Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Albert: Fighting Discrimination and Strengthening Diplomatic Ties

‘COMMENDABLE’ WORK Former Foreign Affairs secretary Delia Albert (right) is conferred the National Order of Merit with the rank of commander by the Romanian government on March 19, 2024 for her ‘commendable’ work in enriching Philippine-Romania ties. Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis bestowed the honor through his ambassador to the Philippines, Răduta Dana Matache. PHOTO COURTESY OF MAICA TEVES
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Albert’s personal experience serves as a powerful reminder of the barriers that women diplomats once faced in their personal lives. In the past, it was not uncommon for women in diplomatic positions to encounter resistance or discrimination when it came to choosing a foreign spouse. This discrimination was rooted in societal norms and expectations, which often dictated that women should marry within their own nationality or social class.
However, Albert’s story also reflects the progress that has been made in terms of gender equality and the breaking down of such barriers. As a former Foreign Affairs Secretary, Albert herself has played a significant role in advancing women’s rights and empowerment in the Philippines. Her achievements and recognition serve as a testament to the increasing recognition of women’s capabilities and contributions in the field of diplomacy.
Moreover, Albert’s experience highlights the importance of understanding the cultural context in which women’s struggles occur. While her story may resonate with women diplomats from various countries, it is essential to recognize that the specific challenges faced by women can vary greatly depending on their cultural and social backgrounds. By sharing her personal journey, Albert not only sheds light on the discrimination faced by women diplomats but also fosters a greater understanding and empathy for the diverse experiences of women in different parts of the world.
In conclusion, Delia Albert’s remarkable work in strengthening international ties between the Philippines and Romania goes beyond mere diplomacy. Her personal experience serves as a powerful reminder of the progress that has been made in terms of gender equality and the breaking down of barriers faced by women diplomats. By sharing her story, Albert not only sheds light on the discrimination faced by women in the past but also fosters a greater understanding and appreciation for the diverse struggles faced by women in different cultural contexts. Her contributions have undoubtedly enriched international ties and paved the way for future generations of women diplomats to thrive and succeed. Throughout her career, Delia Albert proved herself to be a trailblazer in the field of diplomacy. Joining the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in 1967, she faced numerous challenges and obstacles as a woman in a predominantly male-dominated profession. However, her determination, intelligence, and unwavering commitment to her work allowed her to rise through the ranks and ultimately become the first female Secretary of the DFA.
Albert’s tenure as Secretary of the DFA, from December 22, 2003, to August 18, 2004, was a historic moment for the Philippines. It not only shattered the glass ceiling for women in the field of diplomacy but also served as an inspiration for future generations of female diplomats. During her time in office, Albert implemented various initiatives aimed at promoting gender equality and empowering women within the department.
One of her notable achievements was the establishment of mentorship programs for young women diplomats. Recognizing the importance of guidance and support in a challenging profession, Albert sought to create a nurturing environment where aspiring female diplomats could learn from experienced mentors. These programs not only provided valuable guidance but also helped foster a sense of camaraderie and solidarity among women in the department.
Furthermore, Albert actively advocated for the inclusion of women in high-level diplomatic negotiations and decision-making processes. She firmly believed that diverse perspectives and voices were essential for effective diplomacy. As a result, she ensured that women were given equal opportunities to participate in important discussions and contribute their insights to shaping foreign policy.
Albert’s groundbreaking achievements did not go unnoticed, both within the Philippines and internationally. She received numerous accolades and recognition for her contributions to diplomacy and women’s empowerment. Her leadership and dedication inspired many young women to pursue careers in diplomacy, challenging societal norms and stereotypes along the way.
Beyond her role as Secretary of the DFA, Albert continued to be a champion for gender equality and women’s rights. She actively participated in international conferences and forums, advocating for the inclusion of women in decision-making processes globally. Her tireless efforts to promote gender equality earned her a reputation as a respected and influential figure in the field of diplomacy.
In conclusion, Delia Albert’s tenure as the first female Secretary of the DFA was a pivotal moment in the history of Philippine diplomacy. Her unwavering commitment to her work, coupled with her determination to break barriers, paved the way for future generations of women diplomats. Through her various initiatives and advocacy, she not only empowered women within the department but also left a lasting impact on the field of diplomacy as a whole. Albert’s legacy serves as a reminder that gender should never be a barrier to success and that women have a crucial role to play in shaping the world of international relations.

