edwin, a self-made man who had to burn his candles to stay on top of the class in all his academic life, had conquered self and the world. Their desire to hold everyone in high esteem and to uplift the image of the Filipino, is a passion that they learned and developed through their public service. This started when they were sweethearts at the University of the Philippines College of Public Administration where they first learned the value of true governance and of having a mission that goes beyond the self. After they both finished their courses at the graduate school, they got married. With that, their fate to serve the country and the Filipino was sealed forever and both have given their best and most productive 20 years of their life as a career diplomat couple. Today, as they start a new life beyond public service, they both become each other’s advocate, pillar, anchor, frontrunner, work horse – all rolled into one, to continue to promote and showcase the positive and the beauty of the Filipino.

The Self-Made Barrio Boy (Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte). “The charm, one might say, the genius of memory, is that it is choosy, chancy, and temperamental: it rejects the edifying cathedral and indelibly photographs the small boy outside, chewing a hunk of melon in the dust.” ~Elizabeth Bowen. In a pensive mood, Edwin remembers how this serious, scholarly barrio boy practically grew up with books as his ‘barkada’ (company), spending many silent moments with them, hungrily devouring every bit of knowledge while sitting in that one quiet seaside corner of Mindanao – Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte, he dearly loved as his hometown. That was most of his childhood memory – a constant struggle to be always #1 in class to enjoy 100% tuition-free education from grade one till law and graduate schools. He can still vividly see all those first honors/valedictorian ribbons and plaques consistently hung on the walls of their humble abode year after year – the pride and joy of his family. As a political science student at the Mindanao State University in the 70’s, he became a crusading student leader (Supreme Student Council Member/ROTC Corps Commander) and was imprisoned (without charges!) for 22 days when Martial Law was declared. This thirst for knowledge, idealism of youth, coupled with leadership ability later on developed into a burning passion to serve the public, especially the underdog. This became the dominant force that influenced his future dreams and hopes. Graduating Magna Cum Laude from Andres Bonifacio U Law School in Dipolog City, he passed the 1978 Philippine Bar exams with an 87.15% rating, a surprise to many law graduates from well-known law schools in Manila. He joined Court of Appeals as attorney researcher and at the same time obtained full-time MPA scholarship from nearby UP College of Public Administration in Padre Faura, to pursue his dream of serving his province and somehow make a difference. But that fateful first day of school totally changed all that…

The Fairy Tale Girl (San Carlos City, Negros Occidental). “Happy is she who still loves something in the nursery: She has not been broken in two by time; she is not two women, but one, and she has saved not only her soul but her life.” ~G.K. Chesterton. Dreamlike, she recalls the innocent, scared, and shy provincial girl lost in the pages of her fairy tale books, who hails from the once prosperous Sugarlandia in the Visayas – San Carlos City, Negros Occidental. Still with the pungent molasses smell stuck in her nostrils, she dreamt her day away tiptoeing on green verdant plains and valleys carpeted with sugarcane fields. Always alone with her fairy tale fantasies and only awakened by the simple joys and warmth of family love, it was the only life she knew or ever cared to know which sheltered her from the big wide strange world. Catholic values from home and school dominated most of her childhood and young adulthood. With simple dreams of obtaining a college education, then returning home and marry a local lad, she finished Bachelor of Arts in a Catholic all-girls school, St. Theresa’s College in Cebu City where she developed her penchant for arts and culture, enhanced her social graces and awakened her social consciousness. Immediately after graduation, she applied for local jobs but was turned down because of her inexperience and shyness. However, one day Dr. Ramon Valmayor, a family friend offered her sister a job in Los Banos which the latter declined. As a new graduate with a shy personality, she was the second best choice. With much gratitude to Dr. Valmayor, an internationally well-known banana scientist and an executive of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) located at that time inside the UP Los Banos campus, she anxiously accepted her first job. This was her very first step to the big wide ‘scary’ world! Little did she know that after 2 years working with the Council, her fate would start to unfold. She received a full-time two-year MS scholarship sponsored by USAID through the Council, and did not even realize that she sat beside Edwin on the first day of graduate school in UP-Padre Faura.

