Joselito R. Manahan
A very inspiring story from a successful classmate of ours.
"After high school graduation, I applied for a tourist visa to the United States. The consul looked at me in disbelief. He was not convinced that a 17 year old would visit the U.S. for one month and then return to the Philippines. He could tell that my true intention was to study and live permanently in what I call the Land of Second Chances. My application was denied. I felt my dreams were shattered but I knew I had to find another way. The next day, I spoke to a travel agent and inquired about other options. He mentioned that he knew someone who obtained his visa in Europe. He did state that I had 2 chances : slim and none. This sounded like a long shot but I felt I had no choice. On September l9, l969, I left Manila without knowing my final destination. It was a huge gamble- a gamble no 17 year old should ever take.
Europe was everything I expected--romantic, mysterious and full of history. Unfortunately, I was not there to see the sights. I applied for a U.S. visa seven times at different cities; seven times I was denied. I was out of money, out of plane ticket and out of luck. Reality finally set in and panic turned to despair. I was stranded in Rome but I felt I would rather die than go back as a failure. These were truly my darkest hours.
Who do you turn to when everything seem hopeless? I found myself praying at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. I begged God for assistance and guidance. I tried to hold back my tears but it was no use. Somehow, however, I knew He will not let me down. On the way back to my hotel, something told me to stop by the Philippine Embassy. I met Consul Fermin Francisco and I told him my story. With genuine compassion, he said: "You have a lot of guts but you don't know what you are doing. Here is what you do. You fly to Spain and apply for admission at the University of Madrid. Every Christmas, there is a tour for students to New York." He lent me some money and wished me good luck. I could not stop thanking him. I thought to myself- my prayers were answered.
The plan worked like a charm. I became a student at the University of Madrid. Sometime before Christmas, an announcement was posted about the trip to NUEVA YORK. I was the first one to sign up. The professor took care of getting the visas. When I received mine, I must have looked at it 100 times. Who said miracles don't happen?
When I landed at the JFK Airport on December 19, 1969, I secretly wanted to kiss the ground. I can finally go on with my life. My enthusiasm, however, was dampened by the chilly weather. I felt like being inside a freezer. After 3 days, I said goodbye to the Big Apple. California gave me a warm welcome. It was about 78 degrees. Los Angeles is within one hour of the mountains, the deserts and the beaches. The people were friendly and there were plenty of jobs. I knew then that this is my new home.
In order to pay the bills, I swallowed my pride and jumped from menial job to menial job: busboy, waiter, gas station attendant, drug store clerk. At that time, the average pay was $1.25 per hour. My single apartment was $50.00 per month. To save money, I ate a great deal of tuna sandwiches- about 19 cents a can. I walked or took the bus at 25 cents per ride. I knew the name of the game was survival and I was willing to do whatever it took ...
When I turned 18, I consulted lawyers regarding my immigration status. I needed to get a green card as my visa had expired. They were unable to help me. They asked me to return after I marry an American citizen or complete my college education. As it turned out, there was another way. I saw an ad on TV about the Army. I joined the next day and was sent to Fort Ord in Monterey, CA. I was not worried about the training but I was concerned about being sent to Vietnam. The boot camp was hell. It was physically and emotionally draining and challenging. The training started at 5AM and ended at about 10PM. All my joints and muscles ached. I had to learn to shoot M-16, throw grenades, run four miles a day and be proficient in combat techniques. By the end of 9 weeks, all the young soldiers were trained and skilled to do one thing: KILL THE ENEMY. When I received my orders, I jumped with joy. It read: Strategic Communications Command Europe-- Heidelberg Germany. Ironically, I was back in Europe not as a kid searching for a visa but as an American soldier. I worked in Personnel where I shuffled papers from 8 to 5PM. On weekends, I did a lot of traveling. The 2 years flew by quickly.
Thanks to the Army, I completed my college and law school. I did not have to pay a dime. I became a US citizen sometime after boot camp. I am proud that I served the country and I am grateful what it has done for me. After all, where would I be now if not for the Army?
In retrospect, everything worked out according to God's plan. Because of the hardships I experienced, I am most compassionate and understanding of the plights of those who are lost and confused, like I was as a young man in pursuit of a dream. Finally, I would like to share an inspiring passage which I found most helpful:
IF YOU THINK YOU ARE BEATEN, YOU ARE
IF YOU THINK YOU DARE NOT, YOU DON'T
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WIN BUT THINK YOU CAN'T
IT'S ALMOST A CINCH YOU WONT.
LIFE'S BATTLES DON'T ALWAYS GO
TO THE STRONGER OR FASTER MAN
BUT SOONER OR LATER THE ONE WHO WINS
IS THE ONE WHO THINKS HE CAN."
Joe is now an Attorney at Law in Los Angeles, California U.S.A. He is licensed to practice in all California courts, federal courts, and the US Supreme Court. His specialties are: Real Estate Law and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization laws. Joe is married to Evelyn and they are bless with two (2) sons, Jonathan (30) and Joseph (26) who are both attorneys. Jonathan is with the U.S. District Court while Joseph is a captain and a Judge Advocate (JAG) with the United States Air Force.
Here are some pictures of Joe and his family.