Monday, February 21, 2011

The (Mis)Adventures of Getting an E-Passport

I still have two years left on my passport but, since my US visa is expiring next year, I decided to file for the new e-passport this early so that I can submit it for my US visa renewal. I filed for an appointment online and was quite surprised to find a slot available in three weeks (a friend of mine who filed weeks before me got scheduled for August).The email confirmation arrived almost instantaneously. I printed it out on a legal sheet and photocopied the first and last pages of my passport, and the latest departure and arrival stamps.

To make things even more convenient for me, I booked a room at the Sofitel the day before to make sure I wouldn’t get caught in Edsa traffic for my 2 p.m. appointment. If you book 15 days in advance and pre-pay, a classic room with city view can be had for P6,000/ night (add P1,000 for a bay view, and another P1,000/ person for buffet dinner at Spiral).

The extra cost was all worth it because DFA on Diosdado Macapagal was a mere five minutes away. I arrived at 1:30 p.m. as indicated on my application form. There was an open parking just across the bldg., on the street intersecting D. Macapagal.

After getting past the roped area after the gate, I had to have the bar code on my application form scanned to make sure that I had a confirmed appointment  that day. The line was long but fast-moving. After my turn, I had to join another line at the building entrance for applicants scheduled at 2 p.m. From the glass walls, I could see that it was SRO inside. It took nearly 45 minutes before I made it through the door to get a number. I was 2104 among the renewals and there were 300 people before me. I decided to pass the time at McDonald’s just across the road. I went back after 45 minutes. Only 100 numbers had been called. I went back out to have coffee at Starbucks and managed to kill some more time. I returned at 5 p.m. and my number was finally served an hour later. It took merely a minute or two for the staff at the counter to make sure that all the pertinent details on the form were filled up and to hand out a slip to be presented to the cashier on the second floor. I was asked to choose between rush processing (P1,200 for 10 working days) or regular (P950 for 15 working days). I opted for the former.

There was no queue at cashier but that was a brief respite because I had to join another long one, this time for the actual filling up of the form on the system and picture-taking. There were more service counters though so the wait was relatively short. After an hour or so, my number was called, my form details filled up and my picture taken (ladies, arm yourselves with pressed powder, lipstick and a hairbrush). The last line was for the courier. I gave them my preferred delivery address and practically flew down the stairs to get out of the DFA building. What an ordeal.

Now all I’d like to remember of that experience was my night at the Sofitel, splurging on carbs, protein, fats and sugar, not to mention caffeine.

Foie gras

Parma ham. Love, love, love the boursin cheese with herbs.

Chocolate brulee

Creme brulee and choco-dipped marshmallows

Italian gelato


Candies galore

Roast beef

Peking duck!

Fresh seafood for grilling

A selection of chocolate fountains

Fresh fruits, which I stayed away from haha

Sweet dreams indeed

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