Months ago, I had already booked our interview through the US visa assistance hotline. My parents' 10-year multiple entry visa expired early this year so they applied for a renewal as they want to go on vacation this December. They encouraged me to apply as well, but I was extremely hesitant at first because 1) I don't have the salary to show for it; 2) I don't have shopping money (or Broadway play money; or Disneyland entrance money); and 3) I don't want to have a record of a denied US visa application in my passport. However, since I had nothing to lose, I decided to obey my parents. There's a lineup of things I could do if I get the denial - e.g., enjoy Simbang Gabi, party for weeks here at home because I would have no parents for a while, go caroling again, etc. I was as detached from it as I could be.
We spent some time and energy collecting proof of links to the Philippines, especially for me who had never applied for a US visa before. My relatives in the US, especially my sister, were very supportive as they all wanted me to visit them, finally.
The day of the interview came. We were advised to arrive one hour ahead of schedule. We arrived even earlier than that, but ended up being interviewed close to three hours later. Hunger, thirst, and sunstroke almost got to us. We had to line up for: 1) entrance; 2) conveyor belt for belongings; 3) pre-assessment of application form; 4) pre-assessment of documents; 5) fingerprinting; 6) interview proper. The seventh qeue was reserved for those given their visas - located at the Delbros counter for the passport delivery service.
It was a Lesson in Waiting, big time. While waiting for the consul to call us, I had the chance to speak to God in my heart. I told Him that I knew He wanted me to live a simple life, and if the US trip would hinder His plans for me, then I would accept the denial. While lining up for finger printing, I had a strong sense from Him, "I am a God who could take you to places. Nothing could hinder me from opening doors for you."
Did I believe that it was God's promise for me? I was too tired to tell. I just convinced myself that I wasn't at the mercy of the consul, but at the mercy of my God. I prayed three Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Bes before our number was called. The lady who interviewed us looked really friendly. In fact, upon seeing the way she related to the other interviewees before us, I prayed to God that she would be our consul. It was an answered prayer.
Consul: "Ok, how are you related to one another?"
Ella: "They are my parents."
Consul: Where do you work?
Ella: I'm a lawyer, and I work as a corporate secretary for a foundation.
Consul: Thank you. How about you sir?
Papa: I'm a consultant for a bank.
Ella: He's also a lawyer.
Consul: That's good. And you, ma'am?
Mama: I'm a piano teacher.
Consul: That's nice. I used to play! But I'm sad because I cannot play anymore. It requires lots of practice.
Mama: Yes you should practice.
Consul (looking at me): What is the purpose of your trip?
Ella: We're attending my sister's graduation.
Consul: From what university is she graduating?
Ella: She's graduating with a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Arizona State University.
Ella: I know...
I couldn't believe it, and neither could my parents. We were armed with a thick folder of supporting documents. I rehearsed arguments in my head to prove that Lingkod is something I'm passionate about and would be my main reason for going back to the Philippines. It turned out we didn't need them. God heard our prayers.
While eating Crispy Pata and Sinigang na Tiyan ng Bangus at nearby Barrio Fiesta shortly after, my father said, "I told God that I don't have to get a visa, but asked Him to grant one for Ella." He's extremely happy that God was even more generous than that.
When we lined up the seventh time today to pay for our passport delivery via Delbros, we looked much better - relieved, elated - than we did a few hours before. We tried to analyze why we were given a visa so quickly, but knew there was no logic to it. People who had flown back and forth from the US were later on denied their visas. It was something totally out of our control, but fully in the hands of God.
It's something beautiful to cap a pretty eventful year for our family - with a CCP piano recital for my Mama, sis-in-law, and their students, including my nephews, featured at newspapers; balikbayan relatives from both sides of the family; my brother's wedding - an unforgettable event for us; arrivals and departures, hellos and goodbyes; my going off to volunteer mission work after Sandiganbayan (milestone for me, shock for family); my brother's job in Germany and Celeste's new life as a housewife from being a Citibanker; my brother's TOYS award; my kuya's new internet business; the kids' first flight on the airplane to Cebu; lakwatsa at Singapore/Malaysia with Peeya, Mama and the Punsalan Travel & Tours; my Ate's new job at Apple Computers; and the list goes on.
I have much to be thankful for. This is going to be a special Christmas.
See you soon, Mel. I'm excited to conquer Disneyland, Universal Studios and the Grand Canyon with you.