WHILE CONGEN SPEAKS: REPUBLICAN SPEAKER OF the House of Representatives of Missouri Todd Richardson of District 152 shares the podium with Consul General Generoso D. G. Calonge, who speaks before the Missouri House of Representatives during its regular session on Feb. 23, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Missouri State Capitol)

CHICAGO — My informant (my close friend) told me he met the incoming consul general for the Midwest at the Department of Foreign Affairs offices in Manila in February this year.

When the name of the incoming consulate official was mentioned to me, it almost floored me.

When I asked my informant what she said about her new assignment, he said the newly appointed ConGen asked updates on prominent newspaper publishers in Chicago whom the new ConGen could still remember.

When she comes to Chicago, she will be back at the “scene of the crime.”

Her “crime” (violation of Philippine Anti-Graft Law?) was collecting “pakimkims” (gifts) from 155 prominent community members during her son’s baptism that took place shortly before she left Chicago. The number of godparents was simply scandalous.

Ok, perhaps, the new ConGen did not need some “debriefing” by my friend as her appointment had already been “signed, sealed and delivered.”  

I wanted to communicate with the incoming ConGen so I could get her answers to questions she had left behind in Chicago when she was a lowly consul 23 years ago.

Some of the questions I want to ask: Why did you invite 155 people to be the godparents at the baptism of your son? Did you regret gathering the many ninongs (male Godparents) and ninangs (female Godparents) at the baptism? Some of the Godparents had told me “they went to the rest rooms to reduce the amount of the checks for their “pakimkim” when they realized they were among too many Godparents.

Will you encourage other Consuls to do the same thing?

Did the incoming ConGen hear President Duterte, in his 2nd State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) on July 24, 2017, say he does not believe in “positivist theory” that says there is redemption among recidivists?

I also wanted to ask the incoming ConGen how much she had collected and what she had done  with the “pakimkims” (gifts)  she collected from 155 ninongs and ninangs in 1994. 

I found a feature written by then contributor, Mariano “Anong” Santos (now publisher of Pinoy Newsmagazine) for the weekly Philippine Time (dated May 5, 1994) and entitled, “No Big Joke” ‘This baptism is one for the books.”

In the feature, Santos recalled an incident when the incoming ConGen’s husband approached him, “He’s one kababayan that I’m not particularly thrilled to see. But there he was approaching me again during my recent visit at Rizal Center.

“So, we’re compadres,” he said as he shook my hand. “I reluctantly extended my right hand and asked, “I don’t understand. I don’t remember being a Godfather with a handshake.

“But you and my wife are both ninong and ninang or at least you two of over twelve dozens Godparents to the son of …”

“She’s not an ambassador …”, cutting short his punning, and I added, “I think that’s a personal matter.”

“Personal, my foot! One hundred fifty-five of the who’s who in the Filipino American community being made ninongs and ninangs of the second ranking Filipino official in Chicago — that’s the most public you can get!” he responded with his characteristic excitement.

“So, we’re compadres’. So how’s kumare?” I asked without much enthusiasm.

“Padre, she’s a little puzzled and disappointed on why you didn’t have anything in your column about that big event.”

“Well, frankly that’s not my beat. Besides my publisher (referring to another outlet, in which  Santos used to write) will not allow me to write about this topic.”

“He answered impatiently, ‘I know. I know! That’s why I’m puzzled, too!’ You write political and social commentaries. Yet you keep quiet! The consulate people got you, media persons! They made you ninongs and ninangs so you’ll keep your peace. At nabakalan pa! (And extorted, too!)

“Calm down now …you mean the baptism merits editorializing?” I irritably asked him.

“Well, what do you think!? One hundred fifty godparents multiply by a hundred bucks, that’s $15,000 (or $15,500 to be exact)! And that is not to the victims of Philippine national disasters,” he triumphantly announced.”

“Oh, yes! And my name is John the Baptist!”

“You media people are bunch of suckers! Some bigwigs make you compadre and you all look the other way! What the consul did was the moral equivalent of extortion! Having 150 godparents has nothing to do with making a good Christian out of her baby! Down with those that exploit the holy sacraments! Down with those that exploit the holy sacraments! The innocents should not be used! That consul should be banished to Africa!”

As we bid goodbye to our dear outgoing Consul General Generoso D. G. Calonge — who will be honored with a Farewell Party hosted by the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Chicago at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Consulate at 122 South Michigan, Suite 1600, Chicago, between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 16 – I am dedicating this column to the consulate officials in Chicago who have done the good things (thumbs up!) for the community.