In a more solemn ceremony, some thirty American citizens who are natural-born Filipinos took their oath before Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr. at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco to regain their Filipino citizenship.
It was the first that a mass oath taking for dual citizenship that was held after Bensurto himself sought to have the mode of oath taking to a ceremony that befits the appropriate dignity that it truly deserves that does not trivializes the practice
Gone are the days that the Consulate would conduct the practice every day for supposedly quick service that made it look like an uneventful passing routinary fast food quickie thing with no emotional attachment that it is supposed to represent.
The then candidates for dual citizenship were first given reminder-briefings by the Social Security System given by their representative Marites Marin and the Department of Tourism’s Pura Molintas on what to be updated on developments once the candidates gain back their Philippine citizenship.
In his speech before the oath taking proper, Bensurto impressed upon his audience that the reacquisition of Philippine citizenship through Republic Act 9225 one can become a Filipino citizen again, regardless of the one’s motivation for reacquiring it, as long as one is able to prove that he or she was a natural-born Filipino before acquiring another citizenship.
“The Filipino in you is not based on the ink and paper or the color of the passport. The Filipino in us is in our blood that runs through our veins, an integral part of our being that could not easily erased by any political or legal act. Thus, you may have lost your Filipino citizenship in the past in the legal sense but never in words, deeds actions and in your hearts,” Bensurto believes. “I hope that your reacquisition of Philippine citizenship also stems from your desire to reconnect with your Filipino heritage and your aspiration to be part of nation-building. The challenges of time demand that we unite as Filipinos, wherever we are, whatever citizenship you have regardless of the political boundaries.”
In an interview later, Bensurto reiterates that the Consulate should not just process but also inculcate love, passion for what is Filipino and must return the dignity that the reacquisition of Filipino citizenship deserves.
“During the ceremony, people were visibly happy and emotional. They understood the solemnity and seriousness of the event. They feel the connection to their roots, heritage and country. In fact they sang the Lupang Hinirang very well – right tone, right notes, right beat and full of emotions,” shared Bensurto who has some 1.3 million Filipinos under his jurisdiction. .
And for those who are now dual citizens, they now once again enjoy full civil and political rights under existing laws of the Philippines that include the following:
right to vote in Philippine national elections
right to own land and property in the Philippines
right to engage in business or commerce as a Filipino
right to travel bearing a Filipino passport
other rights and privileges enjoyed by Filipino citizens
For Malate Manila-born Amadeo Agetano, who was the oldest dual citizen candidate at 87 years old, an American citizen for at least 10 years and now stays in San Francisco, he availed of the dual citizenship status for economic reasons.
“I no longer have work and although I am getting pensions here and in the Philippines but cannot save enough. I was able to go halfway around the world. I have children and grandchildren in the Philippines who cannot all be here and I hope to serve as the bridge of the members of my family who are there and who are here. I hope to also bring about the merging of Filipino and American cultures even amongst my family members while I am still alive,” Agetano intimated.
The octogenarian also wished that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte would be able to really bring about positive changes in the Philippines that many are truly longing for and expecting him to.
About to reach his retirement age, Gerardo Artuz, originally from Naga City Camarines Sur, an American citizen for twelve years and a resident of Vallejo, California now wants to stay in the Philippines as he anticipates retiring in two years and spend most of his time in his Motherland.
“I longed to see the new improvements in the Philippines something I cannot do right now because I am busy with my two jobs. And since I am nearing retirement age of 65 years old, I now have the time to do the things I was not able to do. When I retire, I will stay permanently in the Philippines where I decided to retire. I can now savor fresh fruits, vegetables, food that we have in the Philippines. Life is not stressful there with a more laidback lifestyle. I want to be and retire where I was born,” an excited Artuz anticipates.
Gerardo’s daughter eighteen-year-old daughter Erica who also born in Naga City and has been in the U.S. for two years only availed of the dual citizenship as she wants to take up college in the Philippines either in University of Santo Tomas or Far Eastern University.
“I want to stay there in the Philippines while I finish my college course in the Philippines. It has been my dream to study in Manila for college even though I became an American citizen. As a dual citizen, I can also stay long for my vacation in the Philippines unlike now that there is a limitation on how long I can stay there,” Erica reasoned.
Cavite-born Dr. Yvette Nonato of Sacramento who specializes in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, pushing sixty years old and has been an American citizen for 6 years born in a military base in Cavite admitted that she availed of dual citizenship because her “renewal of my Philippine physician license requires me to be either a Filipino citizen or a dual citizen.”
“It so happened that I got an appointment for the oath taking just as I was attending a conference here in San Francisco so I grabbed the opportunity,” narrated Nonato. “The advantage of being a dual citizen that I consider most important for me is being able to practice medicine also in the Philippines. I can help more people especially in the Philippines when we conduct medical missions for those in the countryside, in the far-flung areas who cannot afford to go to the hospitals.”
Nonato also bared that she is very very happy to be a dual citizen for she has always been proud to be a Filipino, the main motivation for her to be involved with helping the World War II veterans awarded their Congressional Gold Medals.
“It is part of our history and I volunteered myself to work for the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to our World War II veterans even though my own father has gone before this much-deserved recognition was given,” Nonato poignantly stated.