Fil-Am waits for passport

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Fil-Am swimmer Elizabeth (Lily) Jordana is wondering why it’s taking so long for her to receive her Philippine passport when it was a breeze for her older sister Hannah and younger brother Joseph to get theirs.

A quirk in the eligibility qualification for dual citizenship has put Lily in some form of cold storage. Lily, 18, was born when her Filipino father Martin had already become an American citizen. Martin was still a Filipino citizen when daughter Hannah, 21, was born. And since son Joseph, 16, is below 18, he was easily claimed by Martin who has dual citizenship. Martin is married to an American, Sarah Davis, and lives with his family in Houston.

But there is urgency in Lily’s case as she needs a Philippine passport to qualify her to represent the country at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore in June. Her application for a derivative dual citizenship has been sent to the Bureau of Immigration by the Philippine consulate in Los Angeles but so far, there is no word on the progress of the process.

Lily was in Manila during the Christmas holidays and swam at the PhilSports pool in a tryout supervised by national swimming coach Pinky Brosas with PSC chairman Richie Garcia, POC first vice president Joey Romasanta and SEA Games chef de mission Julian Camacho watching from the sidelines. Lily’s times were checked by Brosas in freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly.

Brosas described Lily as “explosive” and said she has at least a four-year competitive window ahead. Her name has been included in the Philippines’ provisionary list of athletes for accreditation to the SEA Games but she will not be confirmed as a participant unless she is issued a Philippine passport.

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Lily is training religiously in Houston, hoping for the chance to represent the country she visits nearly every year with her family. Her Filipino grandfather Virgilio Jordana and three of her father’s siblings Joaquin, Mariles and Rossana live in Manila.

The Philippine consulate in Los Angeles recently conducted an outreach program in Houston to meet with Filipinos and Fil-Ams. Lily’s sister and brother were beneficiaries of the program as they were issued Philippine passports with no red tape. Lily’s case, however, is different.

From Manila, SEA Games deputy chef de mission and POC board member Cynthia Carrion did her part in pushing for Lily’s passport. She contacted Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to request for assistance and was referred to his executive assistant Elvira Hidalgo. The PSC is also involved in the loop through Garcia’s executive assistant Michelle Balunan.

“Because Lily was born after her Filipino father became an American citizen and she’s now 18, the Philippine consulate in Los Angeles needs an endorsement from the Bureau of Immigration for derivative dual citizenship to process her passport,” said Lily’s uncle Joaquin. “In effect, it is an endorsement of the Department of Justice which has jurisdiction over the Bureau of Immigration. All the consulate requires is the endorsement and once it is received, the consulate will issue Lily her Philippine passport. The problem is the consulate has sent Lily’s documents to the Bureau of Immigration and nobody knows who has the papers now. The PSC is aware that the consulate has sent the documents but the situation is up in the air because nobody knows whom to follow up with the Bureau of Immigration.”

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Joaquin said Lily is training harder than ever to prepare for the SEA Games. “Even if there’s no certainty as to whether she can compete for the Philippines or not, Lily is very determined to get better,” he said. “She’s working double time in the pool. We’re doing our best to track her papers and find out who in the Bureau of Immigration has her papers. The consulate in Los Angeles is waiting for the endorsement. We just hope the endorsement comes in time for the passport to be issued before the list of athletes for the SEA Games is finalized.”

Joaquin said he’s not blaming bureaucracy or red tape for the stall. “We actually don’t know where the papers are and who has control over the documents,” he said. “For all we know, the papers are being processed. But we need to be sure. It’s just unfortunate that Lily is a victim of circumstances. As a teenager, all she wants to do is to represent the Philippines in the sport she loves. She’s not able to understand why she’s different from her sister and brother who were issued Philippine passports without difficulty. To Lily, she’s a Fil-Am like her sister and brother so why can’t she be given a Philippine passport? She can’t understand why her status is up in the air since she’s a potential national athlete who can bring honor and pride to the country. We just hope she doesn’t get exasperated and loses her focus.”

Lily’s family is appealing to the Bureau of Immigration to speed up the process of issuing an endorsement for her application to become a dual citizenship. “It’s not an isolated case,” said Joaquin. “There have been precedents before. Lily’s case has urgency. We hope the Bureau of Immigration issues the endorsement as soon as possible to clear the way for Lily’s participation in the SEA Games.”











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