Tales of Two Passports

Have you ever applied for renewal of your passport? How about having it amended from your single name to your married name? Was it as simple as 1-2-3?

Because I live in Tsukuba, I am under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo. Here, we can apply for passport renewal by mail. Yep, no need to appear in person at the Embassy. Hurray. All we have to do is submit our application by mail, and as long as our documents are complete and in order, we can expect our new passports to be delivered through the post office or takkyubin. As simple as that.

However, what I had expected to be a simple process could get pretty complicated sometimes. Read my “tales” below and judge for yourself. Pray, tell, was I amiss?


The One with the Passport Amendment

I got married in January 2001. My passport was expiring in March of that year, too. During that time, as far as I could tell, the Embassy still didn’t have any website that I could consult regarding passport procedures. So I sent a letter to the Embassy, inquiring about the required documents that I have to submit. This is the body of the letter that I sent, dated February 6, 2001:

I have to renew my Philippine passport which will be expiring next month. For this matter, I would like to request for an application form and other relevant information regarding the application process. I would also like to inquire what documents I need to submit if I would change my name because I recently got married. I would appreciate it very much if you could kindly send these by mail. I have included a self-addressed, self-stamped envelope with this letter.

Thank you very much for you kind accommodation.

Clear enough, eh? After several days, I received a copy of the application form, as well as a list of requirements that I needed to submit. I prepared everything, and submitted the documents on February 26, 2001.

However, even after about a month of waiting, still no passport. What happened? There was absolutely no attempt on the part of the Embassy to contact me if there was anything amiss with regards to the documents I submitted. By this time I was getting anxious, understandably enough, because my passport would be expiring in a few weeks. I tried to follow up by phone, but as you can read below, it availed to nothing. Read all about it in my next letter, dated March 21, 2001:

This is a follow-up letter regarding the application for passport renewal which I have sent by registered mail last February 26, 2001. Exactly a week ago I called up your office, but unfortunately could not get any direct answers from the person I talked to. Apparently there seemed to be no way to trace the status of the current application, because, as the person said, they were receiving up to 50 applications per day that they could not accommodate my request. Instead, I was directed to the “Personnel” department and from my conversation with the person there I was told that they have not received my processed passport yet. From there I was redirected back to the passport division, but I only got the answering machine. I was led to believe that it was all an exercise in futility.

Are the data for passport applications not stored in a computer where they could be easily accessed for referencing? It has already been more than three weeks since I have sent my application. My passport number is XXXXXXXX with expiration date March XX, 2001. It is very urgent that I get my new passport since I am also applying for a name change due to my recently acquired marital status (Maiden name: ______; I have included the marriage certificate along with the other documents in my application.) Without the passport, I could not make the subsequent changes in my name in all other important matters like the driver’s license, ACR and bank accounts. I would appreciate it if you could, at the very least, inform me of the status of my application for renewal. My sincere apologies if this letter has crossed with the mailing of my passport.

But, no dice. Para lang akong nagpalipad ng sulat sa hangin. Nobody bothered to acknowledge my letter, nor attempted to contact me at all.

I became extremely agitated. How much does it take to renew one’s passport here? Y10,500, or about $100. Surely this would have been enough to avoid the unnecessary aggravation? But I was so dead wrong. So dead wrong.

I gave up on calling the Embassy myself. I mean, what was the point? I would only be passed on to one person to the other – it was indeed an exercise in futility. Enter Baggy to the rescue. I made him call up the Embassy to ask exactly what happened with my application. Between us, he is the more patient one, and he has proven time and again that he is definitely more persistent than I am. Plus, kaya niyang makipagtigasan sa mga tao. Me? Nah, I’m too impatient and I tend to get angry when talking to dumb people.

