Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Good and Bad English


I was at the US Embassy yesterday for VISA renewal together with the rest of my family. It was my first time to enter the huge establishment since the first time we got our VISA 10 years ago, kids weren’t required to come with their parents for the application process. But after 10 years, here we are, hopeful that my family would again be granted another 10 years to freely visit the US. A few things ran into my head while we were there (read: we were allowed to go in at 10AM, we got out at 2PM!) and until later on that day.

The variety of people coming in and out of the embassy is just surprising. While we were still outside, I saw this old man dressed in a really worn-out muscle shirt and boxer shorts with matching hand towel pa resting on one of his shoulders. He obviously wasn’t Filipino, judging by his accent and well, he was dangling an even more worn-out blue passport that he nonchalantly showed to the guards so that he’ll be let in. I mean, there’s no actual dress code that tells us to dress appropriately, but gets, he could’ve at least put on some pants. Oh well.

I don’t want to say it’s an issue of race that the guards let the old man in. I was thinking about it, and I thought the US Embassy is sort of like that man’s house. And because it’s his “house”, he can go in and out comfortably, dressed in whatever he likes. That argument seems reasonable, right? I mean, if Filipinos can do their official business (well at least most of it) in tsinelas, why can’t Americans do the same?

But what I’m really driving at here was the last two hours that we’ve spent inside the embassy. You see, there’s this dreaded window that no applicant should wish to be sent to. Window 9 at the far left of the building is where all the questioning and scrutinizing happen. The stuff we see on TV with the consul on the other side of that glass window asking Filipinos soooo many questions about their stay in the States, it’s all true. What wasn’t accurate though was the shutting of the blinds whenever an applicant gets rejected. But then again, it doesn’t seem very practical for the consul to do that as he was rejecting renewal applicants, one after the other.

It was close to heartbreaking to see people being rejected. I think what’s even more painful is that everyone else in the hall gets to witness you being grilled by the questions and eventually being handed back your passport, now with a blue letter explaining reasons why you got rejected. Everyone gets to see that. Everyone. Strangers you don’t even know witness a few minutes of embarrassment that you’d have to live with for a few months before you can re-apply.

I think what’s even more heartbreaking, and actually very annoying, was that the consul in charge that day was denying so many people. And these applicants were only there for renewal under VRP, which is supposedly a sure-ball renewal. But lo and behold, in the two hours that we’ve waited (we, too, had to go through the interview at window 9), I think only 3 out of 10 applicants were approved. And you know what I noticed, the three approved applicants all spoke very good English and all had, shall I say, sosyal job description. One was a doctor who was already in training to be a cardiologist, while the other one was CFA and the last one I think just looked sosyal in general. I mean, I can say that it really pays to speak good and fluent English, but if that’s the only basis to be approved of a VISA, then what about other Filipinos who need that VISA more than others? I’m not one to fight for equality and fairness in a country that’s been biased to begin with, but sometimes, it just seems so obvious who they’re siding with. Parang they don’t even try to be more impartial about who to approve and who to deny. I just felt bad for the mothers and fathers who were hoping they could get to visit their grandchildren in the States or maybe their own children who’ve been working in the States for 5 or 10 years. Are those not enough reasons for the purpose of their travel? It pained me so much when the consul denied this old man, maybe in his early 80’s. I didn’t hear clearly what the old man was saying, but I could make out that he said he wanted to go to the States to visit his two grandkids. Diyos ko naman, a man of his age can’t work anymore, let alone get hired by anyone in the States. Why deny him of his VISA? I don’t get it. The world is unfair. :-<

Nonetheless, I'm very much thankful for not getting denied and hopefully, when the mail comes in a few days, we’d be seeing 10 more years of US gates opening for us. I don’t where I’ll be or who I’ll be with after 10 years, but it feels good to know that for now, I had the chance to experience the anxiety and glee of applying for a VISA and being approved.