After 25-year absence, Philippine Consulate General office reopens in Westchase District
Earlier this year, the Republic of the Philippines opened a new Philippine Consulate General (PCG) office in Westchase District at 9990 Richmond. The move was met with overwhelmingly positive response from Filipino-Americans and Philippine nationals alike throughout the south-central region of the United States, as the office assists thousands, promotes national culture and strengthens international economic ties.
Return to the region
In addition to its diplomatic embassy in Washington, D.C., the Philippine government has consular offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco as well as in Hawaii and Guam. Back in 1993, budget cuts closed the Philippine consulate-general offices in Houston. This meant that for years, Filipino-Americans in the southern United States faced considerable hardships when handling official business with in-person requirements, such as passport renewals. “Filipinos in the area are so happy they no longer have to travel to Chicago or Los Angeles for consular services,” said Gilbert Segarra, counsul.
Jerril Santos, consul general for the Houston office, oversees 11 staffers who offer clients a variety of services, including: issuing passports, travel documents and visas; processing applications for retention and re-acquisition of Philippine citizenship; civil registration of births, marriages and deaths of Filipino nationals; and acknowledgement and authentication of various legal documents. “Everyone in our office is bilingual in English and Tagalog,” Segarra said. “And because we all came from different provinces in the Philippines, we speak many provincial dialects as well.”
The Houston PCG serves about 200,000 Filipino-Americans in a six-state region that includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and New Mexico. The PCG also supervises honorary consulates in Dallas and New Orleans. Throughout the year, staff from the Houston office coordinate with community organizations in these states to conduct regular consular outreach missions in various cities. Since the PCG’s official opening in January, Segarra estimates the staff has processed nearly 10,000 documents.
Already, the PCG has exhibited at several local economic forums, showcasing products made in the Philippines ranging from clothing and jewelry to handbags and art. Mary Jane Mariano, cultural officer, said the PCG plans to host a series of educational programs aimed at Filipino-Americans who have never been to their cultural homeland or who have made only brief visits. “We especially want to educate children who are unaware of their parents’ origins about their heritage and traditions,” she said.
She added the PCG also coordinates with the Philippine government’s departments of foreign affairs and tourism to arrange and promote special VIP ambassador tours. More than 300 tourists annually embark on eight-day, seven-night vacation packages that are designed to help Filipinos reconnect with their culture. “Now that we’re established in Houston, we hope more people from the region will be represented on future trips,” Mariano said.
Segarra said when choosing the ideal location for the PCG, current and projected demographics made Westchase District the best place to be. “There are large Filipino populations in Sugar Land, Pearland and Katy, as well as many Filipinos working as doctors and nurses in the Texas Medical Center,” Segarra said. “We feel Westchase District is a booming area that’s centrally located for easy access for our constituents, not only now but looking ahead to the future. Plus, there are two METRO bus routes right outside of our office and we offer ample parking.”
For comprehensive information about services and events offered through the Philippine Consulate General Houston, as well as to schedule an appointment online, visit houstonpcg.dfa.gov.ph.
Philippine Consulate General 9990 Richmond Avenue, Suite 100 346-293-8773