DFA presents Versoza Gawad Mabini Award

Vice Consul Vida Soraya S. Versoza with Secretary Enrique Manalo of the Department of Foreign Affairs (left), and with her mother, Fatima (right). Inset is the award conferred on her.

     Vida Soraya S. Versoza, former ad interim Charge d’Affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Syria,  was upbeat when she said goodbye to overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in the capital city Damascus on Jan. 26, 2023.

    She had done her level best and  she was leaving to further serve the country in another post halfway across the globe.

    Filipino community members in the Syrian capital were understandably sad because they were losing a public servant who showed dedication to the job  and who made them the centerpiece of her diplomatic stint since she joined the embassy in November 2020.

     “She was friendly and caring and got along well with the Filipino community,” said Sha Cabusas Duero, a Filipino in the Syrian capital.

    “That Filipinos there were sad when she left was understandable. She worked hard, based on reports. She coordinated  with Syrian officials  and was close to OFWs in Damascus,“ said Marcial “Jun” L. Nacion, Jr., a retired OFW who was a founding member of the Knights  of Rizal in the Central Region Chapter   (KOR-CRC), Saudi Arabia.

    But they also have reason to be happy for her.

    Versoza— whose roots could be traced to Vigan, Ilocos Sur— is now a Vice Consul at the Philippine Consulate General  in Calgary, Canada. She was conferred by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) the Gawad Mabini Award with the rank of Dakilang  Kasugo or Commander.

   She was one of 12 presented the award on July 19, 2023 by Secretary Enrique Manalo at the Foreign Institute Library at the DFA Main Building.

    “Thank you former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for conferring the Gawad Mabini 2022 Presidential Award, with the rank of Dakilang Kasugo (Commander),“ she said in a Facebook post.

      The Award  was given her for leading the Philippine Embassy in winning for the first time a case against an illegal recruitment agency in Syria.

    Complaint-affidavits prepared through the “Syrian Model” led to the arrest of an influential trafficker who  had been repeatedly cited in the Manila Dialogue and other conferences, contributing to the maintenance of the Philippines’ Tier 1 Status in the Unitetd States government’s Trafficking in Persons Report.

    One who gave credit to where it was due, Versoza added, “This award is not mine alone, but it also belongs to all the courageous men and women of the Philippine Embassy in Syria…”

    She noted that they “have endured countless dangers, sleepless nights, difficult living conditions and the ordeal of fighting modern-day slavery as diplomats and modern-day servants.”

    “It belongs to all Offices of the Department,  all partner agencies of the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking, and all the Syrian government Ministries that have contributed to the success of our access to justice initiatives,“ she said.

    She added, “More importantly, I dedicate this Award to all the survivors of human trafficking and illegal recruitment who are now free because of the generous support of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of the Philippines.”

    “Thank you for entrusting us the responsibility of handling a complicated hardship Post—it was an honor and a privilege to serve there. Shukran jazilan (Thank you so much) to my former boss, Ambassador Alfonso Ver, who nominated me for this prestigious Award, and constantly supported our lean and mean Post,” she said.

   She also thanked her family.

    She added, “As a fitting tribute to the Motherland on this auspicious occasion, I wore the ‘Pilipinas kong Mahal’ bespoke gown by Ruffy Itaas  from Iloilo City. It is in blue to symbolize peace, tranquility, freedom, intuition, imagination, inspiration and sensitivity. Blue represents depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, confidence, stability and faith,” she said.

    “That she received the Award in just three years after she joined the Department of Foreign Affairs by serving at the  Philippine Embassy in Syria bodes well as far as her diplomatic career is concerned,” said Roberto C. Garcia, president of the Filipino- Australian Business, Industry and Communities Council of Queensland, Inc. (FABICCQ).

   Garcia is  also the multicultural development officer of the Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) in Queensland, Australia.

    “Vice Consul Versoza will go far in her career. She’s showing it this early,” added

Nonie “Cenon” C. Sagadal, Jr., a community leader in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, who is an immediate past Area Commander of the Knights of Rizal in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KOR-KSA) and a member of the Council of Advisers and Prefectural Tribunal.

   He is involved in helping distressed OFWs.

    “I have read that she  worked hard so that, for the first time in (Philippine) history, the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) in Damascus was fully emptied of all its wards on June 24, 2021,” added Restituto “Resty” C. de Jesus, another Filipino community leader who is connected with the Riyadh-based  Saudi International Trading Comp. (SITCO).

   De Jesus was also a  Knight of Rizal Central Region  Chapter Commander (KOR-CRC) and a member of the Council of Advisors, as well as the Prefectural Tribunal.

   Other recipients of the Award included Maria Roseny B. Fangco, First Secretary at the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York; Alan Roi Q. Gabriela, Charge d’Affaires at the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, Libya; and Lorenzo Vidal, Third Secretary at the Philippine Mission to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in Jakarta, Indonesia.

   Zaldy B. Patron, Consul General at the Philippine Embassy in Calgary, Canada, was one of six awardees who received the Gawad Mabini with the rank of Dakilang Kamanong or Grand Cross.

    Other honorees were Leah B. Ruiz, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Poland; Daniel R. Espiritu, former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Pakistan and current Assistant Secretary of the Office of ASEAN Affairs; Eric Gerardo E. Tamayo, current Deputy Chief of Mission at the Philippine Embassy in Paris,  France; Igor G. Bailen, current Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Russia; and Elmer G. Cato, former Charge d’Affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, and current Consul General in Milan, Italy.

    Finally, the Gawad Mabini with the rank of Kasugo or Member was conferred on Mildred A. Bacarro, Najela A. Raymundo and Jasmine I. de Guzman.

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