To make the long story short, after talking to many persons, he finally ended up talking to the Vice-Consul. Matinik talaga si Baggy. :) It turned out that my application lacked one vital thing – an authenticated marriage contract. Huh? I didn’t even know that there was such a process as authentication of a document. Turned out that this had to be processed in the Philippines, not Japan! Sheez! Now why didn’t they tell me that in the first place? And why was my application left to languish for more than a month? Time’s a-wastin’, and if I hadn’t taken the initiative to follow-up my application, I wouldn’t even have known about that document. Whoever sent me the list of requirements overlooked the fact that I was married in the Philippines, not Japan, and that I am married to a Filipino, not a Japanese. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

And so what happened was that since there wasn’t enough time left before my old passport expires, I was issued a new passport using my maiden name. I was advised to submit the authenticated marriage contract and apply for the amendment of my name later on.

That was exactly what I did after several months of waiting (the marriage contract issued by the NSO (National Statistics Office) had to make the rounds of Malacanang and DFA to be authenticated). While I was able to get the amended passport without any setbacks, I still had to pay an additional amount of Y5,250 for them to “process” my request for amendment.

In fairness, when I applied again for the renewal of my passport early this year, surprisingly I didn’t encounter any problems. Nowadays you can consult the Embassy’s website for information regarding passport renewal and other matters. I got my new passport by mail after two weeks. So, some things can change after all! :)


The One with the Passport Renewal

I almost believed that things have changed for the better. But now comes Aya’s turn to have her passport renewed. I prepared the usual documents. I checked and double-checked everything; I downloaded the application form from the Embassy’s website. The application form comes in two pages – the first page being the application form itself, the second page bearing the details of documents to be submitted. Here is what it says on the renewal of passport:

Renewal of Old Passport

    1. Duly accomplished passport application form available at the Consular Information Counter, or downloadable from the official Embassy website at http://www.tokyope.org.
    2. Three (3) passport-size photos;
    3. Old passport – to be presented for cancellation but will be returned to applicant;
    4. Copy of the following pages of old passport:
      a. data page (1st page)
      b. visa page (with latest visa)
      c. page bearing the signature of the signing officer (last page)

    *If old passport is a brown passport, submission of an authenticated Birth Certificate from the National Statistics Office (NSO) is required.
    Renewal Fee: ¥10,500
    Additional Documents for Seamen:
    1. Certification from the corresponding shipping agency in Japan or from the ship master;
    2. Philippine Seaman’s discharge book
    3. Landin permit from immigration

    So I submitted Aya’s application, confident that everything was complete. Unfortunately, after a week, all the documents were returned to me, with a stick-on note stating:



    What the?!! ASAN YUNG INFORMATION NA YAN? It’s not just my time and effort that was wasted, mind you. From the Y10,500 that I sent, only Y9,400 was returned to me; the bills and coins were taped together and simply inserted into the mailing envelope that was sent back to me (huh? They can do that? I thought sending money through the mail has to follow the appropriate procedures? The very reason why we use a genkin kakitome envelope – the official and legal way of sending money through the post office? D’oh!). Apparently, the amount of Y1,100 was subtracted and used to pay for the sending of my documents through registered mail.

    So what else can I do? I know it’s futile to argue, but I wrote them a letter anyway. I like writing letters – it allows me to express myself whilst documenting everything. And I was actually hoping that I’d push the right buttons for someone to answer me this time. Together with the documents, plus a copy of MY passport pages that they requested, I sent the following letter:

    It was truly a total waste of effort, money, and time on my part to submit documents that were deemed incomplete by your office. It was a complete shock for me to have my documents and money (minus the postage fee) returned, with a simple note that says that I have to supply additional documents for my daughter’s passport renewal. After all, I followed to the letter the information available at your website.

    All of these would have been avoided had you taken the effort to update the information you have posted in your website. There is absolutely NOTHING there that says that for a child’s passport renewal, copies of pages of the mother’s passport are still necessary. If there is, then by all means please let me know where I would be able to find it, and that I may advise other parents to do the same.

    As with the first time, I paid for registered mail fee, plus the fee for the genkin kakitome (cash registered mail), amounting to a total of Y1,140.

