December 27. D-day. I have not tried to apply for a VISA these past 15 years because I never had the money, and partly because I was afraid of being rejected. 21 years ago, my mom bundled up her three kids and took us to the US on a tourist visa. Long story, short, we overstayed. She worked there for a bit, then got cancer, then underwent treatment under her HMO from work (she worked at Kaiser Permanente). We ended up overstaying, for one reason or another, but the reason I knew is that she was getting treated for her cancer. I remember being called into court, then being told we had to go back to the Philippines or get black listed. I remember my mom relenting to go home. It must have been a difficult time for her. She was in the late stages of cancer (something I was oblivious to back then) and it must’ve been so stressful for her. For this, I have utmost respect for the strength she managed to draw for us kids. Ako nga, isang araw lang na hectic, gusto ko na mag collapse. So we went home, she didn’t tell us that the doctor had already given her life a “taning”.
Fifteen years later, here I am trying to get a visa. I figure they won’t hold that overstaying thing against me because I was a minor. My dad said that the consuls will deny me a visa because my mom overstayed. I think to myself “Hindi naman siguro ganun yung mga yun. Diba Western sila? Don’t they have studies that show that what the parent does, hindi naman necessary na ganun din ang gagawin ng anak?”.
So on December 27, I ask our boy/driver Rey to take me to the embassy. We leave at 4.30am, arrive at 5am, scout for a place for him to stay since cellphones are not allowed. I needed to know where to find him. I was not willing to take a taxi to and from the embassy given the rate of rape and hold-ups these days. There’s a short line for tourist visas and I befriend the two girls in front of me. I learned from http://jaderated.blogspot.com/2011/08/la-visa-kaloka-my-us-visa-adventures.html that you do not need to go to the embassy 1-2 hours prior to your interview time as the Americans are on-the-dot. He was right. They let us in at 6am for processing. My interview was at 6.30am. I show my passport and US Visa application confirmation at the “booth” in front of the embassy. They put a sticker, give me a form then ask me to go to door 3. I go to door 3, proceed to have my bag checked, then instructions are repeated by a staff to sit down and wait for your number to be flashed on the LED screen. At 6.30am, we start to get called. I approach the window and am surprised to see a Caucasian dude with a thick accent. Russian? Czech? Something like that. He was very friendly and chipper. He asked for my passport and the pink slip I had to fill out. The pink slip asked for information on your parents. He asked for my name and birthdate. Then he fingerprinted me. Gave me back my passport. Asked me to go wait for my number for the final interview. I sat back down and waited another 30-minutes. It was about 7am when the blinds were lifted from the windows were the consuls were seated. My new friends and I were hoping to get a male consul (we heard they’re less ruthless). There was one young female consul that we were all hoping not to get. My seatmate was called. She was called to the male consul. Then my number flashed. I checked the window number and, tantanan! I get the female consul. She was friendly enough. I approach the window and say, “Hello” in my American accent. She says “Hello” back and smiles a little. I heard most consuls won’t even look at you. I think that this consul is a newbie because when the blinds were still drawn, I could see her constantly talking to someone. It looked like someone was running her through the process.
Consul: What is the purpose of the VISA?
Me: Visit (sabi nila keep it short eh. Isang tanong isang sagot. Haha. I think my answer was too short. Buti mabait si consul. Siguro kung iba yun sinabe na sakin “Duh, I know it’s for a visit, that’s why it’s called a visitor’s visa)
C: Have you ever been to the US?
M: Yes, I used to live there. From blah blah to blah blah.
C: What were you doing there?
M: Uhm, studying? My mom was working, but I’m not sure what kind of visa she was on. She’s dead now and I didn’t really get to ask what visa she was on.
(At this point, she was kind enough to point out that I was a minor then. Some consul, I guess her senior, was hovering, listening to our conversation)
C: Can I have your old VISA?
M: (I hand it to her). Here you go.
C: Who are you going to visit?
Me: My relatives. And I’m going to attend a wedding.
C: Who’s wedding?
M: My best friend.
C: Why is your best friend in the US?
M: (confused). She lives there? She’s an American citizen.
C: When was the last time you saw her?
M: When I left the US in 1997.
C: How do you keep in touch?
M: When there was no internet, through post. Now, through Blackberry and Facebook.
C: Where are you going to live while you are in the US?
M: My relatives.
C: How long have they been there?
M: I don’t know…like, forever? Maybe 20-30 years? They’re all American citizens.
C: Hold on a second. (Shuts the microphone then consults with her senior. I can see that the senior isn’t too keen on giving me a visa. She keeps gesturing to the computer in front of my consul, and to my old passport, which is in her hand. Junior consul seems to be explaining, “But she was a minor”. Senior consul says, “It doesn’t matter”. Or atleast that’s what I lip-read.)
C: (turns on the mic). It says here that your salary is Php>>>. How are you going to pay for the trip?
__Wow. Parang naliitan sya sa sweldo ko. Haha
M: My mom left savings for me. (Stupid me. I probably shoulda said I saved it. But I’m not a good liar.)
C: Hold on just a second. (Shuts off mic. Consults with senior consult who now has a smirk on her face and kind of laughs upon hearing that I’m gonna use my savings for the trip. Senior Consul seems to say, “She’s not a good candidate but it’s up to you”. Junior consul looks like she really wants to give me a visa.)
At this point, I’m kind of uneasy na. I get the feeling that this interview is not going well. But I try to look nonchalant and kind of bored and unfazed by the way the interview is going. She asks a few more questions, grabs a green sheet of paper, writes something then says, “I have some bad news for you. I’m sorry but you did not establish strong ties to your country. You can try again as soon as you can show proof of strong ties”.
Me: (Smiles). Alright. Thanks anyway. Have a good day.
It isn’t until later in the day that I realize how disappointed I feel. I feel rejected, like I’m not good enough to go to their country. Like I’m second class. I’m in this funk the whole day. But then, I guess it wasn’t a good time to go. I’ve been at my company for less than a year and it would be so dyahe to ask for a leave of about 2-4 weeks before I turned one. Plus, I really wasn’t financially ready. This way, I can save up some more. Sayang lang yung application fee ng 6k. Sana pinambili ko nalang ng maraming Zara clothes. Haha. So there. Most experiences I read kasi, approved ang visa nila. Here’s one na hindi.