• The Universe Conspires

    Think happy thoughts (KK KK KK), focus on your utmost desires (KK KK KK), dream that elusive dream and turn them into tangible reality (KK KK KK), these were just some of the things that I’ve been working my mind on for weeks now after learning about The Secret...

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  • The Mini-Bus of Babel

    Going to work and back home is an experience a polyglot would die for; I'll give him my shoes any day. That experience is nothing short of a modern-day Tower of Babel, only in wheels...

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  • A Cross (and Down) with Words

    Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of what I used to make way back as a pastime, crossword puzzles...

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Friday, December 02, 2011

Point of Entry: Detroit, MI

In the US of A now finally after 12 hours of flight from Narita, Japan. Since it's December, I was looking forward to seeing snow having lived most of my life in a tropical country and a year of working in the Middle East as a physical therapist. En route to Michigan and looking out the window, I saw snow alright. But it must have been a different state because when we got off the plane, the tarmac looked bare of the winter essentials for me.

My point of entry was Detroit, MI and the next and most important process I had to go through after getting off my Delta flight was immigration. Only if I were done with that could I officially say I am in the US of A.

Walking down the hallway to the immigration center, I was met by a long queue of people from all walks of life and different nationalities; Americans in an area of their own and the rest spread out into about four immigration counters. It was amazing how fate worked because the girl who stood right in front of me, Rachel, happened to be a physical therapist from the Philippines and get this: she was from the same agency as well, and we'll be staying at the same townhouse!

My purpose for being in the US is to take an exam, so I made sure that I had pertinent documents to support my case. From what I heard, immigration officers give at most just 20 days to NPTE test-takers. After a short chat, Rachel and I got separated from the line as we were both called to different immigration counters for the interview.

My immigration officer was a very nice black woman. She asked the purpose of my travel, my itinerary while in the US, why the NPTE was not given in the Philippines and was flabbergasted that Filipino PTs had to go all the way to the US just to sit for the NPTE. After entering data on her computer, she wished me luck for the exam and stapled an I-94 form to my passport. Welcome to the US, she said. Yahoo!

Up ahead, I had to meet another immigration officer who asked if I brought in food, poultry, grains, and others from my point of origin. While still aboard the Delta flight, the cabin crew gave out immigration forms for us to fill out with which the immigration officers will base their inquiries; I said "no" to all of his questions. He then signaled me to move forward and go through the tough airport security Detroit is known for. My bags and I included had to go through a very foreboding X-ray machine. Man, I was naked to the world!

But alas, I was done and over with immigration. I walked up to Rachel and went our way to our connecting flight to Ellicott City, MD, where we will be staying. As we were on the moving walkway, I was introspecting the gravity of what just transpired and what lies ahead for us. So this is the US, I said to myself. I looked out the glass windows; still no snow.

Konnichiwa, Japan

Left the Philippines at 8:00 am and after 4 hours and 10 minutes, arrived at Narita International Airport, Japan for the connecting flight to Detroit, Michigan. Images of Japan from the movies and books I've read came flashing before my very eyes alighting from the Delta airplane. I did not get to see what Narita has to offer, though, and was limited to the scenic view I got from my window plane, but I was impressed nonetheless with the scenic countryside.

As Narita is a stopover for many international connecting flights, the airport employees spoke good English, understandably with a Japanese accent, and the airport itself was modern and spanking clean, a far cry from our sad NAIA, making my 1:30-minute sojourn in the premises hassle-free. Thirty more minutes of lounging around Narita and US, here I come!

Long Flight Ahead

At long last, I am going to the US of A. After almost two years of waiting since signing up a contract with my employer, issues with the credentialing, with the FSBPT, of obtaining a tourist visa, I am heading there. The journey was not a walk at the park at best.

With news of the ban of Filipino physical therapists by the FSBPT, which ultimately lead to countless denials of tourist visas at the US Embassy in Manila (me included), and hours of sleepless nights allotted for the US licensure exams for physical therapists, this brings me a step closer to finally living the American Dream.

Two of my close friends have paved the way, as well as several of my professors and schoolmates, as they are now gainfully employed in the US as physical therapists. In a 20-hour trip spanning different time zones, I am about to take a life-changing journey. Yes, it could be turbulent along the way, but it's all systems go from here on out.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The US Embassy Visits

If you are a Filipino wanting to go to the US as a tourist, chances of you being approved for a visa is very minute. You must present facts to the consul that you will only be staying there temporarily, have documents to prove that you have the finances to support your R&R or biz travel to the US, a family (with pictures, birth certificates in hand) or a good job to return to (including payslips, income tax returns, et als), and what-have-yous to strengthen your resolve of not being handed the blue paper from the other end of the window (read: the denied form). Even if you have the pertinent papers with you, including a backup letter from your American employers, you would have thought getting the visa would be that easy... not.

