We are used to seeing them in their formal suits, working hard serving the Filipino communities in different parts of the world as members of the diplomatic corps. But what do our ambassadors and consuls do when they are off from work? Philippine Ambassador to Israel, Ambassador Pedro “Junie” Laylo, Jr. tells us about his love for motorbikes and weekends with his family.
Only six months into his post as Ambassador to the state of Israel, Ambassador Pedro “Junie” Laylo, Jr. has found ways to disconnect and enjoy life despite his hectic schedule. Here, he gives us a glimpse of his activities when he is not busy meeting his kababayans, diplomats, politicians and business people.
What do you like doing during weekdays or holidays?
I look forward to the holidays very much because that’s a golden opportunity to spend time with my family – my wife Cari and my kids Ronman & Julia. Aside from taking trips with my family, I have a bikers group that I join to take leisurely rides to nearby Tagaytay or Batangas.
Riding my motorbike has been a pastime that I enjoy very much. I have a Honda VFR1200 and an Aprilia Mana 850 back in Manila. I miss my bikes. That’s why I recently got a Piaggio MP3 530cc here in Tel Aviv. I have yet to find motorbike enthusiasts here so I can venture outside of Tel Aviv and see Israel’s beautiful countryside landscapes.
What is your normal weekend like?
Coming from a stressful week, my go-to place to decompress is the spa. I go
to a nearby destination outside the city and spend a day taking in the fresh air, appreciating a beautiful view, having a massage, and eating good food.
Weekends, especially Sundays, are family time where half of our day is spent in church to worship and hear the Word of God that strengthens our faith, encourages us, and allows us to pray and encourage other believers too during challenging times.
What do you do in your free time?
My wife, Cari, and I have movie nights during our free time. We watch all kinds of movies – from action to documentaries, from award-winning films to indie films. We are both fond of singing, and having karaoke nights is a regular activity at home. Another activity that Cari and I love to do is target shooting. We love the challenge of hitting a target and honing our sharpshooting skills.
Where do you go when you want to unwind? Why?
I often stay home and read. Having a Kindle or any e-book reader has revolutionized my reading habit. I have stored hundreds, if not thousands, of books in various categories in a small tablet that is portable and very convenient. The Holy Bible is a book that I read over and over and my everyday guide for prayer, meditation, and daily devotional.
I also like to read about history, biographies, and fiction novels. In my current position as Ambassador to the State of Israel, I am reading a lot about the country and furthering my knowledge of diplomacy.
What places can you recommend to our readers when they want to visit Israel?
At the top of the list is Jerusalem. This is most significant to me because this is where Jesus spent most of His ministry work, made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross, and was resurrected from the dead. Just being in Jerusalem is already a spiritual encounter. I would recommend going to the Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. It is important to have an awareness of the plight of the Jews during this period in the history of the world and gain an appreciation for Israel and its people.
Other interesting places would be the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water, calmed the storm, and traveled to reach places beyond the Judea/Samaria area. A boat ride in Lake Kinerret (local name for the Sea of Galilee) complete with a worship service and feeding of the sea gulls gives you a spiritual boost.
Masada National Park is another must-visit in Israel. It gives a visitor an insight into Israel’s struggle and resistance to the Roman empire. Masada is a fort set on top of a mountain which is an architectural feat.
Any restaurants in Israel that you can recommend?
The Japanese Ambassador to Israel brought me to TYO Restaurant in Tel Aviv. Another restaurant in Tel Aviv is Claro, which serves French fusion cuisine. In Jerusalem, I would recommend Chakra and Mona Restaurants. I discovered these restaurants in my quest to find Michelin-level restaurants in Israel.
What is the best part of living in Tel Aviv?
In our area of residence, we are close to the beach and it is quite peaceful. We are also in the company of other diplomats where we feel safe. There is a university, hospital, and shops, which makes it a self-contained community and in an ideal location.
Tel Aviv is also central to the Filipino communities from the north or south of Israel. This makes it an ideal location for the embassy to be situated in. Right across the frontage of the embassy is HaYarkon Park and a few meters away you can see the Yarkon River. It is an enviable spot and most embassies here have expressed that we are so fortuitously located. There are many parks and open spaces in Tel Aviv for early morning walks and biking lanes.
The nightlife in Tel Aviv is also one of its come-ons. After the sun has gone down, people look forward to meet-ups to watch live bands, listen to cool beats by renowned DJs, hopping from one-of-a-kind cocktail bar to another, or dancing the night away.
What cultural activities do you participate in Israel?
As ambassador, high on my list is the welfare and safety of our kababayans. Since we cater to the Filipino community, I meet various groups who will always have cultural presentations. I join these activities to highlight and reinforce Filipino values, heritage, and culture. In diplomatic receptions, wearing our traditional national dress is an instant conversation piece. My wife and I proudly talk about indigenous Philippine fabrics, weaves, and designs. We get to be invited to diplomatic receptions where we get to show off our traditional attire and mingle with the diplomatic corps and Israeli officials.
What do you miss the most about the Philippines?
Tel Aviv is among the top five most expensive places to live in globally. So, I definitely miss the affordable prices in the Philippines. Aside from affordability, I also miss being accessible to everything. I can travel to various beautiful places in the Philippines that you cannot find anywhere in the world. There is so much diversity in the Philippines, and there is something for everyone.