By Roy Mabasa
All Philippine flags in Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) offices here and abroad will be flown at half-mast until Friday in honor of Ambassador Bernardita “Bernie” Catalla who succumbed to COVID-19 while serving as the country’s envoy to Lebanon.
On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. led DFA officials in receiving the flag-draped remains of Catalla upon its arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
In a solemn ceremony at the NAIA tarmac, Locsin handed over the folded Philippine flag to Magdalena Catalla, the eldest sibling of the late Filipino envoy.
While awaiting the arrival of the plane carrying Catalla’s remains, Locsin tweeted: “Farewell Ma’am, flights of angels to thy rest.”
Her death comes at a time when most countries in the world are at a virtual standstill due to the global pandemic.
“As much honor as we could confer at the time and circumstances,” Locsin wrote in a separate tweet.
DFA Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez said the lowering of the flag to half-mast was cleared with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
Catalla was a career diplomat for 27 years who served in Malaysia and Indonesia and was Director of the Passport Division where she delivered frontline service to millions of Filipinos.
Prior to her assignment in Beirut, she was Consul General in Hong Kong looking over the welfare of the hundreds of OFWs in that area.
In December 2019, Catalla led the Embassy’s mass voluntary repatriation of mostly distressed overseas foreign workers in Lebanon.