Applying for a visa to enter the Philippines involved a lot of paperwork. When I finished, I thought the paperwork would decrease, but little did I know that it was only the beginning. Paperwork was a constant from the Narita airport until my week of hotel quarantine ended.
I arrived early at the airport as encouraged by the airline. It was a ghost town with almost no people. A far cry from a year ago when the airport was so full you could hardly move around.
Quickly finding the money exchange, I exchanged my yen into the Philippines peso. I had what amounted to $500, and I would need every cent to get through the process and hotel quarantine.
The security robot was making its rounds when I was looking at the flight board for my flight. I found a seat close to ticket counter R and double-checked my paperwork. While looking at the board, I noticed several flights were canceled, so I was grateful that mine was still “on time” status.
While waiting, I thought I would check my baggage weight, but after trying to reset the baggage weighing machine, I found it was not working. For the next hour, I sat and watched several other people come to the same conclusion. It helped the time pass quickly, and before I realized it, I was in line for my ticket.
The ticket line quickly moved until it was my turn. I brought everything to a halt and could see everyone’s eyes on me. I was a United States of America citizen trying to enter the Philippines. An army of people looked over my baggage and my paperwork multiple times. They seemed to be looking for any reason to deny me a seat on the plane.
However, I had methodically ensured that all of my paperwork was perfect and let them know that the Philippines embassy had flagged me for passage. They had no alternative but to let me on the flight. After twenty minutes, the line began moving for everyone behind me. I felt like I had holes burnt into my back from all the staring.
Before leaving, they gave me several forms to fill out. I had no idea how many papers I would fill out before reaching my quarantine hotel room.
I passed through security with ease and realized that my gate was the farthest away from my current location as any departure gate could be. The step counter on my phone was working overtime today.
Arriving at my gate, I found social distancing was strictly in place to combat the spread of Covid. Very different from Tokyo immigration which I later discovered that 44 people had caught Covid at that location. Read my Tokyo immigration social distancing article here.
I quickly filled out the paperwork thinking that these three forms would be all I need. I was so wrong.
Cebu Pacific called all passengers to line up for boarding. I was the first passenger to board the aircraft. I felt special because that had never occurred before. I quickly found I was next to the emergency window, and my glee changed to thoughts of what to do if the plane fell out of the sky, especially with all of the airplane mishaps going on, like engines blowing up and dropping large parts on houses.
The airline reduces the spread of Covid by making passengers wear a facemask and implementing social distancing by leaving the middle seats open. If only one passenger is seated in a row, they are sitting at a window.
The 5 hours passed quickly, probably because of watching downloaded movies, and before I knew it, I was landing in the Philippines.
To observe social distancing, the airline called seat rows for departing the plane. Three rows at a time, but it didn’t take long since the plane wasn’t full and only one carry-on bag per passenger.
The last time I arrived in the Philippines, I went straight to immigration. Today I was taken to medical check-in by Coast Guard personal. The airport is full of the military to ensure no passenger slips through quarantine measures.
Before sitting down to start the process, military personal gave me another form to fill out. All paperwork needed the same information. After filling out the form, I went to another line and waited.
When my turn came, I thought I was playing a why am I here game. The person asked if I was a returning overseas worker. I shook my head no, and then they asked if I was a foreign dignitary. Again I shook my head no, and they looked at the other people working there before asking if I was several different types of people. At this point, I was laughing inside.
Before I thought I would get denied entry, I spoke up and said do you have a spouse on the list. It was challenging to keep a straight face, and this made my day. Next line, they said as I could tell that they were a little confused and upset.
When my turn came, I put my name, quarantine hotel, phone number, and email address on a sign-in form alone with other passenger’s information. The interviewer asked several questions while putting my data into a computer. The person let me know to move to the next line and wait.
I realized I was in the payment line. The cost is 4,000 peso or $85. I filled out two additional forms, paid, and received a receipt before leaving the medical check-in area. The whole process took over an hour.
By now, I had collected several forms, some I would never use but still filled out. The most important one was the medical payment and barcode for my swab test. I moved on to immigration check-in.
Immigration and Customs
I handed my passport to the immigration officer, and they looked at me like I was in the wrong country. They asked for paperwork, so I gave them all the paperwork Id received at medical check-in. They didn’t define what paperwork, so I didn’t give them the correct ones.
I finally understood what they wanted, they seemed too shy to ask, and I handed them my proof of marriage. I also gave the officer a photocopy of my wife’s passport with an entry stamp. She came to the Philippines three months before me.
They stamped my passport, and I entered the Philippines. I collected my luggage without anyone checking my luggage ticket, and customs wave me through without checking my bags.
The airport staff showed me to the taxi area. When I stepped outside, I lost my breath. I wasn’t ready for the summer heat. It was 90 degrees, but Japan was 40 degrees. A shock to my system. I handed the taxi my voucher, and the driver took me directly to the quarantine hotel. I couldn’t stop anywhere along the way.
I paid for the hotel and checked in. The galley was closed because it was after 10 PM. I last ate at 6 AM, so I was a little hungry. The hotel does not allow anyone to order outside food, so I went to bed tired and hungry.
The following day I was able to have staff personal go grocery shopping for me. My wife had called the front desk upset, and that was the end of the problem. I love my wife.
The hotel stay was uneventful until my MacBook charger stopped working on day four and made the room smell like burnt circuitry. I also received an email letting me know that my swab test was tomorrow.
On day five, I received a call from the front desk letting me know where the test was. Testing happened swiftly, and in no time, I had liquid running out of my nose uncontrollably. This swab test was my first ever. The next day I received my negative result certificate in an email.
I mistakenly thought I could leave, but after rereading the documentation, I found I needed a Bureau of Quarantine certificate, which is travel papers. I received the certificate at 10 PM and checked out of the hotel. With $10 left of the $500, I walked outside and took a deep breath. I was able to see my wife for the first time in over three months.
I’m stuck inside for another week of quarantine, but at least I can interact with people. I’m looking forward to writing about some exciting places in the Philippines before returning to Japan in a few months.
I think I will let the hamsters have the paperwork I filled out, but no one gathered. This month has been a paperwork rollercoaster ride, and I’m glad it over.
Read about obtaining a Philippines foreign spouse visa here.
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Have you gone through the quarantine process in the Philippines? Let me know your story in the comment section below.
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