Several hundred Filipino Alaskans from around Southeast gathered at Centennial Hall in Juneau this week to get much-needed services from the Philippine Consulate.
After two years and a pandemic-related delay, the consulate’s mission from San Francisco meant some Filipinos in Alaska could finally visit their families back home.
A line formed behind a table in the lobby of Centennial Hall, where Filipino Alaskans waited to get services to renew visas, passports and apply for dual citizenship. Masked volunteers took the temperatures of each person before they entered the main hall.
The Philippine Consulate’s regional office is based in San Francisco and serves most western states, from Colorado to Alaska. Typically, Filipinos who need services have to travel there to get them — but a visit like this saves them a lot of time and money.
Nora Carrillo is a volunteer and also applied for her dual citizenship in the Philippines with the consulate.
“It is nice for them to come over here and do dual citizenship instead of us going to San Francisco because it takes a lot of time,” she said. “Plus, it’s expensive. So we’re really thankful for them to come up here.”
Rebecca Carrillo is the Honorary Consul to the Philippines in Juneau. She says the consulate’s visit had been originally scheduled for last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic halted those plans. As a result, there was a backlog of people in need of consulate services.
“For us here in Alaska, many Filipinos, Filipino-Americans, who would otherwise just be able to fly to San Francisco to receive services in person were unable to do so, thereby increasing the surge in the volume of calls at the Philippine Consulate,” she said.
Carrillo also says that travel restrictions to the Philippines meant that Filipinos in Alaska couldn’t visit their families back home.
“There was a period when foreigners were not allowed to be issued visas to travel to the Philippines under certain type conditions, which includes if they are a parent of a Filipino child with disabilities, whether they’re serving on a humanitarian mission or their business,” she said.
Edric Carillo is president of the Juneau-based Filipino Community Incorporated. He says several hundred people from around Southeast Alaska were in need of the consulate’s services.
He says the consulate’s visit means that the Filipino community in Juneau is recognized alongside bigger communities in the country.
“That a small community of, you know, 30,000 plus people can, you know, rally together enough to get that level of recognition really, you know, is a testament to the community here and, and other communities in Alaska,” he said.
Consulate General Neil Frank Ferrer led the mission and says he’s happy with the turnout.
“The consulate, prior to the pandemic, has been making Alaska a priority for the outreach services. But now that the pandemic is more or less under control, I intend to come to Juneau and to Alaska every year,” he said.
The Philippine Consulate was in Juneau July 8-9 and in Fairbanks July 11-12. The consulate will be in Anchorage on August 26.