August 24, 2017

I’ve always wanted to see the world.

I grew up reading Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, and I think that ignited the idea that travelling must be an extraordinary task for a person to do. I also used to watch all these films where people would travel all around the world in search of love and happiness. The thought of leaving for a place to find your life’s true meaning always appealed to me. And yes, I’ve read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ a couple times.

As cliché as is might sound, one of my favourite movies is ‘An Affair to Remember’ starring Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant, and it was set in New York City. I used to dream about setting foot in New York and just being swept off my feet by its magic and wonder. Imagine meeting the love of your life on top of the Empire State Building. Impossible? No. Iconic? Yes.

I was born and raised in a beautiful little archipelago called the Philippines. If you don’t know how to geography, it’s in Southeast Asia. Did I choose to be born here? No. Did I have any difficulty with entering other countries? Yes. Would I have it any other way? Probably not. I’m from a Third World Country, and the thought of applying for a visa is dreadful. I love travelling, but applying for visas, not so much.

I applied for a United States Visa back in the early 2000s. I was about five. I got denied. I didn’t travel anywhere—didn’t leave the Philippines after that refusal because my family was scared that I’d get denied again and that another visa refusal would crush my heart. But I liked the challenge. So I asked my parents if they would let me go try for another US Visa on my 20th birthday, and they said yes. Finally, after 10 years, I got my US Visa. I couldn’t be happier. I could finally go to New York City and feel the magic and the beautiful chaos brought by the concrete jungle. My dream has finally been fulfilled.

Next on my list was a Canadian Visa. I wanted to visit my boyfriend in Québec and to spend a couple of weeks with him whilst we travel around Canada. I applied at the Canadian Visa Application Centre in Manhattan. After two weeks of waiting, the results were in. I was denied. It completely crushed my heart. I said to myself, I’ll try again after a year. And yes, a year has passed and I was back in Manila. I wanted to attend my boyfriend’s brother’s wedding in Ontario so I re-applied for a Canadian Visa at the Canadian Visa Application Centre in Manila. After two weeks of waiting, I got the results. Again, I was denied. All I could do was cry, because what are you to do if the trip that you’ve been looking forward to go to all summer was cancelled because you were not given a visa to enter that specific country?

This is the reality that citizens from Third World Countries face. I’m completely aware that embassies have to be strict because there are a lot of illegal immigrants trying to illegally stay in their respective countries, and that there are a lot of threats of terror. It’s life, and this is the reality in the world that we currently live in.

It just makes me sad that a bunch of people look down on us because of our passport. I mean, you don’t see teenagers from First World Countries being interrogated for visa purposes or if they have enough money to sustain themselves or if their ties to their homeland are strong enough for them to come back. The world is unfair, and I’ll never forget how mean it has been to me for the past few months. But then again, it has also been very good to me.

A lot of my co-citizens are scared to travel to North America or Europe because they have a notion that they’re going to get refused entry because of our passport type. And I completely get it because I’ve been denied a couple of times too. But I hope that on my next attempt at applying for a First World Visa, they look into the real me (no matter how silly that may sound); a shy yet extremely extroverted traveller from the Philippines, and believe that I won’t cause any harm. Because after all, this world was meant to be explored, right?

I hope that First World Countries will be more willing to open its doors to us, because we only seek adventure, and we live to see what this life has to give us because after all, I’ve always wanted to see the world.

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

1 Timothy 4:8 NIV

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