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Getting a passport?
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Pinky Concha Colmenares
Date: 2001-08-27
It's August 27, and if you're planning to visit a relative overseas in December, you are strongly advised to start processing your passports tomorrow. Except, perhaps, if you have very strong ties with the influential class.

If you are starting from zero – no knowledge whatsoever of the requirements involved – it will take about a month, at the least, for you to get a passport.

In my case, getting passports for two of my children, aged 21 and 13, was more of a supreme test of patience.

Like most mothers, I was ready to pay for the services of a travel agency to process the documents. Agencies charge from P1,400 to P1,600 per passport, but you still have to participate in the process of gathering the documents, plus put in a personal appearance for first-timers. I decided to take time to do it myself.

The requirements are listed in the passport application form which you can get from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) office along Roxas Blvd. and in all travel agencies.

All applicants are required to present a birth certificate printed on the security paper of the National Statistics Office (NSO). (In the past, my eldest daughter presented a certified true copy of her birth certificate which was authenticated by the NSO. Although the list says this is okay, I was strongly advised to get the one printed on the security paper.)

This document can be acquired two ways: One, if you have unlimited time and patience, is by personally going to the NSO. I don’t know if they have other offices but in our case my daughter went to the NSO branch along East Ave. in Quezon City. There, you will have to add to the snaking lines inside a cramped hall without a proper ceiling to absorb the heat of the sun. We were told the line starts as early as dawn and the office starts processing requests at 5 a.m.

When you reach the window, you will be given a date (about a week) to claim your birth certificate. The claiming section is not in this building but in the NSO along Quezon Blvd. There, the lines do not seem to shorten, even after 5 p.m.

The other way to get your birth certificate printed on the NSO security paper is – believe it or not – through a simple phone call to 7371111. You can make the call any time in the day but I suggest you do that about 1 a.m. (yes – those people work 24 hours a day, seven days a week!) Then, the telephone operator answers almost instantly.

This is known as the NSO Helpline Plus operated by the Pilipinas TeleServe Inc., a private company.

The operator will ask you several questions. Aside from birth date, birth place and parents, you will be asked: if you have the civil registry number of your birth certificate (for those holding on to copies of theirs); or if you are aware that the birth was filed late.

The operator will give you a number which you will write as the reference number on the Metrobank deposit slip when you make the payment for the service. Charges vary according to place of delivery. Although the document costs only P25, the bulk of the cost is for the special door-to-door delivery service of the document. (We paid P175 per birth certificate.)

You will be told to expect the document or a letter informing you that they could not locate your birth certificate, in the mail in about three weeks. The first time I availed of this service, my daughter’s certificate arrived exactly 32 days after she filed her request by phone. My son received a letter 45 days later, telling him they could not locate his birth certificate. The letter also instructed us to go the Mandaluyong registry office.

The census employe in the Mandaluyong office located Carlos’ document in about two minutes – no kidding! He showed me the page bound in a book.

I was elated! But that soon turned into frustration because Carlos’ family name was misspelled in the NSO letter, so the process could not continue. We had to go back to step one!

The process should have brought Carlos’ birth certificate to the attention of the local registry officer, who will forward the same with his or her cover letter, to the NSO; who will then send us this document. But the letter of NSO was very specific on alterations to any data printed on it. If such would be made, it would invalidate any document made based on it!

Curiously, the application for Jacklyn’s and Carlos’ birth certificates were made in one call. Yet, “Jacklyn Anne Colmenares” was spelled correctly while Carlos was surnamed “Culmenares”. (So, please remember to ask the operator to spell all the data you dictated.)

This is not the only certificate you will need from the NSO. (I discovered this only when I consulted a friend from the DFA. Turns out, I had an old copy of a passport application that had been updated.) Minors, like Carlos, are required to include the marriage certificate of their parents, printed on the NSO security paper, as supporting document (although I did not see this on the list). And a minor should be accompanied by at least one parent.

So, after almost two months of waiting for that birth certificate, we now had to go to make a phone call to the NSO Helpline again, this time for a marriage certificate. Since I had a copy of my marriage certificate, it was easier to answer the questions of the operator. In fact, by this time, I was getting the hang of doing this that the operator proceeded with the interview as if we were just having a conversation.

It was smooth; she was cool and professional.

Meanwhile, my daughter, who is 21, still needed one more official document: an NBI clearance. This time, we were encouraged to just walk into the NBI office along Taft Ave. The day before, President GMA’s State-of-the-nation-address promised a one-day processing of this document. We walked into the compound at 1 p.m., by 1:40, Jacklyn was in Step 5 where she got a claim slip instructing her to come back at 3 p.m. of the same day!


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