In fact, I was denied twice. Funny thing is, the consul didn't even look at whatever documentation I had in my person to support my claim that I will just be going to the US to take the license exams for physical therapists, that my employer will be paying for my airfare and accommodation, that my employer will look to it that I do not overstay in the US. This difficulty in obtaining a visa, in part, arose from the hullabaloo that happened between physical therapists from the Philippines and the FSBPT over recalled questions purported and alleged to have been harbored by review centers in Manila. Long story short, they banned all Pinoy PTs from sitting for the exam. Those who were scheduled to sit for the NPTE were all denied from getting tourist, working, and even immigrant visas when they went for their Embassy interview.

After two failed attempts, I have lost all hope of getting a visa for the sole purpose  of taking the NPTE, not until I received an email from my employer one day stating that, collectively, staffing agencies wrote the Embassy and voiced their concern over the unfair visa denials of NPTE test takers. They requested that I go for the interview a third time, and at P6,000 again, and see if I will be successful. They say things happen at the right place and time. And what do you know, the third time's the charm.

If you plan of visiting the Embassy in the hope of going to the US, here are some tips:

1. Schedule the earliest time possible. This is just the time for you to enter the Embassy grounds and not your Embassy interview time, per se. With the number of Pinoys seeking the elusive visa, it could take hours before you get interviewed by the consul. An earlier time means you'll be done earlier too.

2. Leave your electronics at home, i.e. cellphones, flash drives, mp3 players and others. If you can't do away with technology for a few hours, have someone accompany you to the Embassy, even if they could not go inside the Embassy premises. The price of leaving your gadgets with the vendors outside is expensive, P150 the most.

3. Have your documents ready, even if they won't be reading anything that you present to them. They might ask for, let's say, your payslip. So it's best if you have it handy.

4. Do not tell them you will be working in the US. For physical therapists looking to take the NPTE and who will ultimately be working in the US, DO NOT say that you will work there. Best approach is to say that you will just take the exam and return to the country after. The minute you say the word "work" or "job," chances of you being approved is close to nil.

5. If at first you don't succeed, try again. Hey I went to the Embassy three times. If I got mine, with the best interests and in God's perfect timing, you will get yours.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane... not!

Earlier, I caught parts of a Claudine Barreto movie on a local network while channel surfing. No, I am not a fan. Although the local film industry is having a Renaissance of sorts, it takes more than a Claudine Barreto to make me sit and watch a locally produced film in its entirety. The script, acting, cinematography, editing, directing, it all need to be impeccable. Sorry, I am just like that. But what made me sit for a good five minutes to watch In Your Eyes was the profession of Claudine's character. She was a physical therapist working in a rehab clinic in the US, every Pinoy PT's dream, and it was (and still is) the dream for me. In fact, I would have been on a jet plane bound for the US now living that dream... not.

I was scheduled to take the NPTE, the state board exams for PTs in the US, on September 7, and from my correspondence with my employer, I would have left for Ellicott City, Maryland on this day to sit for the five-hour state licensure. I would have crammed for the exams in the process since I had just about three months to prepare, toiling over books and journals and review materials on everything physical therapy to successfully get my hands on that elusive RPT title. I would have probably bought new luggage and busied myself packing clothes for my US stay, may have gotten winter outfits, too, if the need arises to extend until the Yuletide season. But due to an unfortunate turn of events, I needed to have the exam rescheduled to a later date, hopefully still within the year.

Thankfully, I am an optimist and looks at this setback as a blessing in disguise. A friend said that maybe it was not yet meant to be. Maybe I need ample time to review for the exams and not cram like what I've been used to the past months so that when it's time to sit for the NPTE, I'll nail it. Maybe I need not buy a big luggage or new clothes to bring with me because I will probably get them when I am physically there. Maybe I need not think wishfully anymore because the dream is within arm's reach, one that breathes life to a male Claudine Barreto a la In Your Eyes (read: a PT in the US), minus the drama and the hysterics. The script, acting, cinematography, editing, the directing, its impeccability is something I won't be biting my nails over with; it's gonna be real, and I will be damn good at it. Sorry, I am just like that.