I’ve had a long affair with the US Embassy in Manila – as of this writing, I’ve been granted a Visa twice (once as a culinary intern, the other as a seafarer), and refused thrice (the first 2 as a tourist, and the most recent one as a culinary trainee). My being a nursing student was the reason I was refused on my first 2 attempts, with the second one being especially painful as I applied with my younger siblings, and both of them were granted 10-year Visas.
Five years after becoming a nurse, two years after returning from the States and a year after flying back from London, I was refused a Visa for the 3rd time. I was accepted to train with the JW Marriott in Austin, Texas, but my official documents weren’t even looked at, and it was concluded that I did not have “sufficient socio-economic ties” to prove that I would come back home after my supposedly 1-year training program.
It is with these notions that I write this piece, as what I felt afterwards was nothing short of grief – the whole process, as in DABDA na kung DABDA (which is something I learned from being a nursing student, ironically), so for everyone that’s ever been denied a US Visa, you might agree that the first stage in the process towards moving on is….
“We’re sorry, but we’re going to have to deny you your US Visa,” you hear the consul say. Your initial reaction is shock, and then a sense of numbness comes over you. “This can’t be happening,” you want to tell the interviewer, but you can’t because, I don’t know, the moment just leaves you feeling helpless, or you’re afraid that pleading might get you into trouble – you think you might get banned from entering the US Embassy ever again, perhaps, or the interviewer might call security to escort a crying & screaming version of yourself out of the vicinity.
“This can’t be happening,” you still tell yourself while you walk towards the exit, after you’ve hurriedly hidden your unaccepted passport inside one of the many envelopes you carry. You try to keep it together because you know all the other waiting applicants’ eyes are on you, and it’s embarrassing to put on a sad face and hear people say, “Ayyy kawawa naman siya, na deny” or “Bitbit pa ba niya passport niya?”.
“This can’t be happening” – the same thought still plays over and over in your head as you step out of the Embassy doors. You look for the cab driver whose services you hired for the day. You left your phone with him (“No electronics inside”), but can’t find him, so you start wondering if he drove off with your stuff, and you become desperate because you want to call your mother so much, who has also lost sleep from the anxiety of the whole interview process.
You ask the street vendors if there’s a place where you can make a call, and what do you know, of course there is! Everything’s a moneymaking opportunity, so why not take advantage of the fact that all interviewees coming out of the Embassy are phoneless? That’ll be 50 bucks for a same network call, 100 for landline. Beggars can’t be choosers, you’ve realized that now more than ever, so you make the most expensive 30 second local call of your life, quickly telling your mother that you’ve been denied and to please call Lola to have her call the driver’s wife so she, in turn, can call the driver.
You pray that your message, with all the networks it has to pass through, gets to the correct receiver, and what a relief it is to see the familiar red taxi rolling down Roxas Avenue.
“This can’t be happening,” you keep telling yourself on the ride home, the whole afternoon, and up until you finally get to sleep. You wake up the next day, thinking that everything was just a bad dream, until you see that damned blue piece of paper reminding you of your “insufficient socio-economic ties”. No matter how much you deny it, though, you end up realizing that, well, the “this” in “this can’t be happening” really did happen, and no amount of telling yourself otherwise will ever alter reality.