    After two weeks of waiting, Aya’s new passport finally arrived. Along with her new passport was the letter that I sent. No replies, no nothing. They just returned my letter. Gee, thanks for ignoring me. Hey, I am a nobody, I just happen to be a Filipino national, and I am absolutely NOT entitled to any attention from my own embassy. Gah, I suck at being sarcastic. Honestly, I do not expect any apologies; I am not even concerned about the money. I just want CLARIFICATION. I want somebody to explain things to me like I’m a four-year old.

    The way I see it, the least they can do is update the information on their website so that parents out there who are going to renew the passports of their children would know exactly what documents to send. Or was our case special? How on earth would I know that anyway?

    Again, let me ask you – was I amiss? You be the judge!

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    34 Responses to Tales of Two Passports

    1. Leica says:

      happy easter to you and your family,kathy! naku, i can understand your feelings .im also used to following instructions and practice the art of not losing patience..hehehe..anyway, in this case better use the top-down approach. try personally emailing ConGen Claro Cristobal (yay, am not sure if he is there but even if he is not there, im sure he is still connected with DFA and can do something,diba?).have a good week ahead!

    2. kathy says:

      Happy Easter to you Deyns! :)
      Thanks for the advice. Baka nga mas mabuti yung kinakausap agad si Congen. He’s one of the most reasonable, down-to-earth persons I’ve met. Next time I just might do that. But I do wish next time wala ng hitch talaga.

    3. vic says:

      I would say the services extended by the civil “servants” still lot to be desired. A reply to any inquiry is a show of respect and to ignore it just shows the arrogance of the people you pay to serve you. And applying a passport, where every citizen has the right to have should not be so much hassle as you have explained.

      Luckily, until we are required to present passports for going south to the U.S. when flying, right now the passport office is so busy that it may take more than the normal week to process the application. But you can pick up the forms in any post office outlets, govt. offices, download it and everything, requirements and necessary attachment are clearly summarized on the form. You can either line up in any passport office, mail the completed form and in Emergency show the office your tickets or itineraries and they make sure you get your passport in time for a nominal processing fee and courier service if you can’t pick up.

      Requirements is nominal, a picture signed by listed professionals with corresponding signature on the application stating that your doctor or dentist or pharmacist know that you are who you are and the birth certificate or certificate of citizenship. And that’s it. And for someone who want a change of name, can just present an original form of papers supporting the change.

      I’ve written to all kinds of bureaucrats, politicians and if they don’t answer your inquiries back in writings, they’ll do by personally calling you. And you’ll be surprise of getting a call from your member of Parliament. I believe that provision of Equality in our Charter just rub on most “big shots”.

    4. snglguy says:

      It seems that there’s always this problem of not regularly updating the necessary info on the embassy’s website, which kinda makes it next to useless. It probably would have been faster to renew your passport in person instead…

      Haven’t been taking trips abroad for some time now and my passport expired a couple of years ago. And I have yet to renew it. *sigh* Buti na lang green na yung passport ko, otherwise I’d have to go through the whole process again.

      Hope you had a great Easter Sunday… :-)

    5. bw says:

      I can only speak about this when I was still holding a Pinoy passport way back then. When dealing with The Phil embassy, I always made it a point to find time to appear in person, ask them what is needed – normally a checklist of requirements is all they give. THey’re not very adept with mail communication. It is best to confront them at every issue every time. Never had a problem and all it took was 2 days to get the passport back.

      With regard to the marriage contract done in Pinas, it can be authenticated at the Phil Embassy for about $30
      ( here in Canada) and then it becomes a valid document for the name change.

      I’m surprised why you are being given the run-around by our embassy. Is it lack of respect for the Pinoys who work and live in Japan ? Here in Canada they can’t bullshit because they’d be in the front page of the local papers the following day. YOur complaint is extremely valid and I think someone should take this seriously to the embassy to ensure their staffers perform their job descriptions as they are paid and not giving fellow Pinoys a hard time:(

    6. herb says:

      nyaaaa… kakahilakbot naman! and these people are supposed to be some of the smartest sa Pinas… nakapasa ng foreign service exam!
      bat ganun!?!

    7. Leah says:

      I cant relate since I only used my Philippine passport once and now that I have this country’s passport, it was pretty simply to follow all the requirements to get a new one and even to renew.

