A Conversation with a Pinoy TNT in Korea
When I watched the Gilas game against India last week, I sat beside a Filipina whom I had never met. She initiated our conversation before the game started ~ and it continued until the game ended. All that time we were talking, we didn’t ask each other’s name. We didn’t exchange phone numbers nor did I give her my name card.
I remember my conversation with a Pinoy TNT in Korea well because I never expected to meet someone so open. We don’t call illegal Filipinos in Korea as “TNT”, instead they are referred to as “Artista”. Don’t ask me why 😀
Artista: “Matagal ka na rito?”
Ako: “Medyo. 11 years. Ikaw?”
Artista: “Matagal na.”
Ako: “Ilang taon na?”
She hesitated to answer but she replied anyway.
Artista: “14 years.”
Ako: “Wah! Ang tagal mo na nga.”
Artista: “Asawa mo Koreano?”
Ako: “Oo. Ikaw?”
Artista: “Pareho kaming Pilipino.”
Ako: “Ay ang galing.”
Artista: “At least kahit kailan pwede kang umuwi.”
Ako: “Hindi naman. 2008 pa ako huling umuwi.”
Artista: “Ako dalawang beses pa lang.”
Ako: “Bakit hindi ka umuwi?.”
Artista: “Wala kaming papel eh. Buti na nga lang wala pa kaming anak. Ilan anak mo?”
Ako: “Isa lang, lalaki.”
Artista: “Malaki na siya?”
Ako: “Grade 2. Nasa school siya ngayon kaya andito ako.”
I asked her where she’s from since she sounded like she’s from a Tagalog province. She said she’s from Iloilo, but I said she sounded like she’s from Cavite or Quezon. She said her husband is from Quezon and she has acquired the accent from the region.
Then she received a text message.
Artista: “Naku may nahuli sa isang factory. Paano kaya anak niya?”
Ako: “Huh? Bakit?”
Artista: “Kasi may baby yun. Dati nahuli na rin siya pero kasama niya baby niya kaya pinakawalan din. Eh ngayon wala yung baby niya so dinala na siya. Ano kaya mangyayari sa anak niya.”
At this point, we talked about the babies of “artistas” and how they are sent back home to the Philippines. When an “artista” has a baby in Korea, the baby is registered with the Philippine Embassy and the parents apply for a passport. When the passport is ready, the baby is taken back to the Philippines through a “courier” ~ usually a naturalized Korean.
The “artista” I talked to told me about how she came to Korea. She came here when visa was not necessary and found work in a start-up company. She and her husband were the first employees of that company. She got arrested for working illegally but was able to come back after a few years. Then the Korean government granted an “amnesty” for voluntary exit. She came back again and worked at the same company. From only two employees, the company grew and now they have EPS workers. “Artista” said the company boss is a nice fellow. Even if he could afford and already has EPS workers, he still keeps her husband in the company.
Ako: “Dapat kasi hinahabaan pinapayagan na ng gobyerno na mag-migrate kahit EPS. Gaya ninyo matagal na kayo, di na kayo kailangan i-train. Sanay na kayo sa buhay dito.”
Artista: “Pag may bago ngang empleyado, kami ang nagte-train sa kanila.”
Ako: “Magkano naman sweldo ninyo? Pareho lang ba ng sa EPS.”
Artista: “Mga 1.6 pareho lang ng sa EPS pero walang ibang benefits. Yung asawa ko 2 million.”
They couldn’t get the employee benefits that EPS workers get, i.e. health insurance, unemployment, pension and so on.
Then we went back to talking about immigration raids.
Ako: “So paano nalalaman ng immigration na may TNT.”
Artista: “Minsan yung kalabang kumpanya nagsusumbong. O kaya minsan mga Pilipino mismo.”
Ako: “Ah natatandaan ko may nagkuwento noon pero di ko alam kung totoo o hindi. Meron daw isang Pinay na may asawang Korean tapos nanghiram ng pera sa isang TNT. Nung hindi niya mabayaran yung TNT, sinumbong niya ata sa immigration.”
Artista: “Grabe naman.”
Ako: “Pero di ko alam kung totoo talaga ha. Narinig ko lang.”
After a while…
Ako: “Bakit ang laya mong nakukuwento na ilegal ka?”
Artista: “Nakapalagayan na kasi kita, eh.”
Yup, it was our first time to meet and I was “flattered” by her openness.
In the end, I told her not to trust too much. I really didn’t have to tell her that. She’s been in Korea longer than I have. She probably knows Korea better than I do and she’s probably more proficient in the language than I am.
Hopefully, the Korean government could give another “amnesty” so she could go back home for a vacation and come back to Korea to live her life.