‘Power tripping?’: Pinay traveler misses flight due to lengthy immigration interview

March 13, 2023 - 5:54 PM
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Travelers from China line up at the immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, January 24, 2023. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David/File Photo)

A Filipino traveler’s account on how she missed a flight due to an immigration officer’s lengthy interview before leaving the Philippines raised concerns about the immigration process at the airport.

In a TikTok video on March 1, a freelance writer named Cham Tanteras recalled the conversation she had with an immigration officer (IO) as she was about to leave for her Israel trip back in December 2022.

@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 🌴

In the video, Tanteras shared that she was supposed to go on a solo trip with a ticket worth P19,000, purchased on SkyScanner. She also arrived at the airport early at 3 a.m. for her flight scheduled at 11 a.m.

She shared that her interview with the IO took a long time.

Tanteras recalled that the IO assigned to her initially asked her purpose of travel and other usual immigration questions.

Her responses to this questions, however, were deemed not enough.

Tanteras was later brought to the immigration office at the NAIA Terminal 1 for more questions.

She said that the IO in the office asked her questions and documents that she perceived to be “not necessary” to her travel.

These include her graduation photo, yearbook and her parents.

“Number one, if my parents were separated or together. Number two, if I have my yearbook with me. I told the officer like ‘hey, I graduated college ten years ago, why would I even bring a yearbook in my travel,’” she said.

“Who brings a yearbook going to Israel? Who brings a yearbook in their travel?” Tanteras asked.

The IO only got satisfied with her response when she brought out a wacky photo of herself in a toga.

The viral video rant about the immigration interview has since garnered 191,600 views on TikTok. It was also posted on Twitter and Facebook.

It was later picked up by GMA News in a report on Saturday, March 11.

Concerns raised 

Tanteras’ tale resonated with several Filipinos who also shared their experiences with IOs.

Some of them called out the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and sought for accountability for the missed flight and other damages to traveler.

“Dapat makasuhan ang kalabisang ginagawa nila. Sobra na yan. Buti sana kung sasagutin nila ang plane ticket o bayaran nila ang nagastos ng isang pasaherong katulad niya,” one Facebook user said.

“Dapat bayaran nila ang nasayang na ticket,” another Filipino commented.

Others criticized these immigration personnel as “power-tripping” Filipinos.

“Every time haharap sa kapwa pinoy na immigration officers, laging may interrogation. Lagi ipaparamdam sayo may mali kang ginagawa. Power trip!” one Filipino said.

Some travelers, meanwhile, mentioned in their comments the perceived ridiculous documents that were asked from them before.

Response of the immigration

In the GMA News report, Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said that the bureau conducted a probe into the matter.

Tansingco then asked for “consideration and understanding” from the riding public.

“The issue of human trafficking and illegal recruitment is real and it’s happening. The BI is but one of the numerous agencies of the government tasked to combat trafficking. The BI seeks consideration and understanding as the agency is constrained to implement strict measures to assess departing passengers,” she was quoted in the report as saying.

‘No accountability’

In her video, Tanteras detailed that she even had to write an “essay” about her work in Siargao because the officer won’t let her leave. At that point, the airport ground staff notified them of her flight’s departure time.

“I had to explain in essay form what ‘boodle’ means,” she said.

When the IO finally stamped her passport for departure, however, it was already too late because the boarding gates had closed.

Tanteras also said that she neither got a refund nor a rebooking for her flight.

To push through with her trip, the freelancer said that she resorted to booking another flight worth P27,000 the next day.

“Long story short, I booked another flight for the next day for another airline in [NAIA] Terminal 3. There was no problem at all. The process was smooth in terminal 3,” the traveler said.

“You don’t have any accountability. Cheers to that,” she further concluded.