The Philippine Austrian Cultural and Educational Society (PACES) celebrated its 8th year of operation on 15 May 2024 by electing a new set of officers for the term 2024 to 2026.

The new set of PACES officers are: Dr. Jane Gerardo-Abaya, President; Priscila Confiado, Vice-President Internal; Angelo Camarata, Treasurer; Manuel Ortega, MBA, Auditor. During the meeting, appointments were also made for Dr. Efren Abaya as Director of the PACES Education Programme, and Rodolfo Quevenco as Communications Officer. Alessandra Jose Parco, DDM, was subsequently elected Secretary after the general meeting. Also appointed after the meeting was Ambassador Sulpicio Confiado as Chief Strategist. The position of Vice-President External has yet to be filled.

The election culminated a set of day-long activities held to mark the 8th year of operation of PACES. This included Holy Mass at the Franziskanerkirche in the first district of Vienna followed by lunch at a nearby restaurant with officers, members and friends of PACES. In the afternoon, The annual general meeting of PACES was then held at the Philippine Embassy in Vienna, where the election for the new officers took place.

Philippine Ambassador to Austria, Evangelina Bernas inducted the new PACES officers.

Others present at the annual general meeting included outgoing President Marizel Rojas, outgoing Vice External Franz Berner, outgoing Treasurer Nilsa Fischer, past President Malou Reininger, and Gina Villanueva-Weinzierl, a former member of the Scholarship Committee. Former Philippine Ambassador to Egypt (and former Deputy Chief of Mission and Consul General of the Philippine Embassy in Vienna) Sulpicio Confiado was accompanied by his wife Priscila Confiado, who was retained as Vice President Internal and who gave a presentation on the new Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program.

New scholarship and setting the tone for the coming year

At the annual general meeting, it was resolved to fund three TVET scholars. The TVET scholarship was developed by CFC ANCOP in partnership with different skills training institutes in the Philippines. It is open to high school graduates, and is aimed at upskilling and honing the capabilities of Filipinos in the marginalized sectors of society for livelihood opportunities in building and construction projects.

The initial set of training programs to be supported include Diesel/Gas Mechanic, Shielded Metal Arc Welding, Electrical Installation and Maintenance, and Domestic Refrigeration and Air conditioning. The training can be completed in three semesters at a total cost of PHP 90,000 (less than EUR 1,500 at current exchange rates) that includes the tuition and school fees as well as living expenses for the trainee.

The annual general meeting also reviewed the achievements in the first eight years of the society, and set the tone for the upcoming year. The body, led by its new President, resolved to begin fund raising activities in order to relaunch the PACES STEM scholarship program by August 2024.

This program will be a continuation of past support for young Filipino students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses in Philippine state colleges and universities. Already eight scholars have obtained college diplomas with the help of PACES and its Philippine partner CFC ANCOP. A scholarship is valued at EUR 1,500 per year.

— By Dr. Efren Abaya