Philippine Consulate officials pay first visit to Snohomish County

EVERETT — Come for the passport, stay for the pinakbet.

On Friday and through Sunday, the ground floor of Everett school district’s Community Resource Center was given over to a contingent of officials from the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco.

This consular outreach trip is one of many the staff from the consulate takes every year to serve local Filipino communities.

The consular staff flies up several times a year to hold sessions in Seattle and Tacoma, but this is the first time the program has come to Snohomish County.

According to U.S. Census data from 2010, 18,350 Philippine nationals or dual citizens call Snohomish County home, the third-highest number behind Pierce and King counties. Snohomish County’s population grew 91 percent over the previous decade.

Ellen Abellena, the consular outreach coordinator for the county, said about 700 people had signed up for various services this weekend, ranging from passport services, to registries of births, marriages and deaths and other official business.

“We still have a lot of people waiting for an appointment,” she said. If they couldn’t get one, they’d be referred to future visits of the consular staff to Seattle and Tacoma, although the consular staff might return to Everett in October or November, she said.

Visitors could also buy a traditional Philippine lunch, such as pork adobo, chicken afritada, pancit (fried rice noodles) or pinakbet, a stew of vegetables in fish sauce.

Rachel Oronce, the vice consul for the Philippines, said passport renewals were the most common request, because Philippine passports expire every five years and some people forget or wait until the last moment.

A large number of naturalized U.S. citizens also applied for dual citizenship with their home country to have the convenience of two passports.

“There are certain countries that allow visa-free entry to holders of Philippine passports,” Oronce said. That includes most countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, such as Thailand and Indonesia.

The consular staff in San Francisco travels 48 weeks out of the year to another city in the Northwest region, which includes everything from northern California to Alaska and east to the Rocky Mountain states.

With over 900,000 Filipinos in the region, including nearly 138,000 in Washington state, that keeps the staff busy.

The Philippines consulate in San Francisco handles about 50,000 cases per year from the northwest region, Oronce said.

Among visitors Friday were Romeo Caliboso of Seattle, who came in to renew his passport. Like many Filipino immigrants, he came over to the U.S. and brought his family over afterward. He moved to the northwest in 2003 and holds dual citizenship.

He only has distant relations back in the Philippines now, he said, and will likely remain in the U.S.

Oronce said that, with about 10 percent of the population of the Philippines living overseas, there’s a perpetual need for consular services wherever they are. But not all those who come to the U.S. stay for good, she said.

Lucille Lozada of Bellevue, moved to the U.S. 40 years ago, but came to the consular outreach program to get some affidavits notarized because she planned to move back to the Philippines in May.

“I’m going to retire there,” she said, explaining that her sister and one of her brothers will go with her, and they’ll be joined by her other brother the following month in the family home on the island of Cebu.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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