A Chance Encounter that Changed Everything

In 1974, while working on the statements of the Philippine delegation to the United Nations Conference on Population in Bucharest, Romania, Albert borrowed a typewriter from a German journalist named Hans Albert. Little did she know that this encounter would lead to a significant turning point in her personal and professional life. The typewriter introduced her to her future husband, who was covering the conference as the chief editor for foreign affairs for German television ZDF.
Albert fondly recalled, “As luck would have it, a typewriter introduced me to my future husband.” This serendipitous meeting not only brought love into her life but also played a pivotal role in addressing the discriminatory practices against women in the DFA.
After their chance encounter, Albert and Hans developed a strong connection and spent the remainder of the conference getting to know each other. They discovered a shared passion for international affairs and a desire to create positive change in their respective fields. As their relationship blossomed, Albert found herself inspired by Hans’ dedication to journalism and his commitment to shedding light on important global issues.
With Hans’ support and encouragement, Albert began to explore avenues to address the discriminatory practices against women in the DFA. She utilized her position as a delegate and her growing influence within the organization to advocate for gender equality and equal opportunities for women in diplomacy. Through her tireless efforts, Albert was able to bring attention to the issue and initiate discussions within the DFA about the need for change.
Her work did not go unnoticed, and soon Albert became a prominent voice for women’s rights within the international community. She was invited to speak at various conferences and events, sharing her experiences and advocating for gender equality in diplomacy. Her passion and dedication resonated with many, and she quickly became a respected figure in the fight for women’s rights.
Albert’s chance encounter with Hans not only led to a loving partnership but also ignited a fire within her to effect meaningful change. Together, they became a formidable force, using their respective platforms to challenge discriminatory practices and promote gender equality. Their collaboration extended beyond their personal lives, as they worked together on various projects and initiatives aimed at empowering women in the field of diplomacy.
Through their joint efforts, Albert and Hans were able to make significant strides in breaking down barriers and creating a more inclusive and equitable diplomatic landscape. Their story serves as a testament to the power of chance encounters and the transformative potential of love and shared passions. Albert’s revelation about the discriminatory practices within the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) shed light on the gender inequalities that were deeply ingrained in the institution. The fact that male diplomats were allowed to marry foreigners without any consequences, while their female counterparts were forced to resign if they chose to do the same, was a clear example of the double standards that existed.
Albert’s personal experience with this discriminatory practice further emphasized the unfairness of the situation. She had witnessed firsthand how male diplomats could freely pursue relationships with foreigners, while female diplomats were denied the same privilege. This inequality not only affected their personal lives but also had implications for their professional careers. It was a clear violation of their rights and a hindrance to their advancement within the DFA.
Recognizing the urgent need for change, Albert joined forces with then-Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani to advocate for gender equality within the department. Together, they worked tirelessly to pass a resolution titled the “United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” This convention, which has become the bill of rights for women worldwide, was a significant milestone in the fight against gender discrimination.
Albert spoke with pride about the impact their efforts had on the lives of women diplomats. Today, more than 30 women in the department are happily married to individuals from different nationalities, thanks to the changes brought about by their advocacy. These women no longer have to choose between their personal lives and their careers. They can pursue love and marriage without fear of losing their jobs or facing any form of discrimination.
Albert’s own journey to marry her German husband serves as a testament to her perseverance and determination. It took her three years to overcome the hurdles and challenges presented by the discriminatory practices within the DFA. However, she never gave up, knowing that her fight was not just for herself but for all women who deserved equal treatment and opportunities.
Albert’s story is a powerful reminder of the progress that can be achieved when individuals stand up against injustice and fight for equality. Her contributions, along with those of Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani, have paved the way for a more inclusive and fair environment within the DFA. Their efforts continue to inspire and empower women diplomats, reminding them that they have the right to love, marry, and pursue their dreams without any form of discrimination holding them back. Matache went on to describe the various initiatives and projects that Ambassador Delia Albert had spearheaded to enhance the bilateral ties between the Philippines and Romania. One such initiative was the promotion of cultural exchanges between the two countries. Under Albert’s leadership, several Filipino artists and performers had the opportunity to showcase their talents in Romania, while Romanian artists were also invited to exhibit their work in the Philippines. These cultural exchanges not only fostered a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s art and culture but also served as a platform for people-to-people connections.
In addition to cultural exchanges, Ambassador Albert also played a pivotal role in facilitating economic cooperation between the two nations. She actively encouraged trade missions and business delegations from both countries to explore investment opportunities and establish partnerships. As a result of her efforts, bilateral trade between the Philippines and Romania experienced significant growth, benefiting both economies.
Furthermore, Albert was instrumental in promoting educational exchanges between the two countries. She facilitated scholarships and academic programs that allowed Filipino students to study in Romania and vice versa. These educational opportunities not only provided students with a chance to gain international exposure but also helped foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s educational systems and cultures.
Albert’s dedication to enhancing Philippines-Romania relations extended beyond her tenure as ambassador. Even after her assignment in Romania ended, she continued to actively support the development of Filipino-Romanian relations in various capacities. Whether it was through her involvement in international organizations or her advocacy for closer ties between the two nations, Ambassador Delia Albert remained a steadfast champion of friendship and cooperation.
In conclusion, Ambassador Delia Albert’s contributions to enriching Philippines-Romania relations were commendable and far-reaching. Her efforts in promoting cultural exchanges, facilitating economic cooperation, and fostering educational partnerships have laid a solid foundation for a stronger and more vibrant relationship between the two nations. Her unwavering commitment to diplomacy and her dedication to bridging the gap between the Philippines and Romania serve as an inspiration for future generations of diplomats and leaders.

