These Are The Times That Try Migrants’ Souls (or NOel vs Visa, winner-take-all)

Dear batchmates, kabayan and friends :

WHILE the light of post-recession starts twinkling at the end of the tunnel, overachieving guest workers and on-the-fringe work visa holders remain in the shadow.

While immigrant websites paint a rosy picture of laborers’ idylls, and present a come-hither invitation for audacious skilled professionals, the sobering reality puts off even the hardiest job-seekers, who spend as much as six months to a year seeking employment before returning home disillusioned.

And finally, while at times the easiest thing to do is to just give up the dream of sorting out your status abroad, abandoning vain pursuit of the almighty dollar for family and future, in exchange for the comforts and familiarity of Inang Bayan, what awaits you when you return? Nothingness, oblivion and probably worse.

** ** ** ** ** **

Pardon our random musings, but these are the inconsistencies and misplaced premises that continue to disturb our carefully-structured and admittedly naively-formed perspective from our little corner of the world, not unlike the frog at the bottom of the well who imagines that the sky is nothing more than a slice of sunlight visiting his little nook-and-cranny.

We have no idea of the forbidding forces that shape the industrial, economic and business landscape, how they affect faceless peons like us, and of the fallible decisions that will influence thousands of nomads and gypsies among the yellow, brown and extra brown races for generations to come.

Just peek under the microscope, please : for the longest time now, we’ve held a piece of paper that allows us to work for The Man Upstairs, an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. But each turn of the solar circle, the paper turns to dust ; we need to prove ourselves anew, specifically that (1) we weren’t frivolously engaged for work, meaning the employer looked long and hard for locals before settling for a foreigner, (2) that our skill exists as a shortage so acute that it necessitates a search among dayuhan, and (3) in our ridiculously short time here, we’ve accumulated enough training and logged enough hours to deserve being called skilled, albeit crudely, in our particular trade.

Miraculously, we’ve managed to hurdle these 3 challenges the last 24 months, picking up 2 work visas / permits along the way, which when you think about it in the grand scheme of things, should be enough reason for us to be thankful. But there’s nothing like the present, and if we want to continue staying here, the mantra seems to be, at least in the visa officer’s eyes : what have you done for me lately?

Or at least, what have you done to stay consistent to the policy of skills shortage, skills updating, and improbably, skill excellence in a land of trabaho lang, walang personalan? It’s not as if all these were within our sphere of control, but Asians being Asians, with a can-do, do-everything attitude, we do what we can.

The alternative being, of course, losing your right to stay in the land of redemption, the land of possibility, and the land of second chances.

** ** ** ** ** **

To belabor the point : Imagine an expat back home, performing work that theoretically Pinoys can do, but which can be done inimitably best by a foreigner, say, Cantonese cuisine expertise for a world-class HK-style resto in Ortigas Center.

After running through the gauntlet of vetting, qualifying and registering the gastronomic talents of the chef, the employer and / or immigration authorities can hardly be expected to redo the said procedures each time his work documents expire and need to be renewed. If anything, with regular use, his skills improve rather than deteriorate, just like muscles do. Use it or lose it, diba?

Well, it’s a tortured analogy, not very hand-in-glove, but we hope you get the picture. Quite a few work visa holders submit themselves to this exercise not only to satisfy over-rigorous standards of work, but also to appease the demands of political correctness, namely of making sure no locals are bypassed, no matter that the (foreign) incumbents are eminently more qualified in many cases.

** ** ** ** **

On a personal note, we will always be grateful for the chance to have earned our bread in a hospitable country that prides itself in its almost inexhaustible wellspring of tolerance, of the political, racial and economic kind.

We only wish that asterisks scattered here and there regarding the difficulty of balancing between labor needs and nationalistic philosophy will be picked up, sorted out, and spell-checked by the software of Common Sense.

Another cringe-worthy metaphor, but we hope you get our drift. Forgive us for being a bit preoccupied now by job uncertainty and the iffyness of what-comes-next.

With one eye closed and fingers crossed behind the back, we almost shudder as we stammer : Abangan po ang susunod na kabanata. Thanks for reading !



2 thoughts on “These Are The Times That Try Migrants’ Souls (or NOel vs Visa, winner-take-all)

  1. Hello Noel,

    I enjoyed reading your ‘These Are Times That Try Migrants’ Souls’ post in AKLnzPINOYS, which directed me to your blog site. Well done, I like your style.

    Am wondering if you’d be interested in becoming a guest writer for Faith in Families from time to time, staring with the same article as above sans the Pinoy vernacularisms since our audience are Kiwis mostly — Pakeha, Maori and Pacific Islanders.

    Check the website url above and send me an email, if you like this idea. Then maybe we can start some balls rolling on issues surrounding migrants and immigration policies which is one of several categories we cover in Faith in Families.

    If you like any of the articles you read on this site, just leave a comment with your details and subscribe so I can capture your
    contact details on the back-end and sign you up as a contributing writer.


  2. Pingback: The Gift of Migration-Part 1 « Faith in Families

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