Traveling as a Filipino Citizen: The Unpleasant Truth of Going Around The World on a ‘Weak’ Passport

Being born in a paradise country with 7,641 tropically splendid islands like the Philippines is probably one of the greatest gifts a thalassophile can ever receive from the universe. Being surrounded by a community that is hospitable, helpful, hardworking, loving, and caring is a major bonus too. But as lucky as to some, being born as a Filipino citizen can also mean having a weak passport printed next to our names.

And just like you, someone from a third-world country also dreams of seeing the other side of the world too. The only difference is that we don’t share the same privilege only because, my passport is not as strong as my traveler’s heart wishes it to be.

As per Henley & Partners Passport Index, the Philippine Passport ranked 76th in 2020 and can travel to 67 destinations visa-free/visa on arrival.


For the countless times, watching travel vloggers & bloggers encourage everyone to just pack and go makes it easy for me to believe that it is royally accessible for all. Forgetting the fact that while everyone else can just hop on a plane easily without questions being asked, some people out there still need to process certain visa that can take up from 2 weeks to a year to be approved. Or an employment requirement from their home country. Even deciding how capable they are through their bank accounts. Did I mention that it’s imperative for us to always have a return and/or forward plane ticket as well to prove that we are only visiting the country and not planning to get a job there? You will think by now that it might be a form of judgment or silent discrimination, but that is how this world is built, isn’t it? It needs rules. Justifying Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe when he said we are not all equal, nor can we be so.

Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be a Japanese passport holder – having access to travel to 191 countries freely without the fear of being offloaded only because your passport is not the kind from the third world. On not being nervous for many weeks praying that I won’t get denied for a visit visa. And probably traveling continuously without the fear of getting rejected from every embassy. I could totally pull out a wondrous itinerary if that’s the case! One thing I’m sure of is that I’ll walk chin up and smiling to every immigration officer because I will be presenting a passport that is the most powerful in the world.

But I am not from Japan. And I definitely do not have a strong passport.

Passport privilege is a reality. Truth is, I want to hand my passport to an official of a foreign country without the feeling of being judged that I will illegally work there only because I am from a poor country. By that, I wish I could be breathing calmly and not worrying as they stamp it and hand it back to me.

An entry into another country is a privilege and not a right.

People from Afghanistan for example can only travel visa-free to 35 countries, which makes them one of the weakest passport holders in the world. Comparing them to the advantage of a South Korean national that can fly on a whim to any of the 170 countries, can only make me sigh so hard.

Another question that I used to ask myself when I was younger was that why are my Canadian friends can freely visit me in the Philippines whenever they want to while I needed to gather and complete all the supporting documents because I need to secure a visit visa firsthand before I am allowed to come to Canada? I am aware how silly it is to think that way now that you can throw a lot of reasonable facts to rub it in my face explaining why the world is like that.

I know a lot of Europeans who fell in love with the Philippines saying that this tropical paradise is one of their favorite gems in Southeast Asia. And that’s because the Filipino community has always been so welcoming to travelers from all over the world! But as of today, not a single country in Europe has given the Philippines a license to visit and see what it’s like in their European countryside visa-free. Even Spain, the country who colonized the Philippines for 300 years (not to mention leaving us with Spanish surnames, mestizo descent, and their culture) hasn’t provided a visa-free benefit for Filipinos; although Filipinos only need two years of legal residency in Spain to be able to apply for Spanish citizenship. I mean, traveling through the back doors of majestic Europe is not impossible for us at all! And that is the magic of Schengen Visa.

But you see, there were no spontaneous trips to Disneyland on weekends for Philippine passport holders. Neither unplanned long-term backpacking trip for self-discovery purposes. Or even an impromptu family summer get-away to the Swiss Alps, Italian Coastline or South of France.

Are we mad about it? Definitely no. Does having a weak passport stops us from traveling the world? Absolutely not. There are a lot of Filipino travelers (mostly Filipinas) out there who managed to travel all the seven continents without the power of a privileged passport. It’s only a proof that if you really want to do something, you do it even if the odds are against your favor. These people just literally transformed their weak passport into a powerful one!

And while it’s mostly true that we cannot choose where we come from, we can always choose where we go from there. That even if we cannot reach the books from the topmost shelves, that doesn’t stop us from getting a ladder for climbing all the way up.


Mabuhay!

82 Comments Add yours

  1. Never really thought of it that way when applying for a visa before. You put things into a whole new perspective.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. When you spent too much time inside the airport waiting for boarding time, you accidentally pay attention to things. Thank you so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes I know.
    Although I am married to a Filipina it took a very long time to get an entry visa for my stepson.
    For those Westerners who can afford it getting on a plane and going wherever they want is very easy.
    It’s just that even in Europe there is a lot of recession and unemployment right now and so a powerful passport counts for very little kapag kulang ang isa sa pondo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s true, tito! Haha, is it fine to call you tito? You know in the Philippines, we call tito or tita even if they’re not blood related 🙂 Just for the sense of belongingness po 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ako si tito Ed. Walang problema. Sa Pinoy community dito every young one calls me tito

