I am an OFW. I mean, I now call myself an OFW. I don't like the term. It's not necessary. Or it's not necessarily applicable to any Pinoy who happen to be working outside the country because we all have our different reasons. One valid reason is that our government is grossly inefficient and our society is generally corrupted. I started to call myself an OFW because I was forced into it by our government. I hate dealing with our government bureaucracy. It always set me into cursing for the small stupid things that it makes you do before you can complete something, like filling out government forms. Let me narrate my latest story about this OFW thing. You can call it a tragedy, a comedy, or horror, depending on your mood. Here it goes. I went into a short holiday last month. All in all, I was in the country for about nine days. I didn't get an Overseas Employment Certificate or OEC (which always get me into trouble at the immigration) this time since going to the Philippine embassy in Roppongi is out of my way. I figured, I'll just have to get an OEC before I leave and before I check in my baggage because the last time I left the country, I was turned back by the immigration officer to get an OEC but that's another tragedy to narrate for another day. So departure date, the morning flight was delayed by four hours because there was a typhoon raging in Tokyo. I went to the OWWA office of the old terminal to get an OEC. The guy told me I needed to give him an updated copy of my e-ticket that reflects the flight time as 13:30, not 9:30 as the original flight time was. He said he needed it because I am a chance passenger. I explained that I was not a chance passenger, my flight was delayed by four hours because of the typhoon but he insisted. Knowing that I cannot win an argument against one-track mind people like him (I've dealt with his kind many times), I left and decided to check in first. (For those of you who have not heard of an e-ticket, your flight booking is stored in a system that is accessible anywhere given the right permission so what you have is a printout copy of your flight booking. It's a better system compared to traditional ticketing in the sense that if you lose your ticket printout, you can request a new one and you are guaranteed to get it since it's just a matter of printing out the e-ticket details again.) Anyway, since I thought I can get it only from the check-in counter since the airline doesn't hold office outside the terminal, I had no choice but to get inside the terminal and check into the counter and get it from the airline officer at the check-in counter. I queued up outside the airport terminal and finally was able to get to the check-in counter after about twenty minutes. I requested the lady if she could issue me an updated ticket that reflects the new flight time but she said they are not issuing such kind, and besides my printout is still valid and because there is no need of such updated printout. I said the guy at the OWWA would not take that explanation but she said that my flight details including the delay is posted in the OWWA office as well. Ayun naman pala. Okay, I had to go back to the OWWA office to give exactly that explanation. Since I already checked in, I had to exit through this small door which is right next to the OWWA office but I would have to surrender my boarding pass to the lady guard who will then give me the usual "bilisan mo, malapit na boarding ng flight mo" crap (translated: hurry up, your flight is close to boarding). She never fails to give me this each time the system gives me a hard time. So I got my small piece of cardboard that will serve as my claim ID when I come back to get my boarding pass. Thirty minutes later, I was back to the OWWA office. I queued and waited for my turn. There were about two dozen Pinays also queued up. When it was my turn, the guy said I was in the wrong queue but he signalled the next guy to take my case anyway so that I didn't have to go back to the end of The Right Queue. I tried looking for any sign or instruction that could possibly give me a hint which one is the right queue but there was none, as I suspected. Somehow, they think OFWs have some kind of power to tell which is the right queue or there would be a lot of cussing around the place because people are in the wrong queue half of the time (there are only two queues at the moment). The other guy gave me a form and told me to fill it up and go to the other end of the floor to get further instructions. The guy and lady at the other end examined my passport and had it photocopied. Then he told me to go back to the other end. I had to queue again to be fair to every other OFW. When again it's my turn, the guy told me I was in the wrong queue again. I would have argued but I thought I needed to exercise restraint because at this moment I was at their mercy, they can further delay me. The last time I tried arguing with the another OWWA employee during another earlier vacation, the OWWA employee tried to hoodwink me by inserting my Alien Registration Card between the receipts and telling me he already gave it back but I never took my eyes away from it so I was able to get it back. Going back to the story, he told me he could not issue my OEC yet unless I gave him a copy of my boarding pass. WTF?!? This doesn't make any sense at all! This statement put me into semi-argumentative mood in order to sway their mind why for the life of me, do they need that for? I said it's just the boarding pass, what's it got to do with all these? My flight was to board in the next sixty minutes and besides, they should know that the guards take the boarding pass when passengers exit the airport terminal. Hindi talaga pwede, balikan nyo na lang po. I stepped outside the office seething with anger now since I fail to see the point at all. The existentialists must be saying: I told you so. A lot of the fellow OFWs heard me curse "putang-inang OWWA talaga 'to kahit kailan pahirap!" as I walked away from the counter. I stepped outside and went to the terminal exit next door to get my boarding pass back but the security guards, including the lady security guard who was holding my boarding pass, wont let me even explain why I seem to be trying to enter the terminal through the exit door which is absolutely not allowed, and which I wasn't trying to. I tried to explain that I only wanted to get my boarding pass back which is right there with the lady guard. They told me I had to use the entrance door to get back inside. No lady, I am not trying to get inside. I am just trying to get my boarding pass which you are currently holding. As I tried harder to argue, yet another guard started to walk my way motioning that they are not interested in what I was saying, telling me to go back and use the entrance door. Fuck! I went to the entrance door jumping the queue since I could not lose another thirty minutes. The guards at the entrance told me to go back to the end of the queue since it's not fair for other passengers but what is fair in this scheme of things anyway? I explained that I already checked in and I am just going to get my boarding pass. After awhile they let me in. Once inside again, again I jumped the queue and went straight to the X-Ray machine and walk straight through inside. If I had a bomb, I could have easily did it. What security! I went straight to the lady guard and told them why they had to make me go all the way to the entrance door when all they had to do was give me back my boarding pass which was right in her hands. Obviously, they sensed that I was already angry and told me that I shouldn't be angry because they were just doing their job. The government must have been paying them to be stupid because that seemed to me to be what they were doing - to be complete stupid automatons unable to think on their own. I got my boarding pass now after badmouthing them. Another fifteen minutes later I was back in the OWWA office photocopy machine to have my boarding pass copied. I went back to the OWWA officer to give him the copy and he game me my OEC. I swear to the devil, I would have turned terrorist if they told me to go back again. Now my flight is about boarding time and I still had to go through immigration. I went to the entrance door jumping the queue again and again the guards told me to go back to the end of the queue. After a minute of argument, they let me in. I jumped the queue again in the X-Ray machine and went to immigration.
If I may suggest a few improvements into the system. Here they are:
1) After check-in passengers should be allowed to get outside the terminal again without surrendering their boarding pass to the stupid guards at the exit door. There is absolutely no point for them to hold a passenger's boarding pass should the passenger need to exit the terminal.
2) Have a more efficient method in OWWA. Get another fecking photocopy machine right next to the guy at the counter who needs them copies. Don't have to require copying the boarding pass. They already copy the passport and visa and the ticket. It's more than enough information. In fact, don't require copies of the ticket as well. It's just a waste of paper.
3) OEC can be in the form of a sticker that is attached to the passport like a visa. It should have a fixed-term validity that is as good as the passport, say five years, and optionally applied at the same time as the passport, paid-for once. On immigration, it takes validity (exemptions) if when leaving the country, the OFW has a work visa.
4) Abolish the government.