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Roland Cerera (inset) shares his experience as a traveler screened at a Philippine airport.

PHOTO BY SUPPLIED


Cerera on ‘discrimination in disguise’ at PH airports

With the recent fiasco with the BI—Bureau of Insult—I can’t help but tell my own story.

It was May of 2015 and I was on my way to Singapore for a company-initiated training. It was technically my first day at work, too. That being said, I did not have my company ID, and heck, I haven’t even signed the contract, yet things were moving too fast during the time I was employed at OpenRice.

My stay in Singapore was just for two days. I had my itinerary – Airport, OpenRice HQ, Hotel, Airport, and Home. I had my two-way ticket together with my hotel accommodation all bought by the company with the receipts attached. I had a laptop bag and knapsack with two-days’ worth of clothes.

I was already checked in. First on the queue was my boss, Peter Tan, who had a quick and pleasant conversation with the lady at the counter. He finished quickly and I came next. The same lady, although all smiles, told me that I need to speak to another person before I am allowed entry.

The fun began.

I was told to visit a convenient part of the airport where people are lined up to be “interviewed” by these people wearing uniforms that looked similar to that of pilots – white short-sleeved polo shirt, black pants, and an attitude that is just as delightful as a root canal without anesthesia.

A young male officer did my interview. I greeted him as I was trying to stay calm and courteous – I was retaining my composure because I just wanted it to be over with. The first questions were expected, like the purpose of the trip and how long I will be staying.

As this guy appears to be taking his sweet time thinking of tougher questions, I can’t help but overhear the conversation of others who were interviewed. I can hear one being asked to prove that they are indeed engaged by showing their Facebook profiles. Another was asked about her properties in the province. I, unfortunately, did not encounter someone being asked for a yearbook, else I would have laughed hysterically.

I gave out full details and brought out all of my documents accordingly. The strange questions started after he asked for my company ID. I told him the story. He then asked if I have anything that will guarantee that I am coming back to the Philippines.

My answers were candid and told him that I have a family and two daughters and I am currently trying to finish law school. In a very insulting and unimpressed tone, he said, “Talaga? Patingin nga ng ID!” Luckily for me, the bag I carried was the same bag I used in school so my ID was there. I pulled it out, and he inspected it like a diamond appraiser examining a rare gemstone! I could feel the admiration oozing from his every pore as he studied my identification with such intense interest. It’s truly a privilege to have someone so invested in the mundane details of my life.

His next question was truly disturbing as he asked me to enumerate my law school subjects. It is difficult to forget the sheer joy of being interrogated like a criminal suspect about my academic pursuits. It’s like a game show where the prize is the satisfaction of knowing that I can impress a rude and intrusive stranger with my ability to memorize information. The thrills just kept on coming.

As I contemplate the fate of the others, I can’t help but feel sorry for all of us. I mean, who needs privacy when we can have random strangers poking around in our personal belongings and scrutinizing our every move? It’s like a game of “Guess Who” except with actual consequences! Bravo Bureau of Immigration Philippines.

The guy is intent on offloading me. His decision is set in stone. I can sense his bravado as he feels that he has won over a lowly, lawyer wannabe. It was then that I called Sir Peter. He rushed to where I was and he and the immigration officer had a quick chat. He was asked the same questions pertaining to the nature of our trip without the ridiculous questions.

My knight in shining armor, Sir Peter, saves the day by acting as my “guarantor” and filling out some tedious form. I can only imagine the thrill of watching him raise his thick eyebrows in disbelief as he was asked to do something so useless. We just both enjoyed having a soul-crushing bureaucratic nightmare.

As I was walking towards the exit, the constipated idiot even remarked “Babalik ka ha?” I was just shaking my head as I walked away. I’d rather not make a scene because the ordeal was already too stressful to exert more energy.

What I find more amusing is that when I was in Singapore, the Singaporean immigration officer simply looked at my passport, looked at me, stamped my passport and greeted me with, “Welcome to Singapore!”

Dear Philippine Bureau of Immigration, your people are not actually combating human trafficking. Your people are profiling us based on their untrained and biased perceptions, and we just love being treated like victims or criminals for no reason.

It is discrimination in the guise of an anti-human trafficking narrative. You are already judged as you walk into their hellish cubicle.

One can only let out an exasperated sigh. How flattering it is to be treated like a potential criminal for simply being an employee, a parent, and a student! I mean, who wouldn’t want their personal life and achievements scrutinized by a stranger with a bad attitude? It’s not like we have better things to do, like actually contributing to society or enjoying our personal freedoms. Nope, let’s just revel in the joy of being treated like second-class citizens.

The apology statement issued by the Bureau of Immigration was funnier than a circus clown with a banana peel stuck to their shoe. The slapstick approach is really spot on. Their apology statement was so hilariously inept, it could give stand-up comedians a run for their money.

Welcome to the country of bureaucratic mishaps and blunders. Bravo, Bureau of Immigration, you’ve truly outdone yourselves in the art of unintentional comedy without the witty humor or endearing characters.

About the author
Roland Cerera is a professional with a degree in Secondary Education, major in History. He graduated Magna Cum Laude.

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