I had told Carmen that I didn’t think our relationship could ever work out. We should just recognize the obstacles and end it before we were so invested we were bound to get very hurt when reality finally bit. There were too many gaps in our connection: cultural, linguistic, values, family, religion, even though we also shared a lot of life goals, and shared needs. Still, even if all those obstacles could be overcome in time, it was very unlikely she would ever be able to immigrate to Canada, and I didn’t think I wanted to emigrate to Philippines. But then, like a coward trying to avoid my obligations, I thought I would let Canada Immigration be the final arbiter. The relationship had no future: if Canada said she couldn’t come to Canada, that would decide it.
But what if Carmen is the answer; if she can get a visa to visit me in Canada, we could still see if things might work out.
I didn’t think I had many options, but the mind does wander.
My pen-pal relationship with Carmen’s niece was growing stronger. Genevieve’s English skills were not much better than Carmen’s but she attempted more challenging concepts. And I’m attracted to a woman’s mind as much as anything else.
After a short time I asked her to send me some pictures so I could see what this favourite pamangkin looked like. She sent me four or five, one a bit more provocative than I expected. I complimented her and asked her to send me some more. She sent more. It was a mistake. ‘Don’t tell Tita,’ she warned me, ‘she will be madder than a kangaroo.’ It was pretty obvious advice.
For a Filipino to get a visitor visa to Canada a number of criteria need to be met. I marveled at the twenty-page list of instructions and then wondered how much more difficult it might be for Carmen to get her Permanent Residency in Canada. But one step at a time.
I started to fill in the computer forms trying to create an account for Carmen. It became soon very obvious I didn’t have nearly enough information. First step was, she needed an email address, and while she had a half a dozen voip and messaging accounts, she didn’t have email. So Genevieve, to the rescue again, created a g-mail account for her. But there was still a long list of other requirements, mostly to establish her financial standing, and evidence that she would return to The Philippines when her term expired. She needed confirmation of address, her business license, her tax returns for three years, utility payments, municipal tax records, and lastly, evidence that she had traveled outside of Philippines to at least three different countries and returned. Carmen had never traveled outside of Philippines, despite her husband having been an international business man, and, catch 22, every country other than Hong Kong and Singapore required a visa for a Filipino to enter.
This was beginning to look daunting. But Carmen has family, and the family has its own intelligence. Nephew Noel had been in the travel industry and he knew people in agencies who specialize in helping Filipinos get through the mazes of visa requirements. We put us in the hands of Marlon.
After three trips to Manila and many trips to various government departments, Carmen had assembled an impressive set of documents, including photographs of Carmen and I in our two weeks together in Manila. I did my part by writing a comprehensive ‘Invitation Letter’, promising to take responsibility for Carmen while she was in Canada. Marlon said all her papers were in order and he would apply on Carmen’s behalf to Immigration Services at the Canadian Embassy for an interview with an Immigration Officer. It might take a couple of weeks and in the meantime Carmen should practice her answers prompted from the helpful interview guide. We skyped every day and I listened in as Carmen practiced her answers with Noel asking the questions, in English.
Two weeks later she had her interview appointment and she and Noel headed once again to downtown Manila. She was as nervous as a cat and prayed to the Lord to help her. The interview went well; the Officer challenged Carmen on her age, and my age, and Carmen was pleased to hear her say she looked 49. At the end of the interview the Officer kept all Carmen’s papers and passport. What did this mean? It meant she was going to be approved for a visa. Five days later her passport was couriered to her in Trece: Reentry visa to Canada, good to 2022 October 4!
Hallelujah! The Lord must have been with Carmen, but I wasn’t sure about me.
I guess it was time to book those plane tickets to Osaka and Toronto.