A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and if that journey is to a foreign country, your first step will likely be getting a passport from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Before the DFA can give you a passport, it needs to know who you are and whether you are who you say you are.
You will need to have a National Statistics Office-certified copy of your birth certificate which could now be requested online.
You will also need a government-issued ID like a Voter's ID or driver's license. Students can use their school IDs when applying for a passport.
The DFA also requires the submission of supporting documents that prove your identity. Among those listed on its website are marriage contracts, land titles, transcripts of records, or "other documents that show the full name and birth details of applicant." If you don't have those, your driver's license will do.
You should have all your documents and IDs photocopied before heading to the DFA.
Setting an appointment
If all your papers are ready, you can set an appointment with the DFA so your application will be processed. This can be done over the telephone, through (02) 737-1000 or online.
If setting an appointment over the telephone, Customer Care Officers will ask you for your personal information and remind you of what you need to bring. They will also give you the code that you will need to download and print your application form.
You can also set an appointment via DFA's dedicated passport website. You can choose the date and time of your appointment, then get your reference number and a link for the application form through e-mail. Never ever rely on fixers to do these things for you. Better safe than sorry, right?
Getting your passport
On your appointment date, go to the DFA Consular Office at the Aseana Business Park at the corner of Bradco Avenue and Macapagal Boulevard in Paranaque City. The DFA says you need to be there, with all the required documents and IDs, 30 minutes before your scheduled time. If you come late, you will need to set another appointment.
Also remember to dress appropriately: No sandos, spaghetti straps, shorts, or slippers.
Once at the consular office, you need to head to the processing area so the DFA can check your papers. When that is done, you will be told to head to the Passport Enrollment Section, where you will pay P950 for regular processing, which takes 15 working days. If short on time, you can pay P1,200 for rush processing and get your passport after seven working days.
The DFA will also take your picture for your passport. Since this is an official government document, you are expected to look directly at the camera with a neutral expression. "Contrived expressions such as raised eyebrows, squinting or frowning are not acceptable," DFA says.
You can smile but you are not supposed to show your teeth and gums. "The 'Mona Lisa' smile is recommended," the DFA says.
After paying, you will be told to head to the Encoding Section for data capturing and you're done. You can either come back on the release date to pick up your passport or pay them to have your passport delivered to you.
Getting a passport used to involve standing around at the DFA for at least half a day but the system that the DFA is using now has cut down that time significantly. That means you'll have more time and energy for bigger challenges: getting a ticket during a seat sale, and going through Terminal 1 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.