Friday, November 30, 2012

What it felt like being interrogated by a Filipino Immigration Officer

I went inside the Immigration area after paying the Php 550 Philippine Terminal Tax. Since I didn't get to write on a Disembarkation Form yet, I went straight to the counter where the loose copies were. And right after filling up a form, I lined up. There weren't many people in the airport then since it was already late in the evening. So when I waited for my turn at the Immigration booth of NAIA 3, I was already the next one in line.

I've never really chanced upon the kind of questioning that I experienced from this certain Filipino Immigration officer, that night of November 17, 2012. I actually forgot his surname. But I was sure that it started with an 'R', so it was either Ramos or Ramirez. He was probably at his 50's. Very serious looking. So I thought he would be like those previous officers that I've encountered who would just look at you, devoid of any emotion from their faces. But he was different. I felt he sensed that I was a female, solo-traveler. Anyway, here's what followed.

The immigration officer looked at me and suddenly went full blast on his Q&A portion. Weird as it was, I just felt like I was being profiled or something in that manner.

1) He asked for my passport (my new one that had no stamps yet). And then he asked for my old one. Good thing I brought it with me.

2) He asked where I was going. I answered, Vietnam.

3) He asked who I was meeting there, and if that person was a Filipino (IT JUST GOT PERSONAL FROM HERE). I said that I was meeting my boyfriend, who happened to fly to Saigon earlier than me.

I was already put off by those questions alone. I wanted to cooperate since I didn't want to experience any hassles that night. It was my vacation, damn it! 

4) AND THEN HE ASKED MY BOYFRIEND'S NAME and how many years have we been dating! Imagine that. --- Okay, so I told him Rubel's name, and the years that we've been together. That's when he said "siguro naman kilalang-kilala mo na yan." (I'm sure you probably know him well by now).

5) He then asked that I show him a photo of Rubel as proof (proof, really?). So I just obliged and browsed through my phone. That's when I showed him this photo:

6) He then asked where the photo was taken. I answered, Guimaras. Then he suddenly commented that I had a nice-looking phone. So I just said, thanks --- with a plastic smile.

7) He made a side comment that I probably traveled a lot, which I agreed with him on. And then he asked where I worked. That's when I told him that I co-owned a business.

8) The man wasn't satisfied so he asked that I show him my company ID. WOW! Okay, so I had to rummage through my bag, and then through my wallet just to take out my ID. Since I work under BRASS KNUCKLES INC., he asked what the company was about and how many years have I been working there. I told him since 2007. He then asked my designation. So I just pointed out the description on my ID.

My goodness... I thought the interrogation wouldn't stop! That Q&A went on for several minutes before he gave me that much awaited stamp on my passport. It was insane! It got me all the more cuckoo since I was already hungry at that time.

He handed me my passport without any expression on his face, as if we never conversed. So when I finally got myself a seat in my favorite restaurant in NAIA 3, I posted what happened to me on Facebook. So many people left comments minutes later. It was so overwhelming.

I just wanted to know why I had to be asked those personal questions, as I found his line of questioning very irrelevant. But since it was my first time, and was worried about getting denied entry, I just went with it just as long as the questions weren't TOO PERSONAL...

Now I know what to do the next time that happens. But of course, I hope it never occurs again.

How about you? Have you had any immigration horror stories?

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