Darkest Before Dawn

Joseph McGonagle, Passports and Visas, Saturda...

Image by Dr John2005 via Flickr

[ NOte from NOel : Thanks to all, especially to Hogwarts batchmates and schoolmates, AKLnzPINOYz kabayan, brother Alphans and UPalumniNZ co-Maroons for the mabuhays, wansui’s, banzais, and saluds going our way in our quest for new work visa. God bless you all ! ]

Dear batchmates, schoolmates, kabayan, brods, and friends :

I DON’T REMEMBER with sufficient accuracy if it’s Matrix Part 2 or 3, but there is one scene there where the protagonist (Keannu Reeves, of course) sits in an antiseptic train station waiting between realities, travelling from one to the other, although he is never sure which is which, why he is doing so exactly, or if the train operator will even allow him to board.

In turn, it brings to mind waiting to keep our appointment in an oncologist’s office for a second opinion (apologies to all batchmates, kabayan and friends in the medical professions). You’re not sure if the second doctor will give you a more pathologically pleasing diagnosis, you don’t know if you’re better off just sticking to the first analysis, in fact you’re agonizing between giving up going to a physician and just going to the nearest faith healer.

It is in more or less the same state that I see myself right now, being neither here nor there, coming or going, or perhaps leaving or arriving. Pardon me for bothering you with these trifles, but I’ve always occupied myself with the trivial, the parochial or the frivolous, and whatever else commands the attention of my ADHD befuddled mind for 16 of 24 possible hours in the day — assuming that I use eight for rest or ( somewhat relatedly ) dreaming.

And now that you’ve mentioned it, even in dreams I’m a Nowhere Man. I frequently “play out” unresolved scenarios of my youth back home in dreams. A frequent theme of my dream portfolio are frustrations, failures and great unfulfilled plans. I say frequent because recently, my real-world issues are beginning to overlap into the alternate world of dreams.

Waiting interminably at interview rooms for visa interviewers that will never come, waiting in airport terminals bound for destinations years too soon and with wallets too light for comfort, and greeting family, friends and godchildren half-meant and half joking, but actually waiting for overdue aguinaldo and expired pasalubong.

Waiting, waiting and waiting. That’s the dominant theme, by far.

** ** ** ** **

I hope you’ve saved some money, or at least you’ve recently set aside some wages for yourself in your time of uncertainty, Bisor said to the wall, mostly out of boredom and for lack of anything else to say, but knowing for sure that I would hear.

I avoided his gaze and mumbled something inconsequential, too culturally handicapped to tell him that I sent all disposable foreign exchange home to the suplings.

Like a shark in waters stained crimson by thrashing, bleeding prey, he sensed hyperquickly that my answer was too horrible to verbalize. His look shifted at an awkward angle from murky scepticism to outright incredulity. You mean you haven’t saved anything? Not a one? (Don’t know what that meant exactly but I had a good idea.) Not a thing? Well how are you going home? Inshallah and Bathala na, I gestured, concealing from him that I preserved the return portion of a previous ticket.

Relatedly, he seemed not to grasp the concept that most Pinoys underwrote the matriculation of offspring till university and sometimes beyond, not unlike the blood oath sworn to by clansmen and kin, in protecting the tribe against the elements and rival clans.

After going through the motions of explaining, I left him to his incredulity. I had more pressing problems, foremost of which was not just earning my bread back home but finding how to go about, between seasons of plenty (elections and holidays) finding ways to earn such bread.

Amidst such a depressing atmosphere, surely some remaining breaths of hope survive?

Such as: A more compassionate visa officer; a more relaxed visa regime in the light of The Hobbit’s return (before saner heads prevailed, Warner Bros considered moving filming to the Czech Republic or thereabouts, dooming the hopes of trickle-down beneficiaries of the industry’s most awaited prequel in the magnitude of Star Wars and Harry Potter)? How about the realization that some tradesmen and their skills were never going to return from Aussie till their pension coffers were filled up and ready to start golden years?

In the face of increasing difficulty, still we tried to occupy ourselves with these admittedly more pleasant thoughts, while waiting it out till V-Day (Visa Day).

Hard to deny, but in our idlest moments our soft underbelly felt most deeply the poison-tipped and serrated claws of the demons of bitterness, jealousy and self-doubt. Bitterness. Did our friends and colleagues not try their hardest to help us stay in this Land of Opportunity? Jealousy. Were we not at least equal to those humblest and least qualifed to stay here? Self-doubt. Did we not have the minimum abilities needed to justify being allowed to stay in the land of our hosts?

And yet all those we knew, despite their best intentions, were limited by the nature of immigration policy. Merit and self-help, after all, are the absolute measures of how much longer our stay here would be determined.

Who were we to say who deserved or were undeserving of this land’s blessings?

And after all is said and done, beyond submitting the sum of our efforts and abilities, what else could we do but hope that we justified our status as guest worker?

** ** ** **

As they say, it is always darkest before dawn. The faintest hope that we dare nurture is that the deepest dark of doubt will soon surrender to the brilliance of dreams and wishes fulfilled.

Thanks for reading !







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