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? Consul General Maria Theresa Lazaro of the Philippine Consulate in Barcelona gives us a glimpse of her weekends.
Ever since Consul General Maria Theresa “Tess” Lazaro arrived in Barcelona in March 2021, she hasn’t really had any holiday at all. Most of her weekends are spent attending activities involving the Filipino community and FilCom organizations, visiting Filipino organizations and engaging them in a kumustahan session, or activities that the Consulate has organized. But she is not complaining. She is already so used to her hectic timetable ever since she joined the foreign service 23 years ago.
For her, talking to people is fun. It helps her become more effective in her job. With her tight schedule, does she have time for herself? Consul General Lazaro tells TFEM how.
What is your weekend like?
If I don’t have any engagement with the Filipino community on weekends, which is very rare, I spend the weekend staying at home and getting some rest or doing household chores. I do squeeze in some time to do retail therapy or going out with friends or some of my work colleagues, or talking to my friends back home. This sounds boring but given our busy schedule at the Consulate, everyone at work would probably prefer to spend weekends getting some rest. I just watch TV or listen to music while doing some chores. I also enjoy interior decorating and I love to experiment decorating my place or even the Consulate. Most of the decors at the Consulate, I do myself.
Any outdoor activities?
When I do not have any commitment or if my commitments are in the afternoon or evening, I try to do some walking for an exercise. I used to go mountain hiking in my previous posting, which I have not done since I came to Barcelona. I also love to eat out, relax and hang out with friends.
What do you do in your free time?
I do different things during my free time. What I don’t do is set a routine. My work schedule is already routinary. I just want to deviate from my work routine. So, normally, I do whatever I want or feel like doing during my free time. Most of the time, though, I just want to walk around the city and explore. Just to chill out.
What do you like doing on your holidays?
I really want to go on a real holiday, but I cannot do it yet. Perhaps, a little later this year. And if I have a chance to do it, I still prefer to go home to the Philippines. I’ve been here for more than a year now and have not gone home since.
What is the best part of living in Barcelona?
Barcelona is a very cosmopolitan city and it is very open to various cultures. People are generally friendly. There’s very little adjustment to make. But I am a very flexible and adaptable person. I haven’t had difficulty adjusting to a new environment, at least in my three foreign assignments.
What I love in Barcelona is that you can easily go to the beach or mountain – the geographic landscape is more diverse than in, say, Madrid. It is a bustling city with a vibrant art and culture scene. You can never get bored in Barcelona as there are plenty of things to do and see.
What interesting places in Barcelona top your list?
I love culture and arts, looking at architectural designs. I have always been interested in architecture and history so the works of Gaudi are on the top of my list, particularly the Sagrada Familia. I have visited several of Gaudi’s masterpieces and I would also recommend visiting them. Barcelona is also a foodie destination and there are plenty of good restaurants around town. Food lovers will surely enjoy a food trip in Barcelona.
Can you recommend good restaurants in Barcelona?
I’m actually not very particular when it comes to food. To be honest, I prefer home-cooked meals. For foodies though, Barcelona offers an unbeatable gastronomic feast, from Michelin star restaurants to contemporary casual ones. So, there’s a whole range to choose from. For visitors/tourists, I recommend a visit to La Boqueria which is perhaps the most famous market in Barcelona. It offers a diverse selection of food. For tapas, Vinitus and Ciutat Comtal, I think, are two of the best, at least near my workplace. I’m sure, there are plenty more around the city. For Catalan cuisine, Restaurante L’Olivé, I heard, is also one of the very good ones.
What cultural activities do you participate in Barcelona?
Here in Barcelona, I have experienced the calçotades, where the locals eat grilled spring onions at spring time. I have also experienced their Christmas culture, its street markets, feast of Sant Jordi, among other events. However, in most of the cultural events in the city, I am more of a curious bystander than a participant.
This article was first published in TFEM’s Spring 2023 Issue
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Nats Sisma Villaluna has been serving the Filipino community in Spain for more than 13 years. His volunteer works include teaching Spanish to Filipinos, and as artistic director of the Coro Kudyapi, a group of musically inclined young Filipinos in Barcelona. His passion to serve the Filipino community now extends to other countries in his role as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the new The Filipino Expat Magazine.