When I came to work this Monday morning, this is what greeted me:
You see, I became a U.S. citizen two weeks ago. I have been hesitating on writing about it, though, because I know I would offend Filipinos, Americans, or both. After seeing my cube, though, I knew I had to write (and share the pictures!), if only to educate those who might be interested in going through the process or just learning about it.
I was asked to attend the oath ceremony at 3:00 pm. My hubby, stepson and I roll in there at about 2:57. We see throngs of people just starting to be let into the building. My hubby told me that there was already a lot of people there as early as 10:00 am, but I heeded my friend's advice that they only let you in near the appointed time (thank you, friend!).
I somehow picked the best queue that I ended up in the group that's seated in the center front rows. There were some speakers urging us to fill out the registration forms to vote, which I did. One thing I noted about these speakers. There were four translators - one Spanish, one Chinese, one Vietnamese and one Filipino. One by one they spoke their native language, diligently pointing at the sections of the forms, obviously explaining the parts and how to fill them up to their countrymen. When it was the Filipino's turn, the young man didn't even bother to bring a form, he just said in Tagalog something to the effect of "we don't really need an interpreter because we know English, we just want to show them that we're a big group and need to be reckon with." This made me laugh, and the Indian and Vietnamese next to me are probably wondering what's so funny with a registration form.
Then we had a roll-call of countries, which I found neat. They would call the country, starting with Albania and ending with Zimbabwe, and the people from that country are asked to stand up. You get a feel of the distribution of people wanting to be Americans. I thought the Philippines would have the biggest contingent, but from the rustle of the seats it was obvious Mexico, India and Vietnam had us beat.
The guy standing next to me, on my left, was from Bahamas. I asked him - "you want to leave Bahamas?!?!" He laughed.
The master of ceremonies was Filipino. With his Spanish-sounding name, I was initially not so sure, but when he said "ceremony" with the stress on the second syllable, I had not doubt. There was a speech from a recently-naturalized ex-Australian CEO of a semiconductor company (hmmm, maybe I should get his contact number), extolling the virtues of becoming a U.S. citizen. A couple of speeches and a video later, it was time for the actual oath-taking.
This is when I suddenly paid attention. I have always regarded getting a U.S. citizenship as no big deal, I just wanted that blue passport to avoid the hassles of immigration or the necessity of visas to some countries. The voting and jury duty, I can live without. So I thought I will be in and out of there, looking forward more to the dinner afterwards.
When I started repeating the words of the Oath of Allegiance however, I got choked up. Especially on the part about renouncing and abjuring all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign sovereignty. I have always planned on having dual citizenship but these words really hit me hard. Am I really turning my back to Pilipinas Kong Mahal
? I shamefully admit my heart was feeling cold while all the people around me were clapping and rejoicing, becoming a part of the greatest nation of the world (okay, maybe I'll offend not just Filipinos and Americans). I know this is just the practical thing to do and millions of Filipinos have gone through it, but I can't help but feel guilty. Guilty for the Philippines, for renouncing her, and guilty for the U.S., for using her.
When we got home from the ceremony, I found flowers and a cake on the table. Then we went out for Thai food (I just felt like Thai food that night). Later that evening, we hear a knock on the door. It's my stepson's friend, his little brother and their mother, with my stepson's friend handing me flowers (the same ones as my husband got me) and a card. It turns out my stepson casually mentioned to him about my citizenship, and he told his mom, and hence the visit. I was so touched, hugged the boys, and gave them cake and ice cream.
I'm over the emotional part of the citizenship, but I'm surprised at how everyone else had made/is making a big deal out of it. I almost didn't tell my husband about the ceremony, planning to just quietly take it, but he insisted on coming along for the "special day." My office cube was decorated like crazy and no one would admit to it. The only way I found out is by asking our Help Desk person to find out who came to the office on Sunday from the badge entry records. So, thank you Kevin and Debbie! Thanks for making everyone stop by and congratulate me, so I have to tell them the story over and over! Just kidding, I really appreciate your efforts, you crazy people.
Here's my stepson's gift to me (I asked him, should I name him Americky? He said, no, Abearica!):
And here's some of my other loot from friends: