And until this date, I still can't figure out how my passport got damaged. 

I was sorting my personal documents at home when I thought of checking my passport. I have this weird habit of checking important documents every now and then. Even when I don't need them, even when I don't have travel plans. I started to browse the pages of my current passport to remind me how I hated my photo. :p When I reached the critical information page, I noticed a small area has been smudged. I later discovered that the smudges were actually water stains. I examined the extent of the stains and saw other forms of damages. The information page of my passport also has traces of creases.

At that time, I thought the damages meant nothing. My first concern was to determine how my passport acquired it. I have properly stored my documents in protective cases. Where did the water stains come from? My initial suspect was my frustration over the last trip. I went home unhappy so I was not mindful of my travel documents. I probably inserted my passport to a pouch that contains wet tissues or a hand sanitiser. Another possibility was when I used my passport to capture an Instagram photo. I remember taking a photo of my passport beside a jar of juice. 

I felt bothered so as always, I opted to consult .... with Google. ;) I found an archived interview with an officer from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). Unfortunately, the damages discussed only dealt with torn or disintegrated passports. It took me some time to find reliable articles. Turns out, the legal term for damaged is mutilated. This was the main reason why it was hard for me to arrive at comprehensive leads. I eventually learned from another blogger (which I forgot, sorry) that having a damaged passport meant serious business.

My initial response was to book for a passport renewal appointment, which by the way, took me more than 4 hours to acquire a decent schedule. When I started to book an appointment last August, the nearest dates available were November to December. I patiently repeated the process until I landed on September 16. It entailed waiting for more than a month, but never mind. It was way better than having a schedule on November. 

I felt complacent when I finally had a successful schedule. Days before my appointment, I started to google again leads for mutilated passports. Much to my surprise, there were additional requirements and steps for mutilated passports.

For renewal of passports*, the requirements are limited to

1. Confirmed Appointment
2. Expiring Passport
3. Photocopy of expiring passport
4. Valid IDs (not really needed, but better safe to have it)

*assuming you already have an e-passport. the requirement maybe different for holders of the green or machine readable passport

In cases of mutilated passports, the following are needed apart from what was previously identified 

1. Notarised Affidavit of Destruction / Mutilation - I got a copy from this site. 

If you are reading this hours / less than a day before your passport appointment, don't worry especially if your appointment is within DFA Aseana branch. They have an in-house notary office. :)

2. Approval / Endorsement from DFA's Passport Division - this will be given during the visit and interview with the officer from the Passport Division

The process of dealing with mutilated passport works the same with renewal. You need to line up for your appointment. In my case, the additional step happened when I submitted my passport to the assessing officer. The officer noticed that my passport was too early for renewal. At that stage, I pointed the damages in my passport. I was given a yellow note and requested to proceed to the Passport Division for interview.

Referral Slip from the Assessment Officer 

At the Passport Division, a courteous female officer asked me what happened to my passport. She  can't figure out the damages not until I pointed the water stains and creases. She later confirmed that my passport was mutilated. I was initially endorsed to the notary office. But since I already have a prepared affidavit, the process was cut short. I was asked to wait for the approval and endorsement of their director. In less than a minute, I received the approval for early passport renewal because of mutilation. I was also reminded that renewal arising from mutilation is only allowed once. I cannot anymore have a passport replacement not until it expires in 2021.

Officer's Approval  from the Passport Division 

I submitted my damaged passport for cancellation and went to the succeeding steps for passport renewal.

And those who might be asking if there are additional fees, NONE. Yes, I simply paid for the cost of a newly issued passport. 

Honestly, I felt restless and uneasy during the entire process. I didn't commit something unlawful but my paranoid hormones were actively working. Hahaha It helped that the employees of the DFA's Aseana branch were very accommodating. I also have to commend the very efficient system of handling applicants.

Prior to my appointment in DFA Aseana, I also encountered other key information from other bloggers

1. I'm not sure, but a number of articles mentioned that mutilated passports are only processed in the main office or the DFA Aseana branch. 

I was not aware of this condition. I initially wanted to book an appointment from a nearby satellite office. Unfortunately or fortunately, satellite offices were fully booked until November. I was left with DFA Aseana branch. I believe this saved me from more worries.

Other articles I encountered also mentioned that walk-in applicants for mutilated passports are accepted in DFA Aseana branch. You just need to tell the guard / information officer that your intention is to consult with the Officer from the Passport Division. Some bloggers mentioned that after their consultation with the Passport Division, they were allowed to immediately renew their passports. It appears to me that a benefit of having a mutilated passport is the opportunity to by-pass the difficult online appointment. Either way, I don't recommend risking this opportunity. Based from my experience, the safest and surest path is to secure an online appointment.  

2. I encountered bloggers who were able to travel with mutilated passports. Also, the conditions for a passport to be considered as mutilated remain unclear... especially for cases like mine. Minor stains. Minor folds or creases. There's no clear cut policy that enlists all forms and extent of damages for a passport to be considered as mutilated. Everything boils down to the actual assessment of the officer.  The one thing I personally adhere to, damages in the information page are sure indicators or mutilated passports.

If you are bound to apply for a tourist visa, I don't suggest risking the mutilated passport. It will surely be more inconvenient to secure a visa and later discover that your passport is declared as mutilated. 

3. The gray line is always on the question of.... maliit lang naman ang damage sa passport ko. (My passport only have minor and almost negligible forms of damages) Here's what I learned from another blogger. Try having your passport checked by an immigration officer. You can visit the immigration office in NAIA or their main office in Intramuros. You can have your passport checked if despite the damage, it can still be read by the passport scanning machine. 

I didn't anymore try this strategy. I discovered this way too late, after successfully booking an appointment from DFA. If you live / work near NAIA or the main office of the Bureau of Immigration, it might be convenient. But for people who can't easily file a leave for work, I don't anymore recommend this step. 

At this stage, I'm just waiting for the delivery of my passport. Despite the absence of travel plans, I felt compelled to resolve my damaged passport. Other than travel, I actually use my passport as valid proof of identification.

I have to commend the efficient system and the customer oriented employees of the DFA Aseana branch. Thank you for treating me well. :)