ON RENEWING PASSPORT
If a person intends to leave the country to work abroad, or simply plans to visit another country, the basic requirement is to get a passport. Well, on top of that, to have one is equivalent to having a genuine identification document accepted by government and non-government organization alike. To have a passport is to have the mother of all IDs in one’s pocket.
I had a passport of various colors. When I went to Japan in 1985 to represent the country in UN for community based corrections conference, I had a red passport. It means that I have a diplomatic passport. When I represented the country in Australia in 2000, my diplomatic passport was color green. But when I attended a private conference in Kuala Lumpur, my passport was for the regular traveler, and it means color brown.
My recollection was poor in recalling how I applied for passport. Considering the fact that my travel abroad was years apart and besides, I oftentimes would dodge any recommendation from my superior whenever they would require me to go abroad for a seminar or two. Leaving for abroad for me was an expensive proposition. Aside from the fact that my per diem was just enough to keep my neck out of the waters, the numerous requests from friends to buy them souvenir made me sick. That means producing more dough, skipping meals, fellowships and haggling for items.
When my regular passport however was about to expire, I thought of renewing it for future travel or whatever its use especially if I have to transact business here or abroad. And so, I checked internet on how to go about the renewal processes. The wonders of technology, everything you wanted to know about procedures and requirements on how to get a passport is there at the flick of the mouse. At first, downloading the forms was easy. But I relented for a while, call it laziness.
As soon as my passport was just a few weeks to go before it goes pffffft, I went to check the nearest DFA office for assistance. Reaching the office was astounding. I haven’t seen so much humanity standing several rows; shoulder to shoulder the length would cover almost 10 blocks. According to the security officer maintaining sanity in the line, those at the head were there because they were there since the break of dawn.
I was prepared to test the waters, stand on hours much like the common people in the area. My fellow Filipinos really wanted to go out of their country in search of greener pasture that they would sacrifice everything to reach their dreams. I would join in their initial drive. The first step however is to get a passport.
I filled up the form, produced the requirements as directed and went straight to the staff at the entrance gate. It was 10am and a number of people with brown envelopes had virtually surrounded the entrance door. To reach the entrance, one must navigate several meters of compressed humanity. I was one of those tossed on the waves of the crowd.
Prepared to be confront hunger and thirst, pushed around and shoved, even snubbed and scolded, I asked the officer where I could get my cue number. He commanded that I fill up the form first, a blank form was shown. I replied that I have filled up mine and showed it to the officer. He took a glance, stamped it with a series of numbers and directed me to proceed to the teller.
I was surprised because in moving on, I would be immediately attended. I looked at the humanity behind me who were probably there since the beginning of time, embarrassed at the thought that I have overtaken them. The guard manning the post further egged me to proceed further at the first of the line. “You’re priority, since you are a senior citizen” said the uniformed personnel. I thought for a while that they won’t suspect me to be that old but there I was, even without showing my birth certificate, my looks betrayed me that day!
After a couple of minutes, the staff gave me a stub and a figure. I was directed to another room to wait for my number to be called. That’s right. There was on my stub a priority tag. After a few seconds, my number was called and another staffer reviewed my papers. After a minute, I was given another stub to be shown to the cashier. After paying the fees, it was P1,200.00 for express, which means, I could get my passport in 2 weeks, compared with regular pay, which meant 30 days, I settled in a vacant slot amid a select multitude of applicants waiting to be called.
Another minute passed by and my number was called and there I was posing for the camera for my picture to be taken. Thereafter, I was advised that I should make my follow up based on the indicated date on the receipt, which meant that I should be back at the releasing office 2 weeks there from. It took me only a few minutes and it was that easy!
I thought for a while that I would be subjected to a number of indignities, wasted time, disrespect and everything stressful, but there was nothing of that sort. Getting a passport was even cooler than ordering a breakfast meal in Jolibee!
Well, let us just call it, perks of a senior citizen. For ordinary passport applicants, there is order, there is time management, and the process is not so complicated.
To DFA, Kudos to you and your officers!