More Than a Sweet Mango Moment!
When anyone asks me about what it is like to live in the Philippines, I can always emphatically say that there is never a day that escapes without the unexpected (or expected) happening. Or, in more common terms, there is never a dull moment. Yesterday my wife asked me to accompany her into Calbayog City to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) as she wanted to convert her U.S. drivers license to a Philippine license. I agreed to go on one condition…that we stop at Jollibee’s for a quick breakfast and a cup of coffee. Like most women, it’s never hard to get her to agree on eating out. It was also an opportunity for me to check for the 99th time with the LTO about my motorcycle license plate while there. I was also expecting a mailed letter from the U.S. so I could also combine a visit to the Philippine Post Office (PhilPost) to check on my mail.
Upon driving up to the LTO, I noticed there was a sign in the window that MC Plates were now available. I have been waiting nearly 18 months to get my licence plate and the excuse from the LTO was always the same…that the government couldn’t keep up with the demand for MC plates and in addition, there were no more “old” plates being issued. They were waiting for the “new” plates to be printed and distributed. It was always this standard response when I would go into the office to check on the plate. (You can read all about the Philippines new plates and issuance here). To make a long story short, I did get my plate but they issued me the green-outdated version, which is one of the seven current versions of plates being eliminated. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I readily accepted it. It was better than no plate and will make it easier to get through the regular PNP checkpoints that are set up around Calbayog City. Knowing that all vehicles will need to be fitted with the “new” plates by 2016 by law, there is no doubt I will be playing this game again soon. Oh well.
With my ordeal for the day complete, it was time to accompany the Mrs. across the street to the government approved medical testing facility where she would undergo a physical examination, eye test, and hearing test, as a requirement to obtain her driver’s license. After filling out the form and paying P100, my wife was given a “Medical Certificate” that indicated she was observed to have the physical ability to operate a motor vehicle here in the Philippines. In addition, all the boxes for hearing and eyesight acuity were all checked normal. When my wife questioned the young lady about the tests, she replied “we don’t really have all the equipment to do that and you are not blind, right?” As we left with the certificate in hand, I noticed it had her blood pressure listed as 120/60 and asked my wife where these numbers came from. She explained that she was asked what she wanted her BP to be and that was that! Such a simple process, why can’t the rest of the world operate this way? Life would be so easy! So back across the street to the LTO and a photo and 716 pesos later, she has her new license. A foreign (non-expired) license can be converted to a Philippine license with no written or driving examination. It just costs a little more than the issuance of a new license…and I have no earthly idea why that would be!
Now it was off to Jollibee’s for a bite to eat and a cup of fresh brewed coffee. Once we got there, we parked, made our way through the normal placement of outstretched hands looking for a peso (or five), into Jollibee’s – only to find out after standing in line for 10 minutes that coffee (along with everything else except spaghetti and chicken) was Out of Stock! So off to the Isla Cafe we went for omelets and coffee where they are never out of stock…they just need to make an occasional quick run to the market for eggs and other ingredients.
After finishing our breakfast it was time to weave our way down one of the tightest and busiest streets in all of Calbayog past the High School to the PhilPost to check on my letter. It is never fun driving this street but it does contribute towards keeping one’s driving skills sharply tuned. As I walked through the door of the post office, the clerk that knows me (read about my first visit to PhilPost) jumps up from her chair in full excitement mode and exclaims “I texted you about the mail, did you get my message?” I paused and replied “No…maybe because I don’t know where my phone is at the moment.” She then insisted on showing me her “sent” text as she over-boiled with pride. I kept telling her that’s “okay, I’m here now.” Within seconds, the letter that I had been waiting for was now in my hands. I commented to the clerk with my forefinger raised “yeahhhh…that’s one for Philpost!” and you would have thought I was giving the entire staff an achievement medal of sorts…they are such happy people. Then I asked if they happened to have any additional mail for my barangay and that I could deliver it for them. Again, beaming with smiles, and like bees in a hive, they all began buzzing around the office looking for the mail going to barangay Tomaligues. From what I could tell, the happiest fellow of them all was the mail delivery guy who now didn’t have to spend his own pesos to add gas to his motorcycle in order to drive the 12 kilometers north of town to deliver 4 pieces of mail.
So there you have it. All in a half-days time, my wife got her license, I got my license plate, we got our breakfast and fresh brewed coffee, and I was elevated to the trusted status of a PhilPost Postman…without any pay of course.