H.E. Jose Santiago "Chito" L. Sta. Romana

Esteemed envoy and statesman, the late Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana was an activist by heart who fought his way to success through diligence and industry.

He completed elementary and secondary school at De La Salle University. He obtained his degree in AB Economics and BS in Commerce from the same university in 1970; and immediately after pursued a graduate degree course in Economics at the University of the Philippines for a year, from 1970 to 1971. However, his academic pursuit was put to a halt with the declaration of martial law in the Philippines. At the time, he was out of the country heading a Youth Delegation in China. It was not advisable for him to return to the Philippines as he was among the activists who were vocal about their views on various socio-political issues of the day. He obtained a Master’s of Arts degree in International Relations in 1987 from the Tufts University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

His exile in China had not been easy for him, yet he thrived out of his ingenuity and diligence despite the isolation from family and friends. He learned Mandarin at the Beijing Language Institute to cope with day-to-day living in China, allowing him to immerse in the study of works that required fluency in both Chinese and English languages. Earlier in his career, he worked as a translation editor for a Chinese publishing house at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, where he was given an opportunity to edit and translate into English two economics books and several other articles by noted Chinese economists at the time.

After this brief stint at the publishing house, he landed a job in ABC News that opened up more significant opportunities for his professional career. As a correspondent and producer, he reported on major stories such as the crisis in US-China relations in 1999 and 2001, the economic rise of China, and the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He worked with esteemed ABC anchors Peter Jennings and Diane Sawyer when they reported from China. From a correspondent to a Reporter/Producer, and much later as Beijing Bureau Chief of ABC News, this was a career he held from 1989 until his retirement in 2010.

He served as Professorial Lecturer at the University of the Philippines Asian Center in 2015, handling courses on Politics and Governance in China. He was a Trustee of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and Teach for the Philippines from 2016 through 2022. He was also an esteemed member of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS) Advisory Board from 2016 thru 2022 and was the former President of PACS from 2014 to 2016.

He was appointed as a Non-resident Philippine Ambassador to Mongolia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, concurrent with his appointment as Philippine Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, from December 2016 thru April 2022.

Over the years, Amb. Chito Sta. Romana had received several distinctions, such as the Emmy Award, News and Documentary Category in 2000; an Emmy Nomination, News and Documentary Category in 2001 & 2006; the Award from the Overseas Press Club of America for his team’s coverage of the massive China earthquake in 2008; and the Presidential Award, Gawad Mabini with the Rank of Dakilang Kamanong in 2020 for his “instrumental role” in the strengthening of Philippine and China ties. President Duterte posthumously awarded him the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Datu, as he lay in state at the Heritage Chapel on April 30.

To have lived, worked, and thrived in China for the most part of his life, it may be said that Amb. Chito Sta. Romana had the advantage of knowing and understanding China better, from its leadership to its culture and people, than many Chinese and Filipino Chinese in the Philippines.

Gleaning from his life, works, and advocacies, he had been an effective instrument in educating people about the Chinese culture and China in terms of its leadership, politics, and development goals. Furthermore, it may be said that perhaps his best work and legacy are that of his dedication to promoting people-to-people interaction by sharing his appreciation, knowledge, and perception of China, and ideals in maintaining amity amidst and despite disputes through diplomatic means and channels, considering that China and the Philippines share important historical roots.

This year, the Award for Promoting Philippines-China Understanding (APPCU) recognizes all these efforts and relevant contributions by the late Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana, and for being instrumental in maintaining a healthy friendship and cooperative relations between China and the Philippines.