(Barely) Legal Again this 2012

Magingat sa paputok, mahirap magtext sa paa. – modern Filipino proverb.

Magpaputok sa labas, huwag magpaputok sa luob – another modern Filipino proverb.

[ Note : This is probably one of the least-organized conversations I will have with you, but that doesn’t make it any less personal.  Thanks to all the Yahoo! and Facebook groups the past 2011 who’ve so graciously allowed me to post (voluntarily or otherwise), on their pages.  Maraming maraming salamat po for your continued readership all this time, if I have added a little light of levity in the dark seriousness of our lives, it is my pleasure.  Happy 2012 ! ]

IF NOT for Galileo, Copernicus, other stargazers and skywatchers, and later Pope Gregory XIII, we wouldn’t know about the time it takes Mother Earth to revolve around Sol, the phases of Luna, and most practical of all, a convenient way of counting the seasons, marking the stages of our lives, and justifying the constant renewal of our wishes, hopes and dreams, no matter how vain they are.

We wouldn’t have one of the most efficient and God-fearing (“in the Year of our Lord“) inventions of Man, the Gregorian calendar of 12 months, 52 weeks and 365 days.  We wouldn’t have birthdays, anniversaries, national holidays, spring festivals, summer solstices, harvest fairs and winter wonderlands, vainglorious dynasties (The Thousand-Year Reich), lofty imperial greetings (May the Emperor live Ten Thousand Years!) and our well-loved religious traditions (Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan).

Notwithstanding the long-winding and elaborate intro, I have a reason for paying homage to the invention of the calendar year.  You see, I am starting it quite auspiciously , having been issued a freshly-minted Work Visa, formerly known as a Work Permit but for all legal intents and purposes the same thing.  Ever since, I’ve usually been issued one near the middle or around the last quarter of the year, so this is the first time I can remember one being issued so close to the end (and therefore the start) of the year.  It’s a good time for banishing the bad old habits and welcoming good new habits, but before that I thought you’d want to know why the new visa came so close to year-end.

First was the troublesome passport, but which I daren’t badmouth since it’s one of the most important symbols of Pinoyhood, right up there with my skin color (mocha), eyes (chinito) and height (very average, actually below average 🙂 ). I would never give up my Filipino citizenship. . . well maybe take on dual citizenship if ever the opportunity presented itself, but you know what I mean.  I had to renew my passport, good thing the Philippine Embassy was already in Wellington.  But since renewals are centralized in the Inang Bayan from all over the world, a waiting time of at least two months was needed, and my grand plan to apply for a work visa way ahead, in advance, fell behind schedule by two months as well.

Then I think I told you that I almost jeopardized my application by forgetting to apply for a new NBI / police certificate / clearance, which delayed lodging my application for another month, and if not for the help extended by kabayan would’ve been longer.

But as soon as submitted my documents for the last time, I didn’t feel the same dread that I felt in previous years.  A large part of it had to do with bringing the Philippines to New Zealand, courtesy of esposa hermosa.

Not my picture, but Mahal's creations look a lot like this. Thanks to jengshomecooking.blogspot.com for the pic!

Whether it was the nostalgia-inducing spicyness, the euphoria generating gata (coconut milk) on hipon or fish, or the explosion of flavors that sinigang, tinola or adobo create, Mahal had gone over and beyond the call of duty to elevate our upbeat and confidence levels while waiting for the work visa.  Either that or the fact that this was the 4th attempt to register ourselves as a guest worker, each year bringing increments to our skill and competency levels for the job.  We had at least even odds to get legal anew.

But 50-50 is still 50-50, sez the half-empty half-full glass beholder.  And slim-to-none odds from a lenient, open-minded visa officer are better than odds-are-even from a strict, no-nonsense bureaucrat, who cares little that foreigners contribute substantially to NZ’s national economy, or that the net migration figures of a former 1st World powerhouse had gone down for the second straight year (in favor of Australia, almost surely).  Given the fact that my visa / case officer was a youngish-sounding Ms Joshika Prasad, I liked my chances.

I couldn’t be facing any better prospects back home anyway, where at least three-quarters of my contemporaries in high school and university were paying off their mortgages, sitting atop a modest pile of earnings, looking forward to a handsome retirement nest egg, or simply living off the fat of their productive careers.  Given their hard work, strategic planning / positioning and my poor choices in life, I could hardly begrudge their easy streets and golden years.

But back to the present. For such an important document, Mahal and I hardly made arrangements in the event that our passports (to which the visas hopefully would be stickered) were delivered and neither of us were at home.  And that’s exactly what happened one Thursday morning in December and AGAIN (unbelievably) on a Friday when a frustrated courier left a Second Notice claim card on our doorstep.

Naku anu ba yan suspense pa, kung package baka andun na yung papel (document) diba, ventured Mahal.

I hadn’t the heart to tell her that it (the package) could just as easily contain our rejection letters and deportation notices for good measure.

Yun na yon Mahal I responded with automatic cheery reassurance.

Coming out the door of the CourierPost pickup center, I purposely waited until I was back in the car, so that we could open the package together.

Eeeeeeeee, di ko na kaya, tingnan mo na lang at sabihin mo na agad Mahal, the suddenly-anxious better half of my life said.

I couldn’t stand the pressure anymore, and so I just tore up the plastic wrapping and beheld the items inside that dared to pass judgment on the paths our lives would take, for at least the next 12 months.

And as soon as I saw the blue stickers with hologram stamps and security paper bannered across the first few pages of our E-passports, I knew that manna from heaven had fallen for yet another year.  Before I could say another word, Mahal, who had already seen the blue-and-silver of Kiwi visas wrapped around the maroon of our passports, was already delirious, screaming with happy excitement.

After what seemed like an interminable wait, we were legal in NZ again, and hard though we would work, another gateway opened up on the long, unfinished expressway towards our Destiny.

Thanks for reading, and isang mabiyayang 2012 sa lahat !