There is a veritable metaphysics of experience in being a migrant worker of another land.
The process of going through the dark night of unknowing when you are a migrant leaves you wounded, with your wounds healed or raw depending on your luck and circumstances.
Either way, the wounds of migrant life are sufficient eye-openers to many who have tried to come here in the United States to partake of that idea of the good life, the same idea that moved those from Europe to come and seek their fortune here, landing on that island, the Ellis, to watch the birthing of their 'American dream', its pursuit, its realization.
On this note, I advance a theme: every migrant who has gone through a lot in the land of exile eventually develops that sensitivity of soul and spirit and becomes mindful of the lot of others.
In effect, that migrant inevitably becomes a fellow traveler in this long drawn-out journey of all exiles that run through various phases, such as: the years of struggle and survival, the years of adjustment, and the years of making it or even flaunting it, with that trademark statement, Makinig, makinig, citizen na ako, asul na ang aking passport, at malayang-malaya na akong magmatapobre sa mga bagong salta, sa mga bagong dating.
I wish to call this phenomenon 'mindfulness from migrancy'--a full consciousness, a concerned awareness of the difficulties of others so that they do not take advantage of the condition of the fellow migrants but reach out to them, share with them their gift of experience, and prod them to hang on, go on, move on.
I have been lucky in these three years of ekeing out a life here.
I have found many mindful fellow (im)migrants and with them, I have undergone the harsh journey to getting my share of the piece of ground here and now fiercely guarding that ground.
This piece, then, is a homage to them.
I have found others who do not have that mindfulness.
And there are many of them as well, like those owners and employees of employment agencies that are giving many Filipinos the run-around for job prospects.
I know one that has the guts and gumption until now to keep on with her shenanigans in connivance with a business partner who has been schooled in the same act of ripping off unsuspecting seekers of jobs.
They prey on tourists of whatever kind, but mostly Asians.
There is specialty in giving hope to the hopeless and mulcting their hard-earned dollars in the process.
So what do they do?
They assess your migrant situation.
The process could go this way:
So, you are a tourist.
Let me see your I-94.
You hand the first partner the document.
So you are staying here for one month. You need to apply for an extension. The fee is so much dollars. Akong bahala sa iyo. Wala pa akong inaplay na na-deny.Y
You are sure of that?
Believe me. I have a partner who knows those in power. Isang tawag lang sa Washington. She introduces her partner.
Oo, ganun tayo kalakas. We have the proper connection, you know, she brags.
Magkano ang babayaran ko sa employer?
Medyo mahal ang singil ko pero sigurado ito. Walang palya. She brings out her blessed handkerchief, blessed by a roving evangelist who is raking in millions of pesos from aspiring overseas contract workers to the Middle East and Japan and from those aspiring to get a tourist visa from the United States.
The sweet talk, the glib talk, the opportunistic talk goes on and on until the tourist gets to sign up for the initial marketing fee needed to market the applicant.
Here is the first break in language, the first rapture, the first fission. She says she has an employer and now she asks for the marketing fee.
Life is absurd also in these parts. And there is a dark comedy here as well.
Here is mindfulness called forth into the picture. Or its lack.
Migrancy gives you the tools to become a good person. Or it may lead you to forgetting your sacred duty to be caring and kind.
If your are mindful and if you have gone through a lot and you pray for grace so you see wisdom where wisdom is to be found, then you are on the right track to an honest-to-goodness migrant life, one attuned to the needs of other migrants and immigrants who have yet to find their place under the American sun.
You will be blessed forever if you did just that.
A. S. Agcaoili
City of Santa Monica, CA
June 5, 2006