Today I obtained my Philippines driver’s license. It was all in all a pretty smooth experience but as all things Philippines it had its moments of humor.
Philippines law says that when you arrive here you can drive with your foreign drivers license but have to get a Philippines drivers license within 90 days of being a resident. My 90 days would be up at the end of October.
I walked into the LTO (Land Transportation Office) behind Robinsons Mall in Dumaguete. There was a woman at a desk just inside the doorway. I explained that I wanted to convert my foreign driver’s license into a Philippines license. “Have you been here 90 days?,” she asked. “No, it’s been under 90 days,” I answered. “Well you can’t get your license until after 90 days,” she replied. “Hmm. I thought you had to get it within 90 days,” I countered. She hesitated, nodded her head in agreement and handed me the application. She quickly went over what I would need: medical certificate and drug screen which I could get next door; proof of residency (I have the Balikbayan stamp on my current visa); copies of my passport, visa stamp and foreign drivers license (I had them all). Then she mentioned that once I had done the medical and drug screen I would have to go to the main LTO office, since this office does not handle this type of license.
I went next door and once again found a woman inside the doorway. She handed me forms to fill out, took my Oregon drivers license, and started to hand me a cup to pee in. Uh oh. It had all happened so quickly that I realized I wasn’t ready to do my, uh, business. “Just let me know when you’re ready and I will give you the cup,” she said. I texted my status to Janet who wisely suggested I drink lots of water. There was a water dispenser near the woman but I saw no cups. “Where are the cups?” I politely asked. She pointed to the cashier’s window. “You can get one there. They’re 5 pesos.”
I did a double take, looked at her with disbelief and then sat down. No way was I paying 5p (about 10 cents) for a cup. But after a few minutes I realized that without water I’d be waiting an hour so I went up to the cashier window and asked for a cup. “5 pesos please.” I handed her the coin and took my cup. Who says Filipinos don’t have a head for business. They provide free water and charge you for the cup!
Since I now had 5 pesos extracted from me I was damn sure I was going to use that cup as much as possible. I went back to the water dispenser three times to fill the cup with water and practically forced myself to drink it. After the 3rd cup I was ready. I got my sample cup from the front desk lady who told me that I could not close the door to the CR (bathroom for those who do not live in the Philippines). This meant that the 20 or so people waiting could see me doing my business. And, not to be indelicate, but since I needed one hand to hold the cup and the other hand to hold my you know, there was no third hand to hold up my shorts which were a bit baggy and didn’t want to hold themselves up. Somehow I did manage to juggle everything and turned in my sample.
Within a few minutes I was called to have a photo taken and sign my name electronically. Another couple of minutes and I was called in for my medical screening. To my surprise this consisted of a simple eye test. I was handed a form which said my eyesight passed, as did my hearing. Apparently just hearing the lady tell me to read the chart constituted passing the hearing test.
It really all went smoothly from there. 550 pesos later (for the medical exam and drug test) I had my documents and could return to LTO, assuming I could find the main office.
At the main office there was once again a woman at a desk just inside the doorway. I explained what I wanted, she repeated what I needed, I pulled it all out and handed it to her and she sent me to the appropriate window. My name was announced many times: to get my picture taken, my thumbprint taken, pay the fees (852 pesos), check in at another window.
Finally I was called one last time to receive my temporary license. The temp license was little more than a receipt for what I’d paid. “Come back in February or March for your official license.,” I was told. Only 5 months; pretty quick for the Philippines, but who’s counting.
The truth is the process was fast, reasonably efficient and no worse than going to the DMV in Oregon. Of course there they don’t charge you 10 cents for a cup.