Yes, that’s a loaded title filled with all the keywords you can possibly think of. Because I want anyone who is planning to go to the embassy to apply for the renewal of their passports to Google these words, and maybe find this post.

Warning: long post!

If there is any word that can encapsulate the whole experience, it is this:

FRUSTRATING.

As hell.

Well, actually it is not even for myself, it is for my daughter. Her passport is expiring next month. The last time we went there for the same purpose was almost five years ago. Come to think of it, the whole process then was a walk in the park compared to yesterday’s. Whatever happened? Change has come?

As I consider myself to be techno-savvy, I accomplished the online application form way in advance and scheduled an appointment on a Wednesday, 9:30-11:00. I was thinking that half a day should do it. So I arranged to be absent from work in the morning, and also arranged for my daughter to be absent from school so she can be there for her personal appearance.

We stood in line for about half an hour just to get to the window where applications were being received. Apparently only one person was doing all the receiving at the window. I could see that there were less than ten people ahead of us, and some of them were filling up their application forms. So yeah, online applicant or no, everybody falls in line just the same, along with all the non-techno-savvy walk-ins who forgot to bring letter packs and bought their from the sharks outside selling them for twice the price. I started to get the nagging feeling that it was going to be a long morning.

When we finally got our turn, imagine my surprise when I was told that I had to get a PSA/NSO birth certificate issued from Manila. Huwat! I said that I did not find this information in the website. And that five years ago this “important” piece of document was not required. And besides, my daughter holds an ePassport, and I brought the original report of birth which was submitted and signed at the very same consular office. Whatever birth certificate that will be issued from PSA/NSO, will bear the same report of birth which was submitted from the embassy. Does that make any logical sense to you?

“Five years na po ako nandito, hinihingi ho talaga yung birth certificate. Strikto na kasi ngayon…” was the answer I got.

But maybe my face bore that really dumbfounded look that the woman at the window said that maybe our application can still be accepted, if I wrote a letter explaining our situation, explain the pains we took just to travel all the way from home, having to be absent from work/school, etc. That, plus I have to get a freaking copy of the original report of birth so that I get to keep the original I showed her.

I dutifully went to a convenience store and copied the report of birth. I scribbled my plea on a template form used for requesting advice or assistance from the office. I tried to be as objective as possible, and kept my snarky comments to myself. I focused on what needed to be done.

I went back to the application window, and was told to wait for approval. It took another hour before I was called. The approval was given, but the application itself will be considered “pending” until they get a copy of the said birth certificate.

“Makisuyo na lang kayo sa mga kamag-anak niyo para makakuha nong certificate. Tapos i-email niyo na lang.”

Email? Without bothering to tell me the email address, I was told to pay at the cashier and then come back. By this time the line of applicants got as far as the door outside, and that tiny waiting room was getting overcrowded by people. It turned out that most of them were waiting to get inside the room where the biometric data and photograph will be taken.

Well, we finally got inside THE room, but lo and behold: the room was filled with other applicants also waiting their turn. That’s why many of the applicants are waiting outside: they cannot be accommodated anymore. Last time I remembered there were at least three cubicles manned by personnel. This time, there was only one. One! For all the applicants who have to go to Tokyo just because their area falls under their jurisdiction. Pano nga naman matatapos yan ng mabilis.

It took another hour before we finally got called. Outstanding service!

I don’t really know why it would take such a long time to take a picture and get thumbprints and signature. I mean, they do that all the time at the immigration, no? To my horror, the details I have dutifully inputted online were being manually inputted again on the computer while I was asked to confirm and check the accuracy of the spelling, dates, etc. Ok, so why go through all the trouble of filling up online when it appears that none of that information is being transmitted anyway?

Manual din ang bagsak. Gaahd.

Three hours later, we emerged from the embassy feeling rather worn out. In retrospect, I was cocky to think that can get through this procedure painlessly! In a way we even got lucky, I think, because those who came in later were then being told to go to lunch first and then come back at 1:30 PM. Me? I was only too happy to leave, and we were somehow able to file our application and do not need to return anymore.

As for the birth certificate, well, I did say that I will comply and submit the document as early as possible. But dear DFA, this does not make sense at all. It’s not as if we were applying for a passport for the first time, and the current passport is an ePassport, which means that it contains a unique ID chip unlike the other old passports which cannot be read by machines. This makes the submission of a birth certificate entirely useless. Apparently this is only required for minors. Surely there should be a cut-off age?

I was advised by friends to just apply for the NSO birth certificate online and have the document sent over. Sounds convenient, no?

Actually yes, I did apply for it online. But as my daughter was born abroad, here’s part of the email confirmation I got:

Please email the DFA Reference Number, Dispatch Number, Dispatch Date, Transmittal Date of the following document(s) to e-census.info@census.gov.ph together with your Batch Request Number: 
   - Birth certificate of (NAME)
The DFA Reference Number, etc. can be obtained from the Consular Records Division of DFA Manila. More info: https://www.ecensus.com.ph/Secure/FAQs.aspx#D17

Anak ng pusa.

Ibig sabihin nito kailangang tumawag pa ako sa DFA para halukayin nila records ng anak ko. Nagbayad na nga ako ng 20 USD, ako pa ang maghahanap ng information. Para saan pala yung bayad?

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas.