Tuesday, August 9, 2016

JOURNAL | InFlight Stories of Hope and Determination... and Occasional Chaos



01 July 2016. Friday


"Such is the problem of Filipino Overseas Workers- we can't come back to the Philippines unless all documents are complete. The danger of being held by the Immigration poses an imminent threat to Filipino workers who cannot produce these documents- a flaw that overlooks the real problem. There's too much red tape and bureaucracy in the Philippines that to process a paper that can be finished in a day, would take a month. And this illness is present in almost branches of the government and private sectors. If it's in the Philippines, you can expect delays."

***
Finally the most awaited day. I'm flying back to Muscat, Oman. My emotions are a mix of excitement, fear, uncertainty... but I have no use for worrying. This is it. This is finally it.

After breakfast, I made sure that all my stuff are placed back in the luggage. And when all was in, I quietly opened the door. The guy on the upper bunk was also awake so I asked him if he might want to switch off the lights and he said, just leave it. Funny this guy, because on my first night I saw him sleep and he never moved out of his bed. And now that I'm leaving  he was still there.

After checking out of the hostel, I was out on the streets and ready to brave the long day. After all, my luggage was some weight to carry around. And I had to lift it at some points. The good thing was that the transportation in Malaysia is really convenient.

From Bukit Bintang, I rode the monorail back to the KL Sentral. I only had to look for the signs of the KL Express (which are many). In no time I was sitting on a bench waiting for the train to arrive.

Five minutes. That was what the screen was showing to indicate the arrival of the train. With me are mostly East Asians- Chinese, Japs. I'm sure they are all going somewhere too, and I hope that they are as excited as I was.

The KL Express Train has overhead luggage compartment, and being a petite Filipino that I am, I struggled to move my heavy luggage to the compartment. Good thing there was this kind Indian guy who helped me. Soon as all have settled, the train started to move. The onboard TV played ads on Malaysian events and people, as well as the company that handles the KL Express. However, my attention was focused on the outside.

The many houses and trees, brimming with greens and life. At the back of mind, there's a voice that asks- what am I doing? Is this the right thing to do? 

Understand that I am already 30 years old, without a clear career path. I go where the wind takes me, and somehow make the most out of it. Things happen for a reason, I would say. That this is fate and there's no escaping it. The Universe has sent signs that I have to be on the move. So I heeded.

After an hour and a half, I reached the airport. Checked in and boarded the train going to my boarding gate. At this point, everything still seems surreal. I left Oman in 2014, and after a year I am coming back. Odd thing about it was that it was never in my plan to come back, it sort of just happened out of circumstance.

At the boarding lounge, the families with kids were allowed to enter first, followed by the rest. I have a two-hour layover at Colombo.


***
Afifi on my right; Mark sitting beside Afifi

Story of Our Lives


On my seat, I was joined by a Filipino OFW named Mark, and an Egyptian student Abdul Rahman Afifi. Mark is a sales man in Deira Dubai. He had to exit Dubai due to visa expiration, so he decided to fly to Malaysia. He intended to stay for a few days, but this was extended to two weeks due to come visa processing issue in his Dubai company. All expenses on him. 

Such is the problem of Filipino Overseas Workers- we can't come back to the Philippines unless all documents are complete. The danger of being held by the Immigration poses an imminent threat to Filipino workers who cannot produce these documents- a flaw that overlooks the real problem. There's too much red tape and bureaucracy in the Philippines that to process a paper that can be finished in a day, would take a month. And this illness is present in almost branches of the government and private sectors. If it's in the Philippines, you can expect delays.

And delay is something that OFWs cannot gamble on. Foreign employers has a plethora of options in getting manpower, so they won't bat an eye to replace workers who cannot leave their home country and start immediately. Eventually, job orders which could have been given to Filipinos are instead awarded to cheaper and faster recruits from India or Pakistan, for instance.

The story of Mark is the story of many other OFWs who are stranded in foreign lands and opt not to come back to the Philippines in the fear of not being able to work abroad again. With all the hassle dealing with public and private agencies, add to that the ridiculous amount of processing fees; no sane Filipinos would want to go through that again if he had a choice. 

I've been through this arduous application stage and I know how it felt to be walking under the sun, squeezed in public transportation, skip meals to attend interviews, spend a fortune paying for this and that. I had enough and promised myself that I will never allow myself to get into this predicament ever again.

Afifi, the Egyptian student is a resident of Oman. His family moved to Oman when he was about four years old. Now that he is in university, his family sent him to Malaysia to study Engineering. He said that he gets bored studying in Malaysia and he doesn't have many friends, so he still prefers to stay in Oman and visit Egypt once in a while. It was interesting talking to Afifi, and when reached Oman, we parted ways.


***
No Order Out of Chaos


The Colombo International Airport is a picture of chaos. There were so many passengers queuing up, waiting to enter the boarding rooms. But the officers were either too slow, or at a loss what they were supposed to do, or just plain apathetic to the whole scenario.

As I sat on one corner, I watched for the whole two hours how people push and shove their way in the lines. Some Europeans were even baffled where to go since the gates were constantly changing. In fact, when I was about to go the gate where I was supposed to go, the officer told me that it was the wrong gate.

Why am I not surprised? The last time I was in Colombo, back in 2013 I had the exact experience. I initially checked the boarding gate from the screen, so I patiently waited there. Oddly, nobody was there and a few minutes before my flight there was this guy driving the cart calling for passengers of my flight. I mean, what the heck was that? Little did I know that the gate suddenly changed. I was still calm, albeit anxious that I might miss the flight. Luckily I didn't.

So going back to 2016, the gate changed into something else. So I had to walk over there and finally sit and relax. In a few minutes, I'll be reaching Oman.


***
Reaching My New Home


The big plane en route to Oman was amusingly empty. I reckon it was a connecting flight to several stops, because the blankets and pillows were all used up. I had the whole three seats for myself and I could even lay perfectly without a care. Flight was uneventful, except for the fact that there was no meal anymore and the airconditioner started to get cold. My nose was getting clogged. 

From my window, I could finally see the familiar image- bright lights like shining gold at night, adorning the quiet lands and mountains. It was Muscat all over again. My home for the next couple of years or so.







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