Destiny At The U.P. Padre Faura. “The world is so empty if one thinks only of the mountains, rivers, and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, who is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. All of a sudden, there he was striding inside the classroom with an aura of confidence looking for an empty seat at the back. The noisy ladies hush-hushed a bit as they curiously turned their heads to check who just came in. Unaware of what was happening, Betty who was seated at the back was somehow captivated with the whole aura of the classroom. With a ‘spic and span’ orientation of an exclusive Catholic girls school’s classroom environment, she was somehow disappointed to see the old draperies hanging on the windows which had seen better days. She had to remind herself that this is a 1908 building, the very first University of the Philippines. Consoled with the thought that she was now part of a great institutional history, she felt gratified.

After class that first day, they were both standing together waiting for the green light to cross the street. Just before the light was on, they got to know that they are in the same class, both Cebuano-speaking and newly arrived in Manila. From that day on, they started crossing the same street together in the evenings after school, for the next two years, each time, an opportunity to appreciate the depth of each other’s spirit until they have became kindred souls…They both remember a card from Betty to Edwin towards the end of their studies, which reads: “To the guy who lays down the law from the gal who makes all the amendments” which had some bearing on some things to come. Edwin’s plan of returning home after their studies to serve his province took a different turn…

Growing Roots (Los Banos, Laguna & Manila). “Preparing the soil for the unexpected good to sprout in.” ~JRR Tolkien. After completing their classroom requirements for their MPA course, they tied their knot on January 9, 1982. They settled in Los Banos, Laguna where Betty resumed work with PCARRD and served her scholarship contract. Edwin passed the foreign service exams (also known as the toughest national government exam with only 10% passing rate). During this time – the turbulent years of the Marcos era – he joined the Department of Foreign of Affairs, the most stable and respected government institution at that time. Immersed in his new job, he had to postpone completion of his masteral course requirements. Betty on the other hand, reviewed for her comprehensive exams while infanticipating with their first baby. She was lovingly assisted by the best tutor she could ever have (Edwin), passed it and graduated in 1983 with Masters in Public Administration major in Policy Analysis and Program Administration.

In the middle of 1983, Edwin left for Australia under the Colombo Plan to take up a Foreign Service Officer’s Course in Canberra, Australia. Almost at this same time, Betty was sent by her office to Washington DC to attend a course in Governmental Management at George Mason University. After their short-term courses abroad, Edwin prepared himself for foreign assignment. He completed the Basic Foreign Service Officers Course at the Foreign Service Institute in Manila as well as studied French and Spanish Language Courses. As a new officer, he worked with Visa & Passport Divisions and later became Head of the DFA Unit in the One-Stop Processing Center for Overseas Workers.

In 1986, he completed two graduate studies: from U.P., Master in Public Administration major in Policy Analysis and Program Administration, and received the Robert Stauffer Award for Academic Excellence, being No.1 in the Dean’s List; and from National Defense College of the Philippines, Masters in National Security Administration for which he was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel in the Philippine Marines reserves.

Part Two

The Burgeoning Years (Madrid, Spain – Honolulu, Hawaii – Los Angeles, California). “When the April wind wakes the call for the soil, I hold the plough as my only hold upon the earth, and, as I follow through the fresh and fragrant furrow, I am planted with every foot-step, growing, budding, blooming into a spirit of spring”. ~Dallas Sharp. After the EDSA Revolution of 1986, Edwin and Betty together with their four-year old son Tristan excitedly packed up their belongings to head for their first foreign assignment. As Third Secretary and Vice Consul in the Philippine Embassy in Madrid, Spain, he was the most junior officer in the Embassy. Edwin and Betty tried to learn what needed to be learned, to become the best representatives of their country in a foreign land. Edwin took up Advanced International Studies and Commercial Spanish in Madrid. They were very fortunate to be under the tutelage of Ambassador and Mrs. Juan Jose Rocha, a political appointee and a successful business executive in Manila whose wife, with her grace, fine and cultured taste, is the epitome of a diplomatic spouse. With all its old world glory, high culture and precious art, Madrid, was a perfect training ground for any young diplomat. Serving a small Filipino community composed mostly of domestic helpers, a handful of the rich mestizo class, and a few scholars and students from the Philippines, gave them a good grasp of community. For the first time after her 10-year job in the Philippines, Betty was juggling her life between a full-time wife and mother, and a diplomatic spouse. In 1988, they were blessed with another son, Bernard. After four good years, they packed up to head for Honolulu, Hawaii, for their next assignment.

