[RANT] Philippine Passport Renewal : Have Contact Lens? Proceed with Caution

Dear Readers,

Allow me to interrupt my regular food blogging to share something that left a really bad taste on the mouth or shall I say a truly traumatizing experience for my sister as she renewed her Philippine Passport yesterday afternoon.

A month ago, I personally logged in to the new DFA Passport Appointment System, which I honestly think was pretty cool and modern for our government to have, and took care of scheduling my sister's passport renewal which was set yesterday, January 17 at 130PM.

Last night, I repeatedly reminded her to go early as I had a feeling that there might be a line which might cause her some delay for about 30 minutes to an hour. I've read up on the experience of a fellow blogger which made me confident that things over at the DFA has tremendously improved and my sister will be able to have her passport renewed in no time....

...boy was I WRONG.

My sister only took a short break from work to have her passport renewed. She arrived at the DFA at exactly 1PM, 30 minutes before her scheduled time. There was already a line and by the time she got in, it was already 230PM. The procedure was supposed to be easy.

Step 1: Go to the Appointment Center to present all required documents

Step 2: Fill up the remaining blanks on your application form

Step 3: Go to the cashier to pay your passport fee

Step 4: Proceed to the Encoding counter

Step 5: Have your picture taken

Step 6: Choose your delivery option

Then you're done! Sounds pretty simple right?

Well my sister was there up until past 6PM (that's a total of 6 hours worth of waiting time!) but that's not where things got ugly. She followed the steps and patiently lined up with all the hundred applicants inside who also had to skip work to wait for their passports to be renewed. At this point, you can just see that with the length of time you have to spend in just renewing your passport, it kinda speaks a lot about the speed and efficiency of our friends over at the DFA center.

When it was my sister's turn for the picture taking, she went straight to counter 24 and the "photographer/encoder/whateveryouallhim" asked her if she's wearing contact lens. She said yes and he told her that this was not allowed. She needs to take it out prior to having her photo taken. This shocked my sister as it was not stated ANYWHERE in their website about wearing contact lens. The guy continued to threaten her that if she continues to have her photo taken, the QA department won't allow this and she needs to do it all over again.

After waiting for 6 long hours, the last thing my sister wanted was to stay longer at the DFA. Unfortunately, she didn't have her case with her nor did she bring a solution for her contact lens. Come on, who would bring those things knowing you will be wearing your contact lens the entire day?

The smart aleck DFA guy then told her to just take it off and wash it with water before returning it back to her eye. Obviously he knows nothing about contact lens and how you have to be careful in keeping it clean or face the risk of getting your eyes infected. My sister refused and he then offered her a case which he said no one owns and she will be the first to use it. She opened the case and she saw dust and residue at the bottom of the case... I guess he's right, she will definitely be the first to use it...THAT DAY.

Thus, her idea was to just get the case and pay for it. For those who are knowledgeable about contact lens and basic hygiene, I apologize if you are already cringing by now.

Left with no choice, my sister place her lens on the case and had her photo taken. After this was done, the guy asked for the case back, she explained again to him that she can't wear her contact lens again as she do not have the solution with her and she even tried to put it back after running it under water but to no avail. Her eyes were starting to get red at this point. My sister just insisted that she will pay for the owner-less case but finally the guy slipped up and said someone owns the case. This is starting to sound disgusting right?

After a long argument and still the DFA encoders just couldn't get the logic of wearing contact lens, they finally let my sister go..yes with the dirty case and her lens inside.

Which makes me wonder:
1) How come there was no mention about contact lens being prohibited during your passport renewal in the website, onsite, in whatever form of communication that they could probably have released for the public to know (note that my sister's contact lens are clear and not colored) and..
2) Do they really know nothing about hygiene and do they really subject every single applicant with clear contact lens to the same ordeal?

What was supposed to be at least a two hour process turned into a six hour ordeal for my sister who was forever traumatize by renewing her Philippine passport. Not only did she lost 6 productive hours at work, she had to have to contact lens professionally cleaned tomorrow and she left DFA angry, tired and frustrated at the system.

Dear DFA, what you did was not cool..sure you have an online scheduling system but I think you really have to train your staff on following the time schedule, being efficient and knowing a little thing or two about hygiene.

*photo credit: http://alxjm.com/2010/02/23/passport-application-requirements/


  1. I think anything that may alter the appearance of the individual in the photo are prohibited. Do contact lenses reflect light differently during photos? I doubt. But sometimes people at DFA are unreasonable.

    I renewed my passport recently and they rejected my photo because of the background color daw. My brother and I had out photo taken by the same studio thus with the same background color (heck! we even wore the same polo) My brother's picture passed the quality control. Why was mine rejected? I'll never know. Hay buhay.

  2. there's a guideline posted on their website regarding passport picture guidelines.


    it's hidden somewhere on their website :D (it's on www.dfa.gov.ph under consular services - passport information then on the bottom of the page you will find the link for the picture guidelines).

    I think they should include the guidelines on the confirmation email being sent

  3. dfa.gov.ph/main/index.php/guidelines-on-photo-capturing
    Eyeglasses should always be removed before capturing the applicant’s photo.
    The use of contact lenses for medical reasons is accepted, provided that the contact lenses do not change the applicant’s true eye color. Therefore, applicants are advised to take off their contact lenses before having their photos captured.

