Who doesn’t want to go to Myanmar? It’s a beautiful country with warm people. It’s hard not to fall in love with it.
But the preparations for getting there weren’t easy. Aw, hell no.
The thing is, applying for a single-entry Myanmar tourist visa as a Filipino citizen should be pretty straightforward.
Not for me, though. It did start out well, yet it somehow spiraled into madness.
Update: We Pinoys no longer need a visa to enter Myanmar as tourists! Yehey!
But before we get to the story, here’s what you need to get a Myanmar visa:
- valid passport with at least 6 months left before its expiry date
- a photocopy of the second page of your passport
- a photocopy of a valid ID
- a passport photo, 45 mm x 35 mm in size and taken against a white background
- a scanned copy of the passport photo in a CD
- a copy of your itinerary with complete flight details
- a copy of the contact info of your accommodations
- an application form and a waiver form, both available at the embassy
- 20 USD or 1,100 PHP
Isn’t that cool? They don’t care whether or not you have millions in your bank account or properties under your name. They’re not worried (yet) that you’re going to escape to their country and look for a job as an OFW. That will probably change in a few years once the hotels and resorts start popping up all over the place there, but that doesn’t matter to them now. All they care about is that you’re not someone from the media who’s going to write stuff about them, but I heard they’re not that strict about it anymore.
Anyway, you don’t need an appointment. Just show up at the embassy located at 8/F, Gervasia Bldg., 152 Amorsolo St., Legaspi Village Makati City. It’s across Makati Cinema Square, though you’ll have to walk a little bit more to the right after crossing the street from MCS to reach Gervasia. In case you get lost, you can call the embassy at (632) 893-1944 and (632) 812-3644, or, you know, you can also ask around.
Take note that the scanned photo in a CD should exactly be 45 mm x 35 mm, too. The embassy will NOT resize it even if its measurements are proportional. So if your scanned photo is 450 mm x 350 mm in size, they will reject it. You have to do the resizing yourself on your own computer, or you have to get your photo taken again. To be safe, do what Claire, Kat, and I did — go to Kodak in Makati Cinema Square. The people manning the center already know what to do once you tell them that you need your photo taken for a Myanmar visa. They have blazers there, too, to make you look more respectable for the camera. I spotted a tiara there as well but I had a sneaking suspicion that wearing it for my passport photo would get my visa application denied.
If you’re with a group of friends, you can put all your scanned photos in one CD and label each file with the right full name. But in the end, the three of us opted to have our own CDs to avoid any mix-ups (little did we know that a different kind of mix-up would happen in spite of our meticulousness).
Kodak opens at around 10 am, but we were attended to at around 10:20 am. We got our pics taken, but we were told to come back after an hour at 11:20 am. Why? Because their machine takes an hour to warm up (seriously, what the hell). Normally, waiting would not have been a problem for me, but the embassy closes for lunch at 12 pm and entertains applications again at around 1:30 pm. I wanted my application to be processed before noon, damn it.
To make efficient use of our time, we went back to the embassy and asked if we could fill out the application form while waiting for our photos to be processed. Thankfully, they agreed.
The one thing I noticed about their application form is that it had a field for the father’s name, but not the mother’s. I asked a staff member for the reason behind this, but he didn’t know. If someone out there knows, please tell me!
We left the embassy after filling out the application form and signing the waiver form. I don’t remember the exact details in the waiver form, but I think it makes you promise that you’re not from the media and you’re not going to meddle in their political affairs, or something like that.
We returned to Kodak to get our photos, then we went back again to the embassy to submit all the requirements. I brought a brown envelope to hold all my documents, but it turned out that wasn’t necessary.
As for payment, there are conflicting reports on what currency and process the embassy follows. Some blogs say that the embassy accepts pesos, while others say that they accept only dollars. In fact, I called the embassy twice before applying. The first time I called, I was told they accept pesos. The next time I called a few days after, I was told to bring 20 USD and deposit it to their dollar account on the day I submit the application. Ano ba talaga, kuya?
I took the risk and brought 1,100 pesos. In retrospect, I wish I brought dollars because that would cost me only 860 pesos, but since I didn’t have a stack of American moolah lying around, paying in the local currency was more convenient.
Lucky me, the embassy accepted my pesos. But if you don’t want to play Russian Roulette, I strongly suggest you bring dollars, too.
We waited for around 10 minutes, then the staff gave us our claim slips. Do NOT lose your claim slip! You’ll need it to get your passport back.
They told us that our visas would be ready in three business days including the day of submission, but if we wanted to be sure, they advised us to call first before dropping by.
I didn’t want to miss another day at work so I asked Claire if she could pick up my passport along with hers. See, the embassy isn’t strict when it comes to passport pick-up. All I needed to do was to give my claim stub to Claire. I didn’t have to give her a copy of my ID or write an authorization letter. It was really easy for me, but if you think about the lack of security, it’s kind of disturbing.
The whole process ended a few minutes before noon. Yes! I could still go to Makati Med for a quick check-up and then pop in at the office for half a day’s work at 3 pm.
Fast forward to the day of claiming. I had no doubt that my visa would be approved so I didn’t have any worries. I was very much excited for my trip. Nothing could bring me down.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Later in the afternoon, Claire called me up to let me know that the embassy made a mistake on my gender. They listed M instead of F.
Okay, breathe. Inhale, exhale. Repeat.
Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days — wise words of Hannah Montana before she evolved into twerker Miley Cyrus.
I asked Claire what the embassy would do about it.
“Oh, don’t worry, they said they’ll correct it,” she told me.
Sigh of relief. Good.
Then she called me up again a few minutes later.
“The embassy fixed your visa,” she said.
Wow, that fast? I thought. Impressive. “Really?”
“Yeah, they applied correction fluid over the M, wrote F over it, and had the consul countersign it!”
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
I felt horror. And no, I’m not exaggerating.
I panicked on the phone. I could barely make any coherent sound. I was sputtering.
“Did you ask them if they could give me a new visa?” I managed to say after a few unsuccessful attempts.
“Yes, but they said they don’t issue new visas. They just make corrections on the existing ones,” she said.
To be fair to Claire, she did argue for me, but the embassy was firm about saying no. I got to experience that for myself a few days later when I showed up and asked for a new visa.
Of course, I wasn’t going to take it as it was without a fight. There was no way I was going to accept the embassy’s word that everything would be okay.
What happened next would be a whole new story altogether, so watch out for it!
Here’s what my visa looked like, by the way: