There’s something I have to admit. I’d been looking forward to this part of my trip to Los Angeles the most. (Well, it was second only to Disneyland, so close enough.)
That sounds completely crazy, I know. Who in their right mind would look forward to going to a consulate of the Philippines for a half day? Why, that would be me of course!
Why was I at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles? To become a dual citizen!
Prior to 2003, the Philippines didn’t recognize dual citizenship. When my mom was naturalized, she had to give up her Filipino citizenship to become an American. As a result, I was born as an American citizen.
Because of the Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Act of 2003 (Republic Act No. 9225) signed on 29 August 2003, natural-born citizens of the Philippines who lost their citizenship because of naturalization in a foreign country are now able to re-acquire their Filipino citizenship and become dual citizens. Not only that, but the unmarried children (under 18) of a Filipino who re-acquires their citizenship can also become dual citizens.
Filipinos who re-acquire their citizenship would have the right to vote in Philippine national elections, the right to own land and property in the Philippines, the right to engage in business or commerce as a Filipino, the right to travel bearing a Filipino passport, and other rights and privileges enjoyed by Filipino citizens.
Applications for dual citizenship were from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM and oath-taking is scheduled at 12:00 noon. “I want to get there right at 9 AM so we can get the paperwork done quickly,” my mom said.
We arrived at the Philippine Consulate shortly after 9:00 AM, just missing the targeted time by about 10 minutes. There was a window with the words “Dual Citizenship” in the back of the room, and a line was forming behind the window.
The line was “like a game of musical chairs,” as one of the others in the line said. The awkward, serpentine line formed a backwards S-shape, and every few seconds you’d have to move from chair to chair until you were right in front of the dual citizenship window, where you would be called to bring up your papers. (They need to get a number system.)
To my knowledge, the only way for my brother Jude and me to become dual citizens would be to be included in my mom’s original petition for dual citizenship. When we got up there, one of the ladies working on our dual citizenship said that because I was born to a Filipino parent, I was an automatic dual citizen! Jude, though, was not. (My family attributed my automatic dual citizenship to the fact that I was born in the Philippines.)
Here’s the thing: I was born to two American parents! My mom was already a naturalized American citizen when I was born, and the Philippines doesn’t care whether you were born on their soil or not!
“Wait, how is that possible?” I said.
My dad just whispered to me, “Don’t argue about it.”
That was definitely not the smart decision. If you’re not a citizen, you’re not a citizen! Of course, I just bit my lip and continued to hold onto my apprehension.
“You can go apply for his passport now over there,” the lady said, pointing to the window on the other side of the room.
My mom and I went to the other window to apply for my passport. After going to the wrong window, I decided to just sit down and let Mom deal with this. It was all paperwork anyway, so I really wasn’t that useful.
I took out my laptop. How is there no Wi-Fi here? I thought to myself. Don’t Filipinos want internet access for their smartphones that they just love?
At around 11:20, my mom came back to me. “You’re not gonna believe this,” she started.
“They made a mistake!” my mom said. “You’re not a dual citizen after all!”
I knew it! I thought to myself. The bigger question on my mind, though, was what would happen to my chance at dual citizenship? Registration was already over!
“I had to find them and tell them that they need to fix this,” my mom said. “It was their mistake so they had to halt it and include you in the petition!”
Well that was close. As it turned out, the lady mixed up the date I was born with the date my mom was naturalized, so she thought I was born while my mom was a Filipino citizen. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine how unhappy I’d be if I just lost my only chance to become a dual citizen of the Philippines
Oath-taking was scheduled at noon. I’m pretty sure they were running on Filipino Time because we weren’t called in for oath-taking until about 12:20. (That’s pretty good for Filipino Time though! You normally see 30 minutes to a few hours late!
We went into a relatively empty room, except for a Philippine flag and a picture of President Benigno Aquino III with the Seal of the President of the Philippines behind him.
Then the man who would be helping us recite the oath of allegiance came in. He explicitly stated to us that nowhere in the oath does it say that we will give up our citizenship to the United States — unlike the naturalization oath, we are not renouncing “absolutely and forever” our allegiance to “any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty” — and that we will enjoy all the rights of Filipino citizens, including being able to live there (and die there, if we wanted to!).
It did get a little awkward for me because he started speaking in Tagalog. Everyone in the room was laughing… except for me. It was a good thing the oath was in English!
Now, I can truly say that I’m a Filipino. Now I can travel with a Filipino passport and stay in the Philippines as long as I’d like. When I’m older, I’ll also be able to vote in national elections, own land, and even start a business in the Philippines. There’s a reason I can do this stuff: ako’y isang Pinoy!