Officially Unborn, according to the NSO

Last May, it became necessary for one of our children to get a birth certificate as one of the requirements that she had to submit during enrolment. Assisting her, she and I arrived at the Regional Office of the National Statistics Office (NSO) at around 10:00 AM. By then, the queue was veeeery loooong, with people filling all the seats in the waiting area, and the queue doubling many times over along the corridor and on the steps, reaching two floors below the NSO office.

I initially thought that we will most likely be accommodated only in the afternoon. However, we noticed that the queue was moving along steadily, and in fact, “just” 45 minutes later, we were paying the cashier the necessary fees before they issue the birth certificate.

After payment, it took just 3 minutes before they were calling for us, and it was done.

The experience points to a major development in the NSO, for the computerized processes have indeed improved their delivery of services. The time we spent to get the child’s birth certificate was reasonable, with the delay having to do mostly with NSO clients filling out the necessary forms, and the cashiers counting the money and the change. After that, I imagine it took just the punching of a few keys on a computer keyboard to retrieve the necessary file, and print it.

It shows us just how things could be done efficiently with a minimum of effort if records were updated and the necessary software, hardware and peopleware are available.

Lately, my wife and I also needed birth certificates. With our experience last May, I expected that we would be able to get the certificates with ease.

I was wrong.

When the wife went to the NSO to get both our birth certificates, she found out that she was still listed with the first name “Baby Girl.” We thought this unlikely, for a decade ago, the same entry was supposedly corrected, in the old convoluted processes that necessitated our shuffling from the Bontoc civil registrar, the NSO regional office and the NSO national office. The NSO eventually gave us an authenticated copy of her birth certificate, which she used to acquire a passport, the very reason why she needed a birth certificate then. Ah, but that was the time that the NSO was “primitive” and not yet computerized. Now that they have improved their system, it appears that some corrections on previous entries have not been updated on their database, and what the records contain are the uncorrected entries in the civil registry. At least in the case of my good wife, that is.

As for me, the NSO has no record at all that I was ever born. This means that I was never officially born, or I am officially unborn, whatever. I do not exist.

This is rather puzzling, as the old pre-computerization system did recognize that I exist. More than a decade ago, I also had to acquire a passport, and one requirement was a birth certificate. The old process required me to get documents from the Sagada civil registrar, which I did, and to submit these to the Regional and National NSO offices, before they issued me an authenticated birth certificate. Apart from the time wasted shuttling between the offices and the long queues, it was relatively simple, reasonable, and straightforward. I managed to get a passport, too.

Now they tell me that the NSO regional office has no record of my ever being born. They suggest that I apply for a certification that they have no record at all, go back to Sagada and ask for an endorsement from the civil registrar; presumably to mention once again that indeed somebody with my name was born in ancient history. I am to bring the endorsement to the NSO regional office, and then they shall include it in the database. I am not sure if it has to go to the central office again. In essence, they ask me and my wife to repeat what was already a finished process. And every step requires fees to be paid. And every step requires a considerable time that we shall have to spend in queues and travelling.

The problem in our case appears to be that the database they have does not include all entries in the registry, or does not include corrections in these entries. This is a bureaucratic lapse, and not our fault, but a glitch in the NSO system. Proof positive are our passports, which are government documents that could only be processed with the completion of documents, birth certificates included.

But we still need the birth certificates. To rant and rave would not produce the documents. Worse, we could only complain to people in the NSO, people who sincerely want to help but whose hands are tied. It is the system that has glitches, and it is futile to waste righteous indignation against such an impersonal entity. Moreover, I am no Don Quixote, and entirely unwilling to duel with the windmills of the NSO and their computers.

Our cases are probably just two of millions of similar discrepancies, and the NSO must be getting complaints left and right, yet the database can only be updated if these errors are noticed by people like us, and for us to go toe the line and go through the process of proving our being born. Let this serve notice to all who might need birth certificates and similar documents from the NSO. It would be better to check early, for like me you might not yet be officially born.

So in the next few weeks I shall again figuratively go back to the womb of my long dead mother in Sagada, get the endorsement from the civil registrar there, and bring it to the NSO.

Hopefully, after just a few weeks of going back to the fetal stage, I shall be born again.

People who extended credit to any person claiming to have my name should write off the credit, for according to the NSO no person with my name officially exists.

For I am still officially unborn.

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