Dem Filipinos in Da US of A

This piece could have been titled ?who will protect the immigrant from his protectors who are oppressing him?? Him is not gender sensitive but it could have been her as well to make the construction less awkward.

The presumption, of course, is that the Pinoy who has just arrived from the Pinas needs all the help that he could solicit from those who have been here for a long time.

But it is not the same for each bagong salta: some, indeed, are luckier than others as some, indeed, too, are smarter than others.

There are two sides to the story.

One is the good old idea of welcome, a rare one these days.

You are seen at the airport with the first time joy of relatives and friends seeing you once again after many years of not having shared laughter together.

You are taken in at your relatives? homes. For the first few days, life in the US of A is heavenly.

Each of your relatives wants to see you.

Each one wants to give you a twenty dollar bill. Pampabuwenas.

You take them all in, the smiles, the warm welcome, and the warm embrace. The dollars as well. There is honesty in this. And you know you have found a home away from home.

You say, this is it. You begin to dream about a life outside of the home country, a life with a sense of home and country, of a heart and soul.

For certain, this is the United States with its stresses and struggles. But here they are?these relatives and friends who are willing to give you that chance to start life anew in this sometimes hard place.

That is if you have that much luck. Otherwise, you take the difficult route to a difficult life with its promise of salvation.

It is not easy adding another mouth to be fed and taken care of even if, in reality, we only need one hand to eat.

Here we see migrants eking out a life as well.

And if there is another migrant coming, the stresses and struggles multiply.

The logic of relationship in these parts is thus grounded on what prods you in your pursuit of the American dream.

This logic sometimes gets to be too cold for comfort, too analytical, too businesslike such that the relational is lost in the process: ?Walang kamakamag-anak, walang kai-kaibigan, walang kapa-kapatid!?

How do we locate the Pinoy in this set-up?

The question is as difficult as getting an extension of your stay here as a tourist or getting that working visa if you have to wait till October of that same year before you can start working assuming that your working visa application has been approved. Remember that you have to go through the eye of a needle. The needle?s eye is small.

If you are on that not-so-lucky side, you locate yourself along miserable routes, along routes to loneliness, along routes to sorrow that gets to intensify each day.

For each big holiday, you mark it with that sham smile. You are with a crowd but you are alone, by yourself, thinking and thinking again, revisiting each landscape of memory, each joy that you have kept in you heart.

You read the situation alright: You are not welcome in the house of your friend or relative on the third day.

You go find a place for yourself and you may end up rooming in one Filipino landlord?s Sampaloc-like, double-decked rooms on Vermont or in some other areas where the Filipino population is dense.

For the first time in your life, you have no private space. You share the small room with its twin double-decks. The towels hang to dry serve as the monochrome curtain so you can close your eyes and hide from the glaring light during the unholy hours your other roommates arrive from their late-night jamming or work or both.

Reality hits you hard on your second week.

You have to find a work.

You do not know many people here except you relatives and friends.

You go to the Filipino stores mushrooming where Filipinos are, the stores with their wares that remind you of the home country.

You go there not to buy that hopiang baboy or hopiang munggo whose price has already quadrupled but to get the Filipino newspapers that are veritably a parade of all the news that you get from the internet. Sometimes, they look alike, the news, verbatim, word-for-word.

Sometimes you wished there was an intervention somewhere, like an analysis or a literary piece that could soothe your tired and worn soul, wandering as it is, and wandering some more.

Sometimes you wished there was that objective reading of the situation of the home country?some kind of an editorial that makes sense and where you can draw some lessons in immigrant-hood.

You cut the ads, one by one you cut them.

They announce the many positions businesses need. The manner of announcing is loud, you realize. But then you need work. Patulan mo na.

You call for an interview. A man comes around to take your call and starts sweet-talking you into signing up for a placement agreement with his company.

He tells you that he believes in the God that does not forget the good deeds of other people.

You sign up, hoping that this man is an instrument of good, one man sent to rescue you from the humdrum of migrant life.

You bring out the dollars you bought for a usurious rate from Raon or Escolta and them black marketers in Cubao. You sign that contract hoping that your good fortune will smile at you at last. You knee down and pray hard at the Cathedral of the Angels. You like a candle before the statue of the Lady of Guadalcanal.

You tell yourself, welcome migrant, welcome to a vagabond life.

You go home to your room and roost.

You do not know, of course, that that man offering himself as your protector is your new oppressor. You are running away from all kinds of oppression, real and imagined in the home country. And then here you are in this cycle of nightmare and bad dream.

You ask from hindsight: Who will ever protect the migrant in the US of A from his protector who is his oppressor?

Pub, INQ, V1N23, Dec 2005

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