Leaving Already?February 24, 2008
For my foreign readers, this is what a jeepney looks like.
Photo taken from: http://www.bohol.ph
Jeepney drivers are probably the best guides one can find in any Philippine city. This should come as no surprise considering that it’s their job to drive people around. Plus they also frequently change routes.
With this in mind, I hailed a jeepney with a vacant front seat. Then I asked the driver, “Is the NBI* still around Palao?”
“Yes,” he answered. “Just walk a few blocks from the market.”
“Thanks,” I said thinking that the conversation was over.
“I once tried to get an NBI clearance,” he continued, “but it turns out I had two driving violations. I almost had a job working abroad, you know.” Filipinos usually can’t travel abroad if they still have uncleared records. This, by the way, can be circumvented by well placed friends, if you know what I mean.
“That’s sad,” I said. “You’d have to have your records cleared by the court.”
“Yeah, but it’s expensive,” he continued, “that’s why I’m still here, driving, and trying to save for them. By the way, do you happen to know how to have them removed?”
By this, he meant illegally of course. I said, “Nahhh. NBI records are in a national database. They’re not like police clearances.**”
Soon we were chatting like old friends. The topic was about going abroad, and it delved into a lot of subtopics under it. He even told me about his retirement plans once he returned after hoarding a decent amount of cash from abroad. Academically, I already knew that the average Filipino wants out of the country as soon as possible. I didn’t know just how desperately so until that conversation. The guy wanted money, and the only way he thought possible to get it was to get out of the country.
Before long, I had to drop off to get to the NBI station. The driver gave me a few last instructions before driving away leaving me to my thoughts. I reasoned that If the average citizen of my country wants to go abroad then there really is something wrong with the way this country is run. Has my country gone down so low that its citizens already consider it as a cage preventing them from living the good life outside it?
My fears were not allayed when I stepped inside the NBI station. Perhaps more than half of those who queued up for clearance received green colored cards, and not yellow colored cards. Green, by the way, is for clearance to travel abroad. Yellow is clearance to work locally.
My people are leaving this land. I’m not justifying them nor am I condoning them. I’m just stating a fact. 8 million of my country’s 80 million citizens are already outside it. More are following. Still more wish to join them, but are prevented because of various reasons. If jeepney drivers are already advising travel abroad, then it must be good advice. After all, they’re supposed to be the best guides around here. Nevertheless, that would be one advice I’ll not be following.
* National Bureau of Investigation
** Don’t ask, I ain’t telling.