Encounters: Alan Gabriola

With Alan Gabriola, Vince Consul of the Philippines in Myanmar

Alan is one of our officers in the Philippine embassy in Yangon. When I met him, he has spent three years in Myanmar and is getting ready to be deployed to another ASEAN state.

Meeting him gave me an insight into the life of our young foreign service officers.

A native of Antique province, Alan won a post graduate scholarship in Japan. He worked for a few years in the private sector as a Japanese translator before deciding to join our foreign service.

Young and single, Alan was among the first in his batch of consular officers to be deployed to a foreign posting because he accepted the assignment to Myanmar. It was (and is) considered a hardship post for many reasons. Access to specialist medical attention and facilities is still limited. There is still no direct flight from the Philippines to Myanmar. The major deterrent to the post is the high cost of living in Myanmar for foreigners. The apartment lease would be thrice, even four times more expensive for foreigners than the rate for locals.

But change has come to Myanmar and for Alan, it was a privilege to witness its major transitions. He was there during the landmark elections in 2015 when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory. He was also there when the country hosted the 25th ASEAN summit.

Alan has come up with this analogy to help best describe to a visitor the changes enveloping Myanmar. Ten years ago in 2006, the cost of a prepaid SIM card was USD1,500. Five years later, it became USD500. When he arrived three years ago in 2014, the SIM cost was down to USD150. In 2016, a SIM is now readily available for USD1.5. The cost of regular handsets has also become affordable at USD30 to 50. The Philiipine brand, MyPhone, is among the cellphones being sold.

Aside from Alan and Ambassador Alex G. Chua, the rest of the embassy staff from the Philippines are women. They are in Myanmar with their families. Their work is considered front line and one of them is always available to answer the hotline and attend to any of the almost 2,000 Filipinos now in Yangon.

Harry with some of the officers and staff of the Philippine Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar

Coffee tastes better!

Best wishes to our officers and staff, and to Alan in his next adventure.#

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