I think everybody who lives here in the Philippines knows how a visit to a government/public office can be of an inconvenience. I’ve never heard anyone say they’re excited and eager to file paperwork and other necessary yet tedious errands in a public office. Aminin, meron talagang effort involved going to city hall, NBI, DFA, SSS office, Philhealth, Pag-Ibig and the most common of all, LTO office.
Last month, I had to renew my driver’s license and given I’ve been doing this for a few years already, I know that there are satellite offices in my favorite malls. So I wasn’t worried about doing it just a few days before my license expires which falls on my birthday.
Quick trivia: driver’s license here in the Philippines expires on one’s birthday and needs to be renewed every three years.
I don’t know if this is the same in other countries but I like that this is how it works here. Having your license expired on your birthday is a clever way of reminding you to renew your driver’s license.
So I was running errands in Megamall a few weeks back and I figured I have a few hours to spare, so might as well have my driver’s license renewed. To my surprise there was no longer an LTO satellite office inside Megamall. Shucks.
Fast forward to the last week of August, one free weekday, I went to Robinsons Galleria hoping that I can have my license renewed that day. To my luck, Robinsons Galleria LTO satellite office is closed due to renovation. I even caught a glimpse of a TV network shooting a segment inside LTO, taking advantage of the calmness of the empty office.
Immediately, I went to the next LTO office that I know- LTO San Juan, the one near Agora N. Domingo. Hoping this time, I can have my license renewed. After getting a parking slot merely 5 minutes from arriving, I already had a bad feeling that something was off. True enough, the office was OFFLINE and one of the staff, as if by cue, defensively blamed the poor Internet connection their service provider, ironically isn’t providing. So that’s why there was ample parking because usually, LTO offices have little to no parking slots, (isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?) so you can imagine how hard it is for drivers who want to renew their license or have their car registration renewed. What’s new Philippines?
The staff though was sort of helpful as he pointed me to the nearest LTO office in the area. As much as I didn’t want to go, I knew it had to within that day because my license is due to expire in three days and those three days were the long weekend (no office). The third LTO office I went to that day was called LTO Altura (which is officially called LTO Manila East). It was just a few minutes away from LTO San Juan but if you’re not familiar with Manila area, it can be a bit tricky to go to.
Parking was very limited because the office sits in the middle of a neighborhood. You wouldn’t really recognize there’s a public office there if not for the helpful citizens who would guide you as to where you can conveniently park (please don’t forget to offer a tip for their kindness).
With no time to waste, I walked inside LTO Manila East and presented my driver’s license at the first window I see. While I wait for the woman to notice me, I took the liberty of taking a photo of the info-graphic inconveniently located high up on one of the walls.
It says there are 4 easy steps in the application for renewing driver’s license. Based on my experience there were 6 steps which involved a lot of waiting time in between.
1. I went to window 4 where I presented my old driver’s license.
The lady behind the counter has a pile of application form that she was cautiously checking. She was a bit too busy to be interrupted so I had to wait a few minutes for her to notice me despite my constant call of her name. Still, she pleasantly handed me an application form that I must fill up. After, she directed me to go for a medical exam.
2. I had my quick medical check up.
I was pointed a out to a clinic which I found a few blocks away from LTO. The medical check up didn’t seem like a medical check up at all. More like chikahan portion where the doctor asked about my vision and if I have any illness she should know of. After answering her queries and filling out a form, I paid P200 and got my medical certificate.
Some prefer bringing their medical certificate na so they can skip this process but because I want to be sure I have the right certificate (some medical certificates are only valid for a week kasi) so I opted to get it on the same day.
3. I went back to the LTO office where I submitted my application form and medical certificate to window 4.
After submitting the necessary documents, I was asked by the staff to wait until someone calls my name.
It took about 30-45 minutes for the woman at window 2 to call my name. This gave me ample time to reflect on how most of the time, inefficiency really is part of offices like this. The blame is oftentimes on the machines & tools the staff uses -offline system, no Internet, no card, no printer.
4. I proceed to window 2 for my photo & signature.
The woman behind window 2 was multitasking the moment she called my name. I know this because she called me once without using the microphone and called me again the second time, not loud enough for me to hear (just mumbled words and distinct shouting), given I was seated on the third row with a TV turned on. When she realized that no one was coming to the window, she used the mic so that everyone can hear her. That’s when I finally heard my name na. As she instructed me to smile and look at the camera, she was also busy processing other applications. In fairness, sanay mag multi-task! All this while she was talking to someone on the phone. As I finish my signature, I was asked by the woman to wait until someone from window 6 calls my name.
