The Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi is such a drama house.
To be fair, I acknowledge the hard working staff who go out of their way to provide excellent service to us. I understand it takes super powers to cater to the rising Filipino population in the UAE.
Yet, I cannot recall one time being there without feeling frustrated, disappointed or bad about myself or another person. A complicated process that requires me to come back (not just once but countless time), an unreasonable fee or an additional document (not advised earlier) – all these I can somehow endure. But a rude staff who pretends to be all-knowing, that’s another story.
Today, I cut work 2 hours early, took a taxi (paid over 140 AED back and forth) and went to our Embassy to get an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).
When I got there, they refused to give me an OEC because my visa was under my husband’s sponsorship. I was told that technically, I am not an OFW because of my visa and for some reason, they made me feel bad about it.
Were they under the impression that I am a lazy wife living off my husband’s salary? They stressed that if something bad happens to me in this country, I get no help or benefits.
Oh please. I know people who are properly documented and have paid their dues for years, and in the end still do not get their benefits from the government.
I explained to them that they issued me an OEC for my trip home a year ago while I was under the same visa and there were no issues or questions raised at that time (see image above).
The lady in the counter then asked me to present my labor card. I told her I had no labor card. She smirked and in a not-so-nice tone told me that was impossible.
“Imposible!” she smugly said.
If this was a comic book, you would see gigantic puffs of hot air steaming out of my ears. Lady, just so you know, the flag-carrier of Abu Dhabi does not issue labor cards to their employees – that includes me and a thousand more.
Then she asked me to present my contract. I told her I did not carry my 10-paged contract with me because the last time I applied for an OEC, I was not asked to present it.
I told them they shouldn’t have given me an OEC the first time so I know my case and standing. This was so confusing because I have an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) membership certificate issued by the same embassy exactly a year ago.
Sadly, I have witnessed a lot of Filipinos being bullied like this. If they aren’t well-informed or if they do not know their rights, they have no choice but to walk away in defeat.
I refused to back down because I didn’t want all my preparations and efforts to go to waste. I took all the courage left in me and headed upstairs, hoping to talk to a higher authority to clarify my situation.
After waiting for so long, the assistant of our Labour Attache was kind enough to explain that it was better for me to pay the travel tax and terminal fee back home rather than showing my non-working visa in contrast with an Overseas Employment Certificate.
In my last trip home, I had an OEC with the same husband’s visa and I was able to exit the Philippines in a breeze – no questions from immigration. Why the inconsistency?
This is just one of the many cracks in our processes and systems.
It saddened me that I am not considered an OFW simply because my company allows employees to work under a spouse visa.
All my remittances that helped the economy of my country goes unrecognized. And if I die here, my body may not be transported back home just because of confusing legalities.
It is one of those days when I wish I wasn’t born in a country with government services that consistently crush the Filipino pride in me.