Sunday, September 13, 2009

Passport Renewal

When I was still flying, I would shudder at the thought of renewing my passport in a few year's time. I was using my very first passport then, the one I applied for through a travel agency. I still had to go to DFA though for the personal appearance. I remember so vividly the queues under the scorching sun, the fixers who take advantage of people who know less of the processes, the owners of the photo studio who trick you into having your photo retaken and the general fear of pickpockets in such a crowded area.

Researching on it, I realized I could do it hassle-free through a travel agency again. But since they recently approved the machine readable passports (MRPs) one must still go for a personal appearance for renewal from the old school passport. Darn it.

A few weeks back, we chanced upon a Cebu Pacific seat sale and booked roundtrip tickets to Singapore. Grabbing the chance, I urged J to renew our passports together since I happen to have read through email that starting next year MRPs are required to travel. Be it true or not, my passport would still expire January of next year so it would be inevitable to have it renewed (and converted to MRP). CJ gave in and browsed through sites to gather more info on how to go about it.

Finally, we signed up for Passport Direct by Pilipinas Teleserv Inc. ( for the renewal. The service worth P1,300 offered document pick-up, filing, scheduling for appearance appointment and delivery of passport. Though it may sound so worry-free I still was expecting the worst since I learned that some "appointments" don't actually mean a thing. *ahem US visa application* Sign up and pick up was a breeze if not for one thing: our dog chewed on my passport minutes before the pick up guy came.

The next day a Passport Direct agent called up to give me a heads up on possible delays caused by torn pages of my passport. There was nothing I could do but sigh and hope the filing goes through smoothly. Luckily after a working day we were informed about or appearance schedule day, so again I prepared for the worst.

We woke up at 5am and parked around DFA at 7:30. Hand in hand, we started walking along Libertad street from Roxas bou. One by one fixers started swarming telling you to do this and that, get this and that. We didn't stop walking and when we finally got near the gate I saw plastic chairs for people waiting for their turn. I uh-oh-ed for a moment til we noticed a guy wearing a Pilipinas Teleserv uniform holding out a placard to catch the attention of any Teleserv clients. We approached him and in we go, passing everybody else on queue. We were assisted all the way by these uniformed guys and they even have benches especially reserved for their clients (we had to wait coz the office starts at 8am). By 8:15 we were already back in our car wondering how to waste an entire day J filed a leave for.. :) I am so recommending this service to anyone especially my flight attendant friends!

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