For countries that require embarkation cards, like Vietnam, stepping on the welcome mat is also a walk in the park.


The card sports a red seal –stamped by an immigration officer in olive-green uniform– which is a golden ticket to pass through the gates and drink up the work rhythm of the Vietnamese, exemplified by the endless flow of motorcycles.

“That’s why we work hard and unwind once a week here,” textile firm employee Cresliejoy Abiang said at the Latino Bar at the third floor of Hanoi’s posh Melia Hanoi Hotel.

The honking of motorcycle horns on the streets is muted inside where Filipino performers work out the crowd to a dancing frenzy with their music.

“See, it’s already late in the evening, and you can still sense the Vietnamese going somewhere to do something important,” Abiang said as we stepped out of the hotel to escape the cigarette smoke engulfing the bar.

That’s why, she said, “Vietnam is visibly progressing, unlike the Philippines.”

It is the hard work of Abiang and her co-workers that moves an economically-struggling Philippines.

The country’s army of workers in France, Malaysia, Vietnam, and 190 other countries allowed the Philippine government to enjoy the billion-dollar remittance bonanza, according to economist Ernesto M. Pernia.

Countries poorer than or as poor as the Philippines have also reaped benefits.

International migration is “the single greatest poverty reduction effort in human history,” said social work professor Cindy Hunter, at a conference in Tours, France.


“THEY came when I was still in bed, shaking off the post-evening kinks,” Teresa said.

The two Filipinos kicked down the door to her room and took turns punching and slapping her while half of Paris was still asleep.

Teresa suspects the two men attacked her on orders of the husband of her landlady, the Filipina who convinced her to go underground in Paris.

Her husband thought I squealed to his wife that he was banging another Filipina, the 32-year-old Teresa said.

“How can I do so when his wife was getting plugged by another Filipino?”

Undocumented Filipino migrant workers sleeping in other rooms woke up and forced Teresa’s attacker to flee a possible mob lynching.

Her fellow workers goaded her into reporting the attack to the French police.

She was trembling when they were taking photos of her bruises, but not because of the violence she was subjected to.

Her employer would pay a hefty fine for employing an illegal migrant.

“I was telling myself, ‘No matter what happens, I’m not going to tell the police who my employer is,’” Teresa said. At the time of the attack, Teresa was working as a babysitter.

She was surprised, she said, when the police informed her they knew she was undocumented.

“They just told me to assert my rights – to organize.”

One of her attackers was arrested and was deported. His partner, according to Teresa, was on the wind.

“He knew how to disappear.”

Most irregular migrants do and are able to do so because of two networks: the train system and the social network.

While applying for a Schengen visa takes a month, it takes less than 24 hours to arrive at the Amsterdam Airport Schipol in the Netherlands –the gates of Europe.

Nearing midnight, the place is a veritable ghost town.

When I raised my head after bending to pick up my shoulder bag, the people I was with in the airplane and in the line to the immigration counter vanished like vapor.

I never felt so alone as I pushed my 35-kilogram worth of bags and luggage up several non-operating escalators –the airport shuts these off to save electricity.

I felt so lonely as I counted each rung the soles of my leather shoes kissed: 30.

When I reached Paris by train, I hit the sack right away. The combination of sitting inside a floating steel tube for 12 hours across two time zones and pushing a luggage while reading a map was confounded by walking alone in the world’s supposedly busiest airport.

But the trains are a delight to foreigners in France. As it is easy to get lost within the system of overlapping trains and metro routes in Paris, it is also easy finding the right station to alight.

With the Schengen visa and train money, foreigners can easily disappear in five countries adjacent to France. Teresa’s assailant may be roaming Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, or even Switzerland.

Except for the last, all are members of the European Union, where the Schengen visa applies.

 (To be continued)