Aside from writing for the NDB, I also serve as the British Embassy Warden for Negros Occidental. My fellow-warden is the Bacolod-based, British TV documentary film maker Hazel Stuart.
Many foreigners living in Negros know little about their local embassies especially what they can and cannot do for them.
As part of the services offered by some embassies, there is an army of foreign residents dotted around the Philippines known as embassy wardens – not to be confused with prison wardens!
As far as I know, the United States, the UK and Canada all operate a warden system. I’m told by German friends that no such system exists for nationals of that country. And I really don’t know about other countries.
So, if you are not British, American or Canadian, you might like to find out from your embassy if there is such a system operated for nationals of your country.
So, what does an embassy warden do?
I’m speaking as a British Embassy Warden, but essentially, we all perform the same tasks.
We basically act as a link between an embassy and the nationals of that country – in my case the Brits who live in the province.
We provide information about important areas such as passport renewals and visa requirements. I must emphasize that wardens have no influence when it comes to visa applications.
We are also available to help British nationals, who have problems like ill health. We can inform family and friends in the UK.
And we are also here to assist British nationals who might be affected by a crisis like a civil disturbance or a natural disaster.
When there’s a crisis, we will pass information from the embassy to the British community; report on local conditions to the embassy; offer practical assistance and advice to embassy staff and identify affected British nationals and pass their details to the embassy.
The British wardens report to the Her Majesty’s Consul and his staff at the British Embassy in Manila.
If a British national is arrested or detained, the wardens can assist immediately by informing the embassy of the situation and, as necessary, putting the national in touch with embassy staff.
The consul in turn can put the detained person in touch with family members and can forward money from family, ensure that any medical problems are brought to the attention of the prison doctor and take up any complaints with the authorities.
But the consul cannot get a national out of prison, pay bail, legal fees or fines. The consul also cannot get special treatment or demand you have better treatment than local prisoners.
It does of course help in all respects if British nationals register with the embassy. I should stress that no information about the whereabouts of British nationals is passed by the embassy to any authorities such as tax offices. Please get in touch on 09163437048 if you’d like register.*