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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Trudging Through Fear With His Peace

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." - 2 Timothy 1:7

I dreaded to be here at the Philippine Consulate. I had already a script written in my mind. Hope is never fading. Only armed with bravado and  honest rationale should I get caught in this escape-attempt I had staked myself in. Totally unimpressed with how the government generalizes domestic workers to be vulnerable to abuses, still I had to submit myself to what it requires of me to be allowed entry back to Saudi Arabia once my vacation concludes. The odds are tough but I should be flying home in two days.

First step: OWWA. I was spared of 90 rials or so for my last payment still covers this year. It's only been a year and half since I last went on vacation. Then at Pag-ibig, I was purged of 30 rials. Though mandatory, I never foresee myself trooping down to its office to borrow as paying for loan interests scares me to the hilt. Last step OEC - the least costly at 9 rials yet the most important one. Then came  the familiar dilemma most common to OFWs like me holding a domestic worker visa. When asked, I had the original contract in hand signed in Manila in 2006, but  Miss Ruby Ruby (a quasi-twin of the real one on the boob tube) won't concede to its validity and cannot be appeased with the "old one" she refers to. Yes, she's too smart to know I had transferred to another employer by this time, and demanded that I showed her the new contract with all the capricious demands stipulated in it including the repatriation of my remains to be shouldered by my boss once oxygen escapes my nostrils, for good. So there goes my script as she wouldn't lend an ear to my case.

My feel-good story about my job and how much privileged I am to be paid for my conceptual skills rather than my manual skills didn't register to her logical bearings either. And I understand she adheres to strict compliance to orders, in which case technicality reigns over logic and textbook rules trump humanity. There's nothing more humiliating and self-diminishing than being warned of not being able to come back because I am not considered a legal OFW. In the absence of a contract (in which case a phony one makes a perfect substitute at a cost of 1,200 rials), she will not issue an OEC hence I'm no better than a pauper if I fail to come back. She's not interested anymore in even looking at the bulks of documents in my hand, i.e. salary certificate, company perks, job title.

Then she called the one next to me. He is a cleaner working for a contracting company. Not that much perks understandably. He beats me in this: he does not belong to my category - a household servant as many call it as per my iqama.She  proceeded to issue him an OEC in haste. And suddenly, I seemed to look the most miserable among the people in that room. Along the frustration comes a stern warning publicly declared that if I proceeded to go on vacation on my scheduled trip after two days, I will not be allowed to come back by the government that sees to it every OFW is protected and the same that seeks to alleviate poverty of its citizenry by promoting labor export. Thus, I am sure to lose my job and over a dozen imminently going to go hungry. 

I would have been convinced of the "sincerity" and "uprightness" expressly demonstrated by certain people in the Consulate had I not witnessed myself how unscrupulous people can easily profit out of our predicament. Barely two months ago, a colleague in the same department as me almost cancelled his vacation. He already had a two-way ticket and his passport stamped with exit-reentry. His nightmare two years back still vivid in mind and a firmly-held vow never to mess-up again with the POEA in Manila, he took an ugly short cut abetted by certain Consulate people who obviously are big beneficiaries too.

It's an open secret though inside Consulate premises who these sharp-witted ones are, cashing in on   technicality-laden government rules to conspire with a local owner of a translation and typing center opposite the Consulate building to make dubious contracts in lieu of original ones yet perfectly honored by the Consulate. The price all in all is a hefty 1,200 rials. So if you have no contract to show as requisite for obtaining an OEC, just consider yourself to be a consenting victim of a friendly robbery in return for a phony contract replete with phony names and information. So imagine that I and my colleague are no isolated case,  if not we are in the thousands. And oh the daily premiums except Fridays! Indeed business is thriving.

Though a little grateful for my visa profession as family driver (my iqama can never be renewed should my profession be otherwise due to nitaqat thing), I dreaded this biennial moment to troop to the Consulate to secure for myself an OEC. Yes, the drawback is exponentially high when as a driver you don't have a contract to show. First, my boss thinks the Philippine government of being intrusive to demand how much he earns or if he has no tendency to run away with my salary, and how many children he has,  their names and ages,  and so on and so forth. Their house location included (so better be equipped with a ruler and a pencil just like your life depended on it, so authorities could easily track down your erring boss. 

I can understand fully well why my boss thinks it to be creepy. He never employs me as a driver, in fact I have never seen his home in  6 years of my employment. I only get to see him very rarely in the office otherwise we communicate through email. I am blessed to be entrusted with an independent department reporting directly to him. So as long as he is being updated with status reports coming from all his business interests across the kingdom, he is fine with that. I have also that privilege to schedule my own trips to all regions regularly. And so the question in his mind - why on earth the Philippine government demands from him all personal information in a way that seems intrusive to him? He all the while thinks he has been a perfect boss to me but why the creepy demands? His opinion on this was relayed to me through his secretary. The fact that he needs to sign a dozen times or so in blank pages reinforces his belief that we are a government of crazy people devoid of sound reasoning. And mostly he is out of the country doing business otherwise he will come unannounced, so it's like I'm chasing the wind and get it to sign some sort of paper as required by my government.

Amid this tribulation I may say, doing the right thing is not always the strangest thing to do. Coupled with prayers and right intentions firmly in check, I asked confirmation from my sister and her pastor husband whether it is God's will for me to push through with my vacation or not. If losing my job and subsequently failure to provide for my family equates to not seeing them temporarily till government relaxes its rules on us (household workers), then I prefer to defer my vacation even if it means forever. But God has different ideas and His script always prevails. I got the confirmation after they prayed and fasted that I should be home in a couple of days.

On the second day since my arrival, I wasted no time discovering and facing either the consequence or reward of my faith. Either way, I was excited. But God  is faithful and true, He will never put to shame those who put their trust in Him. At the back of my head, I know I can still push through with my vacation if I was ready to dispense what they require of me. I even came close to making bribes. But thanks be to God, He shows mercy and grace to those whose hope is only  in Him, when every circumstance seems to conspire so that we lose our faith in His power to turn things around.

The pastor and wife tandem who was there with me in spirit  throughout my ordeal and gave me the word that I am indeed coming home. 

A cool early morning breeze greets you at Silay airport with a refreshing view of eucalyptus trees behind concrete pavements and well-manicured lawns as backdrop.

And finally I got my OEC in minutes on just my second day home! No cheating, no bribes involved. Just complete trust in what God is able to do. After all, in Jeremiah 32:27 He declares, " I am the God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me?"

And more posts to follow about my brief vacation in Negros, hopefully, if I find it fit not to hibernate again! :) 

Merry Christmas!


braggito said...

Hello To,
I think that's because your visa is under a person's name (household). Kasi in our case, wala man sila gapangita contract every time ga process kami OEC. Hope everything's well.

Esoy said...

Ay To musta, salamat sa pagbisita, it's been a year almost nga nanago ko sa kweba hehe,,,Gani man, driver visa ko daan so di gd ko magaan oec diri sa consulate kon wala contract but in bacolod very easy lang guid.

Merry Christmas To sa imo. Im hapi 4u kay mapisan ka gd magpost unlike sakon tamaran na gd hehe....

God bless To!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. Silay's just a wonderful town.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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