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15 Minutes of Weird Thoughts

posted Jan 12, 2014, 12:18 AM by Daloy Kayumanggi
15 Minutes of Weird Thoughts
by: Joseph C. Pangket
Gifu-ken Kani-shi

My entry to Japan as long term resident was met with a big surprise after 15 minutes of weird thoughts while experiencing strange feelings because of the thought of being deported right there and then at the Airport of Nagoya. Unaware that while waiting, reminiscing the past travels and sometimes tormenting, it was the residence card that was being processed.

On September 1, 2013, four days before my visa expires, I entered Japan through the Nagoya International Airport. Around 10 minutes after disembarking from the plane, I submitted my travel documents to the Immigration Inspector in one of the inspection booth for foreigners. The inspector took my finger print through the biometric system then made some notes after which he called the attention of another officer who just finished assisting another traveller. He handed my travel documents plus the form which he filled up. The two officers conversed in Nihongo for about half minute after which I was guided to the waiting lounge in front of their office. Right there, I began worrying. Since I could not speak nor can I understand Nihongo, neither could they speak English so I just followed the sign languages supported by some English words of the attending officer. I was asked to take my seat and wait for some minutes.

As soon as I took my seat, my mind run wild while worried that there might be problem with my travel documents, my visa perhaps or my certificate of eligibility. But it is very clear in my visa that I will enter as long term resident and the expiry date of the visa is   September 4. So, would it be my checked-in luggage that contains some preserved food such as the 5 kilograms smoked pork (etag in the Igorot language) that is problematic? Would I be deported because of that?

It is possible that deportation may occur at any moment. It would be a worst and            definitely the saddest and worst overseas travel experience I may undergo but it could be the most unforgettable.  Ahhh, just relax Jo. Whatever! I suddenly uttered with a little loudness that caught the attention of a group of male Filipinos seated 3 meters away and who were busy filling up forms. I realized that it was a deafening silence across the lounge. My mind continued thinking and singing the tune of that popular song Que sera sera, “whatever will be will be the future is not ours to see … to overcome the self-pity that was about to engulf my inner feelings because of the thought of the possibility of my mission to find greener pasture in the land of the rising sun (Nippon) being shuttered by deportation. And the possibility of being charged of smuggling 5 kilos of oishii (delicious) etag – a delicious porky foodstuff of the people from the Mountainous region of the Northern Philippines.

Hai, should it happen, it would be an unforgettable and very shameful involvement?  Iie, it is not, it would be far better than being charged in court or imprisoned because of trafficking just a gram of illegal drug for example. The charge would be very funny and it would be a joke if ever it happens that I would be deported because of traveling across borders with luggage filled with real harmless pork.  It is definitely unlike the shameful pork barrel system attached to Philippine politics in which shameless politicians particularly the congressmen and senators that are engaged in can qualify as crime against the people!

In an effort to stop thinking creepy things, “look around Jo” I whispered, and “see the modern superstructures of the building, the orderliness all across the hallway and the airport lobby as well as the airport personnel in uniform bowing their heads and smiling at every traveller coming in. It was an awe-inspiring sight. While Filipinos are known for their hospitality, I could hardly recall any splendid smiles or polite gestures from any NAIA personnel during my previous arrivals and departures.

Every airport personnel that passed in front of me bowed, some with polite words like “konbanwa.” At least I understood what it means, good afternoon. Pleasant gestures that helped eased the negative thoughts agitating my weary mind. While such amusing spectacle momentarily hide my fear of being turned back to the Philippines, it made me recollect some of my unforgettable experiences as well as the unpleasant observations in some international airports in Southeast Asia that includes NAIA, the behemoth and sprawling Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand and the two small international airports of Cambodia (in Siem Reap and in Phnom Penh).

It also brought me back to my brief romantic farewell at the Narita International Airport in Tokyo 22 years ago. I vividly reminisced that moment when I was surprisingly astonished by the last minute farewell gesture of the pretty Japanese girl, an interpreter I befriended during the last days of the 18th SSEAYP (Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program –1991) that I participated. She removed her right earing made from genuine pearl and handed it to me as remembrance. I was very much amazed at that time.

With that romantic scene in the past on my mind, my worries on the possibilities of turning back was totally erased especially when it continued pondering on the ensuing event like the sweet farewell kiss and tight embraces on that send-off hour at the departure area of the famed Narita Airport.

Exactly 15 minutes in waiting, traveling down memory lane ended as well as the tormenting feelings when two immigration officers with reassuring smiles came out of the immigration office, one holding a passport and an ID. Hai! A residence card with my photo!  The officer immediately tendered the passport and the ID while speaking in Nihongo which I could hardly understood. “HAI! Arigato, Arigatou, doomo arigatou, thank you so much” were the only parting words that I could utter as the feeling of jubilation and excitement supplanted the worries. The only phrase or words from the Japanese handing the card and passport that was clear to me were “kore wa,” “paspote” which I understood as passport and kaliwa. ”Hai, oo nga daan ako sa kaliwa, tama! Left side yung direction na itinuturo nong isa,” I thought - as the other simultaneously extended his left hand at the direction where I will take an exit from the Nagoya airport to finally enter Japan. Hai, its definite, no turning back! I was just admitted as resident of Japan! 

Those 15 minutes of waiting for the production of a residence card filled with personal profile and a photo was astonishingly surprising. It was my biggest surprise from the land of the rising sun which I never had in my native home – pearl of the orient seas. How I wish the agencies of our government back in the Philippines will also have that quickness and swiftness in producing our IDs – the SSS ID, Postal ID, licenses, etc. so as to avoid tormenting their clients up to more than a year in waiting.