      Mahirap talaga pag thru mail ang correspondence. My friend has been trying to change her daughter’s name since she was 4 and now sh’e almost 7 and its still hasnt been resolved. And that is thru Canadian govt. Its a long story. Bottomline, I get a feeling, those guys dont do anything at all. Do they work?

      You deserve an apology at least. Those people dont have the decency to even respond to your letter. Kakainis.

    8. verns says:

      sheeesh…when I thought Philippine Embassies abroad are more accommodating or helpful.

      My passport is pretty new. 2009 pa mag-eexpire but I hope I won’t encounter problems like that when my time comes.

      Happy Easter Kat :)

    9. Gina says:

      I’m sure talagang nakaka-frustrate ang ganyang experience. And when I hear of stories like that of yours, I wonder kung bakit ganyan ka-inefficient, and for sure kawalan ng magandang sistema ang ating mga ahensiya ng pamahalaan???!!! (well, some of them,anyway) Don’t we all wish that they would all shape up?
      Anyway, incidentally, I need to apply for a canadian passport soon ,as my Phil.passport has expired last year. We visited the Canadian passport site (e-pass) and the procedures are very concise/clear. We filled out all the infos online & printed the completed forms. When I’ve come up with all the requirements (photos,etc.) then I can mail them. Hopefully, there won’t be any hitches.And yes, as what Vic said, yung mga agencies, bureaucrats,politicians dito , talagang sumasagot thru mail or phone calls sa inquiries & concerns ng mga tao. Maybe the Philippine counterparts should learn a lesson or 2 from them.

    10. niceheart says:

      My oldest son recently applied for a passport and it was just a breeze. He checked the website for the requirements and I also made a phone call and I got my answer quickly. I am actually planning on blogging about this, when I get the time. :)

      But all that hassle you went through, I can only empathize with you.

    11. kathy says:

      “A reply to any inquiry is a show of respect and to ignore it just shows the arrogance of the people you pay to serve you.” – My thoughts exactly, Vic! Fact is, I gave them all my contact numbers and even my email address in the hopes of getting any kind of reply from them. I really wonder why this seems to be such a tall order. Servants, indeed. :( I find it admirable that politicians in your country do not consider themselves any higher than the people they serve, and would take pains to address any grievances. Now why on earth is that hard to emulate?

      I’m surprised to learn how easy it is for you guys to apply for passports or change names. I suppose that requirements such as authenticated documents have been enforced to make sure that the manlolokos out there do not get through. Question is, ganon ba talaga karami manloloko rito sa Japan?

    12. kathy says:

      Snglguy, I’ve heard of stories of people lining up all day long just to get their passports here. If I lived within Tokyo area, I would probably go there in person. But since I have to shell out some money for the train fare, I figured that doing it through mail would be the better option.

      My stories are classic examples of what could happen when the information given is either inadequate or incomplete. Not updating the website is simply…inexcusable.

      Hey, hope you had a great Easter too! :)

    13. kathy says:

      BW, unfortunately the Phil Embassy here is a bit far from Tsukuba (albeit accessible by train). Even if it were half an hour away by train I’d probably go myself.

      Ang galing, you can get your documents authenticated that easily? From what you and Vic said, it does seem that the procedures vary from country to country. It reflects the level of trust imparted to the people living in that country.

      You raised a very important question – is it a lack of respect for Pinoy who live and work here? There may be some grain of truth in that. I get that impression most especially when riding the airplanes. I feel sorry for the Pinoys who get treated rudely by some flight attendants. This doesn’t happen all the time, but I have seen it more than once that I am led to believe that some of them think that Pinoys in Japan are “mababa” and therefore are not entitled to any respect and courteous service. Kakahiya!

    14. kathy says:

      Herb, maybe individual intelligence isn’t what’s the problem here. The system just sucks. But I couldn’t see how the system could improve if the feedback from the ones who use it (i.e., us) is ignored and not given due attention. That’s the frustrating part. :(

    15. kathy says:

      Leah, I myself couldn’t understand how a simple thing like that could get pretty complicated. The irony is that Japan is renowned for its efficiency. You would expect that some of that efficiency would have rubbed off on us, haha.

