Monday, March 28, 2011

My Return to the Bureau - and how I was Forced to Strip

Recently, I returned to the Bureau of Immigration in Manila to extend my visa. If you recall, my first visit to the Bureau was a bit unpleasant, after a government employee working at the cashier's desk attempted to rip me off by overcharging me nearly $30 USD. Needless to say, the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. Luckily, however, I verified how much it would cost before I visited the Bureau - you know, just in case something like that would happen.

Like the old saying goes: Trust, but verify.

"Let's get this over with," I thought to myself, as I climbed out of the car and began walking towards the building. "Let's see them try to rip me off again."

I was ready.

I was prepared.

Or so I thought.

"Excuse me, sir," said a man standing behind a podium, with a mean-faced looking security guard standing beside him. "Where are you going?"

"Oh, hi," I said, thinking it was a bit strange how the guard appeared to be blocking my entrance into the building. "I'm just going inside to renew my visa, that's all."

"Sorry, sir, I can't allow you to enter the building."

"What do you mean?"

"Do you see the sign?" he asked, as he briefly stepped aside from his podium in order to point to the visibly posted sign on the entrance door.

Crap. There was a sign.

"You see," he said, clearly relishing the "gotcha" moment, "you're not allowed to enter with shorts and sandals."

"You've got to be kidding me, right?"

I was slightly perturbed, to say the least.

I mean, it would be one thing if the Bureau was a lavishly decorated building that exuded professionalism. But let's keep it real: It's dingy, dreary, and drab - a real dump. And I'm pretty sure I wore sandals during one of my previous visits, but whatever.

Rules are rules, right?

Unless, of course, it was another scheme just to make money off of foreigners, created by these two schmucks the day before or something.

I had my suspicions.

"Come on guys, I just came all the way from Marikina," I pleaded. "There's got to be a way ya'll can let me in."

"Sir, you can go to the store located up the street. There, you can purchase some pants and shoes."

Well, that was obviously out of the question.

"Or," he continued, "you can rent a pair of jogging pants from me."

Huh-Ha! An ultimatum! I knew it was a freakin' scheme. I knew it.

"How much are we talking about here," I asked with a smirk.

"Fifty pesos."

In case you're wondering, fifty pesos is equivalent to a little over a buck. It was really a no-brainer. So I gave him the nod, and the security guard handed me his jogging pants.

"Okay, so where do you want me to change?" I asked.

"Right here, sir."

"Are you kidding me?" I laughingly said, "You guys are a real class act."

And I began stripping down.

"Let me get this straight," I casually said, with my shorts visibly present around my ankles for all the public to see. "So you have a policy here at the Bureau that finds it obscene to wear shorts and sandals, but it's okay to strip down to my boxers?"

Once I pulled up the ol' jogging pants, I tossed over my shorts and entered the building - with my sandals still on, mind you. I arranged to pay them once I returned.

Curious bystanders who had witnessed the spectacle were giggling at me as I approached the sign-in desk.

"How much did they charge you?" the woman manning the desk asked, releasing a few chuckles.

"You all saw that, huh?" I said, as I finished signing my name. "Well, there should be another show soon. So stay tuned."

And sure enough, about forty-five minutes later, I found myself outside again with my shorts around my ankles - and just as an armored money truck pulled up, too.


It's a good thing I wear boxers, and not briefs.

I was expecting to be overcharged at the Bureau, that's a given. But I sure wasn't expecting to have to strip. Just another day at the Bureau, I suppose.


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