Ta, Ambassador!

Published May 28, 2022, 4:00 PM

by Carol RH Malasig

Australian envoy set to end PH tour

Australia’s ambassador to the Philippines, Steven J. Robinson, is wrapping up his tour of duty in the country. It’s quite the consensus among media covering the diplomatic beat that Ambassador Robinson, one of the friendliest, most hardworking ambassadors we’ve encountered, will definitely be missed. He’s intelligent, no doubt about that. But the man also possesses great humor, which endeared him even more to Filipinos. At a media reception in his home this month, he had quite the advice for his successor: “Get out of the NCR as often as you can.”

This, he said, is what he tried to do as much as he could during his three-year posting in the country. Even with the pandemic, he’s been to 51 of the 81 provinces, venturing out even to as far as Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, and Basilan for work. “If you go and do that, you engage the governments. The governors, the mayors, the vice mayors. But the people—the people are the most important thing,” he said, adding how engagement with locals from all walks of life is the best way to start understanding the Philippines. “I think I’m starting to understand but it’s taken three years to start to understand. So my advice to my successor is to get out there.”

Instead of winding down, Ambassador Robinson has had quite a busy month with celebrations for Philippine-Australia Friendship Day. A diplomatic reception at Shangri-La at the Fort and a public event at SM Megamall showcased some of the best ways the relationship between the two countries has flourished through the years.

FRIENDSHIP DAY Ambassador Steven J. Robinson with former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other high-ranking PH government officials in a diplomatic reception to celebrate PH-Australia Friendship day

Trade ties are growing—quite exponentially—with Australia’s agrifood exports to the Philippines increasing in value by 90.16 percent from 2020 to 2021. Well-loved products from Australian brands are also becoming readily available at local shops, brands like Coles, which is exclusively distributed at SM Supermarkets, Woolworths, and cosmetics brand BYS, to name a few.

More and more students are also choosing Australian universities, surpassing those in the US in 2019 as the top destination for Filipino tertiary students studying abroad. There are currently 13,000 Filipino students in Australia.

‘Get out of the NCR as often as you can. If you go and do that, you engage the governments. The governors, the mayors, the vice mayors. But the people—the people are the most important thing.’

ONE FOR THE ROAD Ambassador Steven J. Robinson in a media get together in the official residence

The embassy has also been active in a lot of causes. From working very closely on countering child sexual exploitation through the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children’s Center, which has rescued over 500 victims since 2019, to helping out during natural calamities and providing logistical support in the pandemic so that vaccines could reach the different islands within the archipelago. They’re also active in the defense sector, having signed MOUs in the last year relating to logistics support and industry cooperation.

About AUD90 million is also being invested in education in the Philippines from 2017 to 2026. “Australia has been here working on education for over 30 years and we’re very proud of that because education is the mainstay for any country in terms of its development. If you get the foundation right, everything else will follow,” Ambassador Robinson said.

To say that it’s been a fruitful posting for the ambassador is quite an understatement. With such a great foundation in the relations, it’s exciting to see how that relationship will continue to grow in the future. This definitely warrants a toast.

ANGELIC Moët Hennesy has brought Château d’Esclans’ Whispering Angel to Manila


Speaking of drinks, some exciting news on that front. Moët Hennesy has brought to the country what is arguably the most popular rosé in the world. Whispering Angel, a Provençal rosé, which made waves in the US is finally in Manila. It made its debut at a chic event at Raffles Makati just last week.

A fun, fruity, and refreshing rosé, it’s perfect for brunches and even apéro. It’s dry with a smooth finish, making it perfect for the Philippines’ tropical climate. This is summer water anyone who likes a cheery drink would be happy to indulge in.

On World Whisky Day which—thankfully—happened to be on a Saturday, I found myself at Solaire’s Italian restaurant Finestra, where they were having The Dalmore Gala Dinner. A five-course dinner featuring whisky pairings using various Dalmore liquids, it was quite the experience. I do love myself a good whisky (preferably neat) and learning how to pair it with food was such a great bonus. Another reason to enjoy a good drink.

WORLD WHISKY DAY The Dalmore’s gala dinner at Finestra featured even more ways to enjoy whisky

The Dalmore 15 was such a standout paired with a 20-day, whisky aged ribeye. Utterly glorious. And while Finestra is known for its steaks, I do have to commend their work with fish. The beet-cured Tasmanian salmon served as an appetizer and the fish course, which featured roasted yellowtail on a bed of cauliflower purée, has got me thinking about whether I can actually become fully pescetarian.

But I digress. I merely wanted to recommend more bottles for your next event. Or your home bar—it’s the weekend after all and we deserve one for getting through another week.