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    Bicolano starts mission as Vatican envoy

    Through a formal ceremony, Pope Francis welcomed Grace Relucio Princesa as she assumes the Philippine Ambassador position to the Holy See on September 1.

    The 62-year old diplomat who was born in Ligao City presented her credentials to the Pope which marked her first order of business as the Philippine Ambassador.

    “I will see how can I improve the Philippine-Vatican relations since we have commonalities on issues like migration, climate change, and interfaith,” Princesa said.

    Princesa who already held various diplomatic positions for three decades is popularly known to most Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) as Nanay Amba.

    She graduated with a degree in International Relations at the University of the Philippines in 1977 and completed her Master’s Degree in Migration Studies at Miriam College in 2016.

    During the confirmation of her appointment in February, Sen. Panfilo Lacson recognized her efforts in handling the high-profile OFW case of Sarah Jane Balabagan and the evacuation of 150 Filipinos in Baghdad in 2003.

    “In her capacity as the Charge D’Affaires and Consul General in Baghdad, Iraq in 2003, she facilitated the evacuation of some 150 Filipinos from the country, just two days before the United States’ troops set off bombs in Baghdad. She was later acclaimed as one of the Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf,” Sen. Lacson said in his sponsorship speech.

    Sen. Lacson also said that Princesa’s “remarkable nationalistic fervor earned her the moniker ‘Babaylan’ from Albay or a Filipina Warrior.”

    ‘Ora et Labora’

    Raised and born as a Roman Catholic, Princesa is an alumna of the St. Agnes’ Academy, a Benedictine school in Legazpi City where she claimed she learned and embraced the value of “prayer and work”.

    “I always pray, discern, and contemplate to seek what God and country want me to do,” Princesa said in February after President Rodrigo Duterte appointed her to the post.

    Princesa also hopes to assist Filipino religious communities in the Vatican.

    The diplomat is also a member of various religious organizations namely Rosarii Contemplative Association, the Catholic Women’s League, the Handmaid of the Lord and the Light of Jesus Family.

    She is also a widow and a mother of five. (N.A. Cahinde)

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