On February 21, 2011 (Monday), I went to the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur to report the birth of my son and apply for his passport at the same time since we were planning to travel to Phuket, Thailand in April. It was a very wonderful day since I came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Putrajaya to have the birth certificate of my newborn baby authenticated. This was a newly imposed requirement set by the embassy perhaps to establish the authenticity of all the documents coming from Malaysia. It was an irony, since only in the Philippines that document could be faked. The Philippine embassy would have been thinking that all the Filipinos could fake documents including those coming from the foreign offices and thus, those who would be reporting the birth of the children of the Filipino expatriates must go and get the authentication from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the host country - which I did.
My travel to Kuala Lumpur was planned since I would be presenting my two researches at the International Conference of Health Professionals in Shah Alam on February 22 – 24, 2011. Therefore, my time was limited. I knew that I needed to do everything on Monday, since February 25, would have been a holiday at the Philippine embassy coinciding with the holidays we had in the Philippines.
On that Monday morning, we drove to the KLN in Putrajaya hoping that we would be the first to be in queue and had my papers authenticated. I was wrong. There were so many people sitting comfortably at the air-conditioned waiting area waiting calmly for their numbers. I too got my number, but to my horror, I forgot to photocopy my documents. I was so nervous, and I was nearly sweating. This I believed was a normal reaction during a period of anxiety. When my number was called, I went slowly to the window where I would give my document and pay the 10 ringgit authentication fee. I told the lady with her tudong, “Madam, I don’t have the photocopy of the birtch certificate of my son.”
She asked, “How many do you need?”
“How much per copy?” I enquired
“You do not need to pay the photocopy, but the authentication fee is 10 ringgit each.”
“Okay, please authenticate two.” I said.
“Okay sir, may I have your payment,” she asked and I gave her 20 ringgit.
Not a moment, too soon, my number was called and the lady who entertained me was smiling when she gave me the receipt and my two authenticated documents. The whole process was only about 20 minutes. I did not waste any time. I hastily went to my car where my wife and my two sons were waiting, then started the engine and drove fast to the Philippine embassy. I was excited thinking that I would be stepping on the Philippine soil and met with a lot of compatriots. It was been a long time ago that I saw as many Filipinos gathered in one place before.
I confidently went and took the required forms from the window where two middle aged women stood; I supposed they were employees of the embassy because they were entertaining Filipinos and foreigners alike.
After filling out the required forms for reporting a child born abroad and passport application, I immediately went to the window and gave these forms to a lady who seemed to be in her late forties. She checked my forms as she paused once in a while, then she lifted her head and told me bluntly, "Where are the photocopies of these documents? These are all original?”
“Madam, I am sorry, I do not have copies of my documents?” I replied.
“We need four copies each.” She said.
“What shall I do?” I asked.
“Go out, and walk to COSWAY and have your documents photocopied.”
I was surprised. I did not know where the building that she was referring to was. We were at the city center, and unlike Manila where we could find photocopiers in almost every corner. I was wandering that I would be paying 231 ringgit, that was nearly 3,300 pesos for the passport and 100 ringgit for the reporting of birth and my embassy could not even afford to photocopy my 3 documents? I was left wondering. In the KLN, I paid 10 ringgit and they photocopied my documents, now I was paying 331 ringgit, and my embassy could not even photocopy these?
My horror began. I went out from the Philippine embassy compound and drove to the city center hooping to find the building where she told me to go. I did not find it. If I could have walked, it could take me around 20 minutes to go and find the nearest commercial building, yet I could not be sure if there would be a photocopying shop in there. I went out around 10:45. The woman told me, “We could only entertain you at 1 o’clock.” I learnt later that the embassy would be closed from eleven in the morning to one in the afternoon for their lunch break. “What, three hours lunch break?” I whispered while I continued driving.
I drove for about two hours around the twin towers, yet to my dismay I was not able to find any single shop that offered photocopy services. When I thought that my pursuit would not bear any fruit, I decided to drive to Cheras, near my hotel and looked around the shop lots there hoping and praying that I would find a photocopier. It was many hour time lost as my wife was calling me on my hand phone telling that JC, the name of my newborn son was crying incessantly. I decided to leave them at the embassy because I thought that my pursuit to find a photocopy machine would take me only around 10 minutes. These 10 minutes was turned into more than three hours before I finally found one photocopier that was about past two in the afternoon already. “I need to drive fast or else I will be caught in a jam.’ – I whispered. I knew that the traffic was so heavy since it was the time when all the students from the government school around Kuala Lumpur would go home. “I need to reach the embassy before four.”
It was so frustrating. I was trembling not because of anxiety, but because of anger that was caused by this woman from the embassy that could not even extend help for his compatriots to photocopy my documents. After all, I would be paying them 331 ringgit. How much more suffering that these employees from the embassy would inflict to my kababayan who were working as maids? Would they be told also to walk and find photocopier outside the embassy and waste their time? The embassy was equipped with photocopier, perhaps they could be using that to photocopy our documents, after all we pay for every transaction that we would do with them. This would be a wishful thinking, after all my experience with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Malaysia was just the opposite. Poor us – Filipino expatriates.