Even though I’ve been living full time in the Philippines for more than a year now. I’m still staying here on a Tourist Visa.
Yes, I am legal, by the way, under certain conditions you can do things like add Tourist privileges on the end of a one year Balik Bayan (BB) visa and stay for up to two years.
Did you notice the word I used above? privileges? I really do consider living here a privilege … but one of the things that sets me on edge from time to time is that it’s pretty darn clear by both words and attitude that a lot of my expat compatriots don’t share my views.
Now I have a reputation for being ‘preachy’ and I don’t like that trait in others, so I am sure going to try to refrain from it here.
But yesterday i had to take a visitor to the BID office in Angeles City because the person had erroneously bought tickets that included a stay of more than 21 days … the maximum the Philippines allows without a visa. In fact, when you check the rules (as I would assume anyone traveling to a foreign country would do, before setting off on the trip) the government of the Philippines clearly states that visits planned for more than 21 days require a visa, in advance.
There’s no real penalty, though, if you pay to extend the 21 day visa waiver stamp you automatically get on arrival. Costs more than if you got the visa in the first place, but far better thna getting fined and having a violation on your record.
My friend made no scene or public fuss, filled up the form, paid the money to the cashier and we all sat down to await the passport’s return.
In the door came a decently dressed, well groomed American-looking man in his late 50′s I would judge. The guard, as is is his job to do, politely, in perfect English asked the man what his business was … it’s the guard’s job to direct people … and this particular guy couldn’t be more pleasant and helpful … I’ve been to this office several times he unfailingly courteous and helpful.
In a split second I was reminded of that phrase that Yogi Berra is famous for saying (or not saying), it was ‘deja vu all over again’ and I was transported back in time a week or so to when I read a post on my blogging freind Feyma Martin’s blog about visiting the BI.
The new visitor barked at the guard that his purpose was to make his annual registration and shoved his ACR-I card in the guards face forcefully enough to make the guard jump back … wow … surprised me. The guard took the rudely proffered document, looked at it and asked if it had been renewed/registered since 2006?
The older man spun ’round, shoved his face close to the guard’s face and barked, in a sharp and loud voice that turned every head in the office, "Didn’t I just tell you this was ny first registration?"
The guard seemed to take it in stride .. frankly, I was embarrassed at the man’s volume and tone, he hadn’t been there 30 secnds yet and no one had offered him any provocation … retrieved the proper form from the stacks on the counter and handed it to the customer, requesting, in a subdued voice that the man fill it up and return for a customer service number.
The ‘ugly American’ stalked over to a counter and began filling out the form, muttering loud enough for all to hear, "They want your money and yet they won’t even take it without yet another damn form. With all we do for this country you’d think they would treat us better".
My friend’s passport was then brought out and we took it and left … I stopped for a second to say goodbye to the guard and tell him I’d see him again March 1st when my next renewal is due … and to thank him for his help … it didn’t cost me anything … he smiled and wished us well and we got in the car (parked at the front door of the office, of course) and got on the road.
As I drove I pondered a few questions in my mind … what did the guard do wrong? … what did that guy ‘do’ for the Philippines … what do I ‘do’ for the Philippines … is the Philippines ‘doing’ enough for me … just what is a privilege, anyway?
Anyone else got thoughts, questions, answers?
By the way, when you go to extend your stay, you can download the form and fill it up tp avoid waiting.