I finally got my ePassport last Saturday as delivered by Air21. I am thanking God, Allah, Buddha and the trees for this thing. I was feeling hopeless regarding the renewal process. My green passport would expire on September, and I have already booked a flight to HongKong. I do not need to worry about HongKong immigration since I have read somewhere that they allow tourists to travel with 1 month valid passport, HOWEVER, Macau does require passports valid for 6 months.
I have tried to book for a schedule online through the www.epassport.com.ph. I did check online on March 24, and the earliest appointment schedule was April 21st1. I booked anyway, and requested for rush processing. At that time, the site indicated 7 business days processing. I was doing some math and thinking by April 30th I would get my passport.
I have read alot of horror stories regarding delayed passport release, so as advised by my friend, I went to a Travel Agency to check if they could do it faster. Sad news, the agent advised that the schedule of 10 business days processing is after the appearance. I was thinking if they could get an appointment later than April 21 (the one that I have scheduled online), I would then be ready to say goodbye to my vacation plan).
Out of desperation, I called the DFA hotline and asked if there is any chance they could move my schedule on an earlier date. I was advised that they also check the schedules online (aarrrgghh). I was ready to bawl when the rep advised me that a slot has opened for April 8! She placed me on hold to confirm the schedule and I was praying that she won't lose me on the line. Lucky that I am, I got the schedule!
Come April 8, I went to the DFA office for the schedule. I was advised to come 30 minutes before the schedule. My schedule is at 8AM, we got there at 7:45AM! Thanks to the traffic, crowded MRT, and that airport taxi (which flag down rate is Php70!).
I was impressed with the building, alright. Went to the table at the entrance to get my printed application form. I was given a queue number and I seated and waited for my number. I just gave my old green passport, photocopies of my passport (front, back, and arrival stamp), and photocopy of id (sss). Better come there ready with all the copies of the documents.
Step 2, at the second floor, paid Php1200 for rush processing (10 business days!), and I was then again given a queue number. Waited and primped.. the LED showed my queue number and off I went to the booth. The girl took my documents, and entered info in the pc, and asked me to validate the details. She asked me for my signature (which I did a couple of times.. it's hard to get the right stroke electronically). Then one shot, she took my pic. I forgot to mention that I wore something business-presentable, which is not necessary since the girl cropped my picture, and did not even include my collar. Arrgh.
That is the last step. But since I wanted to have the passport delivered to my house, I went to the Delivery Center area and paid the fee (Php120). I gave them my receipt and authorization to claim my passport. I spent 1.5 hours in the DFA office, but that's all good, the building is air-conditioned.
My mom is bugging me about my passport, so I told her I am giving DFA office until April 23 to process it. I was hoping I would not get a call from Air21 last Friday, because it only means one thing - delayed release!!! And I am glad there are no phone calls. When I got home on Saturday morning, I found an Air21 plastic on the dining table. I just opened and checked to see what's new about the ePassport.. well, aside from the text which says do not fold or expose in extreme heat and moisture, it does look different compared to the ones I see in Recto Avenue. ;)