The Philippines’ top diplomat to Lebanon, Bernardita Catalla, died early this morning in Beirut from complications brought about by COVID-19, he Department of Foreign (DFA) announced today.
Catalla was 62 and is the first known diplomat in active service to have died from the deadly disease, and the second to contract it.
“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,” the DFA said in its statement.
The ambassador had worked for the government for 27 years, and held key posts in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, and was director of the agency’s passport division where she “delivered frontline services to millions of Filipinos,” the DFA added. Before she was assigned to Lebanon, Catalla worked as a consul in Hong Kong. She is most remembered for her work in Beirut, where she spearheaded the voluntary mass repatriation program of the Philippine Embassy in Beirut since December 2019.
“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.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. on Twitter offered up his condolences and praise to the ambassador, who he commended for doing a “great job in a difficult post.” In a separate post, he added that he was nominating her for a Gawad Mabini and a Sikatuna, honors conferred to Filipinos who rendered distinguished foreign service.
“Not that she needs more honour than the profound regret and mourning of a grateful service, government, and I hope nation,” Locsin added.
Ambassador Bernie Catalla's remains will be received with an honour guard and I am putting forward a nomination for Gawad Mabini and Sikatuna. Not that she needs more honour than the profound regret and mourning of a grateful service, government, and I hope nation.
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) April 2, 2020