Ever since we've been hearing of the new e-passport, we wanted to get our own. As I already have the machine-readable passport and is not due to expire until 2012, my husband opted to get his first (he still has the old one with the green cover). He scheduled an appointment through passport.com.ph. We also decided to get Basti a passport as he might be traveling with us in the future.
The new DFA office is located along Macapagal Ave right beside S&R Aseana. It's less congested and parking is immense. There's a McDonald's across where people can wait or eat while waiting for their companions. Our appointment was at 9AM but we left at 630AM and arrived barely past 7.
Yesterday (and even days before), I was already asking around whether we should bring Basti as in the past, the DFA would allow the mother to appear in behalf of the child. However, there have been reports that children/babies should also be physically present. I did confirm this with the egroups that I frequent and told my husband about it. He was adamant though that Basti would not come with us so together with the requirements, I had with me, Basti's passport photos.
As mentioned, we were there at 7AM. I was surprised when I saw the number of people crowding around the entrance. With the appointment system, I was expecting order and at least a minimum number of lines. Apparently, these were people who did not have any appointment and was hoping that they be accommodated. The security guard was tightly manning his post and refuses to allow anyone inside without an appointment. I pushed my way through the throng and showed the guard our appointment papers. He opened the gate a bit and we squeezed through the small opening.
Once inside, we were greeted by more lines with no signs telling us where to go. We had to flag down a roving guard to ask which line we should go first and he politely told us where to proceed.
The first stop was a table in front of the rest rooms. They asked us for our names and they gave us the printed application forms containing the information that we provided through the website. We had to fill-up some of the missing portions though.
Next stop was to get inside the building to get a number so our passports can be processed at any of the 23 windows. Before we got inside, there was a waiting line. The first line was for those who came in before their appointment. The next line was for those who are due to join the line entering the building. The third line was for those ACTUALLY entering the building.
Once inside the building, we were handed numbers and we took our seats. The seats are like those found in airports (the steel, cold ones) and the aircon was pleasantly cool. I was a bit bothered though by the humongous mosquitoes that were languorously buzzing around. Our number was 1234 and I freaked out when I saw that the number being serviced was 1094! I settled down and prepared myself to wait until lunch but was pleasantly surprised to see the numbers move speedily along. Our number was called 30 minutes later at Window 19.
We then proceeded to our assigned window and handed my husband's renewal application first. The processor checked the details and was done in 5 minutes. She gave my husband a slip for payment at the cashier at the 2nd floor. I then handed Basti's application and she looked for my son. I told her that he's at home and she said the he should be physically present as they will be taking his passport picture. I asked if we could get the machine-readable passport instead as I already have pictures. She then mentioned that they are no longer issuing such passports. She was kind enough to mention that we can pick up our son and return later in the day so his passport can still be processed.
We then proceeded to the 2nd floor where we paid for the processing fee (if I'm not mistaken, it's 950 for regular processing of 20 days and 1200 for processing of 10 days) and arranged his passport to be delivered at home (for an additional fee). I held my tongue as I was exasperated with my husband for not listening to me that we should bring our son for the personal appearance. I managed to let one "I told you so" out and kept my mouth shut after that.
The whole process took less than 2 hours. I somehow feel I wasted my half-day leave as we were done by 9AM and we were unsuccessful in securing a passport for Basti. At least it was a lesson learned.
I just wish that DFA would update their website to include current information regarding passport application. They should have indicated that machine readable passports are no longer being issued and personal appearance of children is MANDATORY. Moreover, I hope that they would do something about their customer service hotline as apparently, it's not working.
They should also have a special lane for children and the elderly and they can still improve in pointing the people on where to go. Visible signs can help A LOT.