      Apology? Suntok sa buwan. I’ve given up on expecting. Needless to say, I would love to be proven wrong.

    16. annamanila says:

      I know how frustrating it can be. Pero okay naman and latest experience ko sa DFA dito. I applied for a renewal of my passport in the morning, was given the choice between having the passport sent by courier (with additional fee) or having it picked up after a few days. I chose the latter. Wala namang hitch. Embassy people are slower and more inefficient? (Hindi siguro sa Cambodia — nadun si Toe eh … a fellow blogger — haha). I thought expat Pinoys have better work ethic kasi iba ang national pride pag nasa labas ka di ba? Ah ewan. My sympathies.

    17. pining says:

      I had an unfortunate time with the Phil. Embassy here when it was time to renew my passport, years ago. Hopefully, I don’t have to go through that process again for I’m applying for Brit citizenship (no more of that guilty conscience of patriotism because they allow dual citizenship now) Blame it all on bureaucracy… anyway you have it all sorted out and hopefully next time you have a better time dealing with them; none of this wasting precious time, they should get their act together

    18. sexy mom says:

      oh, Kathy, am not sure if you were just not lucky. but what i am sure of is that them people (our compatriots in the embassy) should have just been efficient. it is their work, even if they are in foreign land, they do not have to keep up with the haughtiness of whichever land they are in. at least, they should have given you clarification. (WHAT SAY YOU, TOE?)

      anyway, we just hope that they will improve. more so, with the internet in place, could they not just have sent you an email, saying you lack this and that document?

    19. Cathy says:

      So sorry to hear about your experience but over here it’s much worse — fixers, a non-existent paging system (in the releasing area) and no proper ventilation. So when you go to the DFA to renew your passport and look at all those people in line you cease asking yourself why so many people want to leave… the joys of living in Manila :)

    20. kathy says:

      Hmm, actually I don’t have an idea whether I was just unlucky (twice, lol), or if there are people out there who have had the same experience.

      Sana stress-free yung pagprocess mo ng passport renewal! Matagal-tagal pa naman ang 2009. 😉

    21. kathy says:

      Gina, oo nga pala, Canadian passport ka na pala from now on. :) Based on what the Canada-based Pinoys have said so far, mukhang very efficient yung system ninyo. I think you won’t encounter any problems at all.

      Regarding public officials in your country – yes, I think it’s quite admirable that they take the pains to address the people’s concerns. Ganon naman dapat talaga. We really should learn from them!

    22. kathy says:

      Wow, that easy, huh? How long does it take for you to get your passports after filing your application? Uy, I’m looking forward to reading that blog about it.

    23. kathy says:

      Ang impression din ng sister ko, mukhang naging mas mabilis ang pagprocess ngayon sa DFA. That is just wonderful.

      Well, I hope you didn’t get the impression that I am generalizing everything about the Embassy here. I’m sure that there are others out there who would be ready to testify, based on their experiences, that the processes were swift and efficient. In fairness, when the Embassy did an outreach service here, they were able to serve several of our countrymen and processed many passports in a single day (my husband got his within the hour of his application!). So there. I just couldn’t figure out why my case could get so complicated when clearly, there are ways to simplify things.

    24. kathy says:

      Pining, does it mean that you can hold two passports at the same time? Dual citizenship is like having the best of both worlds, eh? :)

      Next time, hopefully, there wouldn’t be any hitches. Hay, the things you learn the hard way.

    25. kathy says:

      I do think that I deserve a clarification. I sent a letter; it deserves a reply.

      Oo nga, they have my contact numbers and address – mas efficient naman ata na sinabihan na lang ako na ipadala yung additional document ano? When applying for visas in some countries here, that was all we had to do whenever some documents were lacking. In some instances, we simply have to fax them iver. I couldn’t understand why my docs have to be returned without any proper explanation for the additional documents – documents that were not included in their official list anyway.

