Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A First!
A negative experience of Philippine life.

29th of January 2007
(edited 2013)

Written in: Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Written in a notebook immediately after the fact.
Previous Post: A Series of Small Contradicting Epiphanies

Today, I experienced a reality of Philippine life that I just could not view through an easy going and relaxed viewpoint. Prior to this, I viewed everything, even... nay especially the bad things, with such fascination - for I was experiencing something different or novel. Today however, I experienced something that wore that novelty thin.

Today, I got to experience the archaic filing and processing system still prevalent here in the Philippines and most other developing countries.


How archaic? Pen, paper, and filing cabinet archaic - and I'm talking about the primary system and not the backup. Being archaic, it also follows that such a system will be inaccurate and very slow.

I could excuse the traffic, the pollution, the crowding, and the effort I expend in having to access the internet. All these I can chalk up as "quirks" or unique challenges. I'm here to have an adventure. I pride myself with being tough, welcoming, and open minded. Only the weak traveler complains of these challenges.

I'm a backpacker, goddammit!  A papag to sleep on is practically the Ritz Carlton. Tuyo or lugaw to eat all the time is as exotic and sought after as Beluga Caviar. That or just make tusok the fishballs. Bollinger? No thank you. Sago, gulaman sa-malamig please! I can shop in the palengke and ride tricycles and jeepneys all the time.

The more challenging it is, the better - more shit to brag about when I get back to Canada.

But when my already unique and difficult name gets bastardized to something far more unique and difficult, that's where I draw the line.

The story was this: I needed a certified copy of my birth certificate from Sta. Maria's Municipal records. This was easy enough to do; you just line up, get a copy, have it certified and voila! You got yourself a legal copy.

There was however a problem. A transcription error had occured during the time when my municipal records were being made. A letter "N" had become a letter "Z".

Oh yes! I suddenly remembered. This was a problem that cropped up when we (as a family) were getting ready to leave for Canada. Ten years ago I was only fifteen. This meant that as a minor, it was easy enough to let it slide. I remembered that far fewer documents and clearances were needed for my papaers to get processed. Instead of dealing with the Philippine census' glacial pace, we used the birth records of the hospital where I was born, had that certified, and then left for Canada.

Now, that same problem came back to haunt me. I NEEDED proof that I was born here, something that said the REAL NAME that my parents wanted to give me - and not some loser's transcription error.

To correct this error I was told, could take up to three months. When I was dealing with this problem, I had about two months left.

A solution however, presented itself when someone asked if I knew the exact hospital or clinic where I was born; I could just do the same thing I did 10 years ago.

I did, and with an aunt who worked at the Municipal hall, Tita Sofia, off we went to that very hospital to get a copy from the birthing records so we could have that certified by the Municipal Records Department.

Oh, and there was another snag at the hospital - they did not have a copier of their own! So, the waiting took another 30 mintues as an errand boy had to get out of the hospital grounds to photocopy the bloody thing.

All in all, I accomplished one thing in one day. By comparison, in Canada, I got my Alberta Health Care card, Social Insurance number, and a generalized I.D. all in ONE DAY.

Also, if I hadn't had an aunt who worked for the Municipal Government, nothing would have happened.

I actually cut the line and was given priority due to my kamag-anak (relative) in the system. What then of those who know of no one within? How long do they usually wait for?

Related Post: A Public Outburst

Next Post: Our Old Jeep


Note: My case is not an unusual one. I remember during gradeschool, I had a classmate who went by 'Marifi'. Come highschool she started using 'Marife'. Her parents had intended to name her 'Marifi'. But when it was discovered that she had been registered as 'Marife' in the Municipal Records Birth Certificate - and consequently the National Records - she was then forced to use 'Marife' from then on. As well, even though she had finished 6 grades of elementary, with all the records and documentation as Marifi, the school still agreed to change ALL her records and such. It was far easier to do this than deal with the Philippine Census.

In highschool, apparently, another classmate who had been going by Christine Kate was forced to go by Christiane Kate for the same reasons.

So, that's the ridiculousness of all this: People would rather LIVE with a clerical/filing error because correcting it takes too long, is too hard, perhaps even practically impossible... I guess?

Note 2: My name is still misspelled in the Philippine Census Record's archives (or whatever that thing is called). Do I wish to correct it? I do. But is it worth the hassle? Only if I require it again in the future, like, should I want to get repartriated or something. For now, I would rather not repeat this terrible and harrowing experience regarding Philippine Government's crap ass infrustracture.

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Blogger Kathleen Grace said...

Hi Randy,

This is Tita Grace, wife to your mom's cousin, Tito Boy who is also your Tito Nanding's brother.

Sometime in 2002 and 2003, i went into business converting massive data for Kodak Phils. They won the contract to digitize the birth certificates of the entire National Census. I was one of several subcontractors. It took us a little over a year to complete that project. Subsequent to that, we could now go to their main office in Quezon City and get birth certificates within an hour or so. If there was a typo error, there was a process that you can initiate, pay some minimal fee and took about two weeks or less to correct.

I suggest you request correction now, while you still do not need it. you never know when you will need it. by then, you don't have to scramble to get a correct copy. All you need i think is an authorization to allow somebody to apply it for you.

Tita Grace
Tampa, FL

1:12 PM  

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