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UP alumni in HK donate P210k to PGH in Amba Bernie’s memory

15 April 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Ambassador Bernie's casket is met at the airport by Secretary Locsin (7th from left), his key officials and family members

University of the Philippines alumni in Hong Kong have donated a total of $32,501 (Php210,281) to the medical frontliners at the UP-Philippine General Hospital in Manila in memory of alumna and Ambassador Bernardita Catalla, who passed away in Beirut on Apr 2 due to Covid-19.

The donation was sent today, Apr 15, just as the body of the well-loved diplomat arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila on board a Qatar Air flight from Lebanon, where she was serving as the country’s ambassador when she was stricken, aged 62.

On hand to meet her remains was Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. along with his top officials, including the immediate past consul general in Hong Kong, Antonio Morales, as well as members of the ambassador’s family.

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A brief ceremony was held at the airport to pay tribute to the late ambassador’s 27 years of service to the country, before her remains were brought to a crematorium in Pasay City.

DFA Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez later told reporters that flags at all DFA offices in the Philippines and overseas will be flown at half-mast until Friday in honor of  the late ambassador.

Locsin earlier said he was putting forward a nomination for Gawad Mabini and Sikatuna for Catalla.

Amba Bernie leading her officers at the Philippine Independence Day celebration in Chater in 2016

Before being posted to Lebanon, Ambassador Bernie, as she was fondly known to many, served as consul general in Hong Kong for three years, from 2014 to 2017.

Consul General Raly Tejada said he, his officers and staff are still grieving over Ambassador Bernie’s sudden death.

“Ambassador Bernie was one of the few public servants that I truly admired. Her legacy especially to the Filipino community in Hong Kong is immeasurable. We lost not only a dedicated and selfless public servant but more importantly, a wonderful and compassionate human being who gave everything in order to improve the lives of Filipinos overseas,” said ConGen Tejada in a tribute to the fallen ambassador.

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Consulate staff gathered for a small memorial service for the late diplomat on Apr 8, led by the Chaplain for Filipinos in Hong Kong, Fr. Jay Flandez.

Members of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association in Hong Kong also offered five online masses up until Easter for Ambassador Bernie, who endeared herself to the group by participating actively in their gatherings, including their end-of-year assembly.

But most memorable to many of them was her presence in the first-ever Rambulan friendly games among alumni of four top universities in the Philippines, where she proudly wore UP’s colors, and celebrated with the group when they copped first place.

Amba Bernie celebrating with UPAA after they won the top prize in Rambulan
UPAA-HK president Sherina Erno said it was fitting that a donation was made in her honor to the teaching hospital of the university the diplomat was proud to have attended.

Erno added that it was also an opportune time to give to a cause for which Ambassador Bernie had given up her life, which is to protect Filipinos from the onslaught of the dreaded coronavirus.
Equally important, Erno said, is the UPAA’s desire to give back to the university at a most crucial time.

Remittance slip for UPAA's donation to UP-PGH

UP-PGH has just been designated as a Covid-19 referral hospital, and its medical frontliners have been appealing for donations for personal protective equipment to protect them from the virus.

This comes amid a study that shows the Philippines as having the highest fatality rate among medical workers in the battle against Covid-19, at a disturbing 9.95%. A far second is Indonesia, with 4.90%.

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In contrast, Hong Kong has not had a single health worker at the frontline being infected with the disease.

Inadequate PPEs is often pinpointed as the main reason for the high fatality among health workers attending to Covid-19 patients.

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