Given the frequency of my travels, and given the number of times I had to go to the Malaysian Immigration office to renew my visa, I’ve had many interactions with Immigration officers. Some of those encounters were ‘interesting’. These three instances are among the most unforgettable.
Some months ago, I was queueing to take a number at the counter in Immigration Malaysia’s office in Damansara. When it was finally my turn, the Immigration officer went through my passport and other supporting documents.
He started asking me which part of the Philippines I come from and how does one get here. He seemed genuinely interested, so I answered him the best that I could.
Overcome by curiousity for the reason of his line of questioning (which had nothing to do with my visa renewal), I asked him,” Kenapa, Encik? Encik nak pergi sana ke?” (Why do you ask, Sir? Do you plan on going there?). With a straight face, he replied, “Ada lagi tak orang macam you kat sana?” (Are there any more ladies like you over there?). I blushed deeply, somehow managed to stutter some reply which I can’t remember anymore, and hurriedly left the counter.
I told DH about it afterwards and he had a good laugh about it, somehow taking pride in the fact that someone was hitting on his wife and the mother of his 5 children.
And, yeah. I felt good, too, knowing that I still have it, despite having given birth to 5 kids, despite not going to a gym to do aerobics or ellipticals, despite my age (35 is still young, what??!!!).
Location: Jakarta Immigration (Outbound)
Scene: The Indonesian Immigration officer is taking extra interest in my passport, flipping the pages, looking at the cover, then going through my personal details.
Officer: You are Filipino?
Officer: But your name is M******! You must be an Indonesian.
Me (taken aback): No, I was born in the Philippines and have always had a Philippine passport.
Officer (glowering at me): But your name is Indonesian. You must be originally an Indonesian!
In the end, he had no choice but stamp on my passport and let me go, even though he obviously remained unconvinced by my explanation.
People tend to mistake me for an Indonesian whenever I queue with my green passport in Jakarta because the Indonesian passport is also green, albeit a bit darker and duller in shade. But that was the first time that somebody — and an Immigration officer at that — ever mistook me for and even insisted that I’m an Indonesian!
Last night, I got back from Jakarta with my colleague. She’s Malaysian and went through the Autogate counter (where you only need to put in your passport, then have your thumbprint scanned) while I had to go to one of the counters for foreign passport holders.
The Immigration officer who was manning my counter looked at my passport, then at me, then back to my passport again. He then asked “Isteri orang Malaysia ya?” (You’re the wife of a Malaysian citizen, aren’t you?) to which I answered “Yes.”
He then asked me if I can speak Malay. I answered in Malay, that, of course, I can.
He smiled a small smile and proudly proclaimed that he knows how to speak Tagalog. I grinned and asked him where he learned it from. His initially stern expression suddenly turned all wistful as he replied “Dulu, I pernah ada asawa” (Some time ago, I once had a Filipina wife) [NB: ‘asawa‘ is Tagalog for ‘spouse’.] “Dulu?” I echoed. He nodded and said “Ya, apa nak buat? Orang kata, jodoh tak berpanjangan.” (Yes. But what can I do? As people say, it just wasn’t meant to be.)
We chatted a bit more about his ill-fated history but I realised that had to cut it short, since DH was waiting for me at KL Sentral. [NB: The KLIA Ekspres train from KLIA to KL Sentral only takes 28 minutes. One way ticket costs RM35. It’s a very fast and convenient way to get to the city centre from KLIA.]
So I told him, “Okay, ya, Encik?”, unsure how else to terminate the conversation abruptly. I walked away from the counter and was suprised when he hastily called out, “Maganda (ka)” (You’re beautiful.). I laughed, hollered “Salamat po!” and rushed off to catch my train.
Naturally, I told DH about it the moment I got into the car with him at KL Sentral and he had another good laugh ;)
It feels good to get some positive affirmation in the most unexpected times and places! :D