Got word that renewing passports at the DFA, located near SM Mall of Asia, has greatly improved and has become pretty convenient so I tried it out earlier today. Four and a half hours later, I am now searching for that person who gave me this fallacy with the full intent to kill, maim and butcher.
I guess this greatly depends on what a person considers as tolerable. To get to the DFA, you first have to secure an appointment via http://www.passport.com.ph. Then you have to print out a form which you will have to present on the scheduled date/time.
There are only four steps once you get there.
1. You present your old passport and the printed form (plus additional ID's if you have them) at any one of the counters in the photo above. This looks easy enough. The building is fully air-conditioned and the queue is well managed. It did take me two hours before getting to a counter however. For someone that cannot sit still for longer than 10 minutes, that was plain agonizing. Note that you cannot bring a friend nor a chaperon as anyone who isn't processing is not allowed in the building. Plus borita points right there.
2. You bring your processed forms to a counter on the second floor of the building to make a payment. Regular processing that takes 15 business days cost P950, while rush processing that takes only 7 business days cost P1200. This one takes no longer than 15 minutes. For some reason, they are fastest when they are getting money from you.
3. You get a number to have your photo taken. This is the worst part. Not only will this take another two hours, this also means that after getting haggard from all the waiting, they will make you sit in a cubicle, face a digicam plastered to a wall and take the worst photo of your life. I am not exaggerating. At least I am sure that it was my absolute worst photo EVER.
4. You may or may not opt to do this step. This is paying for a courier service to deliver your passport at your registered address. This costs P120. Of course you may be crazy and decide that you want to go back to pick-up your passport. In that case, we shall call you Masukista because that is what you are.
Anyway, the last time I did this and I believe this is still how it's done in renewal kiosks is you fill out a form and submit the requirements including a decent, let me say that again - DECENT photo of yourself that is professionally taken, then they deliver the passport to your doorstep in a week or so. It is a little more pricey but this is well worth it to spare yourself from travelling to DFA, being in queue for hours only to subject yourself to the humiliation of having your worst look and mood captured and plastered in a passport that you will have to keep for the next four years.
As a direct result of this experience, I am now nursing my self-esteem, have booked a personal trainer and am looking into places where I can get a facial or a botox. You have been warned.
Update: Flash-forward to a year later, as of June 2013, I heard that the DFA now processes in less than 2-3 hours. Also there are mall renewal centers that process just as fast so long as you get an online appointment first. Good job, DFA.