According to a report in a Filipino newspaper, The Daily Inquirer, 31-year-old Jasper Kuwornu yearns to return home, but only if he could raise the money to buy a plane ticket.
Comparing Kuwornu’s plight to a movie, the publication said, Hollywood actor Tom Hanks’ 2004 movie “The Terminal” went from reel to real in Clark again. And the Ghanaian caught in the real-life deportation drama at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport keeps to heart just one New Year’s wish: To get $1,200 (P60,000) for a plane ticket to bring him home to his country.
That gift is all that Jasper Kuwornu yearns to return to his West African country and be reunited with his mother, a vegetable vendor, in their village Nkuasi, the publication said.
“I have no other option but to return home. I have no means,” Kuwornu, was quoted as saying.
The newspaper said it learned of his predicament when he called its Northern Luzon Bureau office in Baguio City on Friday using the contact numbers he read in the Dec. 22 issue that was lent to him by Filipino firefighters stationed at the DMIA’s emergency services department (EMD).
A corner at the EMD conference room has served as his home since November after more than a month of stay in a room at the DMIA passenger terminal.
The newspaper report says Kuwornu is the second Ghanaian to be stranded in the Philippines after football player Ayi Nii Aryee, who was deported by Singaporean authorities to Clark for six months in 2006 for lack of a student visa.
Kuwornu told the newspaper that he arrived in the Philippines on Feb. 27 2008, via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. According to him, he wanted to study at the Technological Institute of the Philippines, with sponsorship from a brother who worked in a fishing company.
But tragedy struck.
“I lost financial support when my brother died [in an accident while at sea],” he said. He also said his father died five years ago.
Idle, he joined the Life African Evangelical Mission, serving as a volunteer at the women’s correctional center, leading Bible reading sessions there.
As Christmas neared, Kuwornu used his remaining money to book for a flight to Malaysia en route to Bangkok to transit to Ghana.
He boarded Air Asia in Clark on Sept. 28. That same day, he was back in Clark. “I had no transit visa so Malaysian authorities deported me here,” he said.
That was when a room at the DMIA passenger terminal became his home, the newspaper said.
Several days and nights passed without him getting any food. This ordeal was broken when Filipino airport personnel took notice and extended their kindness to him, he said. Air Asia sent him dinner packs.
On the money pooled by some Filipino missionaries, Kuwornu tried taking a Bangkok flight on Oct. 19. Again, the lack of transit visa nipped his departure.
A seat on a United Arab Emirates plane will cost him $1,200. As of Saturday, all he had was P500 and $20.
At Clark, he occupies a nook at the EMD conference room. Here, all he has is a mattress lent by the employees and an Ilocos cotton blanket given by a Filipino friend.
Kuwornu does not keep the air conditioning unit on, preferring the natural December cool. Strewn on the red carpet are old issues of newspapers and his Bible.
A security guard is assigned to watch over him. While he is free to roam the EMD vicinity to exercise and get fresh air, he is not allowed to leave DMIA or Clark, reports the Daily Inquirer.
Like at the DMIA terminal, he has access to a bathroom.
Air Asia’s dinner packs continued to come free. Airport workers, however, said Kuwornu has grown thin.
Filipino firefighters eased his Christmas sadness when they invited him for the traditional Christmas Eve feast. At the garage where plastic bottles were recycled to form a Christmas tree, Kuwornu told the newspaper he found a new sense of optimism.
“It was a nice party. They tell me, ’Don’t worry, pray,’” he said.
Ghana is constant on Kuwornu’s mind. He said he hasn’t lost hope, pinning his dream on the kindness of people.
“I want to go home,” he told the newspaper.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi