Thursday, June 5, 2008

At The Passport Office

A US passport is good for a period of ten years. You have your picture taken at the post office and a postal employee will authenticate all the required documents and you mail it to the nearest processing center. The whole deal takes very little time, people have to work to make a living in this country.

In the Philippines, our passports are good for five years. This is another one of those small gestures with which we show our gratitude to the millions of our “modern heroes”, a rich source of revenue to our foreign affairs office. Applying for a passport is a big deal, be prepared to spend a few months in certain cases especially if the place where they keep a record of your birth certificate had burned down or something; and don’t get too frustrated tipping people everywhere if you want your application to prosper.

It used to be easy to renew a Philippine passport. It has become more complicated, again. We have a genius for adding layers of bureaucracy that essentially add nothing but inconvenience to a system that is groaning to be streamlined in the first place. Anyone applying for a renewal must now present oneself for a “personal appearance” at the main office in Manila in front of a clerk in a window who pastes your photograph in the form and watches you sign your name. This took place in a crowded room crawling with a cadre of “Liaison Officers” appointed expressly to facilitate the procedure. Just like in lieu of a baggage carousel, we continue to have hundreds of porters in less prosperous airports, we create livelihood opportunities for people to participate in a grossly inefficient scheme that drains productivity.

Looking at the sweating throngs of people waiting outside the building, I thought of all the lost productive hours for what was fundamentally a stupid system that was heavily unfavorable to those who didn’t have a connection to a general, a bishop, a judge, a politician. You will never see influential public servants and his extended family and friends in these premises.

And it is the same elsewhere, try getting a drivers license, police clearance, land titles, court orders, marriage license, medical attention in a government hospital--if you are poor and unconnected, and the overwhelming majority of Filipinos belong in this category, you invariably feel violated by a government that preferentially operates in a manner against the public interest.


azron said...


there are many things wrong with America, but there are more things right -

some people need to go outside the country to appreciate what we have here


Got meloinks? said...

onli in da pilipins. again.

doc, speaking of the philippines, can you care to talk about the PMA? I mean, the Philippine Medical Association. what is its relevance to the plight of Filipino doctors? its actually the topic of TBR 12. See details at


Anonymous said...

Once again, red tape at its best in the Philippines. My wife is still a Filipino citizen. She's lucky she got to renew her passport by mail thru the LA consulate the last time (a year ago). We live in Arizona, about 6 hours away by car.

So papaano na sa susunod na renewal. Since she has to be present physically the next time, we would actually have to travel to Los Angeles just for this. Talk about inconvenience, loss of productivity, loss of money, time and everything else just for renewing your passport.

Ang galing talaga ng gobyerno natin ano? Everything is a knee jerk reaction, no planning whatsoever!

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you are in the Phils and submit your application for the Phil passport using the online process, your personal appearance at the DFA will only take 15 minutes max. I wonder why the DFA has not done a better job of publicizing this.

Sorry you had to go through your ordeal.

Em Dy said...

I heard about the 15 minutes personal appearance too but it didn't use to be like that. Growing pains? Learning curve?

BTW, I'm hosting TBR 14: Doc Hollywood. Call for entries here.

Anonymous said...

To megamomph,

I think you misunderstood what I wrote. What I meant was my wife was able to renew her passport last year without even having to show up at the consulate. Everything was done thru the mail system without any hassles.

So why would she need to go present herself at the consulate in California the next time? What's so different now? What about folks who live in Texas, New Mexico and other places under the LA consulate's jurisdiction? They actually have to go to California just for this purpose.

Kung dati nagagawa namang mag renew ng pasaporte by mail, bakit hindi nila kayang gawin with the new passports? Pwede namang mag appear sa isang notary public for this purpose, if they want to make sure that the person applying for the passport is indeed the person applying. There isn't any real reason why you need to be there to be seen by a consul. Nagpapahaba lang ito sa process.

florence said...

Dr. Bautista, would you please contact me. Thanks, Florence

florence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
florence said...

It sounds like you have been through quite an ordeal. I went to the American College Healthcare Association Conference in Orlando the first week in June. This was the first time I have traveled by air in almost ten years. I knew it was going to be an ordeal compared to what I am accustomed to, but it sounds like a small thing compared to what you are experiencing there.

I can however tell you that I felt extremely blessed to find a school that kept immunization records when I started back to school at OSU through OPSU in 2004. It seems that the health department in Perryton, which basically consisted of a county health nurse for many years, had been sent to Canyon, TX. They could not seem to locate my records. Frank Phillips College was unable to locate immunization records for when I attended there, so I went back to where I graduated high school. Well, it seems they had lost all of my records along with all my classmates in a fire. I always wondered why I was not invited to any alumni events there. Well, I then went back to my hometown and found them up to my 11th grade. I understand being lost that way.

I am glad that my birth certificate is held in a vault in a courthouse that supposedly will not burn. Plus, I am glad that I have a copy of my high school diploma. I rarely have to use it, but there are rare times. I can just imagine what the world today would be like if we had not way of identifying ourselves. We would be a world of hurt.

I only anticipate for many things to become worse instead of better. I did find one thing interesting: We always hear that the gas prices are so much more expensive in other states than Oklahoma, but when I was in Florida I found them to be quite comparable to Oklahoma.

I know one thing, if it says you are going to a conference at a hotel and resort, and then pay attention. You may want to go to a grocery store prior to checking into your hotel in order to pick up some food. A fellow could starve to death without money at one of those places. A cheap meal was $15 according to that facility. Breakfast consisting of cold cereal was $17. I did find a way to survive eating yogurt ($2.50) or fruit with French fries and bottled water for about $10.

There is a drought in Florida presently, enough so that I would not trust anything but bottled water.

One would have thought that I would have lost weight, but I did not. I suppose that I will have to become accustomed to fat and sassy, LOL!

After going to such a beautiful place for a few days, with the expense, the Oklahoma panhandle (often referred to as "NO MAN'S LAND) looked more beautiful. Someone that comes to the Oklahoma panhandle from Florida could only say this is "No Man's Land" by look of the terrain. To me it is beautiful.

take care,

Got meloinks? said...

next time na lang doc. tnx

anyway, tbr12.5 is up. :-)

Anonymous said...

hi anonymous,
I didn't misunderstand you. I was actually addressing Martin and those who renew their passports in the Phils.

Now that I've read your comment:
Yes, I know how the passports are renewed in the US. I guess I was just lucky to always live within the vicinity of a consulate or the embassy when I lived there.

We had plenty of friends who would stay over at our apartment when their turn came to renew. So I understand the difficulty of bringing over the entire family on a road trip etc etc...

But we all made the most of it, and it gave my friends who lived in AZ or MO or KY or GA a chance to visit me in IL, NY or DC. Of course, no one bothered to complain outright which is why I think the government persists in its ways.

At least, for those in the Philippines, if you happen to know that there is this online process, then you can save yourself a whole day. Even in the Phils, some things (not many though) are moving in the right direction.

aco said...

This "personal appearance" requirement to renew passport is really ridiculous.

My wife and I live in Georgia with 2 kids. To renew my passport, I need to buy 4 airline tickets, fly to Washington DC, rent a car, book a hotel, get my thumb print, and then wait 6 weeks to get my our passports back via mail.

This is absolutely stupid, unproductive, and very expensive. I guess this is how the Philippine government reward the OFW.

Is there any way we can file an online complaint? or send a letter somewhere?