DURING THE APPOINTMENT DAY
- Prepare to arrive early and allot enough time, if not the whole day. You are allowed to go in 30 minutes ahead of your schedule, not earlier, and certainly not later. Yesterday, on a regular Tuesday morning, it took us 2 hours to go to the DFA Office (near S&R and Mall of Asia) from Quezon City. We arrived just on time. There is a DFA map available for reference. It is fronting a McDonald’s outlet and there is a gas station beside it. No loading/unloading in front of DFA Gate 1.
- Enter in Gate 3 (for those with appointments) with the printed email and application form/s at hand. Gate 3 is at the right side of the DFA building. Again, no escort/yaya’s beyond this point.
- Present the printed email to the guard then go through the looped line to present the printed application form/s to the Appointment Counter (just a few steps from the gate). The DFA people there will use barcode readers for the application forms.
- Go inside the building. If you have an infant/senior citizen with you, do not follow the others who are getting a number and queuing up for seats. Instead, go find the information counter (left side of the door) and ask about the procedure for infants and family applications. They will tell you where to go which, in our case, is the next one.
- Go to the second floor using the escalator. There is another (smaller) information counter here, just outside the Passport Enrollment Section. Ask the DFA personnel there again about the procedure for infants with family members. They will give you a queue number.
- Go inside the Passport Enrollment Section. Have a seat and wait for your number to appear in the monitor. We waited only a few minutes here. Bring any favorite toy/book to entertain the kids, and snacks/biscuits, too. This is the coziest part of the application process for us.
- When your turn comes, give your number and have the documentary requirements ready. Give the application forms. The DFA personnel will request the requirements one by one, per family member. The mother will sign the application form for the kids. You will be given the Passport Slips, which details the fees, to present to the cashier. It was at this point that I learned that the express/rush rate will be applied.
- Go the cashier in the next room to present the Passport Slips and pay the passport fees.
- With your application forms, get another number in the Encoding Section for the next step, in the same room near the cashier. There is also a courtesy lane for this stage and I am not sure why we weren’t able to qualify for that. (Maybe because MJ looked like a 2yr old or that we are a family?) The DFA personnel giving out the numbers did ask for her age so I really don’t get it.
- Wait for your turn patiently. This is the stage where the photos and fingerprints are taken and there are more than 70 processing stations/cubicles, I think, so the numbers on the monitor do change at an acceptable pace. When we arrived, there were more than 200 numbers ahead of ours. Try to find seats as it is quite a wait; there are more inside, far from where the queuing numbers are given. Be sure you can still see the monitor from where you’re seated so you’d know when your turn is near. We waited the longest here, must be almost an hour. Not that long, really. (At least not as long as I expected). But long enough for the kids to get bored. So have those diversions ready. I walked around carrying MJ after giving her snacks to keep her entertained. She was getting a bit sleepy at this point, so I had to keep her awake for her photo session (better before she sleeps as she might be cranky if she did sleep then we wake her up just for the photo). KM had his snacks,too, and played games on my iPod. This is a time for longer family conversations; anticipate the questions of toddlers about the whole process. As a homeschooling family, we had an excellent learning opportunity to discuss air travel and airplanes with KM. On another note, for breastfeeding moms, there doesn’t seem to be a breastfeeding room here and the comfort room may be a bit dirty. Not a good time and place to express milk. Just bring your nursing cover and find a a good spot to nurse the baby, as I did with MJ.
- Go to the processing station indicated in the monitor when it’s your turn. The collared shirt is not required for the baby. It is quite a challenge to have the baby’s photo taken as she moves a lot and you cannot force her to smile and look at the camera, especially when she’s not in the mood. Keep this mind; you will know best how to cajole your kid 🙂 MJ had 3 retakes, KM had 2. The kids are not required to have fingerprint scanning, just the photo. No eyeglasses, contact lenses, earrings/jewelries for the photo.
- A printout will be given with the photo and the applicant data. The mother will be asked to double check this for accuracy and then sign the document in behalf of the kids. You will give this document back to the DFA personnel.
- That’s about it. There are no additional claim stubs. We were told that we just need to present the Passport Slips to claim the ePasspports after 10 working days (DFA personnel will write the claim date on your Passport Slip).
- Exit is on the other side of the room, not the same door where you entered. On your way out, you will pass by an LBC station. You may have the passports delivered to your place. I don’t know how much because we didn’t avail of this. There is an elevator, convenient for those carrying a baby, but the wait was quite long, so I just used the stairs. It is only one floor down to the exit of the building.
- Wear comfy shoes, preferably rubber-soled for the kids. MJ wanted to walk around but the floors were quite slippery and she wasn’t wearing the right baby shoes.
- Ask for assistance. Be nice. The DFA people talk to thousands of people everyday. Do not test their patience.
- Resist the temptation to cut the lines and pull your weight around. Be a good example to your kids.
- Bring reading materials, a laptop/netbook to watch a dvd or browse the net while waiting. This is mainly for the dad 😉 There is no wifi inside. We used Sun Broadband on our mobile phones; signal and speed were okay.
- Bring light snacks for you and the kids. Eat breakfast/lunch before going in. Don’t eat/drink too much, though. Lines may be long in the comfort room.
- Bring extra diapers for the baby, or have a fresh diaper change just before going inside the building. As mentioned, the comfort room (in the ground floor) may not be ideal.
- As always, when with kids, be on extra alert mode. Know where the exit points are, in case of an emergency. Keep a watchful eye on the kids and your belongings. Give firm instructions to the toddlers to always hold mommy/daddy’s hand. Explain what you will do (ePassport application) so that they will know what to expect.
Overall, I would say that the whole experience was a pleasant one for us. Automation does work wonders. Being prepared helps, too.
We had lunch after in Harbour Square and capped off the homeschooling lesson for KM with a short trip to the Philippine Aeronautics Museum.
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