The travails of a travelling Filipina

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orosaEveryone who has tried getting a travel visa has had that dreadful feeling from the nag-ging question, “What if I don’t get one?”

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For many of us who do not own any other colored passport save for the maroon Philippine-issued booklet, getting a visa can prove to be a disconcerting, tedious process. From securing all those bank certificates, getting copies of one’s employment records, to gathering copies of every single possible asset one has, it mostly feels like an audit of your financial and professional life.

In fact, the experience of getting a visa these days has actually dissuaded many potential travelers from exploring the globe outside of the Asean. For one, it’s time-consuming, and second, it can be quite expensive too.

To this day, I distinctly remember as a young child, lining up in the early hours of the morning in front of the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard with my parents and siblings. Long before the appointment system was in place, getting a US Visa meant waking up at 4 a.m. to make sure you could get in the embassy grounds before noon. One certainly had to be determined to get that visa to muster the patience for the long queues and the long wait. To no surprise, to this very day, getting that much-coveted visa is certainly a challenge for most.

But the long queue isn’t the only thing one has to hurdle. Next comes the actual interview before a consul. For the most part, meeting foreign or local consuls who are very cordial and congenial have made visa applications an easy and pleasant experience. And yet, there are still times when one feels slightly belittled by the interviewer behind the glass window. In some ways, it does take a ton of humility and forbearance to stand in front of a total stranger who assesses your life’s worth in a few seconds.

I remember years back, as my sister and I waited for our turn to be called, we watched in disbelief when a man suddenly fainted upon the consul’s denial of his application. As the guards rushed to help the young man, my sister and I looked at each other anxiously and said, “Oh no! We hope we don’t end up in that window.” But as fate would have it, we did—but with a slightly flustered-looking consul this time. Fortunately, we did get our visas.

Yet, for some, travel travails don’t end with applying and getting a visa. The next hurdle comes in crossing the immigration counter. Even upon landing at one’s destination, we’ve often waited in line behind many Filipinas who are questioned for a longer than usual time at airports in Hong Kong or Singapore. I often empathize with fellow Filipina travelers and honestly become a bit anxious myself about being questioned when traveling alone. For the most part, I feel fortunate to be travelling with family and not having to be asked what my reasons for travelling are.

The prospect of travel always brings a sense of anticipation. In the end, it is the prospect of new adventures for the tourist, the comforting consciousness of being in revisited places, or the advent of a new life abroad for others that travel highlights best. Fortunately, these delightful prospects that travel begets still far outweigh the hassles and inconveniences that planning for one might have.

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