    26. kathy says:

      Hello, katukayo, thanks for dropping by. :)

      The situation at DFA that you described reminded me of how it was when I renewed my driver’s license at the main office of LTO. :) I remembered cursing that day, and actually wished that I had just applied for an international license here in Japan instead (in order for me to drive in the Philippines!).

      I guess, at least I should be happy that I don’t have to go through that in order to have my passport renewed here. Count your blessings, ika nga. :)

    27. dimaks says:

      on the side note, they must contemplate on the power of blogging :)

    28. kathy says:

      Good point there, dimaks. I’m sure blogging will come in handy when trying to expose the truth about certain matters. :)

    29. lyn says:

      “it is their (compatriots) work, even if they are in foreign land, they do not have to keep up with the haughtiness of whichever land they are in” … I completely agree with this. But do have one question for you Kathy? How does govt. service and efficiency differ in the Phil Consulate in Japan from any other govt run facility in the Philippines?? (Just curious). We were just at the consulate this week renewing a passport (in NY) and we were in and out in about an hour. We basically took everything they may possibly ask for (since it was a last minute decision to go and we didn’t look online ahead of time) and made photo copies of anything they asked for there. Also, I noticed a big difference from how things were run at the Phils. Consul as compared to US passport dept. With the US dept. I only had to deal with one person and they checked everything thoroughly while I was standing there watching them look through all my documents. At the Phils. Consulate, they kept bouncing us around to different windows and different clerks. But one good thing, with the Phils. is that the passport was ready the next day, whereas a US passport takes at least 2 weeks to process (just for renewal, at least 6 weeks for new passports). =) I guess everything has their advantages and disadvantages.

      And though we did have to cough up cash for the train ride there (like you would have had to), we made a whole day out of it and wandered around NY.

    30. kathy says:

      Hi lyn – regarding your question – I haven’t had anything else processed at the embassy here save for my/our passports, so I couldn’t really generalize. One of my friends complained, though, that the lines were too long and there wasn’t even a number-ticketing system (as is commonly practiced here in Japan and even at the Japanese embassy in the Phils.) that would have made waiting for turns easier.

      Your experience at the consulate sounds similar to most government procedures in the Phils – a single application requires many persons inspecting and verifying it at every stage. In my opinion this is a system to make sure that a lot of persons can be held accountable in case something goes awry. I think this reflects the level of trust imparted to the persons involved in the process. Here in Japan, we can get certifications from the city hall without having to wait for someone in office to affix his/her signature. Everything is electronic, even the official stamp.

    31. smarie says:

      so sorry you went through all that bad experience, kathy.

      when i applied in the philippines for my passport (and later on for renewal, and a new passport for my son) i always used the service of a travel agency. less headache =P

      though i have had no experience yet with the Philippine Embassy where I am now, i still think that maybe it’s better to do all the renewals in pinas when my family and i go home for vacation.

    32. kathy says:

      According to my mom, she had recently renewed her passport at the DFA without much hassles. Apparently, it only costs 750 pesos if you want to get your new passport after two days! That’s waaay cheapeer than the 10,500 yen (or about 4,000 pesos) we have to pay at the embassy here. So money-wise, it might actually be better to do the renewals at home – if you have the time and if you could always plan for this whenever you go home. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the luxury of going home for extended vacations. We want to stay away from Manila as much as possible because of the traffic, haha.

    33. Toni says:

      Ay naku, i gave up on dealing with people from the embassy. Here in Germany, we can also do it by mail, but it didn’t help at all, so we paid extra for the special registered mail and all but in the end we needed to go to the embassy to pick it up (after weeks of waiting for the passport ) i needed to use it for travel and when hubby came to pick it up, guess what?? nothing was done, hay naku..naku i can’t blame it why pinoys change their nationalities..can’t blame them, what a relief to be independent of all these bureaucratic chaos.

    34. kathy says:

      Sorry to hear about your experience with your passport! It really makes you wonder why there are common experiences like the ones we had, even if we were located in different countries. Why is improvement so difficult to achieve? It’s a sad reflection of the dire state our own country is in.

      Thanks for dropping by, Toni! :)

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