Filipino Time: Take your time, but hurry up


I HEARD it first from a very good friend – Al Repato, a community advocate in San Francisco, California who worked with Pacific Bell (now AT&T) as community relations officer.

Al was my point person in organizing community events during my stint as City Editor and Bureau Manager of the Philippine News – the oldest Filipino American newspaper with the widest circulation in the US. The late Alex Esclamado – the indefatigable pillar of the FilAm community, was publisher.

Al and Alex were determined to redefine Filipino time as synonymous with punctuality.

I started as cartoonist then moved on to the news desk and, as Bureau Manager got to meet the Filipino American community leaders and organization stalwarts in America from California (the land of the Manongs), up to Washington State the historical destination of Pinoys in canneries, to the Mid-West, Chicago, Illinois (for nurses, accountants and other professionals); onward to the Tri-State of New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, curbing southwards to Florida (the docking place for Pinoy seafarers, gliding back westward to Texas, then Arizona and finally hopping to the islands of Hawaii, where Manongs and Manangs kept the light for the immigrants that followed into the sugarcane and pineapple plantations.

That was also the time when I hosted and produced the first weekly TV updates on visas and immigration on the “Immigrant Journal” broadcast as regular episode of the first locally produced TV weekly in the Bay Area –“Manila, Manila” produced by Advertising and Marketing Associates.

Hawaii is dubbed the Ilocano Republic. As legend has it, when non-Ilocano tourists or new immigrants ask a Manong if he is a Filipino, the answer was, “No, I am an Ilocano.”

Sugar cane bosses in the 1900s first recruited from the cities, until they realized that the folks from the North were better workers, hardy and sturdy. Pakbet, diningdeng and saluyot soon appeared in restaurants along Waipahu, crept to Honolulu (Oahu) and later to the neighboring island of Maui.

Inevitably, the Manongs – particularly those who became naturalized Americans- filed petitions for their spouses, children and siblings. Because of the per country visa allocation (25,620) for the Family preference categories) the Manongs and Manangs had to check the Visa Bulletin every month. As months turned to years and years to decades, the petitioners realized they were in the twilight zone of “hurry up and wait.”

First to become US citizens. Filipinos have the highest rates of naturalization among the Asian immigrant communities. In 2013, Mexico was the leading country of birth of new citizens (99,385); India was second at 49,897.

While Filipinos came in third overall, the Philippines topped the other Asian countries in terms of naturalization applicants (43,489), besting eventhe Dominican Republic (39,590) and the People’s Republic of China (35,387).

Filipinos sprinted to the naturalization application lines mainly because only US citizens could sponsor spouses, children of all ages, married or not, as well as sisters and brothers. But they soon discovered being first to file does not mean being first to be reunited.

The tyranny of numbers simply overran the per-country allocation, as there were more Filipino petitioners than there were visas available. For sisters and brothers of US citizens for example, the waiting period is approximately 22 to 25 years.

Hurry up and wait
This month, the State Department further reinforced the “hurry up and wait” syndrome by putting out two charts for persons waiting for the issuance of their immigrant visas particularly in the Family-preference categories. Until October of 2015, the Visa Office issued only one chart each for the Family and Employment-based categories.

Now, there is a chart for those who can (and should) apply for their immigrant visas and another chart for those who can start processing their immigrant visa applications. The second chart shows a priority date years before visas would become available.

Until October this year, immigrant visa applicants usually start submitting their documents and paying the fees anywhere from six months to a year. The NBI clearance for example, expires in 6 months. Birth, death certificates as well as Certificates of No Marriages (CENOMAR) must be submitted on the most recent forms (allegedly with more current security features).

Submitting a document as evidence of civil status too early would be costly if the waiting period is extended (such as when a category moves backward or retrogress). With the new double charting, visa applicants are now asked to submit documents years ahead of their immigrant visa interview.

Hurry up and wait.

The first chart shows the “Application Final Action Dates” for each category. Applicants whose priority dates fall on the cut-off date or earlier would be eligible for visa issuance or adjustment of status.



This second chart instructs immigrant visa applicants who have priority dates earlier than the cut-off date (below) to assemble and submit required documents to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, following receipt of notification from the National Visa Center.

family_sponsored220151015The second chart apparently entices the visa applicant and the petitioner to start assembling the documents long before the priority date becomes current. To illustrate, the F1 category in the first chart shows visa applicants with priority dates on or before June 1, 2001 should have been scheduled for interviews at the U.S. Embassy. The second chart, on the other hand, shows the priority date of the same category (F1) as September 1, 2005 – more than four (4) years before the priority date would have been current.

Essentially, the second chart encourages the applicant to hurry up. But wait! The waiting period could take another 4 years. By that time the documents’ validity would have expired.

Al and Alex would have been furious because Filipino time would have recovered its previous reputation as being terribly tardy.

Hurry up and wait. And pay the cost for being punctual.


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