THE demise of the printed word is —like the news of the death of Mark Twain —extremely exaggerated.
At the dawn of the digital age, prediction of a paperless society, where everything can be read online was all over the news, ironically most of it in black and white.
More than three decades after Frederick Wilfrid Lancaster espoused the concept, a number of publications have literally ‘stopped the presses’ but the printed word remains.
One aspect of human communications involving relationship (from first sight to last breath) is the penpal era. The name itself aptly describes what the sender and receiver use to express their intent and commitment: Friends writing to each other using the postal system.
The web closed that gap. The electronic media sealed the fate.
Filipinos in the 50’s waiting for the postman to deliver that stamped envelope have been replaced with Pinoys checking their email or cell phones for the just-sent-and-received messages.
In 2009, data from Reuters, the New York Time, CTIA.org, UPI.com, and Pew Research among others, showed that on the average, Filipino mobile subscribers sent an average of 600 messages per month or 43 percent more than their US counterparts.
Even the Senate confirmed the widely-held belief that the Philippines is the “text” capital of the world. In a bill introduced by then Senator Manuel M. Lapid seeking to regulate the use of text, graphics, multimedia and other similar messaging systems, the legislator acknowledged the fact that Filipino cellular phone subscribers remain strongest anywhere in the globe.
Overseas Filipinos represent a sector that benefits from this emergent textual relationship.
Remittances for example can now be sent by SMS using the cell phones of both sender and receiver. A spouse or partner from Canada from example could simply type in the amount being sent and the receiver proceeds to the designated outlet to get the remittance—simply by showing the text message and account reference.
Where the SMS Remittance Firm is not a bank—the remittance does not register with the official figures of money sent back home through official channels. Hence the official figure of the Central Bank —$25.1 billion in 2013—should be much bigger.
And closer to home, surveys, current news and events on the air receive instant reaction from texters. EDSA II for example is credited to have brought down the Joseph Estrada government and the ascendance of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration in September 2001.
Still closer to home, we receive hundreds of textions weekly about visas and migration concerns. We reply to most of them and request the texter to continue the electronic communication by email for more details since SMS is space and finger-challenging.
This textion for example was sent to 0917-534-8472: “I am grn crd holder in PH 4 2 yrs now. I wnt 2 rtrn to US.”
The texter apparently was issued an immigrant visa at the US Embassy, went to the US and subsequently got his or her green card. For whatever reason, the texter returned to the Philippines and has been here for two years now.
Under current US immigration laws, a green card holder who has been outside the US for a year or more without a re-entry permit would find it extremely difficult to return to the US unless he can establish the fact that he left the US as a green card holder, had no intention to abandon the resident status and still has permanent ties in the US.
The overstaying greencard holder in the Philippines need to apply for a returning resident visa and once issued would be issued another immigrant visa.
On the other hand if a green card holder finds it difficult to adjust in the US and has to return home twice a year simply to maintain his immigrant status then he can also surrender his green card and apply for a tourist visa.
Ricardo for example has a lucrative printing business in the Philippines. His US citizen daughter (Feliz) filed a petition for him because Feliz thought that Ricardo would be happier in New York instead of in Quezon City.
Ricardo did not want to break Feliz’s heart and got his greencard. However, he had to return to the Philippines at least once a year. However, he stays in the country for more than a year, sometimes up to three years. Before returning to the US, he contacts a friend who stamps his passport with an antedated “stamp of arrival” showing that Ricardo arrived in the Philippines just “months before his return flight to the US.”
This practice became too dangerous to play.
The last time Ricardo returned to the US, he was interrogated for hours. While he was allowed to enter, Ricardo did not want to go through that experience again. He returned to the Philippines, surrendered his green card and applied for a tourist visa.
Because there are very few green card holders who would exchange their immigrant status for a tourist visa, Ricardo was issued a 10-year multiple entry B-1/B-2 visa. Now, he still can travel to the US but is not forced to stay there more than he needs to. Feliz is happier as well because Ricardo does not feel stressed just staying home, watching TV, going to the mall on weekends.
Oh, Ricardo and Feliz keep in touch by email and text messages. Ocassionally on webcam through Skype or Viber.
If you have any textion (a visa question sent by text) you can send it to 0917-534-8472. You’ll get a response within the hour.
For more visa and migration updates listen to “Amerika, Atbp.,” on Radyo Agila, 1062 AM Mondays, from 8 to 9 pm.