Tag Archives: Hawaii

An unusual US visa interview (or how the American consul talked to me in Ilokano)

US embassy

My paper abstract was accepted for presentation at an international conference in Hawaii on Nov. 14-16. And the next step was to get a US Visa. I was anxious. For who among us hasn’t heard of heartbreaking, if not horrific, experiences with consuls at the US embassy?

The whole process of applying for a visa, and the mere thought of it, seemed daunting to me: bank payment, online application, setting a schedule. My journey began with an online application that was, alas, delayed by a series of unfortunate events: unsuccessful attempts to schedule a group interview (there six seven of us from our university applying together), lack of common available time among us six, adjusted schedules because of flooding in Manila, and the university staff in charge of assisting us traveling abroad for two weeks. Meanwhile, plane fares were steadily going up as days passed.

Then the schedule came: September 6, 2013, 6:30 a.m. All of us got the same appointment, but we were to be interviewed as individuals, not as a group, which I thought was unfortunate because I heard group interviews have lower casualty rates. Anyway, I made sure I had all necessary documents that may be asked: passport, appointment letter, certificate of employment, bank certificate, samples of my published works, and a draft of my research paper.

A few days before the interview, I searched on the Internet articles about actual experiences of Filipinos during visa interviews. There are a lot of tips shared online, but, aside from coming in prepared and having documents that may be asked, the greatest advice I got was to be honest. Consuls are rigidly trained to detect lies, I read. And I learned too that they have eagle eyes for inconsistencies between what you wrote in the application form and what you say during the interview.

I don’t have a problem being honest and consistent, for I know myself quite well, and I am comfortable being me. My real fear was in being assigned either to a cruel consul or to a good one who woke up on the wrong side of the bed. And so, the night before the interview, I prayed to God to give my consul a good night’s rest, and, hopefully, sweet dreams.

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Filed under Education, Ilocos, Iluko, Kuwento, Language

Uncle Gerry Writes

[I ONCE WROTE a piece on Ferdinand Marcos and mentioned there my dear Uncle Gerry (Labayog), an anti-Marcos activist who later on became, and ironically so, a Marcos Loyalist. Here are excerpts from my favorite uncle’s email who has embraced Hawaii as his second home for almost two decades now.]

First of all, I want to tell you, I’m very proud of you. You have awakened the sleeping conscience of a lot of Filipinos.

I like your article about Marcos who, for me, is our country’s greatest President. When he assumed office, he inherited (from his predecessor Diosdado Macapagal) sixteen billion dollars of debt. When he left office in 1986, the loan was twenty-six billion. But, look at his accomplishments.

When I was a kid (Macapagal was still president), your Lola Amby used to take me with her to Dingras, Marcos, and Banna to barter canned goods with rice, fish, and vegetables. Those towns hardly had any electricity. The barrios didn’t have any. In the morning, kasla adda naibrush nga uring (it was as if charcoal had been brushed) just below our nostrils after inhaling the smoke of the kerosene lamp all night. Marcos initiated electrification from Batanes to Julu.

Also, your Uncle Fred used to take me with him to Bangui during their Fiesta celebration to sell RTW’s. We would leave at 5:00 a.m. and would reach Bangui at 3:00 p.m. The roads were so rough. Now, thanks to Marcos, you can be there in one hour or less. When Imelda was governor of Metro Manila, the nation’s capital was very clean. Flooding was minimized. The Marcoses built, among many others, landmark infrastructures such as the LRT, San Juanico Bridge, CCP, PICC, etc. During their regime, Philippine Heart-Lung-Kidney Centers were built. Now, the funds for these hospitals are corrupted.

For the agricultural sector, Marcos, in his early term, launched the Masagana 99. That is, to produce 99 cavans of rice per hectare of agricultural land. It was successful. We even exported rice to other ASEAN countries during his term. For her part, Imelda launched the Green Revolution. Planted in every backyard, vegetables were in abundance.

Under Macapagal, the illegal numbers game Jueteng was all over the Philippines. When Marcos assumed office in 1966, the very next day after he was sworn into office, Jueteng was no longer around. Whether we agree or not, Jueteng has corrupted a lot of politicians (including you-know-who). When Cory was installed as president (not by election), the very next day, Jueteng was around every corner.

When I was detained in 1972 (martial law), one Philippine Constabulary soldier hit me on the nape (pateltel). Of course, Marcos had nothing to do with it. It was the lack of discipline of those soldiers under Fidel Ramos that resulted to those tortures, but it was Marcos they blamed.

Why was Martial Law declared? There was already a threat. They blamed Marcos for the Plaza Miranda bombing where the opposing senatorial candidates were having their Miting de Avance. Until now, they insist that Marcos did it even after Victor Corpuz revealed that it was the plot of the New People’s Army to discredit Marcos.

They also said that he ordered the killing of Ninoy. But none among Cory, Ramos, or Arroyo have proven it, despite all their powers. I suspect that the killing was the work of somebody more powerful to prevent the Philippines from being under communist ideology which Ninoy evidently supported.

They say that Ninoy restored democracy. What democracy? From Cory to Arayko, ay, Arroyo, the country has been known as a topnotcher when it comes to corruption.

I used to say, if I could have 250,000 dollars, I would return and invest in the Philippines. I’ll put half of it in the bank and the interest alone will provide for my everyday needs. My money will work for me. Maybe I could do it now; I just have to sell the house that we purchased 6 years ago.

But, I have completely changed my mind. With the endemic corruption and the I-don’t-care attitude of people in government, the money that I would bring home to work for me might just go down the drain the next day after I come home to my beloved Philippines.

‘Til then, Herdy. Ingat. God bless our country.

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Filed under Family, Government/Politics, Marcos