MANILA: The Philippines Ambassador to Lebanon died on Thursday from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“With deep sadness, the Department of Foreign Affairs announces the untimely demise on April 2, 2020, of Bernardita Catalla, Philippine ambassador to Lebanon, from complications arising from COVID-19,” the DFA said in a statement.
According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Catalla died at 12:30 a.m. in the Beirut hospital where she was confined.
“I offered her for a great job in a difficult post. I promised her Paris so she’d hang on. But she just laughed, ‘Now I must learn French.’ She saw me to say goodbye on March 9,” Locsin said on Twitter.
A career diplomat for 27 years, Catalla served in key posts such as Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta and was passport director, delivering frontline service to millions of Filipinos, the DFA said.
Prior to her assignment in Lebanon, she was consul general in Hong Kong, looking over the welfare of hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipinos.
From December 2019, she spearheaded the voluntary mass repatriation program of the Philippine Embassy in Beirut.
“Bernie, as Ambassador Catalla was fondly called, has always lent a helping hand, to her family, friends and colleagues. Her ever-ready smile and infectious laughter may have been extinguished but her dedication to our country will always be there as a guiding light for all members of the Philippine foreign service,” the DFA said. “Service to the country has been the hallmark of Ambassador Catallas’s distinguished foreign service career.”
Dodo Dulay, foreign affairs undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns, wrote on Twitter: “Today, @DFAPHL lost one of its own ...”
Loscin said Catalla’s remains will be received with an honor guard and that he would nominate her for a Gawad Mabini and Sikatuna awards, conferred upon individuals who have rendered exceptional and meritorious services to the Republic of the Philippines.
“Not that she needs more honor than the profound regret and mourning of a grateful service, government and, I hope, nation,” said the DFA secretary.