    If it was clear, dapat di na pinaalis, then with regard sa time, lucky your sister kasi ako 4pm dumating for my 430pm appoinment, finished 1030pm, then nadelay pa ng 3 days ang passport ko.

  4. hi fran, first-time commenter, long-time reader. :-) anyway, i just had to say that even though i also wear contacts, i did not have this experience with DFA. i wasn't asked if i was wearing a pair (and my contacts are for medical reasons, not aesthetic) and i was in and out of there in less than 2 hours. i don't know if it had to do with the fact that my appointment was first thing in the morning.

    also, maybe by the time your sister got through the steps, the DFA people were already resenting the lateness of the hour and were already cranky. but that's never an excuse, esp since they are gov't employees. what sucky treatment. your sister should definitely complain (even write to the dfa sec about the inconsistency of their policy and how they treat taxpayers)

  5. I was shocked that your sister encountered a bad experience with DFA. I had a quick and smooth renewal in less than 45 minutes last year January, and most of the people I know had successful, fast renewal as well...

    Too bad it happened to your sister :(

  6. I'm sorry about what happened to your sister. Anyway, when I renewed my passport, it was posted that contact lens are not allowed while having their picture taken. But sometimes, some DFA employees are unforgivable. They reason to much...you know what I mean. As for my part, I had a successful passport renewal. Next time, be careful. Read the guidelines first before doing anything. :)

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  7. last time i renewed i didn't make an appointment and just showed up first thing in the morning. was done by around lunchtime. perhaps the appointment system is shitty?

  8. hi fran! im sorry about your sister. :( I will renew my passport this week. I chose the 9am schedule. I will be there by 7am, thank you for this post. wish me luck :)

  9. thanks for your comments guys, see my sister's contact lens were clear and she even told them its because sira ang mata nya. they were being very unreasonable and she even asked them to show her the sign that says this is prohibited but they just stood there speechless.

    i've been hearing lots of successful, stressfree stories about passport renewal, it was i guess just so unfortunate that my sister had to go through a really nasty ordeal.


  10. Thank goodness for this post, Fran. I'm about to schedule my passport renewal and I'm also wearing clear contact lens. It's pretty obvious they don't know anything. Sheesh.

    I feel for your sister. And, yeah, I got goosebumps and icky feelings while reading the part about her having to remove her contact lens. Did she bring her eyeglasses with her? 'Cause if this happened to me and I had no idea about this issue, I couldn't remove my lens 'cause I won't be able to go anywhere else after that. LOL.

    I'll print out the guidelines on photo capturing, bring my contact lens solution and container, and my eyeglasses just in case. Thank you for sharing this story.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this Fran. It will help a lot of readers...

  12. @blankpixels and peachkins: you're welcome..its better to inform the public as obviously DFA is doing a poor job in letting applicants know about this rule. hope they'd put a billboard sign about their rules from now on :)

  13. Yeah, sa alam ko colored contact lenses ang bawal eh alam mo naman mga tao dito sa atin masyadong literal. Hay. Policies should be explained to these people when they are trained for their jobs. Pag sa ibang bansa yan no issue na yan eh.

  14. i got so frustrated and angry while reading this. grabe naman, haaaay. i hope your sister is feeling better na. minsan talaga may mga nakakaasar na front liner govt employees. they make even the good govt employees look bad :(

  15. it's frustrating to hear about your sister's 'horror' story. my mama also renewed her passport first week of January & she was not asked that her contact lenses be removed.
    if colored contact lenses or yung may mga designs, bawal talaga pero kung clear... naku very unreasonable yun!

    thanks for sharing this info :)

  16. hala grabe naman yung ginawa. and imagine 6 hours pa sis mo dun. meron kaya sila customer service or something? dapat malaman ng DFA officers to.

  17. hi all!

    thankfully my sister do not have to buy a new set of contact lenses, una kasi the eye doctor said it might have been warped by the wrong ph level brought about by the water that she was forced to dip her contact lenses into. good thing she just had to have it magnetically cleaned and they saw that ok pa ung contacts nya.

    sharing this info because i dont want anyone to go through the same ordeal as what my sister went through. good luck to everyone who is due to renew their passports!

  18. hi fran... grabe naman ito.. I am wearing contact lens din naman...sa DFA ba ito an case? hmmm.. I already have a brown covered passport.. weird naman ng contact lens prohibition nyan.. clear pa naman..

  19. a lot actually told us that they had an easier time despite wearing a clear contact lens. minalas lang yung kapatid ko i guess :(

  20. Dear Fran:

    Your sister and anyone facing any unreasonable behavior from a government employee in the course of transacting a government required procedure must demand to see a superior officer, who will on the spot determine right away whether the government employee dealing with the citizen is behaving unreasonably, and accordingly direct the government employee to accommodate and accomplish his task without further delay and annoyance, to the satisfaction of the citizen.

    That is what the Citizens Charter in effect states.

    Read the Citzens Charter that is required by law to be displayed in every government office where citizens have to transact a procedure with the government to fulfill his obligation to the government or obtain any document or service from the government.

  21. Great and a very useful blog for me. Thanks a lot for sharing.

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