We got picked up at the Area office and driven down to an office on the third floor of a building. That sounds so tame when the drive was really like being inside of a video game where he swooped, braked, swerved and changed lanes avoiding people, jeepneys, busses with lots of cars all flowing, cramming and cutting each other off to get to the ramp, street, or U turn - all at about 8 miles an hour. Maybe there was a light but I never saw one.
Our driver was a man who has worked for eight years with the Area office and now is in his own business. He is hired quite often to help couples from the Area office and people get their drivers licenses. He does all kinds of transportation work and knows his business inside and out.
Arriving at our destination, an alley sized street off of the main road, I noted that all the doors of all the shops, stores, and offices were open. I wish I had taken pictures. There weren’t any parking slots available so our guide/transportation specialist got permission from the security guard to park behind some other cars.
We climbed up three flights of curving cement steps with iron railings to the top floor and into an office. The “office” was small with four plastic chairs on one side and four plastic chairs on the other. At the back a table with two people stamping pages and taking money, while another man sat behind a panel with his back to us at the other table - one person width away, taking the stamped pages and writing on them. I don’t know what our guide said except I heard the word missionary. We handed our copied passport and driver’s license to the man at the desk who asked Jeffrey if he spoke Tagalog. He said no and our guide answered the man. After waiting in the plastic chairs while some other people went through for a few minutes, the man at the table took Jeffrey’s papers added a sheet, stamped them and the lady asked for some pesos which he gave her. The papers were handed across to the other man behind the panel and Jeffrey was asked to come stand and hold a plastic patch with a handle over one eye and read a chart on the panel behind him and then look down at something and tell what was there. When the man at the nearest table stamped my papers and gave them to the man at the next desk I was asked to read all the letters from the green line down to the red line. My right eye must be just fine, but when reading with my left the second set of letters got confused, the man at the desk shook his head when I read them wrong and let me get them right. Next I looked down at some circles that had dots with numbers in them and he asked what the numbers were. The last circle I said was thirteen and he said that wasn’t the number and when I said 1, 3 he said, “no” and I said then it must be a 7 instead of a 1 and he said correct. He marked the sheet that had been stamped and checked off the ‘can see’ and ‘can hear’ boxes. That was our medical exam. We joined our transportation specialist out on the balcony and shook hands with those who helped us and watched out for his car.
Our guide backed and turned and backed again to get out of the tight street and paid the security guard something as he shook hands.
Back out on the busy four-lane road that sometimes has 5 or 6 vehicles across as everyone vies for space. “We just fill spaces,” is how our guide describes traveling down the road. Bumper to bumper jostling to get where you need to go. I don’t believe the roads ever have anyone going over 25 miles an hour even on a fast day.
|2 forms of ID|
I don’t know if it just happens to be a slow day or that the driver’s license office in Manila is just much faster than California’s system. At 10:30 am I submitted all my papers – medical, passport copies, California driver’s license copy, and a visa copy to the man at the desk, waited about 15 minutes until my number was called and got my picture taken and signed an electronic line, waited 5 more minutes to be handed my paper work and told to go pay at the teller across the way, then back to hand in the papers and wait another 5 minutes or so to be called up and given a license and receipt. 11:00 am. My picture is actually better than I look in real life. I saw a friend’s license and it is flattering also. I think America needs the Filipino driver’s license cameras. It sure would be awesome to have their speed and not have to wait for a license to come in the mail. We spent twice as much time in the car than we did getting our licenses.
Finding a parking space to get into the building was the trick. Our specialist paid someone to let him park and gave another guy a tip when we left. On our own Jeffrey and I would have been frustrated, lost and very confused. It was worth paying a specialist to guide us through – and also doing all the driving!
I found out from other missionaries that we were lucky we didn't have to have a drug test - pee in a cup with someone watching and we didn't have to lift and hold our legs, flex them and turn our heads from left to right making sure we could see over our shoulders - maybe because we are young?