Suit clad, Edwin and Betty together with their two sons in European-style knee-high socks and knee-length shorts set foot on this ‘hang loose’ paradise. True to form diplomats, they wasted no time for culture shock. They wore Hawaiian shirts and flowery clothes like any other locals, enjoyed the sea and mountain view every minute of it, while the boys learned English for the first time, including ‘Pidgin” English. They were surprised to note that Filipinos in that part of the world call themselves Ilocanos. Coming from tightly-knit families, the Filipino community in Hawaii is one of the most ‘cohesive’ Filam communities in the US. After 14 months as Consul and Administrative Officer, the 2nd ranked officer of the Philippine Consulate in Hawaii, Edwin and family were whisked off to the bigger mainland city in Los Angeles, California.

From the clean and green refreshing Honolulu, they were welcomed with brown landscapes, smog and traffic jams and the Rodney King riot as they touched down LAX airport. In spite of the environmental challenges of this city, Edwin as one of the Consuls of the Philippine Consulate General in LA felt fortunate to serve the biggest jurisdiction of Filipino community outside the country. The LA Filam community which is by far the most diverse with more than 400 organizations, proved to be very demanding and formidable. But the young couple took it as challenge and opportunity to harness their skills, and most importantly, to find the ‘true north’ of their mission in the midst of these challenges. Betty, for the first time after six years, had a great break from just being wife, mother and a support to Edwin. Working in a law office, having one’s own little world in an 8 to 5 job, was a welcome change and a boost to one’s self-esteem. During the last year of their assignment, Edwin was appointed Acting Head of Post, another opportunity to ‘sharpen the saw’. But everything always seemed to happen in the blink of an eye in LA. Their memorable and productive three-year assignment in this city of contrasts was concluded with a big bang – the 1994 Northridge earthquake! Soon after the countless farewell parties during those aftershocks period, they packed up their suitcases, marking the end of their first tour of duty in this city.

The Fertilizing Era (Manila, Philippines). “Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss. Nothing is as rich. Nothing is more real”. ~Deepak Chopra. As part of their career cycle, foreign service officers go back to the country at the end of their tour of duty, to reconnect, reinvigorate and get the real pulse of the country and people before they are sent again to foreign missions. While in Manila, Edwin was appointed Director for Political Affairs, then Executive Director of the Office for U.N. and International Organizations at DFA. He represented the country in, or was part of the Philippine delegations to various U.N. conferences on nuclear non-proliferation, chemical and biological weapons, human rights, environmental programs, international law, regional security, refugees, migration, international humanitarian law, Asia-Africa Consultative Committee and the Non-Aligned Movement which brought him to all continents of the world. He also advised the Philippine Senate on the ratification of some of these treaties. At the first APEC Summit in Manila, he was appointed liaison officer for Pres. Clinton. During this period, he took up Advanced Foreign Service Officers’ course at the Foreign Service Institute in Manila, the UNEP Distance Study Course on International Environmental Law in Nairobi & Manila, and the Career Ministers’ Course, after which he passed the Career Ministers’ Exam, a requirement for career Ambassador’s position.

Betty, on the other hand was fortunate to work for her friend, former colleague in Los Banos and now CEO-President of the sole distributor of Sun Microsystems, Inc. in Makati, Philippines. Her first corporate four-year work in the HR Department of this IT company, had given her a new sense of fulfillment, a new sense of self. To be able to touch real people’s lives in the workplace was for her the greatest opportunity her CEO friend, Cynthia Mamon gave her…a treasure that she is forever grateful.

