A few months ago I wrote about renewing my United States Passport which was due to expire on Christmas Eve December 24th 2010. (The State Department is still laughing about that one) When I received my new one I noticed that all my Philippines Immigration stamps were now on the expired passport, and my new one, was as slick, as the Massachusetts Turnpike in January.
So as I mentioned last week that I was going to pay my Head Tax as it was on my agenda for that Wednesday. Plus being the cockeyed optimist that is Paul, I assumed that if I just show my up-to-date Philippine ACR Card (AKA the I-Card) and both my expired passport holding all the stamps and my new slick one, that all would go smooth. I’m still laughing about what a stupid butthead I must be for assuming that all would go smoothly. I should’ve known, it would rear up and bite me square on the butt. (Wanna’ buy a picture of the bite marks?) Expect the worst, what a negative Nick I am. (Sorry about that Nick!)
There I was cheerfully heading into the office on a Friday morning, vice last Wednesday as I had planned. Because Wednesday is my friend time and I should never plan anything that day.
I left the house around 08:00, drove through the back gate of Subic Freeport, I parked my car by the Dunkin’ Donuts and walked out the front gate and hopped a Jeepney to the Immigration office on Rizal Avenue. Since I’d noticed that every city, town, village and hamlet in the Philippines has a Street named Rizal, I trusted that the driver knew that I wanted the one in Olongapo City.
The reason I took a Jeepney vice my car is simple reasoning on my part, or poor planning on the city’s part. They allowed Savers Mart to build a 3 storied department store in the downtown area, and never questioned the fact that there was nowhere to park a car. Now Savers mart does provide 5 parking spaces, but they are not for customer use, the store manager gets one, they use 2 to display merchandise, and the remaining 2 are for delivery trucks. The rest of the block has banks, and other stores and all parking is on the street. And the street is full 24 hours a day. The only solution for me is to purchase a parked car.
One of our fellow readers of LiP, asked what a Head Tax was, it’s a (P) 300.10 fee (or fine?), you pay every year, to validate your resident alien card, or I-Card. Failure to do so is frowned upon.
Here’s a little history in 1994 when I first applied for my 13 something visa (or ACR), it came on an 8×11 yellow/orangish looking card with my picture on it. It reminded me of my old military pay record we used back in the 1960’s. I don’t think it was meant to be carried in your wallet. Then in the 2,000’s when they got computers, we made the switch to the I-card. When it came out, we were like lemming, as we all had to get to Manila to process the new card. And that was because they had the only computer and that was in Manila. But they have a few more now and the local office can now issue new I-cards to you.
Its truth time now, the reason I rambled on about Jeepnies, Parking, and the rest, is because the Philippines threw a wrench into my story, I walked in to the office fearing the worst, and I’d convinced myself I was going to have a problem with the stamps in my Passport. The truth is it went so smooth my mouth was open in shock, and stayed that way until a fly landed in my mouth. They asked me for my I-card, last year’s receipt, and 300.10 pesos. Never looking or caring about my passports. I was out the door in 15 minutes, only because I was the forth one in line.
So what do you do when you’re done for the day and it’s only 09:00 in the morning? You take your wife and her twin to breakfast at my friend, Tom Dryden’s restaurant on Subic Freeport. Then go home and enjoy the day! (And a reward beer that afternoon)
To the Philippine’s Immigration Office I would like to say; “Thank You”, for the quick and courteous serviced I received from your employee’s, for they are the example all others government offices should emulate. I promise I will solve the stamp problem with my passport by next year. (Well maybe, but I will try really!)
So my lesson for the day was; If I step into something on the street, I should be happy when I find out; it was just chocolate ice cream. Now, there’s a pleasant image for you!