Thursday, December 20, 2007

Line Starts Here

If you are not up for waiting in a long line after another long line, I recommend that you find other ways to get your passport aside from going to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Roxas Blvd.

You can pay additional pesos to travel agencies who’ll fall in line for you. Another option is to have your documents shipped right at your doorstep via Air21, 2Go, LBC and the likes. Again that will cost you extra.

But if you insist on securing a passport through the looong and hard way called DFA, don’t say you were not warned. Asserting that, “Mahaba ang pila sa DFA” is an understatement. We’re not talking about a line with 40 or 50 people in front of you. We’re looking at a hundred or more individuals standing in line before you. And the extremely excruciating looong line we are talking about is not something you go through once. There at least five lines you have to contend with where the DFA procedure is concerned.

Therefore, to prevent your severely challenged efforts and patience from being futile, you better make sure you have all correct requirements on hand before braving the series of queues ahead of you.

What are the requirements then?

For first time applicants, those who haven’t had passports issued to them, you’ll need the following:

-A copy of your birth certificate from the National Statistics Office (NSO)
-An NBI clearance for traveling abroad
-Identification cards (I used my SSS ID) and make sure you have them photocopied—front and back—because you cannot submit your real ID to the people of DFA now, can you?
-3 passport-size ID pictures (you can go to the DFA website to know the required
size and background color)

For those renewing their passports, they just have to bring the following:

-old passport
-photocopy of the first three pages of the old passport (this is true to brown passport holders, I don’t know about the green ones)
-Identification cards, again have them photocopied front and back
-3 passport-size ID pictures (you can go to the DFA website to know the required
size and background color)

*For complete requirements, just visit the DFA website.

Simple. Right?

But prepare yourself for more obstacles ahead. The chaos starts the moment you set foot within the proximity of the DFA grounds. Individuals wearing IDs will approach you as if they really were employees of DFA. They will lead you to establishments that outline the DFA perimeter. They will give you application forms for free and act as if you owe them for the free forms. They will scrutinize your requirements and cleverly manipulate you into having your ID picture re-taken because yours does not meet the required size or background color. They will charge you from P155.00 to P165.00 for a picture taken in a badly lit room using a Jurassic model of a class B digital camera. They will hand you a passport jacket like you need one and then charge you for it. They will pull your leg as far as they can just so they’d be able drain whatever peso you have in your pocket.


You can get your FREE PASSPORT APPLICATION FORMS INSIDE the official DFA grounds. And given the length and number of lines you will be stuck with, you will surely have a lot of time to fill out those forms once inside. Also, DFA has a set of accredited photo stations inside their premises—photo stations that allow free retakes if and when the ones they printed out for you get rejected by the DFA people. There are also “mercenary” photocopiers inside for documents that need to be reproduced. And there are tiny offices that notarize legal documents that need notarizing. These documents usually are for missing whatnots that happen to be in the requirements list.

Bottom line is, whatever last-minute services you might need in getting your passport, chances are, the stalls inside the DFA territories offer them. THERE REALLY IS NO NEED FOR YOU TO TRANSACT BUSINESS WITH THOSE BLOOD-SUCKING DIMWITS WHO POSE AS REGISTERED DFA EMPLOYEES ASSIGNED TO ESCORT APPLICANTS OUTSIDE. [Let’s work together in killing their business. Don’t patronize them, please.]

Now on with the show…

The line starts at the entrance gate where your bags and pockets (or should I say body?) are thoroughly checked. Proceed immediately to the basketball court found at the right side if you take 50 to 70 steps from the entrance. Inside the basketball court you can get the free passport application and you can do your last-minute touch-up where your requirements are concern. Also, in the basketball court, the first official step in securing your passport takes place. The line officially starts there.

First step is the VERIFICATION OF RECORDS. Fall in line to have your application stamped by any of the two unfriendly guys on the “start here” table. Next, fall in line to get to window A. Don’t let the long line scare you because if you chicken out as early as the first step, you will prove yourself unworthy of the DFA adventure. Besides, you will trudge the coiled line that covers half of the basketball court sitting down. At that point, you can thank the heavens for providing you the plastic benches, a covered court, generous breath of fresh air, and for a gradually moving traffic. Next, you go to window B. The line here is a bit short compared to others. After window B, proceed to the line that will eventually lead you to gate 2.

Since the DFA people are trying to avoid human congestion at gate 2, waiting at the basketball court may take a while. Soon, you’ll find yourself moving, leaving the basketball court and actually falling in line outside gate 2. This time, you will have to stand in line which will lead to a room with around 25 to 30 counters. A DFA personnel will then quickly assess your papers and then point you to the counter where you ought to belong. Only then will you be able to sit in another plastic bench that doubles as the line for your particular window. In this room the second step happens. It’s called PROCESSING.

After the second step, you can then advance to the DFA auditorium for the third and forth steps.

Based on experience, the third step is the easiest one with no line at all. And what do you know? It’s the part where you pay! For some reason, DFA is quick in accepting PAYMENTS.

The final step is ENCODING. Now here you’ll experience the line of all lines. You’ll have to start from the back of the auditorium and work your way in front. This is the point of no return. After all, it is the final step. The nice things about being stuck in the longest line of your life inside the auditorium are, one, the place is fully air-conditioned and, two, the plastic seats are ergonomically designed thereby offering more butt and back comfort.

Friendly tip: If and when you feel hungry, decide right away to eat in the DFA cafeteria while you are still at the pathetic part of the encoding line. Try to ask the people sitting next to you to save your spot while you take a quick solid or liquid refreshment. But if you decide to stay loyal to the line till the very end, interacting with your seatmates will most definitely help keep your spirits up and defeat boredom and impatience.

In probably an hour, you’d reach nirvana and be assigned a computer station where a DFA personnel will encode your particulars in their database. Your business there is to check and re-check what they have entered. It is best to be meticulous in this step. Have whatever needs correction altered. Take all the time that you need to read what are soon to appear on your passport. You deserve every minute on your final seat. After all the lines you’ve gone through you know you deserve every minute on your final seat.

When you’re done, keep your receipt. You are going to need it in claiming your passport. Know when your passport will be released. You can ask the DFA people or read the schedule of passport releasing posted anywhere inside gate 2.

If you’re really done, rejoice. After which, pray that your passport will be released smoothly on the date you are supposed to get it.

Treat yourself with a hearty meal afterwards. Or you can go to a spa where you can relax. Pat yourself at one shoulder. You have got to have one fearless soul to emerge out of the DFA premises with accomplished objectives.

Either that or you’re plainly uninformed about how hassle-filled the DFA way is. Or then again, you may be one of the many people in line whose budget is just enough for one’s much needed passport.

In any case, congratulate yourself for your impeccable patience!


The first official line where any of the two unfriendly DFA guys will stamp your papers. It's supposed to be the first step to verification.

The line leading to Window A. You actually start sitting down, you'll know you're near the blessed window when you have to stand up.

A huge framed carpet welcomes you to the DFA auditorium.

A picture of an application form waiting to be encoded.

The ceiling of the DFA auditorium seem to resemble a gigantic space ship. I couldn't help but feel like I'm an alien wannabe [my euphemism for "tourist"] being watched by aliens.

When you've accomplished your mission, the aliens may just as well zap you towards their mother ship. "Beam me up, Mr. Spock!"

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