After my two-hour session with the fifteen-year-old, I transferred to the café’s al fresco area for my other personas to work—the content writer and social media manager, the other selves that must stay connected with the virtual and often fake world. Please remind me that these personas are my main source of income that allows us, you and I, to travel abroad.
Passport, T set a challenge for me: to limit my FB visit to an hour a day.
I came up with the most articulate answer I could think of, which you have heard more than once—my high-pitched “eh?!”
What I can see on Facebook sometimes sours my mood, Passport. I must have soured someone’s mood too. Today’s pre-yoga source of vinegar is seeing this meme:
Yes, at first it annoyed me a lot. But some from the comment box spared me from getting annoyed any further:
Because traveling isn’t about personal, spiritual experiences, [it is] about collecting material proof that you’re a worldly individual. Like collecting pokemon.
Did that. It was annoying, as I then had to pay for a new passport, even though I had two years left on the old one. #firstworldproblems
My most recent first world problem was just this… still got almost 5 years left on the old one and have been squeezing in stamps between others for some time now. Gotta fast track the new one as I need it next week. Tough life!!!
When you embraced the label travel blogger, reluctantly at first, you would know that the world you are going to enter would be a source of inspiration, annoyance, and laughter.
It always pays off to ask these questions before annoyance grows some hair and fangs and becomes a full-grown monster named disgust: Who is talking? When does it happen? Who is it (it: the message) talking to? Everything will be then back to its rightful perspective.
The one posted it is a fellow social media manager, whom I do not know personally but like me had an audience in mind. It happens in this world that just started to believe in the power of traveling. The message is meant for individuals who could afford to travel around the world constantly or who could only afford to like the photo and dream to set on an adventure of his or her own. Like us—me and you, Passport.
Could you remember that time when T suggested Myanmar as our next destination because he fell in love with the photos I showed to him, but I suggested we should go to India and Sri Lanka instead?
The India I have in mind, Passport, are the intersectional stories gathered from news on rape and misogyny and the completely different India written by middle-class or upper class Indian writers, which I have unabashedly consumed.
To go to India and Sri Lanka was intentional. To see the settings of the novels I have read, for one. With all honesty, I also wanted to have new stamps pressed in you. Why? I do not have to answer you, Passport, because you already know the reason. You, in a color I could not pin down—dark maroon or brown—with PILIPINAS on the top and in the middle, the country’s emblem with REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS in a ribbon that reminds me a lot of a tasteless design in Microsoft Word. Below is a bolder word PASAPORTE.
Compared to other passports, you are not considered a strong one. I did not know then, Passport, that I, an individual who works her ass off so she could travel abroad, would be judged according to your color. But I learned to accept that. Although it took me a while to get you, you have been here and there for the past twelve months. You have been to seven countries, Passport. And it might not be much for the people I mentioned above whose #firstworldproblem is running out of passport pages.
Now, I understand, Passport, that there is no need to silently castigate acquaintances and strangers who declared the countries they have been to. For citizens from developing countries, we bask in that solid truth: that we made it through and we are living the life we set for ourselves.
But we must bear in mind, Passport, pride is not ego, that there is something terribly wrong with gauging one’s worth with the number of countries one has been to.
We have been to seven countries, Passport, but it does not mean that we have truly seen and experienced these countries. Just like us, the places we have been to will continue to morph into different terrains, into different landscapes that we might fail to recognize once we set foot to these places again; that these places we loved so dearly might end up breaking our hearts and fill our beings with nostalgia.
Remember our first trip abroad and for the heck of it, I did not declare my full-time job and presented myself as a travel writer and photographer? Again, travel writer and photographer. Not blogger. As per advice of my well-traveled blogger community, I made a thorough itinerary. My mind was filled with negative stories on immigration. But I thanked these people who alerted me on what to do. Despite the minor disaster in the immigration office, everything went smoothly.
Passport, the scene inside the cramped Immigration Office in Mactan-Cebu International Airport made me realize some things: that you are not trusted enough; that some Filipinos are ashamed and embarrassed for having you as the ultimate proof of their identity; that some Filipinos have you as their gateway to working abroad in the guise of a tourist; that there must be something wrong with our country for its citizens wanting to leave.
In our trip to Malaysia and Indonesia last Christmas break, I declared myself as a full-time travel blogger and we whizzed through the immigration process. Was it because a blogger is now more trust-worthy than a writer? No, it does not add up. I wanted to believe, Passport, it was because of the three-month single entry Japan visa in one of your pages. A priced and respectable visa, which for the IO’s eyes, is a good sign that you and I are worth the trust.
D, a poet friend, called up the other day, asking me about immigration and my budget for the five-week trip across five ASEAN countries last year. He planned to do a part of the trail, but unlike us, he wanted to look for work in Malaysia. I could not blame him, Passport. He had enough with the corporate world in the country. He wanted something better for himself.
Damn, Passport, you and I are lucky, that we have the privilege of having work that offers enough legroom. But it was not pure luck, you know that. From where you were, on top of J M Coetzee and Jose Saramago, you could see me staying up late, typing word after word. While others dreamed waking up traveling abroad, there I was awake and working my ass off with a definite plan in mind: to travel long-term come December.
I always get paranoid of being denied the much sought-after Schengen Visa come December. I already anticipated the kind of questions the Consul might ask us: What is your purpose of traveling to Austria? Have you traveled abroad?
Do you think, Passport, the consul will be fine with love as an answer for the first question? I am giggling with my seeming stupid yet truthful answer right now. Is it all right to troll a consul, Passport? Or can he or she appreciate a joke? I want to believe people working in immigration are humans too; that their hearts break too every time they see the visa applicant’s face filled with disappointment and anguish; that they too are just doing their job.
For the second question, that’s the one we are preparing for. We are boosting your worth by traveling to India and Sri Lanka this July. Maybe it will persuade the consul that indeed we are honest and sincere with our pursuit: that you and I are planning to come back to the Philippines, that you and I are traveling not to escape the utter poverty of our country but to explore the beauty and ugliness called Earth.
Is it a long shot, Passport? Maybe, but we will be fine. If ever we won’t make it to Europe, there are a lot of countries that I used to memorize back in high school, and you still have a lot of spaces to spare.
I am so proud of you. We will go far and wide. You and I.
Love and respect,