It's been four months since hubby bought me a car but I haven't really 'owned' it yet. You see, even with driving school education plus extra hours of driving lessons with my driver, I couldn't use it yet because I didn't have a driver's license.
I've heard of horror stories in getting a driver's license and know of countless people who have taken the 'easier way out' because of LTO's reported dismal licensing process. Here's an account of my experience:
1. Arrived at the LTO at 8:00 in the morning. Even before I could get out of the car, fixers were already 'greeting' me, like a pack of hungry wolves eager to attack their next prey. Caution: Do not let them bite you.
2. I asked the guard stationed at the entrance as to the first step. He told me to get a medical exam and drug test first. Not knowing where the testing was, I asked him for directions. He called one of the fixers, a drab-looking, old woman, to take me to the testing center, which was right across the LTO. I wondered whether the security guard was only trying to help me or is in cahoots with the fixer. That didn't seem right.
3. The old woman led me to a small, dingy space with a tiny signboard that read 'LTO accredited physician'. There sat the doctor, who looked rather uncomfortable in her seat due to poor ventilation. It was still the old woman who measured my height and facilitated my Snellen eye test. How lovely. After paying Php100, the doctor accomplished the medical exam form without even asking me about my health issues or my medical history. A few scribbles, and then she handed me the form with the official receipt. On the form, the doctor indicated I was 54 kg. Well that was my weight before I got pregnant. Haha
3a. There, another woman whom I had mistaken for the doctor's secretary talked to me about getting a 'seamless transaction'. All I had to do was pay Php2800, which she secretly scribbled on a piece of paper. 'Ayaw kaguol ug sayop imo tubag sa written exam maam. Luto na na siya. Kaila man nako ang lecturer'. Oh wait, but I did study for the exam. Surely she didn't think I looked dumb and thought I was ill-prepared, did I?
4. Adjacent to where I had my medical exam was the drug testing center, where I paid Php300. After submitting my urine sample and fingerprints, it took me about two hours to get my results.
5. I went back to LTO to get my priority number. Transacting from one window to the next was relatively fast. After paying Php167.63 (application and computer fees), I was led to the lecture room cramped with examinees. The AC, which looked older than Bette Davis, was not even helping to cool the room at all. The written exams followed right after the lecture. Frankly, the exam was too hard - too hard not to pass because the answers were just shown right in front of you. Haha!
6. I finished the exam just in time for lunch, after which we would come back for the results. After a quick bite at a nearby mall, I returned and waited for my name to be called for the practical exam. The ladies were first called in and led to a bus station right beside LTO. Because we didn't bring our own cars, we paid Php250 (with official receipt). After the LTO rep (whom I saw earlier transacting with the lady at the medical exam center) issued my receipt, I was told to go back to LTO for payment and releasing of my driver's license. The practical exam? It practically never happened. Haha again!
7. After paying Php417.63 (license and computer fees), I waited a little more for my card to be released. Voila, I finally got my driver's license in shiny plastic. It took me about 6 hours to get everything done, and paid a total of Php1235.26 in standard fees. While waiting for my driver to pick me up, I thought to myself that if I had taken up on the lady's bribe, I would have paid four thousand bucks, and would only end up hurting not just my wallet, but my intelligence as well.
Realization: Sadly, getting a driver's license here is a joke. You pay for something that's hardly ever there or even none at all. (think medical and practical exams). The process leans more towards granting you a driver's license just because you need it, and not because you earned it. (think medical, written and practical exams). The stark presence of fixers and their blatant ways, coupled by the seemingly embraced condonation and apathy purport a microcosm of something far worse than what is being observed. (think again medical, written, practical exams - the entire process, actually).
I hurriedly left the LTO as soon as my driver arrived. Out of nowhere, a man approached me and asked 'Maam, magkuha ka non-prof? Tabangan tika maam, dili jud ka maglisod sa exam.'
Sighs. Tomorrow will be another day for that man.