Government services: NSO, NBI, DFA

I had been dragging my feet about renewing my expired passport for over a year now, but mostly it’s because I get the heebie-jeebies at the thought of dealing with government offices (synonymous to long lines, gossipmongering at the counters and what have you). The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the National Statistics Office (NSO) haven’t failed me yet, but I wasn’t sure if 2015’s service will be as smooth as my previous experiences.

UPDATE: NSO is now PSA, for Philippine Statistics Authority. Thanks to Erika Presson for the info.

Anyway, because I was looking at all the possible requirements for passport renewal and there was a list of additional documents indicated at DFA’s passport appointment website (turns out, you won’t need them if you’re just renewing), I immediately scheduled to have my birth certificate delivered and to get my National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) clearance renewed.

Philippine Statistics Authority – 10/10
Not much to say here except: GOOD JOB! PSA/NSO has always been easy to deal with because they’ve always had that online ordering thing. Past experience had me paying via Unionbank but now, everything is really, TRULY online. You can pay via credit card, Bancnet Online or Globe at NSO Help Online. They say they’d deliver within 2-3 working days but the document got to me so fast, I didn’t have time to count the days.

National Bureau of Investigations – 4/10
Hm. There used to be a time when NBI was efficient. Go to Park Square 1, queue for 10 minutes and voila! NBI clearance received! Then they decided to go online (*insert maniacal laughter here*) and everything went to hell. For starters, you get your NBI appointment online but you have to pay through Bayad Centers. If you want to pay through BPI Online, you’d have to enroll Dragonpay. The NBI website will indicate that it takes 1-2 days for Dragonpay to be completely enrolled…meanwhile, the website also states that you have a few minutes to finish paying. Whaaaat???

Just to show you that I kid you not, I took a screenshot of the Dragonpay enrollment instructions (indicating how long it takes to get it enrolled) and the deadline for payment. Click on the images to view full size.

I ended up paying via Bayad Center instead. Most LBC branches outside of SM malls are Bayad Centers. It was a good thing I had some errands in Greenbelt to do so I paid there. But that’s not the end of it.

When I got to the Robinson’s Ermita satellite office to get my clearance renewed, I arrived to this:

They don’t care whether or not you have gotten an appointment online or that you have paid via Bayad Centers. (“Eto po yung resibo ko, kuyaaaaa! Huhubells!”) You are lumped along with everyone else who did not get an appointment. The 10-minute offline process of Park Square 1 only happened in the early 2000s. Gone are those days.

A friend told me that I should have gone to the main NBI office because they respected online appointments. I’m taking note of that so I won’t have to go through it again next time. The funniest thing? I didn’t even need the NBI clearance after all. DFA just wanted the photocopies of my passport’s front and back pages. That’s it.

Department of Foreign Affairs – 9/10
You first need to book a DFA appointment online. I sort of dreaded this because of my NBI experience but ok, I booked a 4PM slot at the DFA Aseana. You have to be there at least 30 minutes before but I got there at around 2:45ish. Turns out they were already processing people who were there early so I got in line. The line was long BUT the processing was quick so I didn’t stay too long sitting on the same chair.

Hypothetically speaking, even if the processing were to slow down, at least you are sitting in comfortable airconditioned offices, and there are ushers everywhere to guide you about the next steps.

Some Drama
I think the only time it took long for someone was when this woman started screaming her head off about being separated from her husband so she questioned why she needed to indicate she was married. Um. Yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but she was hard to ignore and clearly in the wrong. (Woman, you just can’t write there “single” if your marriage certificate is still valid. Sheesh!) I felt sorry for the person behind the counter. Good thing the processing for the others went fast so I didn’t have to listen to it for long.

Be Attentive
Paying at the cashier to getting your records (thumb marks, picture) went by very fast. You have to look out for your number on the screen and the counter you’re supposed to go to. There was an elderly lady who approached me to ask if her number had been called. Thing is, her number flashed by so quickly that she missed it. If you had been to the bathroom or surfing Facebook or chatting with someone, you could miss it. I noticed a lot of the happily chatting people had missed their numbers, so I’m pretty thankful that I seemed to have been exuding an unfriendly vibe (I don’t know why, I smile at everyone) so nobody bothered to make small talk with me.

Fast Transactions
The guy who handled my transaction for the third and final step looked very serious and had a clipped, no-nonsense way of talking. But he was efficient. While one person was still doing her thumb prints, he was already asking for our documents so he can process them. For some reason, though, he suddenly decided to poke fun at me.

DFA Guy: *typing my birth date, stops* Paki-double check lang kung tama ito.
Me: *squints* Tama yan.
DFA Guy: Sigurado ka?
Me: Tama yan.
DFA Guy: Single pa rin?
My thought: Nakalagay naman dyan na single.
What I said: Single.
DFA Guy: Choosy ka?

I just laughed. Seriously, if he hadn’t been so efficient and good at his job, I probably would have answered, “Paki mo, kuya?” But I was so happy about his multi-tasking skills that I let it slide and actually found it funny.

I was done by 4:05PM.

If I have one complaint about DFA Aseana it would be that I couldn’t connect to Uber from their zone. Because it was drizzling, I was forced to take a cab that had a broken meter (ugh) until MOA and booked Uber from there. The search for transpo took longer than the entire duration of the passport renewal process.

I know there are some delays about the passport delivery happening right now but I don’t really mind. I’ll just pick it up in October. I’ve also heard that they plan to work during the weekends to catch up with the backlog of delayed passports. Good job, DFA! Keep up the great work.

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