I am elated that the World Youth Day festivities ended successfully in Sydney yesterday. I now pray for the safe return of Pope Benedict XVI to the Vatican and young participants to their respective countries.
I brought this matter up because in the Toronto edition of this Catholic youth conclave in 2002, many Filipino youth did not return home. I personally know of some Davao delegates who stayed in Canada and others who slipped into the US and stayed there as TNT (tago ng tago) or illegally.
I know this because it become quite a scandal here four years ago. In fact, cases have been filed in court against the Davao youth leader who tried to make a fast buck by offering jobs in Canada and the US for those joining the trip.
Of course, many did not make it past the Davao airport. Unluckily for them, they paid sums to organizers hoping they can get a free ticket to the “land of the free and the home of the brave” via the WYD gathering.
One night during the election campaign in 2004, I received a phone call from one youth participant who made it to Texas. I was totally surprised by the call. She inquired how the election was going and wished me luck. I expressed my concern to her that life as an illegal immigrant was a difficult one. She did not seem to bother.
The next WYD celebrations in 2011 will be in Madrid, Spain, another magnet for illegal immigrants. I hope none of this would happen again.