Apr 15 2006
Are you below 36 years old by December 2006 and a college graduate? Are you knowledgeable in the economic, political, and social conditions of the Philippines? (Well, maybe not so much that one… didn’t know much myself at first). Are you willing to accept assignments and represent the Philippines to foreign posts? (yes! yes! yes!) The Foreign Service may be the right career path for you.
The Board of Foreign Service Examinations (BFSE) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has announced the holding of the FSO examinations to recruit candidates for appointment as FSOs. You may get your application form from the DFA at No. 2330, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City or you may download it from the DFA website.
What exactly does an FSO do? Well, according to the announcement of the BFSE,
“The duties of a Foreign Service Officer include: gathering information, analyzing and reporting political, economic, technological, cultural and other events and developments; drafting diplomatic notes and other forms of diplomatic correspondence, preparing briefing papers…” etc., etc.
Sounds pretty boring? Okay, it goes like this (more or less). After you pass the FSO exams, the President of the Philippines will sign your appointment papers, after which you will take your oath of office. Then, together with your batchmates, you will take a cadetship course at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) which would probably take around six months. There you will learn all the tools that you will need to help you become a career diplomat. You’ll take subjects like economics, economic diplomacy, diplomacy, negotiating, Philippine culture, diplomatic correspondence, and other esoteric stuff. There are also some fun stuff like ballroom dancing, Philippine foods, team-building in Tagaytay, VFA-monitoring in Clark, and others. You’ll also need to take a language class like Bahasa or Mandarin or French.
After the cadetship, you’ll get assigned to one of the different offices of the DFA. You could go to one of the geographic offices (Europe, America, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa), or one of the administrative offices (personnel, finance, administration), or you could be assigned to policy, ASEAN, consular, protocol, etc.. Myself, being a lawyer, I was assigned to the Office of Legal Affairs. Honey, who was my batchmate, got assigned to ASEAN where he was lucky enough to get work-related travels almost every other month (well, lucky for me too because I got the pasalubongs).
After three years in the Home Office, you would get assigned to one of the Philippines’ more than 80 posts abroad. If you get assigned to a consulate, you’re first position abroad would be as vice-consul. If you get assigned to an embassy, you will be third secretary (your political and diplomatic position) AND vice-consul (your consular position).
What do you do in your foreign post? Well, generally and depending on what desk is assigned to you, you represent and promote the political, economic, social, and cultural interests of the Philippines. You also issue passports, visas, notarial documents, and others. And of course, you promote the welfare and interests of the Filipinos within your jurisdiction.
Your tour of duty in your foreign post is six years (with an option for cross-posting depending on need and availability). Then, you go back to the Home Office for two years, then get posted again for six years and the cycle goes over and over again until you retire at the age of 65, by which time, hopefully, you’d have been ambassador for several years.
So you think life as a career diplomat is for you? It’s very interesting, really. You get to represent the Philippines by living and working in another country without having to migrate. You’re abroad for a fixed period of time, yet unlike contractual overseas workers, you have security of tenure and other benefits that go with it. You get to immerse yourself in the culture, history, and tradition of different countries without having to sacrifice your Filipino identity. Within a 20,30-year career, you’ll have plenty of experiences in policy-making, negotiating, drafting international agreements, protocol, administration, etc..
Some people think that diplomats don’t do anything but attend social functions. That’s just part of it, actually, and to tell you the truth, the part I like least as I mentioned in this post. Standing all night on my pointed high heels while eating cold food on a heavy plate isn’t exactly my cup of tea. I’ve been in the DFA for six years and my social life so far reached its culmination when His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni was coronated King of Cambodia in 2004. Honey was lucky enough to get invited to the coronation itself. We were both invited during the coronation ball where we danced all night with royals and ambassadors and their wives. One of the princes, knowing that Filipinos are good dancers (that’s what he thought before he met me), asked me to dance with him. Naturally, I stepped all over his feet. So you see, together with the sosyalan also comes the kahihiyan .
Anyway, here’s a little brief about the FSO examinations. First, you have to submit your application form with the other requirements (e.g. transcript, birth certificate, etc.) to the DFA not later than May 12. Then, you have to take the Qualifying Test on 28 May in a testing center to be assigned to you. The Qualifying Test is an NCEE-type of exam where you tick off the box pertaining to a, b, c, d, or e. It covers English, reading comprehension, logical reasoning… it’s like an IQ exam. You need to have a rating of at least 80% to be able to move on to the dreaded FSO Written Examination. This is the real killer! It’s probably one of the most difficult government exams… it’s like the bar, some people say it’s even more difficult. The difference though with the bar and the FSO exam is that in the bar, you have four years of law school to study for it. In the FSO exam, you need to rely on stock knowledge. The subjects cover English, Filipino (quite difficult… like translating the Constitution), Philippine Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Conditions, International Affairs (with international economics), World History, and a Foreign Language. This will be held for three days from the 23rd to the 25th of August. All tests are in essay-form. Those who get a passing grade of 75% can move on to the 3-day spine-chilling FSO Oral Examination. On the first day, you are interviewed by a panel of ambassadors about practically anything under the sun. On the second day, there’s group dynamics. On the third day, you have to attend a formal dinner dressed in filipiniana where you need to deliver an impromptu speech on a topic that you pick out from a fishbowl. The jurors, basically, would assess you on your oral expression skills, logical thinking and values and attitude. Sounds challenging? Yes. But if you pass, it would be one of the most memorable and satisfying experiences of your life. So what are you waiting for? Get your application form now and GO FOR IT!
HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!
- Realities of the Foreign Service (Part 1)
- Realities of the Foreign Service (Introduction)
- Philippine Flag-Raising and Filipino Breakfast in Cambodia
- My Blog is Alive!
- Independence Day Reception in Cambodia