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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Passport please!

No, it's not as easy at it sounds, even from someone who is used to university life that began and ended in long, winding lines of people waiting for their turn- the infamous Pila. A trip to the DFA to get your own passport is infinitely more hellish, even if you are a patient person. From my experiences last December, aside from patience, you'll need a water bottle, a good book to read which can sustain you from an hour to four hours, and tons of luck that the DFA officer who will be verifying your application papers wasn't trained to automatically think your ambition in life is to be a global terrorist (which on the other hand, can be a good thing for security reasons).

Here are other things that I learned during my 2-day grill:

1. Arrive early. "Early" is around 6:00 am. This is during off-peak season. During regular days, "early" is 2:30 am. If you belong to the first 500 applicants, you go straight to Gate 3 for processing. If not, you line-up for an appointment schedule.

2.Go straight to the DFA court! Ignore everyone (fixers!) who stands in your way.

3.Expect LOOOONGGGG lines. Bring something to amuse yourself with. I finished Dan Brown's latest book (Chapter 8 onwards) while waiting in line.

4. The E-passport is available for renewal applicants only. Scheduling for this is available online, with 7 days of response time.

5. New applicants can only avail of the machine-readable (MRP) passport. Online scheduling will take you 5 days waiting for a confirmation. Forget it. Just have yourself, or someone patient and trustworthy,  take your papers to the DFA and have it stamped with a schedule. 
6. When you arrive before 9 AM, there's a chance to get a schedule within the day, within 1-4PM. Arrive later and you'll get an appointment schedule for the succeeding days.

7. Basic requirements are the following:
- Application form (free at the DFA court)
- 3 pcs. passport sized picture with royal blue background. Having yours taken at the DFA compound costs Php150.00.
- Birth certificate on NSO paper
- NBI Travel Clearance
- At least two valid IDs (voter's, PRC, driver's, school ID, etc.)

8. Photocopy at the DFA costs Php3.00 / page (liquid xerox).

9. Like other government agencies, the DFA is prone to system errors... [insert  pissed comment  here....]

10. All information in your application must coincide with those in your official documents. Make sure also  that your official documents are readable. If not, bring back-up documents. I had to return the next day with my certified true copy of birth certificate from the LCR of my birth city just because the officer said she can't "read" the NSO copy.

11. Make sure you are not subject to a "hold-departure order." If you were but have been cleared already, bring your clearance.

12. The processes to endure before you can see your passport:
a. Line-up for scheduling of appointment at DFA court.
b. Show up for appointment.
c. Your papers are randomly checked and your name verified against the list of people who are not cleared to leave the country (windows A / B at the DFA court).
d. Line up outside Gate 3.
e. Line up inside Gate 3.
f.  Line up again at any of the Windows that say "New Applicant."
g. Information in your application form will be checked against information in your official documents. To pass the verification means to hear the magic words, "How much will you be paying?" Php 500.00 for regular (14 days) or Php 750.00 for express (7 days).
h. You are given a payment slip and told to proceed to the auditorium.
i. Sing "alleluiah" when you see the DFA seal framed within a giant green and gold tapestry at the DFA auditorium. Go straight in and proceed directly at the Payments counter at the right front-most corner.

j. Return to the entrance and fall in line for encoding.
k. Your information will be encoded in the DFA database. You will approve if they have been encoded correctly. You will be asked to sign the print-out.
l. Thumbprint in front of another immigration officer.
m.You can now smile and dance while waiting for 7 or 14 working days to claim your passport. Or you can have it delivered to you through courier service (Php 99.00 -100.00). At last!
kaigachi is a conjugation of the Japanese term "kigaicha" or crazy. It roughly translates as "crazy about something."

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious." - C.Jung

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