1. You grew up fantasizing about life in the United States, the land of milk and honey. You were bombarded with seductive images of first world living courtesy of Hollywood. You and your childhood friends wanted a glimpse and taste of real America. Then you learned that you and your family will go to America someday as immigrants. But the date of your departure is uncertain since the petition can drag for years and years. You were told to live your life in Manila as a long preparation for a new and better life in America.
The waiting period was almost two decades. During the interval, you made several life choices: you finished school, you found a partner, you became a parent, and you discovered what you really wanted to do in this world. But the option to migrate remained since your college degree was seen as an advantage, you were assured that you can marry your girlfriend and petition your child once you received the precious green card, and you can still do in America whatever you wanted to do in this world.
And so you patiently waited, but this time there’s no more naive pining for greener pastures. You have already ceased to marvel about the so-called greatness of Uncle Sam. You have seen beyond the illusions peddled by Hollywood pop culture.
Suddenly, the agonizing long wait was over. The embassy has scheduled an interview. You have waited for this moment since grade school yet at the same time you were overwhelmed with the idea that you’re already finished waiting for the arrival of the new life. What happened next? Part of you did the paper works, intent on moving forward and embracing the promise of the new world; part of you was enveloped with a new kind of fear, confusion, and sadness; and part of you wrestled with guilt: guilt of moving away, guilt of staying behind.
But the visa arrived and you left for the Golden Gate after a few days. You made your decision, a decision made through “inception” since your childhood days, a decision you fatalistically affirmed as an educated family man.
You were lovingly welcomed by your relatives, some of whom you have not seen in almost three decades. You spent the first few weeks rekindling family ties and exploring your new home. You were a tourist resident, a resident acting like a tourist. The newness of everything was simply too much that it almost cancelled out any other emotion that threatened to disrupt your newfound joy.
You had mixed thoughts about the US. You were impressed with the infrastructure, the city planning, the efficiency of the transport system, the welfare it provides to citizens, the promotion of knowledge economy, the seemingly limitless opportunities available in a meritocratic society. (You have not yet visited Europe that time).
But there was another side of America you saw: the pauperization of the middle class, the stagnating wages of workers, the rise of homelessness, the lingering impact of racism, the eerie supremacy of neoliberal values in society.
You made interesting and depressing observations about how some people interact like the incessant inquiries about your residential status, your hourly wage rate, your house rent, and even your insurance plan. You felt like everything was being measured in monetary terms; you felt as if your worth as a person was dependent on the petty material things you accumulate. You were comforted by the niceties of modern civilization and the visible little acts of kindness performed by everyone; yet there’s a coldness somewhere that bothered you. Maybe it’s the sting of paranoia or it could be the gloomy sentiment of an outsider wanting instant acceptance.
But you stayed and made many friends, you were also prepared to do what you wanted to do in this world, and you were ready to settle as a permanent resident.
Nevertheless, you desired more from life and you needed deeper connections, and in your heart you knew they could never be fulfilled by living in America, your home away from home. And when the chance came to return, you took the trip back home.
Back in the Philippines, you learned that there were important life-changing decisions to be made again: Marriage, a new baby, an exciting new political task. But one decision will undo a process that took two decades to complete. You considered making some mental calculations but you felt too distracted all the time and you were swamped with intense feelings of euphoria and guilt. What is rational, irrational? What is moving forward, backward?
It was summertime in Manila and you suddenly missed the cool weather of California. But you can overcome this longing, you told yourself. The same applies to restaurants with their big servings, museums and their free days, buses that ran on time, public libraries and their one dollar book sales, the super fast Internet, the walkable city, the changing landscapes – everything must go, including the American Dream. Everything save the essentials such as family bond, camaraderie, hamburger, and the value of learning from the progressive culture of America.
And then you remembered your two aging parents. Suddenly, you were a child again. A child separated from his overseas parents and whose only Christmas wish every year was to be reunited with his family. And now that the wish was granted, the kid has decided to leave.
You forgot that they waited too for you. They worked and waited for you. You wanted to apologize but you never said it anyway. You were very grateful that they supported your decision. They let go of their prodigal son, their rebel son, so that you can find a better meaning in this world by staying in the homeland. It’s parental love that brought you to America; the same love that gave you the blessing to leave America, and the freedom to pursue your dreams.
2. Download I-407: Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status (Note: The website of the US embassy in Manila does not have a copy of the form), fill out the document, submit it to embassy. There’s no need for an appointment, simply walk in and present your green card.
Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. He is the chairman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Metro Manila. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org