My journey to the land of milk and honey is but a dream come true. It’s not because I’m going to work there for a living but because I will be speaking to the different faces of women across the U.S. I will loudly echo our pains and agonies in carrying the heavy crosses of poverty and violence as well as our small victories and aspiration for a better life. I will be also representing the joys and struggles of being a correspondent of World Pulse Voices of the Future. Being an award -winning correspondent of a prestigious global women media network is a more than a dream come true.
The United States is considered a land of milk and honey; a dream home of millions Filipinos. About 1.7 million Filipino immigrants are in US working to have decent lives and send money at home. Filipinos are the second-largest immigrant group in the United States after Mexican immigrant according to Migration Policy Institute. United States is already a home to about 1.4 million native-born US citizens who claim Filipino ancestry. I was very excited with the thought of my journey but my travel anxieties prevailed over my excitement. The thoughts of strict immigration officers at the airport, the important stuffs I might miss or lose caused me a terrible headache by the time I’ve done with all the interviews and baggage check ups at the Philippine Ninoy Aquino International Airport. My twelve hours fly from the Philippines to Vancouver was a journey of uncertainty of scenarios to happen. My delicious dinner of rice, chicken afritada and green vegetable salad gave me a wonderful feeling of overnight trip to Vancouver. My tension subsided and eventually my headache was gone. It was four o’clock in the afternoon of October 11 when my feet touched the grounds of Vancouver International Airport, Canada. I took a short glance of another popular country where Filipinos are taking their fate for a better future. Nearly half a million Filipinos are in Canada as to 2006 Canadian Census. They work as nurses, nannies, service workers, care givers, farm workers, etc. I found my easy way going through the Canadian Immigration contrary to my expectations. I was so thankful of the Philippine Airline personnel who escorted me all the way. But as I entered the US Customs and Boarder Protection of the Department of Homeland Security, I felt a high level of tension in the air. I sensed the atmosphere of suspiciousness as I looked at everybody’s faces. Nobody was smiling. I tried to be cordial and polite and had to smile to those who were checking my documents. The first guy who checked my travel documents asked me if I have some food in my hand carried bag. I said just a few biscuits.
“Then, why did you not declared that you have food?”
“Oh! I’m sorry! I t was an error”, I said.
I was then advised to proceed to the next door. I handed my passport to the person in charge at the front desk. He looked at me up and down and asked me why I didn’t get a new visa. I could hear the pumping of my heart.
“It’s still valid and my travel agent told me so”.
“Is your travel agent the US Embassy?”
“No, but the US Embassy told me it is still valid and it is in their website”.
He gave me back my passport and told me to proceed to the next door. I felt a sort of intimidation but I kept my confidence at the highest level. As I seated waiting for my turn, I asked the woman seated besides me if that was the usual process of US immigration checks. She didn’t know she said.
I entered the next door and got another interview. The officer looked at my passport and visa. He scanned my finger prints and took pictures of me. He asked me if I had the invitation of my travel. I said yes. After which he told me to go to another door and advised me to present my papers.
The guy at the window was in his late forties. He’s brown skinned, around 5’9 feet tall and wearing eye glasses. I didn’t know if he’s a Filipino or not. I’ve looked around and I was the only one waiting on the line. I wondered!
The interview was quite extensive – asking me about my purpose in entering US, why I was in Canada, what is my profession, what is WorldPulse, the last article I wrote and the issues I’m writing about, etc. He was not looking at me while asking; he was busy examining my travel documents. I was answering confidently and calmly by mentioning all my credentials.
“Can I show you my invitation?” “Oh sure!” he said.I handed to him my World Pulse invitation and the photocopied letter stating World Pulse as a charity organization. He asked me what about the photocopied document. “Maybe that’s a proof that they are a charity organization”, I told him.
The waiting was an agony. I don’t have any hint of what will be the result. I observed he was thoroughly examining all my travel documents. I felt my whole body parts were not connected with each other while sitting far across.
I felt so tired and tensed but I keep on reminding myself to consistently show my level of confidence. So many negative thoughts were playing in my mind. I was worried why it took too long for him to process my documents. I knew that even though I had a visa, it is still not a guarantee that I will be allowed to enter US. Looking far across the table of the Custom Officer, I was trying to get some cues of negative expression from him.
After 15 minutes or more, the Officer stood up and came to me. I stop breathing momentarily.
“Congratulations for the Award! Hope you enjoy your Tour!” giving me a warm handshake and a smile as he handed me back my travel documents.
Click here to learn more about the Voices of Our Future speaking tour and how you can attend an event to see Malayapinas speak!