The World Youth Day participants in Germany are now eagerly looking forward to meeting Pope Benedict XVI in Cologne two days from now. Meanwhile, those of us who had to remain in the Philippines because the German Embassy denied our visa application — effectively banning us from the gathering — are back in our offices, schools, or churches. Although we feel really hurt and disappointed, we understand that life must go on.

Denied!

Last night, Mhay and I visited the office of Alab ng Kabataang Pilipino (AKAP) to get our passports and request for refunds. As we entered the AKAP office, I felt like I was attending a neighbor’s wake. There were some familiar faces, but the atmosphere was gloomy. The usual cheerful mood is gone, and I was attacked by this awkward feeling when you do not know what to say or how to start a conversation. It was like having trouble speaking with one whose relative just passed away. In this case, I did not know what to tell these people who, like me, had failed dreams of going to a foreign land, share experiences with other young people from other countries, and of course, meet the one who replaced our dear Pope John Paull II.

We visited the AKAP office several times during the application process to join the World Youth Day: during the orientation, the screening interviews, when we submitted our papers, when we deposited our initial payment, and before we went to Tagaytay for the pre-World Youth Day retreat (which now reminds me so much of my 1995 World Youth Day experience) with Father Larry Faraon. All those times, the young and not so young people radiated an aura of excitement. It was different last night, and it was probably worse last Friday, when the German Embassy snubbed our final appeals for reconsideration.

Angels’ Hills Chapel in Tagaytay where we held the pre-World Youth Day retreat
Posing ala-World Youth Day complete with Philippine flag
Mhay and I during the pre-World Youth Day retreat
With World Youth Day friends Kuya Rene and Giles

The AKAP people asked us to enter the room — the same room where we deposited our initial payment two months ago. There were also some would-be delegates claiming refunds and planning a possible Asian trip. We were given our passports, and we also requested for a copy of the letter from the Embassy. It’s curious how the 06-14-2005 on the subject was replaced with 23 Juni 2005 — the date when Mhay and I were interviewed. Could it be possible that what AKAP told us was true — that our visa application was denied even before we were interviewed?

We were also given initial refunds of $300 each, but we had to give it back after they verifed our records. They told us that they are only giving initial refunds to those who have paid the full package, which include the airline tickets. Those of us who gave only the initial payment will have to wait for probably a week to get our money back.

Before we left, we asked for the delegate’s uniforms — which was part of the P5,000 joining fee that we have paid earlier. They gave us the jacket and the the shirts, which we will never get to use in the 20th World Youth Day, anyway.

In an attempt to recover part of the expenses which we will never be able to refund, such as the visa application fee and the interview and joining fees, I decided to post at the auctions site eBay the jacket and other World Youth Day souvenir items.

World Youth Day jacket
World Youth Day cap
World Youth Day keychain

May it also serve as a way to remember the irony that many young Filipinos — a people close to the heart of the founder of World Youth Day, and people of the country that hosted the “biggest gathering of people of all times” with Pope John Paul II in 1995 — were banned from experiencing the pilgrimage in Germany.

I am looking forward to the time when people of other countries will stop looking at the Philippines as a country of people who would grab every opportunity to be illegal immigrants (TNT) in the United States or in Europe. When that happens, there will probably be no more discriminations against us, Filipinos, and we will probably be allowed to join in as many international gatherings as we wish, whether we are in a big group of 600 or not.

Ederic Eder

Filipino blogger

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  1. After almost 6 years, may nag-post…

    Trackbacks, anybody…

    any update or news tungkol sa AKAP wyd 2002? Sa management? Sa mga naka-claim?

  2. Hi everyone! I reached this site when trying to search for AKAP WYD 2005 delegates.
    I’m one of the AKAP delegates and was away for a few weeks and lost touch with the other delegates. I also lost my cellfone along with their contact numbers. I tried calling the AKAP office but the line’s always busy while the other hotlines are already out of service! Now, i dont know how to get my refund 🙁
    If you know of any delegate I can make contact with, pls send me an email — CaptKewl@gmail.com

    thanks!!!

  3. Hello all,

    I know this is for some of you still a lingering pain – I know it is for my dear sister-in-law. I’m from Belgium and my filipina wife and I had invited my father-, brother-, and sister-in-law to come over after the WYD was finished – since it would be a Schengen visa for 3 months anyway. They were denied. I faxed, called, emailed you name it, the embassies of Germany and the one in Manila. My sister-in-law followed up the AKAP from her side and got kinda far in doing so. I got one reply back saying that the embassy reserves the right not to give the reason of denial, but just like some of you, the date of denial was before the actual interview date! This, together with the fact that they are not being refunded for anything so far after numerous complaints and questions, made me go on this personal crusade to figure out who is the legal responsible in this matter: it’s a pure disgrace and crime in my eyes! I’m turning now to any and everyone who could tell me if there has been any legal action undertaken in the meantime or where this situation is at the moment or if there is any more information source I could use in your opinion to find the responsible for this. I’d like to invite you all to contact me at serge_caroline@myway.com. Thanks a lot and God bless!
    Serge