Filipinos in Toronto honor consul named envoy to Jordan | Global News

Filipinos in Toronto honor consul named envoy to Jordan


(818) (1) (1) Consul General Junever Mahilum-West thanking the Filipino community in Toronto. PHOTO BY MARISA ROQUE

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — Fondly called “ConGen Jones” by the Filipino community, Consul General Junever Mahilum-West was honored by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Toronto on Saturday, March 7 at a brunch at the Kalayaan Cultural Community Centre (KCCC) in Mississauga.

The parangal also served as a despedida for Mahilum-West, who has been appointed Philippine Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan with concurrent jurisdiction over the Palestine Republic.


After a retrospective audio-visual presentation of Mahilum-West’s stint in Toronto, several speakers shared their stories on how she had immersed herself in the economic and cultural community affairs of Toronto’s Filipino Canadians.

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UPAAT honors Consul General Junever Mahilum-West with a plaque for her outstanding service to the Toronto Filipinos. From left, past UPAAT presidents Noel Cruz and Evelyn Laraya Pond; Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia; Beth RuivivarVasquez (current VP and Kapihan Chairperson UPAAT); former Philippine Consul General Toronto Junever Mahilum West; Fred Gamboa, current UPAAT president; and past presidents Joe Zagala, Linda Etzkorn, Mila Eustaquio Syme and Geny Toribio. PHOTO BY MARISA ROQUE

Beth Ruivivar Vasquez, UPAAT vice president, related how the Philippine Consulate General of Toronto, the Philippine Embassy, several sponsors and the Filipino community brought the famed Bayanihan Dance Troupe to Toronto in November 2012 on a very short preparation time.

The ambitious project was a resounding financial success with the proceeds donated to the daughters of Maricon Ala Gerente, a nanny diagnosed with a brain tumor and who has since passed away.

Romi Mananquil, founding president of the Philippine Artists Group (PAG) expressed his joy at finding “ConGen Jones” not only an avid participant who applied to be a member, but also an art patroness for Filipino Canadian artists.

“She turned the consular offices into a veritable gallery of Filipino Canadian artists’ works,” Mananquil added.

Joe Zagala, past UPAAT president, spoke of the Philippine government’s campaign to increase the number of Filipino Canadians opting for dual citizenship and commended the Philippine consulate staff, under the leadership of Mahilum-West, for their efficiency and effectiveness in getting Filipinos to become dual citizens.

Mahilum-West, in her remarks, stated, “Toronto ranks seventh among all Philippine Foreign Service Posts worldwide in the number of Overseas Voting registrants, surpassing PCG (Philippine Consulate General) target of 8,000.”


Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia explained what women diplomats can do to propel the Philippines forward, “which is to be cooperative, constructive and professional.”

She spoke of the “twin pillars of Philippine foreign policy,” the economic and the cultural, to which a third pillar has been added:  to protect and uphold the rights of Filipinos abroad.

Garcia commended Mahilum-West for making the consulate a great resource in the community, assisting and encouraging community initiatives.

Mahilum-Wes acknowledged the praises heaped on her for making the consulate, and by extension the Philippine government, so open and available to the community.

“Siguro po, matatawag akong babaing kaladkarin–para sa bayan (Perhaps I can be called a woman you can drag around—for the country),” she quipped, referring to her willingness to be asked to grace any and all occasions.  Her down-to-earth approachability has garnered tremendous goodwill for the Philippine government in the Filipino Canadian community.

Fred Gamboa, current UPAAT president and Beth Ruivivar, current vice president, presented the “former Consul General in Toronto and incoming Philippine Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary,” a plaque of appreciation for her “dedicated and untiring effort in promoting the interest of the Filipino Community in the Canadian-Filipino landscape in the field of culture, arts and sciences.”

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Consul General Mahilum-West (holding microphone) encourages participants and contestants at the 2014 PCUAA Summerfest to do their best. PHOTO BY MARISA ROQUE

Mahilum-West is the third of six children of the late Benjamin Mahilum and Paulita Melchor.  She was born in Cansayong, Malimono, Surigao del Norte, and lived with her grandmother and other family members when her parents left for post-graduate studies in the United States.

The future ConGen Jones graduated from UP Diliman in 1980 with a BS Foreign Service degree, and completed the Oxford University Foreign Service Programme in 1993-1994.

She rose from the ranks, working first as a casual employee with the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of Protocol.  She then worked for the Foreign Service Institute, the DFA’s research and training arm, for seven years.  She then took the Foreign Service Officers exams, passed, and entered the DFA as an officer in 1991.

Her previous assignments include the Philippine Embassy in Paris (1995-2001) and the Philippine Mission to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva (2004-2010).  She was posted as Consul General to Toronto from May 2012 to the present.

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Mahilum married John West in 1998, whom she met when she was assigned to the Philippine Embassy in Paris.

Queried on what Philippine government initiatives she would encourage the Filipino Canadian community to join, Mahilum-West gave several suggestions:

  • Apply for dual citizenship, then register to vote in the May 2016 Presidential elections.
  • Nominate candidates to numerous awards given by the Philippine Government to overseas Filipinos.
  • Join the Winter Escapade (one-week tour every 3rd week of January), which gives a singular re-familiarization tour of tourist spots in the Philippines.
  • Participate in the Commission on Filipinos Overseas annual Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora, held at the beginning of the year in Manila, to give particular focus on the community in Canada and not just have it lumped with Filipino communities in the US. She reminded the audience that the Filipino Canadian community has specific needs, experiences and accomplishments that could be shared with other Filipinos in other parts of the world, to gain insights and best practices.
TAGS: Kalayaan Cultural Community Centre (KCCC)

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