“Power-tripping at its finest”
The Internet is not happy with how the Bureau of Immigration seemingly just added a yearbook and graduation photo as part of the new travel requirements.
In a viral TikTok, Cham Tanteras, a solo Filipina traveler bound for a Christmas vacation in Israel last year, recounted a very frustrating experience she had at the hands of the NAIA Terminal 1 Bureau of Immigration.
@chamtanteras I missed my flight because of the immigration! #immigration #naia #travelphilippines #travelabroad #israel #palestine #naiaterminal1 #immigrationissues #travelingnomad #traveltips #islandgirl #siargao #islandlife #fyp #foryoupage ♬ original sound – Cham | Siargao Island Life 🌴
Tanteras shared all the preparations she did before heading to the airport for her flight. Coming in as early as 3 AM despite having an 11 AM scheduled flight as she wanted to avoid the traffic. Complete with the necessary documents, she said that the counters were open at around 6 AM. She started queuing up at around 7:30 and as a solo traveler, she braved the long line.
When it was her turn to speak to the Immigration officer, she was asked about her former traveling experience, her flight details, and her reason for traveling, and was invited to go to the Immigration office for further questioning.
As there was a long queue, she had to wait almost an hour before she was questioned. However, to her surprise, she was asked deeply personal questions about her trip when it was her turn, such as whether her parents were separated or together.
What surprised her the most was when she was asked by the officer, whom she tried to recall was named Abdullah based on his nametag, if she had her yearbook with her.
Graduating college almost 10 years ago, Tanteras told the officer that she didn’t have it with her, thinking to herself, “who would bring a yearbook when traveling to Israel?” She was then asked by the immigration officer if she had a graduation photo with her, which she also didn’t have. However, she recalled that she had a wacky photo of herself in her toga which she showed the officer instead, and he said that was enough.
She was asked other questions she found irrelevant such as who booked her flight for her and added that the Immigration officer also got her phone from her and browsed her e-mail, so he could verify if she was really the one who booked the flight.
She was even asked about her work which she had to explain in essay form, which really took so much time, according to Tanteras.
As time passed while she was being questioned in the office, airport officials had to come down to check on her as she was the only passenger her flight was waiting for. In the end, after all that questioning, the Immigration officer eventually stamped her passport, but by then it was already too late as her gate already closed and she had missed her flight.
Following that, the airline nor the airport took responsibility or accountability for her missing the flight which was not her fault and she had to rebook a ticket from a different airline to continue her trip.
Hearing Ms. Tanteras’ experience, many were enraged and devastated. At the same time, others added having similar experiences being off-loaded by the BI office despite being prepared.
This was also not a surprise, based on the comments, as a number of female solo travelers experience this at the hands of immigration.
Filipino travelers then begin to start wondering, why must it be so hard for Filipinos to travel, meanwhile, foreigners just get to enter and overstay in the country freely and whenever they like?
A tweet raising this question also recently did numbers, as a stark difference between Filipino and foreign travelers in the country has been evident.
Countless foreigners seem to have this privilege of easier access to enter the country, whereas Filipinos have to prepare countless pieces of documentation, sometimes even have to present bank statements just to qualify for overseas travel with a timely process, and even then, some get offloaded.
If begpacking wasn't called out, it might still be a thing in Siargao. It angers me that penniless white people have more freedom to travel than their former colonial subjects who have university degrees and decent jobs. Applying for tourist visas is dehumanizing and humiliating. https://t.co/rh2ewWA2dA
— JM Reyes ✈ (@jmsantosreyes) March 9, 2023
As of writing, the Bureau of Immigration has already released a statement addressing Ms. Tanteras’ experience, noting that they were already investigating the case, and asking the involved officer for an incident report. They also added that these procedures have been the protocol by the agency to help combat cases of human trafficking and illegal recruitment, which the Internet doesn’t seem to buy.
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