Coronavirus has taken yet another victim in Lebanon, raising the death toll to 16. On the morning of April 2nd, the Philippine ambassador to Lebanon, Bernardita Catalla, passed away at the age of 62.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs released a statement announcing the death of Ambassador Catalla, saying: “With deep sadness, the Department of Foreign Affairs announces the untimely demise on 02 April 2020 of Ambassador Bernardita Catalla, Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon, from complications arising from COVID-19.”
“A career diplomat for 27 years, her service to the country has been the hallmark of Ambassador Catalla’s distinguished foreign service career. She served in key posts, like Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, and was Passport Director where she delivered frontline service to millions of Filipinos.”
The statement continues, “Prior to her assignment in Lebanon, she was Consul General in Hong Kong, looking over the welfare of hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipinos. Since 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.”
According to Al-Jazeera, Catalla was “a strong defender of the rights of Filipino domestic workers in Lebanon” and recently oversaw free mass repatriation of over 1,000 domestic workers. By March 11the, she had helped 527 people return.
Lebanese politicians were vocal about giving their condolences. Former PM Saad Hariri tweeted, “Sincere condolences to The Philippines and the Filipino community in Lebanon for the loss of their ambassador in Beirut, Bernardita Catalla, to COVID-19. I had known her personally and she was a humane and outstanding diplomat who loved Lebanon and served her country diligently. RIP.”
نتقدم من جمهورية الفيليبين حكومة وشعباً بأحر التعازي بوفاة سفيرتهم في #لبنان "برنارديتا كتالا" في هذه الظروف الصحية التي يعيشها العالم. كانت من الشخصيات الديبلوماسية الناشطة لتطوير العلاقات بين بلدها ولبنان. pic.twitter.com/k8kZ2TU8sf— Fouad Makhzoumi (@fmakhzoumi) April 2, 2020
Lebanese businessman and politician Fouad Makhzoumi tweeted, “My deepest condolences to the family of late Philippines ambassador in Lebanon Bernardita Catalla; heartfelt condolences extended to the people of the Philippines as well.”
The Kataeb official Twitter account also expressed condolences, “We would like to extend our sincere condolences to the people and government of The Philippines, following the shocking death of H.E Bernardita Catalla, the Ambassador of the Philippines to Lebanon. We hope that the world will overcome the COVIDー19 pandemic soon!”
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