Just because you can get a lot of things done online these days doesn’t mean that things are faster.
Sure, being able to download forms or having them sent to your email are a huge help in cutting funds set aside for going to the government office concerned just to get the papers. Some government websites do give you the necessary information you need while others are more concerned with displaying blah fonts and a layout that even a five-year-old would laugh at.
The Philippines‘ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is one of the few decent websites out there. It loads fast, the explanations are clear and if you click on the links, you actually go to where it should be directed. No “error” or “page doesn’t exist” bullshit. I went to the website to check for my passport renewal requirements. I filled up the online form, picked my schedule and within five minutes, everything was emailed to me.
I took note of the government-issued IDs I may need and, because paranoia is a great comfort, went overboard with all the documents and identification I had, and photocopied them in triplicate. Experience has taught me that when it comes to the government you can not be paranoid enough.
Here’s what to expect when renewing your passport:
1. Set an appointment online here.
You’ll be asked to fill out the form, which will then be emailed to you immediately. Download it, print it out, make at least one copy. You will not be allowed inside the office without these. The guards check.
2. Ready all those documents proving you are who you say you are.
This should tell you what you need. Again, don’t just bring the original. Photocopy them! Get them certified as true copies, even. Those who are renewing their passports, make sure you photocopy the first (the one with your face and details) and the last page (the one with the contact number of your in case of emergency person). And yes, bring your old passport!
3. Be at DFA (or any of their satellite offices) thirty minutes before your appointment.
This isn’t my instruction but from the guys themselves, when I got the email of the application form. Sometimes, they do check but they don’t do a roll-call or anything like that. One of the guards just called, “11:30!” and I raised my hand.
Don’t think that you can sneak in earlier. You appointment time is printed on your form and you will be instructed to come back.
4. Be ready for a looong wait.
One would think that these online appointments have sped things up. Uh, no.
So I was there forty-five minutes before my appointment. I used the time to change into a more suitable top, fixed my hair and the the like. There were long lines and clumps of people going around not knowing what to do. Note: please, ask someone who has experienced the process before for tips or better yet, check the office’s website. Chances are, the people that you ask in line do not know how to help you because, and it must be stated, THEY DO NOT WORK FOR THE OFFICE IN THE FIRST PLACE! It’s so annoying. And then when these people can’t give you the answers you need, you get mad at them! Well, what the fuck are they supposed to do when they don’t really know what happens themselves?
Ask from the office, the guards. Do your research. And for the love of (insert favorite deity here), what is this “ate” business? To my knowledge, I’m the youngest in the family. That term is only among relatives, people, not strangers. I don’t like people who think that by addressing me as “ate” they are being respectful. Often, it’s people who look older than me (with wrinkles and obvious age!) who address me as such. What the hell. I don’t care if it’s a Filipino thing and it’s a sign of respect. It’s not. Call a stranger “miss” or “sir”, not “ate” or “kuya.”
5. Why it was a looong wait.
Satellite offices spring up so that people living far from the main office are spared from the inconvenience of long, expensive travel. They are also a way to lessen the onslaught of people storming into the main office. This should mean faster, and more efficient service.
I chose the satellite office in Robinson’s Galleria because of the likely chance that it was less chaotic than Megamall’s. Hah. Wishful thinking. The wait took so long because there was only one counter that was processing everyone’s papers. We were hundreds, man. Then the cashier took a break and that stalled everyone for an hour. You have to pay first before your data’s encoded and your picture taken. Can you imagine the frustration of being so near yet having to wait?
With government offices, when someone takes a break, there should be a reliever. Always. It’s wrong to demand from the people to be understanding and patient because it’s their money that makes your job, your air-conditioned office, your benefits, possible. I’m not saying that people have the right to yell, but they’ve got more right on their side. And it’s really common sense. You take a break, make sure there’s someone to take over.
When it was my turn to pay, I was instructed to come back because there wasn’t any change. By the time I was done with encoding, there was a line at the cashier. I was tired, starving (I didn’t eat lunch) and was already having second thoughts about getting the money when my turn finally came.
Some things to remember:
1. Don’t think that because it’s online, it’s fast.
2. Arm yourself with entertainment. Books. I-Pod. Whatever. Get yourself a small snack too and liquids to keep you hydrated. People are more than willing to hold your place in line if you gotta tinkle or..well, you know.
3. Senior citizens are given priority.
4. Remove all jewelry, contacts, keep your hair flat for your picture-taking. Mine took some time because my hair refused to stay flat. No bangs as well.
5. I have to say this again: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Don’t bother the people lined up with you. Ask an official or a guard from the office. I believe that unpreparedness leads to volcanic tempers. Not a missed meal. Trust me. I know. I saw.
6. When I was called for my “appointment,” all that was asked of me was my old passport, its photocopy and my application form. They were checked, deemed fine then I was given my number. The same thing for the processing. My number was called, they checked the same documents and off I was sent to the next step. It had me wondering why, if these steps are quite fast, the lines remained long. Oh. Right. Only one person was doing all of these!
7. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be armed with all the other documents. I had with me my current alumni ID, my community tax certificate (cedula), NSO birth certificate, SSS and NBI clearance. Just in case.
8. After all the data’s been encoded, check once, twice and three times. If there are any errors, not only will you have to repeat the process, you will have to pay too. So if your bladder’s close to bursting, hold it off and check your information thoroughly.