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Philippine ambassador to Lebanon, known for spearheading evacuation of domestic workers, dies from Covid-19

The Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon, Bernardita Catalla, has died from complications of Covid-19, the embassy said in a statement on Thursday.  

Catalla, a career diplomat for 27 years, died in hospital in Beirut. Months before her death, she spearheaded the evacuation of nearly 2,000 Filipinos, mostly female domestic workers, from crisis-ridden Lebanon.  

Lebanon has been in the throes of a financial and political crisis since October 2019, and many African and Asian migrant workers in the country reported a large drop in earnings and the withholding of salaries. The Philippine embassy’s evacuation program for Filipinos, many of whom were undocumented, received praise from humanitarian workers and international rights groups.  

CNN interviewed Catalla twice about her repatriation program since December. “Those who feel that they have to go back to the Philippines do so because they have nothing here anymore. Some have become homeless,” Catalla told CNN in February. 

Women clamored for selfies with the ambassador as they waited for the bus to take them to the airport. Asked what she thought about the praise being heaped on the embassy for their evacuation program, Catalla responded: “We’re just doing our jobs.” 

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodro Locsin Jr tweeted that before Catalla died he “extended her a great job in a difficult post. I promised her Paris so she’d hang on.”  

“But she just laughed, ‘Now I must learn French,’” wrote Locsin.  

“Ambassador Bernie Catalla’s remains will be received with an honor guard and I am putting forward a nomination for Gawad Mabini and Sikatuna,” said Locsin, referring to an honor conferred on Filipinos for distinguished foreign service.  

“Not that she needs more honor than the profound regret and mourning of a grateful service, government, and I hope nation.” 

Source: CNN

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