MANILA - The family of the country's late Ambassador to China, Chito Sta. Romana, held a virtual Mass on Friday to pay tribute to the late envoy, with one of his friends describing him as a "people's ambassador."
Fr. Victor de Jesus, SJ, led the Mass, which was attended by the diplomat's friends and relatives. His brother, Nelin, led the novena.
Several journalists and authors were present virtually, including Tina Monzon-Palma and Sheila Coronel. Civic leader Teresita Ang-See was also there.
Austin Ong of the Philippines-China Friendship Club described Sta. Romana as a "people's ambassador" for allowing Filipinos in Beijing visit him for any concerns.
"Because of the club, many of our [overseas Filipino workers] in China called Ambassador Chito the 'people's ambassador' because he had an open door policy for the embassy in Beijing," Ong said during the virtual Mass.
"He has helped many of our OFWs, he always made time," he added.
He also called the late envoy as a "generous mentor" who " gave light and wisdom to the Filipinos who studied China."
When sought for his advice on establishing the Philippines-China Friendship Club during the height of the South China Sea dispute in 2012, he remembered Sta. Romana saying that building connections is what's important.
"Friendship is more valuable when the times are difficult, and that is what I will remember him the most," he continued.
Sta. Romana passed away on April 19 at the age of 74.
He was a former journalist who served as the Beijing bureau chief of American Broadcasting Company (ABC) News. He lived and worked in China from 1989 until his retirement in 2010.
Earlier in the day, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recognized Sta. Romana's role in the “flourishing” of Philippine-China relations under the Duterte administration “despite differences,” including the maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
The agency acknowledged his “selfless service” in what it described as the Philippine diplomacy’s “most challenging foreign post.”
His remains will be cremated on Sunday, his sister Neni Santa Romana-Cruz said. The funeral Mass will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
— Report from Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News