Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Achieving Dual Citizenship (U.S. and Philippines)

          Last year, I started checking out the possibility of obtaining dual citizenship from the Philippines because to buy property there (if ever that becomes financially feasible for me), you have to be a citizen. I read all the requirements and earlier this year, started gathering all the necessary documents, i.e. old Philippine passport, original Philippine birth certificate, U.S. passport, U.S. citizenship certificate, copies of the papers mentioned, and three passport photos.
          Armed with all of those, plus getting an extra day off, I finally made the drive to the city of Los Angeles. A few days prior, I looked up the directions from home to the Philippine Consulate on Google Maps and in addition, plugged it into my Magellan and TomTom GPS's. I'm directionally challenged so I needed all the help I can get. Well, what'dya know, but those three gave me different routes to the same destination and back. I opted for a printout that Google Maps gave me and used Magellan as a back up. After all, TomTom didn't discover the Philippines and Magellan did. I chose the no freeway route and that soon took me down the Alameda corridor going north. I should have known this but forgot: the Alameda corridor is a major trucking route from the Ports of Long Beach and L.A. delivering goods that came from overseas via the Pacific Ocean. Thus, it was slow going on my drive. At least I was in no rush in rush hour traffic. Once I hit the numerous turns in L.A. I relied on Magellan to take me to the Philippine Consulate. It said "destination is on your left" and "you have arrived at your destination". Unfortunately, there is no big sign indicating which building it was and being unfamiliar with the area, I circled a few times trying to find a parking spot without a meter, not knowing there was validated parking in the building itself. Anyway, I found a vacant spot a block away and while parking there, my bladder felt it needed emptying. Unaware of where to find the nearest bathroom, I had to resort to my emergency urinal which I always keep in the trunk. I tried to be as discreet as possible by covering myself with a sweater while I relieved myself while seated in the driver's seat. Fortunately, nobody called the cops and I wasn't accused of indecent exposure. Saved by the urinal!
          I walked the short block to the consulate and upon entering the lobby, the first elevator I saw only took people from the 10th floor and up. I walked to another side of the building and found one that took me to the 5th floor where the consulate was located. A hallway brought me to a room with several windows. One side of the room were for people obtaining papers from the Philippines, while the other side dealt mainly with people like me applying for dual citizenship. I arrived at 10 a.m. and was surprised that the line was very short and I was third in line. Perhaps most people had better things to do with their loved ones because it happened to be Valentine's Day. When I got to the window, the gentleman inspected my application and supporting papers. Everything was in order except I copied the wrong page on my old Philippine passport. There was a small snack shop in the hallway that had a copying machine so that got taken cared of in a jiffy. Next, it was time to go to the cashier and hand my $50 fee, then back to the previous window. The guy, took all the papers and asked me to have a seat. Wouldn't you know it, but this was the hard part of the process other than driving in traffic: waiting. I was armed with my Google Nexus 7 tablet where I downloaded the Press Telegram at home earlier. I'm glad I did because the consulate didn't have wi-fi. So I read the newspaper while waiting and was called to the window one more time to sign the newly printed oath of allegiance paper and dual citizenship paper. More waiting ensued in the meantime but not for long. At about 11:45, we were summoned to another room where the oath taking was to occur and waited for the vice consul to come in. My co-dual citizenship applicants (there were about 15 of us) took turns taking cellphone photos beside the Philippine flag and President P'noy Aquino's picture. Among them was a cute 3 or 4 year old girl with a lovely name - Malaya (meaning Free), who posed a few times. What a unique name! I smiled when I heard her mother call her. I've never heard of a person named that before. Kudos to the parents for naming her that :). Looking out the window from that room, you could see the Hollywood sign. You couldn't get more L.A. than that.
          The vice consul arrived a few minutes later and people started to ask him questions about our soon to be dual status. Some asked if we could vote, another if she could run for office, while mine was if we had to pay taxes. We were then sworn in then congratulated individually by the vice consul. And just like that, I became a Philippine citizen again as well as retaining my U.S. citizenship. So, if ever I decide to retire in the Philippines, I would no longer be considered an alien there.
          I was only in the consulate for 2 hours which happened to coincide with the time limit of street parking. There would be no expensive parking ticket to pay and contribute to the coffers of the the city of angels on this day.
          On the way home, I relied solely on Magellan and noticed that I drove by the infamous skid row. Perhaps some of our patients were there but I didn't have time to slow down and check. I made it back home in about an hour, a freshly minted Philippine citizen. So what do I plan to do with this new status? Well, with recent life events with my family which I am not at liberty to disclose at the moment, I don't know anymore. The original plan was to retire in the Philippines near my brother. This would require deep reconsideration based on the recent events.
         ***Extra notes regarding the Philippine Consulate: There was a security guard in the consulate but hardly any security. His main duty from what I observed, was to usher people in and show them where to go. With nary a metal detector in sight, anyone can just walk in without their property or person being checked. Considering how the world is nowadays, that's pretty surprising. Of course the Philippines is probably one of the lowest priority targets of would-be terrorists, if at all.
          I was lucky to have followed all the application instructions carefully and up to now, Mama's help from decades ago had proven useful when she sent me my original birth certificate from Jolo. It's also good that I kept my old Philippine passport after I gained U.S. citizenship. I'm saying this because one of the applicants only brought copies, thus his application could not be accepted and he had to leave with nothing to show for it.
          I brought a couple of sandwiches and 2 cans of soda to the consulate just in case I had to stay past lunch time. It became a late lunch at home instead with the turkey sandwiches and a beer. It became a productive Valentine's Day for me despite being single <B
           One last thing to do after returning from the Philippine Consulate: rinse off and dry the urinal.

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