What Could Possibly Go Wrong

12:47:00 AM


Last Saturday, I posted a very vague Facebook status about me almost not making my flight back to Singapore because I got held up at the Philippine Immigration desk. I wanted to write in detail everything that happened while it's still fresh in my head because a.) it was a VERY nerve-wracking experience, and b.) if anyone out there is facing the same situation, reading about this could maybe help a tiny bit. (That's a lot of uncertainty in one phrase since we all have different scenarios. It may be easier or harder for you, depending on the circumstances.)

Here's what you need to know:

1. Sudden decision to go home. I fell ill here in Singapore for two weeks. (As in I was on three types of painkillers + two other medicine for two weeks) Instead of my plan to solo backpack in India before my next project starts, I decided to go home instead. Because that's what you do when you thought you were gonna die in another country.

2. Not yet a registered Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). At the time I couldn't apply for an OWWA membership since my project just ended and I was hired by another IT firm.

UPDATE: I AM NOW A REGISTERED OFW! :)

3. Changed IT firms. Different company means different Employment Pass card, which means I couldn't register as an OFW because the details on the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) membership would not be the same anymore. My new IT firm advised against getting one since it won't be valid anyway.

5. Tourist. I purchased my return ticket to Singapore knowing I will have to go back on tourist visa, paying travel tax and all that Immigration business. I was confident I could get back as a tourist. But right after I got back here, everyone I talked to who works here told me what I did was a crazy gamble. They would have never come home to the Philippines if they were in my shoes.

I'm acknowledging that I have a lapse in this situation being that I didn't take the time to apply for one when I had the chance. I don't want to make excuses but plainly stating the fact, I wasn't expecting/planning to visit PH that soon. And the travel tax is more expensive than an OWWA registration fee. In a way, I ended up paying the government more than I should have.

Now, let's skip to the part when I was filling out the immigration card. Right after I finished, I started touching up my makup. I learned from previous experiences that the more presentable I was, the faster I got out of the Immigration checkpoint. Then came for my turn to talk to the Immigration Officer.

Me: Good evening! *smiles*
Immigration Officer (O): Passport and boarding pass, ma'am?
Me: Here.
O: Ma'am saan yung return ticket niyo pabalik ng Manila?
Me: Ito po. *hands return ticket*
O: Nasan yung ticket papunta?
Me: Ooh sorry wala dito. Hindi pala naibalik nung Ate sa check-in counter. Pero nasa phone ko yung PDF. Ito oh. *shows saved ticket on my phone*
O: Bakit babalik ka ulit sa Singapore? Kagagaling mo lang dun ah?
Me: Yes, pero babalik din ako dito agad. *points to the date on the return ticket*
O: Ano yung trabaho mo ngayon?
Me: Currently, wala. (I didn't want to lie about this. My next project hasn't started yet so technically I didn't have a "paying" job at that moment)
O: Anong work mo dati?
Me: IT Consultant ako for 6 years sa Hewlett Packard
O: Paano mo isu-support yung sarili mo sa Singapore?
Me: 6 years ako sa HP. Sobrang malaki yung backpay na na-receive ko. It's more than enough pang-travel.
O: Anong trabaho ng parents mo?
Me: *tells them my parents' jobs* (For some reason, I also told them that my father was a retired army soldier and he then became a Vice Mayor of a Palawan municipality. I don't know if it was nerves or maybe I thought telling them would make it easier for me. IT DIDN'T HELP.)
O: Magkano yung pocket money mo?
Me: *tells them the amount*


Those set of questions were repeated to me many times in a random order. I think she was hoping I miss a beat and finally mess up on my answers. Then, she got up and talked to her supervisor from the far side of the Immigration checkpoint. She and the supervisor started walking towards me. Only then did it hit me--it was becoming more and more serious and I had less than an hour left before boarding time.

My hands trembled. I held on to the desk and firmly grasped on my phone just so the trembling wouldn't be so obvious. I took another deep breath before the Supervisor and the officer took me aside near the office door. They kept asking me about the same thing over and over again, both speaking simultaneously. Then, a new question was brought up.

Supervisor: Bakit ka nag-Malaysia nung dates na ito?
Me: Bakasyon lang yan. Binisita ko yung best friend kong nagwo-work dun.
S: Anong bakasyon. Umexit ka lang para ma-extend yung tourist pass mo eh.
Me: Ha? Para saan? Three days lang ako nandun.
S: Hindi. Pumunta ka dun para humaba yung stay mo sa Singapore.
Me: Hindi ko naman kelangan yun. Bakasyon ko yun, sir. Nag-bus ako simula Johor Bahru, dumaan sa Melaka para makadating sa Kuala Lumpur.
S: Hindi ako naniniwala. Umexit ka lang eh!
Me: *getting fed up, opens my Instagram feed, scrolls furiously* Sir, travel po lahat yan. Eto yung Instagram ko, o. Documented lahat diyan yung pinutahan ko sa Malaysia. Check niyo yung dates.
S: *looks at my Instagram feed* (AT THIS POINT, I REALLY COULDN'T BELIEVE THAT WAS HAPPENING)
Me: Saka travel blogger din ako. I write about my travels. Lahat nasa blog ko.

The supervisor pulled the officer aside and talked to her. Then, he went back to his post at the far end of the Immigration area, while the officer went back to her desk and motioned for me to come closer to her window.

O: Ma'am, ano yung URL nung blog niyo?
Me: jenneverblogs.com
O: Pwedeng makita?
Me: Sure, Ate! Eto na lang, naka-load na sa phone ko. *hands her my phone*
O: *scrutinizing my posts*
O: Aba, mukhang ikaw nga may gawa nitong lahat ah?
Me: Yes. Sinusulat ko yung mga anecdotes based from experiences sa mga travel ko.
O: Ang ganda ng mga picture. Anong camera gamit mo?
Me: May DSLR ako. Nandito sa backpack ko ngayon. Kelangan mo ba makita?
O: Ah, no need na.
O: *stamps my passport*

To those asking me to explain this further, I'm sorry but I also don't know what happened. It was like a switch was turned off from them being hostile to friendly, just like that. I was so confused about what happened that it left me sleepless during the duration of the whole flight. (Usually, I conk out the moment the plane takes off!)

Takeaways

The Offloading Rule that Vice President Binay launched to boost anti-trafficking is a double-edged sword, which actually does prevent trafficking but also hurts the chances of Filipinos with real job offers abroad. As a result, instead of doing the due process of getting registered thru POEA, Filipinos go out of the country on tourist visa and get the OWWA membership in the host country instead. Not only because it could take two weeks before the membership gets processed (compared to less than a day in the host countries), but also for some people, the hiring process is very fast and the work is set to commence ASAP. If you are offered a very good deal, and an inefficient government service (POEA) is preventing you from doing things by the book, what option does an aspiring overseas Filipino worker have?

On a lighter another, another takeaway was that just when I thought this blog was useless and had no place on the internet, it suddenly saved me from getting offloaded from my flight. To everyone who takes their time to read what I write here, thank you!

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