I'm betting that while the rest of us are jotting down resolutions we won't/can't keep, Jonnalyn Cabarles is applying for her American passport.
Less than two weeks ago, this 36-year-old native of Manila was naturalized as a U.S. citizen — the culmination of a five-year ordeal that included mounds of paperwork, anxious hours of interviews and the not-so-easy citizenship test.
According to the Honorable John A. Kronestadt, such illustrious immigrants as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (Czechoslovakia), Oscar-nominated actress Salma Hayek (Mexico) and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Austria) have set the achievement bar exceedingly high.
Jonna and 4,386 other applicants gathered at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Dec. 19. California boasts the largest (19.4 percent) pool of candidates and Jonna's cohort included natives of 133 countries — with the most hailing from (in descending order) Mexico, the Philippines (like Jonna), El Salvador, Iran and Guatemala.
Judge Kronestadt offered his congratulation with the words, "You dreamed and you followed the rules." In 2013, a total of 779,929 dreamers became naturalized U.S. citizens.
As Jonna posed for pictures, she must have been thinking of Coco Chanel's words, "A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous." Still, Jonna couldn't conceal an impish look that betrayed her wicked sense of humor and a higher-than-average IQ.
With a B.A. in Communication Arts from the University of the City of Manila, where she won the Outstanding Student Award, Jonna initially arrived in America in 2008. She later moved to Ventura County, where she is known as "The Princess of Port Hueneme," to assist two City Council members with the care of their (respective) mother and mother-in-law. Her bottomless patience proved invaluable in such a physically and psychologically challenging profession.
Ever since she could remember, Jonna dreamed of becoming an American citizen. Her mother, Navidad, loves to remind Jonna that even as a toddler, she insisted that all of her clothes (even then, she was a "fashionista") must bear the "Made in USA" label.
"The Princess," she proclaimed with a regal toss of her head, "will not use anything — not even a toothbrush — that is not American."
Even now, her Facebook page, which she operates under the nom de plume "Jondita Bratinella" (emphasis on the "brat"), displays the appropriate meme, "All I want is world peace and my own red soles."
Her father, Alexander, also recalls that his daughter would howl with rage if gifted with a doll that was not a Mattel product. When he received the official news that Jonna was a brand-new American, he quipped with great pride, "Now I shall call you ‘Barbie.'"
Jonna will be registering as a Republican. She categorizes herself as a political conservative who would like to vote Condoleezza Rice into the Oval Office.
She confessed that the hardest question on the exam was to write out, verbatim, the words of the national anthem. I don't know if any of us, much less wannabe-warblers at sporting events, could earn the perfect score she did.
One of the best things about America, she maintains, is the food. This was the first year she enjoyed a Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings. No gobblers in the Philippines, so she says.
In speaking of a Filipino noodle dish (that is as popular here as it is back home), she allowed that now that she's a citizen, she will pronounce "pancit" with a very broad "a" and accent on the first syllable — as we Tagalog-challenged Americans do.
I suspect that Jonna would agree with columnist Ruben Navarrette, who often argues that the road to citizenship should not be easy.
"It's about a lot more than voting," he writes. "It's about knowing English even as we strive to acquire new languages. It's about surrendering your allegiance to another country or another flag, and — as President Kennedy said — asking not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."
So what's next on Jonna's agenda? She wants to be included on Judge Kronestadt's illustrious immigrants list.
I wouldn't bet against her.
Beverly M. Kelley writes a biweekly column for The Star. She is the author of "The Oldest Cold Case in Port Cabrillo."