In 2006, TV and movie comedienne Ruby Rodriguez finally gave in to her husband's 10-year-old request that she grab her chance to be an American citizen.
Her husband of ten years—Mark Aquino, a graphic designer who also designs the set of Eat Bulaga!—is an American citizen by virtue of his parents' having immigrated to the United States several years back.
By virtue of a 2003 Philippine law allowing dual citizenship, Mark has also re-acquired Filipino citizenship. But as an American citizen, he successfully petitioned to have his wife become a permanent resident of the U.S. So Ruby is now a green-card holder. "Permanent resident kaagad ang status ko, kasi married ako ng more than three years to an American citizen."
Last year, from May to June, Ruby—together with her husband and their two kids, who are both dual citizens, too—flew to the U.S. to attend to the required documents for her.
"I had to exit as an immigrant or mai-spoil 'yong immigrant visa ko, kasi kinansel na 'yong tourist visa ko, e," she explains. "Every six months ko nang obligasyon ito. Pero since may kailangan pa 'kong gawin dito sa Pilipinas, nag-apply ako sa Amerika ng re-entry permit na magtrabaho dito. Para puwede akong mag-stay dito sa 'Pinas nang dalawang taon na hindi ako pabalik-balik. Kaya lang, kailangan kong mag-file ng income tax doon. 'Yon 'yong punch line doon. Bale, mag do-double-taxation ako—isang Philippines, isa doon."
Ruby says that Mark, even before he married her, already planned to raise his would-be family in the U.S.
"Noong ikakasal na kami, sabi niya, dadalhin daw niya ako sa Amerika,"she recalls. "Sabi ko, 'Ayoko nga! Wag na lang tayong pakasal!'' Ten years na kami, at 'yong sampung taon na 'yon, pinagbigyan niya akong hindi umalis ng Pilipinas. Kaya nga sabi ko, 'Ang ganda ko.'"
By giving in to Ruby's wishes, Mark gave up a lucrative career in graphic design.
"Gusto rin niya dito dahil nandito kaming pamilya niya," says Ruby. "Kaya lang, mas malaki ang kikitain ng graphic artist doon. In demand 'yon, e—'yong mga graphic at computer animators, design..."
The reason behind Ruby's recent change of mind is the very same reason that has been driving many Pinoys away from their homeland.
"Kasi iba na nga 'yong ekonomiya natin dito, di ba? In three years, I could apply na for my citizenship. So, it's for my children. I'm just giving them an option. Kasi nga, hindi ko alam kung ano ang mangyayari sa atin. Kanya-kanyang sekyuran lang 'yan. Parang ako, sinekyur ko lang ang mga anak ko sa America, kasi I'm giving them the option nga, e. Pili kayo, saan n'yo gusto?"
Half-jesting, she goes on: "Saka sa tingin mo ba, pag singkuwenta anyos na ako, maganda pa akong binabatukan sa TV at pelikula? Parang, di ba, at least mag-iwan naman ako ng konting dignidad sa sarili ko. So, feeling ko, pag singkuwenta na ako, siguro dapat magtrabaho na ako, e. Nagtapos naman ako, e."
Ruby took up Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at the University of the Philippines and the Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA), with a double major in marketing and management, and earned her degree from PSBA.
If and when the time comes for her to pull up stakes, Ruby and her family won't have a hard time establishing themselves in the U.S. For one thing, she and her husband—along with two of Ruby's sisters—have already co-invested in a three-bedroom house in Burbank, California.
Plus, they already have a strong support system waiting for them there.
"Nandoon na lahat ang aking mga kapatid," she reveals. "Ang nandito na lang, ako at saka 'yong ate ko na 'yong anak niya doon na rin nag-aaral... Si Raffy [Rodriguez, Ruby's kid brother and a former Viva Films contract star], sa Las Vegas na nakatira. And he has a very good job, ang laki ng suweldo niya. Tapos, 'yong nanay ko, U.S. citizen rin.
"Parang eventually, I think doon talaga kami papunta. In fact, yong panganay ko, si Toni, gusto na niya doon. Nage-enjoy siya doon."
But even if her mind is set on the move to the States, Ruby's heart remains here.
"If ever, baka mauna si Mark. Kasi nga, nag-e-enjoy pa ako dito, e. Sabi ko nga, Bulaga is my life. Pagka nawala sa akin 'yon, you took half of my life out. So, ayoko na."