[No medical, legal or immigration advice is offered here, and none should be taken. Thank you and thanks for reading! ]
A FAMOUS ACTRESS once said, ask the right questions if you want the right answers. To me then, the right question at this moment isn’t when is the lockdown gonna be lifted, when are we getting back to work, how long will the wage subsidy last or even when will the virus be contained? (Although that last one, if answered, would solve a lot of problems.)
The right question varies person to person and is different in every situation, but in mine, it’s kailan ako makakauwi nang matiwasay? When will I be able to go home without fear of displacement?
To a lot of migrants as well as OFWs aspiring for permanent status, while we eventually align ourselves with our adopted countries, we never lose love and loyalty for our original flag and country. We derive pride and strength, draw memory and tradition from where we were born and raised, and fell in love. ( I realize not all may share the intensity of emotion, but you know who you are, smiley face.) We may be citizens or permanent residents of the country we’re now in, but we will always be Filipinos.
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Under New Zealand’s general lockdown rules, all commercial flights out of the country are impractical and ill-advised, as any kind of non-essential travel is discouraged and people required to stay within their “social bubble” at home. Besides, although there is still international travel allowed in Auckland Airport, these would mostly be for repatriation purposes only, for foreigners in New Zealand wishing to return to their countries of origin.
Even if by some minor miracle you’d be able to leave New Zealand, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and all Luzon airports have been closed to all commercial flights between March 17 and April 13, subject to review (which was extended to the end of April). Mahirap talaga. It’s really hard.
How long before you revisit the chaos and endless traffic of EDSA? How long before you witness another Santacruzan ? Or even the local dawn Mass (Misa de Gallo) nine straight days up to Christmas Eve?
Likelier than not, not this year. (How about next year? Iffy, malabo pa sa sabaw ng pusit.) Even if you had the chance and travel restrictions were lifted, would you recklessly leave under the cloud of so much uncertainty, especially those holding temporary visas and tenuous work arrangements?
For sure, the benefits of closing borders are universal in the time of the Virus. Health after all is wealth, and without health, work, social interaction and the simple pleasures of life wouldn’t be possible. And the migrant / OFW, above all, is in New Zealand for work and the immediate needs of his family.
But what about the long-term? We want to stay here of course, lahat na including the healers, the builders, the coders and kusineros. But at some point we need to go home, recharge and regroup.
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It might be too early to talk about these things, but for nearly three months now, the whole civilized world has been turned upside down, New Zealand included. nearly half a year’s plans have been put on hold (affecting the rest of the year, too). Schedules have been crushed and dreams have been put in limbo. in the meantime, savings have dwindled to almost nothing, incomes shrunk beyond recognition, and assets reduced to values almost unthinkable a few months back. What to do, what to do?
Going back to an almost visceral need to return to one’s native soil, I’ve a cousin whose mother suddenly died after a failed recovery from emergency surgery. The mother (my own mother’s first cousin) had daughters in Wellington and Dallas, Texas but neither daughter had a ghost of a chance kissing their last goodbyes to their mahal na ina.
Adjusting to the realities of the times, an online memorial service was held among my aunt’s five children and dozen grandchildren and extended family. No one tried physical attendance or arrangements, only prayers, testimonies and their mom’s earthly remains on Zoom was available.
Death is probably the ultimate reason for an urgent or sudden trip home, despite the lockdown. But there may be other reasons as well. Illness in the family, births, or how about the need to donate rare blood type or even an organ?
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It’s often repeated, but we are all in uncharted territory. How we manage a balance between lockdown and normal life, including business and yes, travel, will determine whether survival, now an if, becomes a when.
Stay safe everyone, thanks for reading and mabuhay!