I’ve written this piece when I was still based in Bangkok. For some reason, I wasn’t able to post this. As I got to coordinate with the Embassy here Down Under (again) I think it’s about time to post this, for the record. This is unedited and captures my raw emotion when I was writing this. 🙂
Embassies are meant to be a sanctuary for any country’s citizen (I used to look up at the US for caring for its citizen–no matter what they’ve done they will try to protect them at all cost–or is it just in the movies??). However, as a Filipino, I might beg to disagree with this notion. Trivial as it may be, but the fact remains that some (hopefully just some! but in my case–NO) embassies have been inutile in simple things, and big things start from simple things.
First Case. Sydney, Australia–I asked for assistance for my daughters’ paternal consent (yes, Filipino children wouldn’t be allowed to travel outside the country without the consent of either one of the parents, in case that the parent is not present during travel). I knew such application needed some requirements so I’ve already searched for the requirements among other things, however, when I arrived at the consulate I was welcomed by a “not so welcoming” kababayan.
A frown greeted me at the counter as if I was almost not there. He asked me to wait in the queue, which by the way there’s none!?? For about an hour I waited to be served and when my time came, I was told I have the wrong form and I have to secure the form from them. I complied. I was becoming impatient having to travel almost three hours by train just to get to the consulate (I came from Newcastle) then the person told me to come back tomorrow to get the papers. I shot back, “Ma’am estudyante po ako, at ‘di po ako nagpapayaman dito ‘di ko basta-basta na-iipon baon ko” (Ma’am’, I’m a student and I’m not here to earn money, I can’t afford to come back here just like that.”)
So I was told to come back minutes before close of business, I tried to compose myself. When I got back, I got the paper but paid a very very expensive amount (well, compared to how much you would just pay a notary public back in the Philippines?!!–well, I’m in a foreign country, anyway I might just let this pass) and with another comment that “she tried her best of getting her boss sign it” now I owe her some debt of gratitude but I just gave her a grin (talking about keeping my composure as a Christian but man this was a bit too much).
Second Case. Bangkok, Thailand–Last year, the Thai Immigration Policy changed. This has affected most foreigners working in Thailand. Some foreigners usually arrive as tourists in Thailand and after a few weeks find a job as a teacher, musician or any job that requires an English speaking individual. They usually don’t get working visa as it’s easy to just have a visa run–a trip to the border to have your visa stamped another month of permit to stay in the Kingdom. The trip to nearest Thai-Cambodian border usually costs around THB100 compared to the processing fee for a work visa, which is around a few thousand baht.
As always, some Filipinos are part of these foreigners who come here to teach English, play music among other things. They are usually on a visa run with some of them doing it for more than 10 years.
The changes in the Thai Immigration Policy last year warranted that the Embassy to inform Filipinos in Thailand–illegal and legal–about the changes. Anyway, anxious Filipinos attended the briefing at the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok. Most of them are working as teachers or travel agents among others. Some have been trying for years to get a work visa but to no avail–some claimed of ever changing policies, corruption, etc.. The infuriating thing about this briefing is to tell the poor fellows to go home and just stay home (yeah right–and starve to death without any chance of employment).
Fast forward to today.
I’m not grumpy or anything but I’m back Down Under. I thought I would not be coordinating with the Philippine Embassy here for anything but I am contacting them re my family’s passport renewal and my registration for the overseas absentee voting (OAV).
I’m now based in “far remote” Western Australia. For locals, WA residents seem to be ‘outcast’ when it comes to everything, I guess this transcended to Pinoy OFWs here. If I wasn’t aware of the OAV registration, then chances are I will never be able to know about it at all. Despite the claims of the Department of Foreign Affairs of their extensive public awareness re the OAV, there’s been no attempts to make Filipinos based in Australia aware that there is an on-going registration for the OAV. The Philippine Embassy here in Australia sure has an announcement re the OAV but only on their website but as to the claim that there is an extensive campaign re OAV, we are not certain if that exist. As I’ve written above, you can now guess what our embassies are good at when it comes to servicing its citizen… I rest my keyboard. 😀