It took another 30-45 minutes for the girl on window 6 to call my name. Again, I relieved myself from boredom by answering emails, playing Criminal Case and reading an e-book on my phone. Finally, the girl called my name!
5. I proceed to window 6 aka cashier to pay for the necessary fees.
The girl was very pleasant and even greeted me warmly (is this because she was tasked to get my money? Heehee). After a few seconds of encoding, she asked me to pay P417.63 for the license fee and computer fee. Shortly after giving my change, she said my last stop was at window 5.
Another round of waiting and this time around I find myself munching on snacks I brought in my bag. A bar of chocolate and a pack of crackers were gone in 60 seconds. About 20-30 minutes more of waiting and I notice rows 1 & 2 were almost empty. Shortly, a man called my name.
6. Finally at window 5 to claim my new driver’s license.
The man willingly folded my OR & handed me my driver’s license. He even offered a case (which is for sale) but I showed him I already have one. He even gave a tip and told me not to insert the card (driver’s license) immediately on the sleeve because the print might transfer to the plastic.
After much waiting, I’ve rounded up a few things for those planning on renewing their driver’s license.
1. Call the LTO office first before going.
Google the number of the LTO office you plan to visit and call them first to ask if they’re not offline and if you can get your card right away (there are some offices that can only offer you your OR kasi because they ran out of cards). This will not only save you time but effort as well.
2. Be prepared to spend 4-5 hours.
The number of applicants & the overall flow of an LTO office determine your fate. Be prepared for the worse and expect to spend 5-6 hours to renew your license but if you’re lucky like I was, you only spend 2-3 hours.
3. Have at least P700 in your wallet.
You’ll only pay twice- for medical (amounting to P200) and for license fees (amounting to P417.62). They don’t accept credit card nor cheque, I say this because I forgot I don’t have enough cash with me that I had to pass by an ATM. Better if you have smaller bills, makes it easy for everybody.Also, don’t forget to tip the guy who helped you get a parking spot, (I assume you’ll be bringing a car since you’re renewing for a driver’s license) P20 is enough but if parking really is bad, yet someone managed to find one for you, don’t be shy and give the man P50!
4. Dress comfortably & look good.
Most LTO offices have no air conditioner, just blowers and electric fans which sometimes cannot really do its job of providing air and ventilation for everyone. Best to dress comfortably so you won’t be irritable. A cotton shirt and jeans is a good outfit to wear. There’s no outfit requirement naman but best to wear a shirt instead of a sleeveless just to be safe. Also for the ladeis, don’t be shy and put a little color to your face. Groom your brows and add a lip and cheek tint while you’re at it. The camera isn’t forgiving and has a tendency to make everyone look stressed, so best to come prepared and look good for your driver’s license. While this is challenging especially if hulas na hulas ka na sa init at sa kaka-antay, this is where your make up kit will come in handy. Kebs na kahit ikaw lang naka-make-up at least okay naman itchura mo sa license mo diba?!
5. Bring food & water.
Because I am afraid to get hungry and thirsty, I always make sure I have baon. Bring a bar of chocolate or crackers so you can snack away while you wait. While there are stores within the vicinity of most LTO offices, it’s best to bring some snacks with you instead. Mahirap na lumabas only to find out that your name has been called a few times na. Sige ka, you might end up not finishing your license renewal should you decide to go out and eat fish balls. Although, I was really tempted to make tusok-tusok the fish ball. LOL
No amount of ranting and being impatient will speed up the process. Take the waiting time to read a book, watch iFlix on your phone, write or play a game (just don’t forget to bring an power bank to charge your device). We’re so used to everything being fast that when we’re caught up waiting, we tend to get bored 5 minutes into it. So just chill and patiently wait for your turn. You’ll see, you’ll get done in no time.
Spending almost three hours at LTO isn’t as bad as I anticipated it to be. Though it could’ve been faster, still, I am thankful that the system didn’t go wonky on me or that I wasn’t caught in between being offline and running out of card or printer ink.
Three hours and three LTO offices later and my driver’s license is new and fresh once again. Yay! 😀