28 July 2010

Filipinos in a Frenzy

Earlier today, I was in the Philippine Consulate General in New York City. I am in town for a few days since I needed to renew my passport.

So for today, I went down to Midtown Manhattan in order to conduct my business. Not much adventure in that. I knew the place, and especially that part of the city, I kinda knew it without even thinking about it. I just rode the A train from my sister's apartment and transferred to the D train somewhere along the line.

But it was while I was there that all these adventuresome things were observed. I got a number, and I learned that there were four clients in front of me. Not bad for a wait. I waited for about 15 minutes before I had to give my documents. And during that time, there was enough to observe among my fellow Filipinos that would make me want to puke.

First, Filipinos seem to be noisy, and cannot do business without somewhat letting their neighbors know who they are and why they are there. There was this old retired couple, who was applying for a new passport, and while I was there, I learned that they got in a cruise, this cruise took them through the Caribbean, and they put the husband's passport inside one pants pocket, and then they just dumped this pair of pants into the washing machine. So guess that happened to the passport? Yeah, that's why they are applying for a new one. I also learned that they hold Green Cards here already, and that they own real estate in Cavite (a province in the Philippines), and that the lady was a doctor and the man was a lawyer. All of that I learned not because I had a conversation with them, but also because they were doing their business so loud that practically everyone could eavesdrop them.

Oh and guess what the man said while photocopying his papers on the photocopy machine in the room? He said he loved the Philippines that he wouldn't even consider becoming a US citizen even though he is already eligible. Who was he talking to? No one in particular.

But that provided the segue for the lady to basically tell her seatmate (but given how loud she was talking, basically she was speaking to everybody) that not being a US citizen presented hassles for their past European trip, because he needed a visa, while US citizens don't require one.

Okay, here's the second observation. Filipinos seem to not read. These people in front of me, they don't seem to understand the utility of the website. The consulate has a website that contains all the information they need if they would be doing business with the consulate. When I got called, I turned in my papers, and I had everything with me, and it took less than three minutes. The rest, they were photocopying, they went back to get the right pictures, they were complaining that they didn't know that the renewal process took six weeks (and they're flying out this August 31, too bad honey!), they didn't know that renewing the passport costs 60 dollars, I mean come on! There's the website, read it and be informed before coming here, so that you don't look like an ignoramus that acts so barbaric you look like the apeman in the Geico commercial.

Third, the Philippine Consulate General is by virtue of the Vienna Convention, immune to the local laws of the United States. The Philippine Flag flies on top of this building, so for all intents and purposes, I am in Philippine soil. And yet I hear these Filipinos trying their very best to speak in English. In fact, I refuse to speak in any other language aside from Filipino once I entered the building, even going to the point that I greeted the doorman with Magandang umaga instead of Good morning. English has been too entrenched in my system that it feels like it's my de facto first language, that I'd grasp at every chance I have to speak in Filipino.

And yet you see this rather old-looking chap, who is talking to this young-looking girl, both of them trying to renew a passport, and it's weird because the old guy insists on speaking in English, while the young girl is confused whether she should respond in English or Filipino, so she switches back and forth. During their bizarre conversation, I learn that the girl is from Cebu City, while the guy is from Mandaue City, both in the same island of Cebu in the Visayas. So is the guy speaking English due to the fact that he hates Filipino (which is linguistically the same as Tagalog)? If he had very strong ethnic pride that he refuses to speak in Filipino, then he could have switched to Cebuano, as his interlocutor would be perfectly fine in understanding that. And yet he insists in speaking in English. Is that done so that he could prove to the room how proficient he is in speaking in a heavily-accented English?

I just decided to shut up and not say anything.

(Salt Pans Against the Mountain, from my Salineras de Maras Series)


  1. I can relate. Even in Fil take out places, fellow pinoys keep insisting on speaking english :(

  2. Photo Cache,

    It's a weird thing, isn't it? By the way, welcome to the blog.

  3. I thought that the "embassies are foreign soil" thing was a myth, not sure why!

    I like the story about the noisy couple. It reminds me of waiting in line at the Canadian Embassy in Paris - the lineup was like a mini U.N with people of all citizenship and backgrounds, waiting for visas, mostly.

  4. Zhu,

    Technically, embassies are NOT foreign soil. However, the Vienna Convention provides stipulations that would make embassies and consulates immune to the local laws, even though they are still considered part of the host country and NOT extra-territorial. However, for regular civilian folk like you and me, these technicalities pretty much mean the same thing.