Playwrights note: Philippine Consulate, San Diego County, is our project’s overall community partner. Full disclosure–I am married to the Honorary Consul of the Philippines, Audie de Castro. Sounds fancy, huh? It has been a growth experience both for Audie and myself. I didn’t even know what an Honorary Consul was before he became one. As a Filipino American, I find myself in the intersection of two cultures. Being married to Audie makes this intersection more intense. Although Audie was born in the United States, he was made in the Philippines. He brings me closer to my culture through his work, interests, language, and his food. He is an excellent cook. But the strongest cultural value he embodies daily is love for his family. Our project is so much richer because of the community ties his office brings to us. I thank him for his courage, commitment, and service.
Tell us about yourself.
I am the youngest of 5 children. Although I am the only one in my family born in the U.S., I am now the only remaining Filipino citizen (dual citizenship). I am proud that my parents raised me as a Filipino (culturally). They taught me how to speak Tagalog. I can cook authentic foods, like kare kare, sinigang, menudo, siopao, etc. I feel like I truly grew up in a dual culture.
Professionally, I am a full-time lawyer. But I am also the Honorary Consul of the Philippines. I love spending time with my wife, Thelma, and hanging out with my two boys (15 and 11). I like to exercise and have become a yogi. I often enjoy remaining anonymous at local cafes.
What inspired you to get involved in community work?
I met a few community leaders many years ago who encouraged me to get involved in organizations. There were quite a few along the way who inspired me, but I got my first introduction to leadership by joining a Filipino accounting group and becoming its President. Then I met a man named Stan Chu in the early 2000s who invited me to lunch one day and encouraged me to get involved. From there, it snowballed into more activities and community causes as I met many positive role models (Tony Olaes being one of them) who further inspired me to help others.
What are your duties with the Philippine Consulate, San Diego County?
I am the official representative of the Philippine government in San Diego County. My day-to-day duties are to provide basic consular services to residents in the County. I also promote trade, tourism, and diplomacy between the two countries, so my office often organizes or attends various events and meets with other public officials. We also offer assistance to Filipino nationals. While I am unpaid, this is literally a 7 day per week role—events, visits, calls, emails, texts, etc. And because there are over 200,000 Filipino-Americans in San Diego County, a lot can happen every day! It is challenging but fulfilling.
Why did the Consulate become a community partner for this project?
My primary role is to promote the Philippines, its culture and the community. I don’t believe I would be doing a great service by focusing only on the positive things and sweeping the rest under a rug. We need to bring an awareness to issues, like domestic violence and mental health problems, in order to address them. I am hoping that raising awareness in an artistic way– a theatre production—will be an effective way to strengthen our community. Most importantly, this project is for the survivors and their loved ones.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
In my role as Honorary Consul, I am exposed to domestic violence issues. I think a lot of these are related to mental health, alcohol, drugs and other complicated factors. I have learned from both personal and professional experiences to never make assumptions or judge a person involved in domestic violence. You don’t always know what a person is going through in his or her life. My job is to listen and support.