It was high time I acquired a passport because it is the ultimate valid ID; various establishments accept it without question. In my family of five, only my father possessed a passport, so I set an online appointment last month for my mother, siblings, and I. The online scheduling is a prerequisite as walk-in applicants are no longer accepted. I acquired a postal ID and an NBI clearance in preparation for The Big Day. My birth certificate, printed specifically on yellow NSO paper for passport purposes, had been acquired and photocopied a billion times weeks ago.
Our appointment was on May 7, 2:30PM, so we had to be at the Department of Foreign Affairs by 2PM. However, we arrived two hours early. As you will see later, this turned out to be a good thing. And the DFA has moved to a new location! It’s farther from its old Roxas Boulevard office. According to metromaniladirections.com, the purpose of this relocation is “modernization and another for streamlining the procedures – particularly fending off fixers.”
You can read many bloggers recounting how they got their passport and the common thread that runs through their stories is the long waiting time. I am here to tell you a different story. My father is a government employee, so we were entitled to use the courtesy lane (aka express lane) as his immediate family.
Daddy flashed an ID at the security guard at the main gate and we were ushered through without having to present anything. We headed to the second floor, where my parents talked to a woman behind the help desk. We were given courtesy lane application forms to be filled out. It would seem that the online application forms I had printed out, and perhaps even the online appointment itself, were completely unnecessary; we were essentially walk-ins. After completing the forms, we proceeded to the room beside the help desk, where our documents were verified. Unfortunately, I failed this stage–my postal ID was rejected for…being too easy to acquire? I don’t know. My NBI clearance was also rejected because it was spanking new. They only accept supporting documents that are at least 2 years old. I pouted and whined to my father about this, saying that there were no such qualifications on the passport appointment website; the website only stated “valid ID” and “NBI clearance” among the list of requirements. The guy behind the counter told me to come back with any old school ID (I’d lost my UP ID) and a yearbook. The rest of my day at DFA consisted of mentally complaining about how hard it is to get valid IDs because you need valid IDs to get valid IDs, cursing COMELEC for taking half a decade to give us our voter’s IDs, being pissed off at how I had to prove my identity despite my face and the face on my postal ID and NBI clearance being the same…and waiting for my mother and siblings to be done, so let’s proceed to
The magic ID; the man with a good memory
At the main gate, the same security guard inspected the contents of my bag and asked, “Where to?” to which I replied, “Uh…passport?” because I wasn’t expecting the question. Turns out it was standard procedure, at least for the others; my father interrupted the guard’s “Where’s your application form?” with “She’s with me”, and another flash of his magical ID. I want an ID like that so I can bypass all these tedious government-office-related queuing. So again, I was ushered through. I proceeded to the same window and the same guy as the other day. He seemed to recognize me, which is remarkable given the number of faces that pass before his eyes everyday. He looked at my yearbook and my high school ID, accepted the photocopies, and told me to have the first page of my yearbook, which contained “University of the Philippines” and “Department of Psychology”, photocopied too. When I came back, I was relieved to see that he was writing on a receipt. He didn’t even ask me to choose between regular and rush processing; it would seem that he remembered that the rest of my family chose rush, so he made the same choice for me.
Breezing through the queues; my chubby cheeks
We entered the next room in which steps 2 (payment) and 3 (data capturing) took place. Despite long queues at the cashier, it was a short wait, especially when you compare it to the nightmare that is data capturing. I took one look at the packed waiting area and knew that it would take hours before your turn is up. Being on the courtesy lane, though, I only needed to proceed to computers 45-50, hand over my papers, and wait for a few minutes. Good thing there was someone ahead of me so I had time to comb my hair and check my appearance. They use digicams to take your picture. I thought you had to assume a poker face, but my sister told me that it’s okay to smile as long as your mouth is closed. So smile I did. As far as my myopic eyes could see, my picture was fine; my face was not blown out of proportion, the shadows not filled out by flash thereby exposing my chubby cheeks. (If I may digress, a friend expressed his surprise at my petite build upon meeting me for the first time; he said my picture made it seem I was a chubby girl.) After having my picture taken, I provided a digital copy of my signature and had my thumbprints scanned.
The passport delivery payment queue; my youthful appearance
We had to go all the way around the building and return to the verification room in order to pay the P120 fee for passport delivery. I wrote down my name, address, and number on the LBC bag which would contain my passport and waited for my turn. The man behind me said, “I saw you earlier. How come you’re done so soon? We had to wait for an hour.”
“Courtesy lane…my father is a government employee,” I answered.
“Are you already 18? I see you’re getting your own passport.”
“Oh, I thought you were 16 or something!”
The lesson of this narrative is that it pays to be a government employee. I intended to write a guide for people similar to me–first time to apply for a passport with barely any identification papers–but things turned out differently. However, I went through the same procedure as other applicants, only I didn’t have to wait long, so perhaps this article could still serve my original purpose. To summarize,
- Set an appointment online at passport.com.ph. You are free to choose your preferred date and time.
- Print out the application form.
- Arrive an hour early because you will have to have your appointment verified, and there’s a queue for that.
- Have your documents verified (step 1). You will get a three-leaf receipt if you are successful. Bring any old documents you can get your hands on (yearbook, high school ID, NBI clearance, and community tax certificate among others); better safe than sorry.
- Pay at the cashier (step 2). You only need the receipt and your payment for this. The cashier will take a leaf off the receipt.
- Get a number and wait for your data to be captured (step 3). Hand over your application form and receipt to the person in charge. He/She will take another leaf off the receipt and return the final leaf to you. If you have long hair, tuck it behind your ears. Remove your earrings, your necklace, and your glasses. Don’t wear colored contact lenses. You may smile as long as your mouth is closed; otherwise, adopt a poker face. Provide your signature digitally and have your thumbprints scanned. Sign the form handed to you. Return it. You’re done! Your passport release date is indicated at the bottom of your copy of the receipt.
- Optional: Pay P120 for delivery. Get an LBC bag from the cashier, fill out the form stuck on it, and fall in line.