Affection for Romania: An Affair to Remember

In her acceptance speech, Albert expressed her gratitude to Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis and the people of Romania for bestowing upon her the National Order of Merit with the rank of Commander. She also shared her personal connection with Romania, describing it as a source of joy, happiness, and meaning in her life. Her affection for the country resonated with the audience and further symbolized the deep bond between the Philippines and Romania.
As Albert continued her speech, she reminisced about her first visit to Romania many years ago. She vividly described the breathtaking landscapes, the rich history, and the warm hospitality of the Romanian people. She spoke of the moments she spent exploring the charming streets of Bucharest, immersing herself in the vibrant culture, and indulging in the delectable Romanian cuisine.
But it wasn’t just the physical beauty of the country that captivated Albert; it was the spirit of the Romanian people that touched her heart. She spoke of their resilience in the face of adversity, their unwavering determination, and their genuine kindness. She shared stories of encounters with locals who went out of their way to make her feel welcome, of friendships forged that transcended language barriers, and of the profound impact these experiences had on her.
Albert’s affection for Romania extended beyond her personal experiences. She acknowledged the strong historical and cultural ties between the Philippines and Romania, highlighting the similarities in their struggles for independence and their shared values of freedom and democracy. She praised the contributions of Romanian immigrants to the Philippines, emphasizing the enriching exchange of ideas and the cultural diversity they brought to her homeland.
Furthermore, Albert commended Romania’s commitment to education and innovation. She spoke of her admiration for the country’s advancements in science, technology, and the arts, and expressed her hope for future collaborations between the two nations in these fields. She envisioned a future where the Philippines and Romania would work hand in hand to address global challenges, foster mutual understanding, and create a better world for future generations.
In conclusion, Albert’s affection for Romania was more than just a passing sentiment; it was a deep and enduring connection that had shaped her life and worldview. Through her words, she painted a vivid picture of a country that had left an indelible mark on her heart. Her acceptance of the National Order of Merit with the rank of Commander was not only a recognition of her contributions but also a celebration of the profound bond between the Philippines and Romania.