The Flowering Time (Canberra, Australia – Los Angeles, California). “We can hold back neither the coming of the flowers nor the downward rush of the stream; sooner or later, everything comes to its fruition.” ~Loy Ching-Yuen. In 1998, Edwin received his assignment order as Minister and Consul General of the Philippine Embassy in Canberra, Australia. It was a dream come true. Canberra, a quiet garden city and capital of this young and vibrant country, was for them a paradise. It was a privilege to work for their indefatigable, seasoned lady Ambassador, Delia Domingo-Albert (later became the first lady Secretary of the Dept. of Foreign Affairs) who unselfishly shared her experience and wisdom, helping the Baels prepare for the ultimate in their career. As Minister and Consul General, Edwin with Betty had several opportunities to represent the Ambassador in official functions. For Betty, she was lucky to be hired soon after they arrived in Canberra, by the Visa Department of the British High Commission and through hard work, obtained a permanent position. As the only foreigner (other than the British nationals) in the workforce, she had to understand both Australian and British accent quickly. She not only learned the efficient British work system but gained wonderful friends there as well. After two short years, a surprise assignment order came. They were dragging their feet to leave Australia to assume post in LA as Consul General, Edwin’s first head of post assignment. The brief stint in paradise was for them “too beautiful to last”.

As a second timer in the LA post, the Baels somehow had a good feel of the challenges at hand. Arriving at LAX in 2000, they viewed the landscape with a new vision. At a time when the negative side of the Philippines was mostly highlighted, the Baels wasted no time and rolled up their sleeves. They also noted that the Filipino talents in the arts and culture arena provided positive impact all over the world. And LA as the gateway of visiting internationally recognized Filipino artists and professionals gave the Baels opportunity to showcase the best of the best Filipino talents. It was during this time that diplomats representing more than 80 countries in LA, the local officials, business and community leaders have frequented the Consul General’s residence who ‘wowed’ their performances and looked forward to the Bael’s next invitation. At this time, Betty was a full-time support for Edwin. She was very active with international and local arts and culture organizations, always finding opportunities to be involved and showcase the Filipino artist. As a team, they successfully hosted many events which gained full support from the community. The community was mostly drawn by the classy way they showcased the jewels of their country, and which elicited pride from the community. During this period, the Philippine Consul General (Edwin) was counted with the Consuls General of Britain, France and Japan as the most influential diplomats who invariably got invited to select events and receptions involving the international community. With the dizzying pace of their 24-7 schedule attending to all their social and official functions, some things were brewing somewhere. Politics, intrigue and machinations crept in, especially after the change of administration of EDSA II. In one stroke of the pen, they decided to make a clean getaway and end their 20-year romance with the foreign service.

The Pruning Episode (San Diego, California). “One must be thrust out of a finished cycle in life, and that leap is the most difficult to make, when one would rather renew the faith and recreate the passion”. ~Anais Nin. Taking a six-month leave without pay, the Baels took a break from their heretofore hectic life in Orange County with loving friends who offered them shelter and solace. Taking the radical changes in stride and always trusting in the Great Almighty (“all things work together for the good of those who love Him”), their prayers were answered. Edwin was offered a job with an immigration law firm opening a new branch in San Diego. Following the cue to give closure to a chapter in life, Edwin decided to hand in his resignation/early retirement letter on the Philippine Independence Day of 2002, a symbolic way of saying goodbye to and declaring freedom from the institution he once loved and respected. Today, Edwin and Betty continue to showcase the beauty and the pride of the Filipino through their involvement with the New Americans Museum and Learning Center, Charles Hostler Institute on World Affairs of SDSU, Knights of Rizal, International Society of Cultural Ambassadors, Citizens Diplomacy Council of San Diego, Creative Communities Committee of the SD Commission of Arts and Culture, U.P. Alumni Association of San Diego, Los Angeles and San Diego Consular Corps, to name a few.

Epilogue.“Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.” ~Samuel Johnson. As we journey together to another chapter in our life, we look forward with joy to our “Autumn… a second spring, where every leaf is a flower” ~ Albert Camus

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