Ana Algabre-Hernandez paints a full and fulfilling life
On a cold December evening in 2016, in the middle of a holiday trip, I found myself at a Rizal Day dinner at the Philippine Ambassador’s residence in Korea. I’ll always remember that event as the perfect example when it comes to hosting. The food tasted amazing, each dish exquisitely plated, and courses came out of the kitchen with perfect timing and precision. No one was in a hurry or panicking. The gathering was intimate, hosts were having fun and focused on their guests, the seating arrangement was well-thought of. It was an event even Downton Abbey’s über strict Mr. Carson would have been proud of.
Almost every diplomatic spouse will tell you that hosting is a difficult yet necessary part of the job but Madame Ana Algabre-Hernandez always made it look effortless.
Mme. Ana is the wife of former spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs who was later designated as Ambassador to Korea then Turkey, Raul Hernandez. I’ve known them since I was a young reporter and have always admired the way Mme. Ana handled her several roles in life. From a wife and a mother to an artist and a career woman constantly uprooted from one place to another, she’s made a home in each assignment and made sure there’s space for her own pursuits, something the ambassador wholly supported her with.
A life abroad
They met in Hong Kong while they were both with the private sector. Mme. Ana worked as a flight attendant for Cathay Pacific and it was two years into their marriage that Ambassador Hernandez decided to take the Foreign Service Exam. “Moving from one country to another was both a joy and a pain at the same time,” she says when asked about the challenges she faced. Leaving a career that was both professionally and financially rewarding was also a difficult choice she had to make. “I was in the first batch of a promotion to join the management team based on merit, but I had to give it up when my husband was assigned in Vancouver,” she recalls.
But Mme. Ana always found something that was truly her own wherever they went. “I had a teaching job in Vancouver. It was such a joy but I had to resign as we finished our tour of duty there,” says she, who would later focus on writing poetry and even publishing books for children and adults. Her memoirs (Binibining Stewardess, 2013) and handy guide on being a successful flight attendant (Welcome Aboard!, 2015) were both fun and very informative reads, even for people who aren’t in the aviation industry.
As an Ambassador’s wife, Mme. Ana was very active in their postings in Seoul and Ankara. “I am particularly grateful that in my little way as a diplomat’s spouse, I am able to promote the Filipino story—our culture, heritage, and identity not only to foreigners but to fellow Filipinos who have long lived abroad and have started to feel, talk, and act like strangers toward their motherland, the Philippines,” she said. “It brings me joy to meet migrant Filipinos who have done well, adjusted and adapted to the culture abroad but, equally, it brings me sorrow when one seems to ignore one’s heritage.”
‘No woman is neither too skinny nor too big, too much nor too little, too dark nor too light.’
A staunch advocate of wearing local, she’s also known for her impeccable taste and the way she represents Filipino culture abroad. In Turkey, she promoted Filipino cuisine, getting kare-kare the recognition it deserves. In Korea, she was often seen doing speaking engagements at universities and women’s associations, inspiring them to go for their dream career, their passion, and finding their purpose.
Spreading the message through art
Mme. Ana is also known for her paintings, having won competitions and participated in exhibits both here and abroad. “I grew up with art in my life,” she intimates. “My father was a prolific sculptor and water colorist. My mother is a modista who, in today’s terms, is a fashion designer.”
Her mother had her own dress shop and sewing business in Pampanga back when fast fashion wasn’t as popular as it is now. “It is through the art of my parents that my siblings and I were fed, clothed, and schooled.”
Her paintings often depict women in Filipiniana, a nod to our culture and one of her favorite forms of self-expression. “I paint women since it is a subject I am truly and easily able to connect with and that am confident I know about,” she says. “I create for a purpose—to evoke empowerment, goodwill, and love for culture and identity.”
Following the success of her exhibitions in Seoul, Ankara, Cebu, and Pampanga, she’s bringing her new series of artworks to an all-female exhibit running for the whole month of March at SM Clark. Her “Queen Series” will depict diversity in beauty, a sort of rebellion against society’s standards of beauty. “No woman is neither too skinny nor too big, too much nor too little, too dark nor too light,” she says.