Expanding Diplomatic Relations

Albert shed light on the historical context of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Eastern European countries. Prior to 1972, the Philippines did not have diplomatic ties with any Eastern European countries behind the “Iron Curtain,” nor with China or Russia. In fact, Philippine passports were stamped “not valid for travel to communist/socialist countries.”
However, recognizing the importance of expanding its global outreach, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) conducted a thorough study and made a significant decision in 1972. President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. established diplomatic relations with Romania and Yugoslavia, despite their differing political affiliations. This move was not taken lightly, as it required a careful assessment of the potential benefits and risks involved.
Romania, under the leadership of Nicolae Ceaușescu, had adopted a maverick stance among socialist states. Ceaușescu pursued a policy of independence from the Soviet Union and sought to establish a unique brand of socialism known as “national communism.” This approach appealed to Marcos, who saw an opportunity to engage with a country that was charting its own path within the socialist bloc.
On the other hand, Yugoslavia, led by Josip Broz Tito, was an ardent member of the non-aligned movement. Tito’s Yugoslavia had distanced itself from both the Eastern and Western blocs during the Cold War, advocating for an independent foreign policy. This resonated with the Philippines’ desire to assert its autonomy and pursue a more balanced approach in international relations.
The decision to establish diplomatic relations with Romania and Yugoslavia marked a significant shift in the Philippines’ foreign policy. It signaled a departure from the previous stance of aligning solely with Western powers and opened the door for future diplomatic endeavors with Eastern European countries. This move also demonstrated the Philippines’ commitment to engaging with countries of diverse political ideologies, recognizing the importance of dialogue and cooperation in an increasingly interconnected world.
The establishment of diplomatic relations with Romania and Yugoslavia was just the beginning of the Philippines’ efforts to expand its diplomatic reach. Over the years, the country has continued to forge ties with other Eastern European nations, including Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. These relationships have not only fostered economic cooperation and cultural exchanges but have also paved the way for closer political cooperation on regional and global issues.
In conclusion, the decision to establish diplomatic relations with Romania and Yugoslavia in 1972 marked a turning point in the Philippines’ foreign policy. It demonstrated the country’s willingness to engage with countries of differing political affiliations and set the stage for future diplomatic endeavors. The Philippines’ expanding diplomatic relations with Eastern European countries have since played a crucial role in enhancing its global standing and fostering mutually beneficial partnerships. Delia Albert’s impact on diplomacy and international relations extends far beyond her own personal achievements. Her journey as a trailblazer and her unwavering commitment to gender equality and cultural understanding have paved the way for future generations to follow in her footsteps.
Albert’s experiences as a woman diplomat shed light on the discrimination and barriers that women faced in the past. In a male-dominated field, she had to navigate through societal expectations and prejudices, often having to work twice as hard to prove her capabilities. Her perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity serve as a testament to her strength of character and determination.
In recognizing and celebrating the achievements of remarkable individuals like Delia Albert, we not only honor their contributions but also acknowledge the progress that has been made in promoting equality and inclusivity. Albert’s legacy serves as a reminder that change is possible and that we must continue to strive for a more equitable and just society.
Moreover, Albert’s work has highlighted the importance of contextualizing historical events within their respective cultural and societal contexts. By understanding the local laws, customs, and norms that influenced the discrimination faced by women diplomats, we gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they had to overcome. This knowledge allows us to appreciate the significance of their achievements and the impact they had on breaking down barriers.
As we reflect on Delia Albert’s legacy, we are inspired to continue advocating for equality and inclusivity in all aspects of society. Her story serves as a beacon of hope for future generations, encouraging them to challenge discriminatory practices, break down barriers, and forge strong international relationships. By embracing progress and celebrating achievements, we can create a world where everyone has equal opportunities and their contributions are valued and recognized.

Source: The Manila Times

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