One of the biggest hurdles for Philippine passport holders is the enormous hassle of entry visa applications. Producing PSA certificates, bank statements, income tax returns, properly filled-up forms, ID pictures… what a waste of precious time on mostly unnecessary red tape!
Fortunately, the winds of change are beginning to blow on this Pacific-facing vessel holding 105M souls. Filipinos need a break from the equatorial heat, and many only dream of experiencing authentic snow at least once in their lifetime. The light at the end of the tunnel may not be as far-fetched as it seems.
Apart from visa-free entry to Jeju Island, South Korea last year gave special visa-free grace to Filipinos (along with Vietnamese and Indonesians) if they entered South Korea through YangYang airport during the period of the 2018 Winter Olympics, with an extension for the rest of the year.
Would it be too much to hope to see a general more-permanent relaxing of restrictions for Filipinos in the offing? Well the radar indicates even better days are coming as the two “mutual understanding” nations move to becoming “more than just friends”…
Your White Snow for our White Sand
The Philippines was blessed to get a record-breaking 7.1M tourist arrivals in 2018 even with Boracay closed for half a year, with Koreans bagging the top spot at 1.6M arrivals. The huge traffic of Koreans coming into the country’s beach destinations and cities is testament to the strong bond between the two Asian nations.
Numerous factors account for the special relationship, the way opposite electrical charges have a natural attractive force between them. One of these is the polar opposite natural environments and weather. It’s a great form of bilateral trade: your fluffy white snow for our crystalline white sand.
Your K-pop and telenovelas for our command of English
Filipinos have joined the K-Pop and Korean telenovela craze as modern Korean culture wave takes the world by storm. Koreans on the other hand see Filipinos to be their less-expensive alternative to learning English, as they are culturally similar to Filipinos in that they relentlessly seek a good sulilt deal.
Why spend a large sum to get an English immersion experience in America, Australia or England when budget-friendly Philippines just sits 4-hours away down south? That’s Korean logic.
Historically strong friendship
It’s amazing to note that South Korea and the Philippines have among the strongest bilateral relationships in the East. Being non-adjacent neighbors is one contributing factor, which spares the two of any territorial/island disputes. But also both countries have no historical wounds that need healing, unlike Korea’s or the Philippines’ relations with Japan, that has taken decades to heal.
Filipinos fought side-by-side with Koreans and Americans in the Korean War, with about 100 KIAs in a contingent of about 1500 troops. Filipino blood had a part in the emergence of modern democratic South Korea, the economic powerhouse we see today.
Note that Filipinos are visa-free to Israel, as the Philippines was one of the few countries that welcomed refugees during their dark days of Nazi aggression, and also voted in their favor in the UN leading to an Israeli state.
In the same light, Filipinos hope South Korea will crown the historical bond between both countries with that same token of friendship: visa-free status for Filipinos as well.
Uniquely Christian nations in Asia
In Asia, two countries stand out as being predominantly Christian nations (with or without the quotation marks): the Philippines and South Korea. This is a common denominator for the two to even more become more than just friends, but as brothers/sisters in faith.
Graduating from TNT to NIC
The Philippines being now classified as a Newly Industrialized Country (NIC) is no longer viewed as a menacing threat in many advanced countries, shedding off the image of TNT (tago ng tago) in overstaying or working illegally with expired visas. With the OFW/Filipino diaspora, countries around the world have gotten accustomed to having law-abiding Filipinos around, welcoming them in as they help out in job shortages.
Filipinos are no longer notorious for breaking laws outside their borders, as they learn to stand in line whenever they are in the premises of any host nation. Furthermore, the lowly servant image is fading away, as it is balanced out by many middle- to high-income-bracket Filipinos carrying credit cards, spending cash and travelling more as the world gets even smaller in the highly connected digital age. With this trend, Filipinos are now viewed as a people awash with money in their pockets.
There really is no need for South Korea to fear Filipinos trying to come over to South Korea for more than just a short visit, for several other reasons:
- Filipinos are not big fans of pepper-hot food loaded with Kimchi
- Filipinos won’t really choose to stay long under freezing-cold winter conditions
- Filipinos generally don’t have the discipline and patience to learn a minor cryptic language/alphabet such as Korean/Hangul.
The Secret to Passport Power
Filipinos have begun to realize that for their passport to move up in rank in the Henley index (74th among 199 countries; visa-free entry to 66 countries), they need to behave abroad. It is then that countries will naturally respect them as a people. And leading Filipinos on the march to behave is what the current administration is all about, starting with basic cleanliness. That’s why an iron-fisted Duterte was the people’s choice in the last presidential elections.
Filipinos are not in a position to beg or clamor for visa-free entry to South Korea or any advanced country, just as respect is not demanded but earned. The simple question is: will Filipinos do what is right to earn that respect? The ball really is in Filipinos’ hands.
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