Notes from the Outside World: I have become the “aleng pinagtatanungan sa pila.”

So, yesterday and today I went out (a rather rare thing, on a weekday) to get government stuff: a barangay certificate of residence, an NBI clearance and a police clearance. I’ve been prepping to get a passport, and since my appointment is sometime next next week, I decided to move my lazy ass to finally get things in order.

Here are a few notes:

  • Barangay Old Balara is extremely efficient. Reception offered to give me a barangay ID in addition to the certificate. I got a 2 certs and a barangay ID in less than an hour.
  • It is also a Pokemon Go gym.
  • Barangay captain is a little chatty and asked me if I was going abroad for work. (No.)
  • The NBI Clearance online appointment system is convenient; the payment system, not so much.
  • You skip around 3 steps (filling out forms, paying, etc) but you still have to queue for biometrics.
  • The queue was a giant Trip to Jerusalem game. At least we all got to sit.
  • After 30 minutes, my seatmate (a kid who – gauging by the envelope he was carrying – was getting ready for the great wide world of gainful employment) turns to me and asks me if he could get his NBI clearance the same day. I launch into an explanation of the dreaded HIT.
  • I tell him I always have had a HIT, and to not worry about it.
  • A woman walks by the line holding a plastic cup of kwek kwek. WHERE DID YOU GET THAT.
  • Another thirty minutes in, and NBI personnel helpfully explains to the class: what each line is for, what should have been done before queuing, what are HITs, if you’re here for releasing you don’t need to be in line, etc. “If you have questions raise your hand.”
  • The girl to my right turns to me, in what seemed like a mix of panic and horror, and asks “Pag releasing na lang po ba di na kailangang pumila?” She explains that she had been asked by somebody else to pick up the offending clearance and had been in line for as long as I have.
  • I tell her, gently, that she needs to go to the release window. No more lines. Men sitting behind us laugh.
  • After she leaves, the child dude beside me chats me up again. What do you do for a living, how much do you make?
  • Usually, I don’t like answering these questions, especially when posed by strangers but I tell him anyway. The kid looked genuinely mystified. How does one become “home-based”? I didn’t tell him this, but I wanted to: You will need a unique skill set that people are willing to pay you for.
  • He volunteers that he’s preparing to be a seaman (second mate) and he has a medical exam to get to after the NBI thing. In Kalaw. Yes. Manila.
  • I wished him luck. Travelling from Quezon City to Manila is murder.
  • It was my turn. Man behind Window 6 takes my picture, fingerprints, and signature.
  • The computer takes a few seconds to process, and the screen flashes: WITH HIT in big block, flashing red letters. Yeap.
  • Man behind Window 6 takes out his stamp pad, takes the photocopy of my license, and jots on a date.
  • The Police Clearance place at Quezon City Hall is directly beside the NBI Clearance place.
  • There are 4 windows. 1 for forms, 2 for checking the forms, 3 for payment, 4 for yet-another-payment. Tarpaulins announce how much each type of police clearance costs. For Travel/Passport: 200 + 150.
  • I was filling out my form when the girl beside me asks how much she will need to pay. I ask her what her purpose was, glance at the tarp, and tell her. 250 pesos.
  • She rummages around in her tiny purse. “I don’t have enough,” she mumbles. Her loose change sat on the battered table, and yes I counted, and yes, it wasn’t enough.
  • She asks if there was a Cebuana (Lhuillier) nearby, and I tell her there must be. This is near Kalayaan after all.
  • As I was about to tell her to ask the policemen nearby, I see that she had already left.
  • After the 4 windows, I was ushered into a room with screens facing outwards. Technically not windows, but more like computer stations.
  • Dude behind one of the stations motions at me, takes all the forms/photocopies/receipts, and encodes my information. He misspells Terraces, but not my name, which is nice.
  • Next station, a bespectacled girl takes my pic, my fingerprint, and my signature. She tells me to wait and points at the door past the island of biometrics stations.
  • Old lady opens the door for me, and I emerge directly behind the NBI place. Benches are set under the shade of a giant balete tree. I wait.
  • Two kids beside me get their clearances and sit back down to check it. One tells the other, “Mukha kang kalbo.” I fight the giggles down.
  • My turn, kuya pronounces my name beautifully. I thank him and study my ID. I didn’t look bald, but like most government issued IDs, I looked like I was ready to commit something illegal. Like estafa.
  • To leave, I pass by the NBI Clearance center. There is an empty kwek kwek stall along the wall to the right. Demmit.