        Liked by 1 person

      2. To further strengthen our sense of belongingness next time I visit the Philippines we’ll have some maBOTEng kwentuan…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hahaha walang problema, Tito Ed! We’ll have some maBOTEng kwentuhan here or if my fate leads me to Italy 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Red Horse beer would be fine

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I love Red Horse beer! Pale Pilsen too 🤣

        Liked by 1 person

  3. SnowHearT says:

    Sana all nakakapagtravel 💪👍😮

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s my complain right now! 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

      1. SnowHearT says:

        May Covid pa po 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I recently got back to my parents house hahaha buti nalang bago mag ECQ. Now I’m quarantined peacefully doing eat, pray, love self-discovery agenda. Hope you’re staying safe as well! ✌🏻

        Liked by 2 people

      3. SnowHearT says:

        Safe naman po. Lumalabas kapag bibili ng foods 😉 Good to hear that you’re fine.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Graymand says:

    Ako nga isa palang napupuntahang bansa lol. 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s awesome – tell me about it, please!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Graymand says:

        Sa SG din actually dalawang beses na kasi nag attend ako ng mga Conference nun. Nabasa ko kanina yung blog mo about SG almost similar tayo ng impression. Tapos yun punta din sa mga spot nila dun. Basta maganda talaga system nila dun kahit maliit lang lugar nila.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I love Singapore so much I’ve been so crazy about it ever since. I got a job offer when I was there actually but I turned it down. I think it’s weird that I love the country but I just didn’t see myself living and working there lol, it’s so nice that you went there twice!

        Like

      3. Graymand says:

        Yeah mejo mahirap nga daw mag trabaho dun may mga kwento din sa’kin. Thank you. You’re the 3rd Filipino I encountered here in WordPress. Lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yay! Nice to meet you 🙂 I am also hoping to meet other Filipinos here. 🤣

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! Yes! Yes, we’ll rise up! 😂💕

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s the only way 👆🏻

      Liked by 1 person

  6. QueridaJ says:

    Thank you for sharing this, definitely something I faced only when traveling to India and Sri Lanka.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reading! How was your India and Sri Lanka trip? I always wanted to to these countries. Study yoga in India and fir sure take the blue train in Sri Lanka.

      Like

      1. QueridaJ says:

        I actually missed out on going to Muscat because my visa to India was so delayed… And Sri Lanka…i went during a ceasefire time so didn’t get to see much at all.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. QueridaJ says:

        I did enjoy Mumbai though.. delicious food, beautiful markets, lovely weather (i love the humidity)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You can always go back and make the trip right! I’m so glad you enjoyed Mumbai. So jealous too! 🙂

        Like

  7. mayetsworld says:

    Thanks for sharing. I had no idea it was so difficult to travel for Filipino travellers

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s the melancholy truth behind the smiles. Thank you so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Monch Weller says:

    It really is difficult for Filipinos to travel abroad, especially with a weak passport like ours. But I’d say some Filipinos are at fault – especially the TNT ones who illegally immigrate. The world’s two strongest passports belong to the United States and Singapore, and even these countries have strong immigration laws (the US after Trump assumed office, and Singapore for a long time now.)

    But maybe one could start in ASEAN? My first overseas trip was in Singapore, the most advanced country in the bloc. I initially thought I might not make it past the immigration counter of Changi Airport, but it wasn’t the case – I went there twice already! I plan on visiting Malaysia next, followed by Vietnam maybe?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree with the TNT bit — although OFWs are considered our modern heroes today, it’s sad that it’s also because of them that our passport is not as privileged as the others. With many cases of overstaying and illegal working.

      I think the problem is making it past the immigration when you are going out of the Philippines 😅 I was so close to being offloaded when I solo traveled with a new passport.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Monch Weller says:

        I definitely concur with the part about PH immigration being more stringent! Especially pag tanders yung immigration officer na kausap mo! Permit me to share two stories.

        When I traveled to Singapore in 2017, junior IO yung dinaanan ko bago nag-check in. Maayos naman kausap si ate, hinanapan lang ako ng ID to confirm na writer ako. Noong sinabi kong wala akong dalang company ID, pinakita ko lang yung driver’s license (and nakita naman na magkasama kami noong girlfriend ko that time) kaya pinatuloy ako.

        Last year naman, matanda na yung IO na nag-handle sa akin. Muntik na akong hindi pasakayin dahil lang hindi ko napirmahan yung passport ko. Thankfully, he provided a ballpen for me to sign the passport – and pinadaan naman ako.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s one thing too! Why can’t we walk past the immigration in the Philippines without the anxiety of being offloaded for silly reasons.

        And that’s true, I think it can vary from person to person. Some officials are alright while some are too tight.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Here is my privilege showing – this had not ever occurred to me. Thank you for expressing this and informing for those of us that might not have realized this yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The world didn’t really talk about this stuff at all. Thank you for reading. I appreciate you taking the time to learn about this situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Makino says:

    One of the reason that I’m still stuck in our beloved country. I have to accept this fact and just enjoy travelling the country till I reach my goal which is the 81 provinces in the meantime. 😦 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow that’s my goal too! I think I only have 36 provinces under my belt as of today 🤣 Good luck! That’s really a beautiful goal.

      Like

  11. Allison P. says:

    Wow- I had no idea- I’m sorry that this is a frustrating truth for you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s alright! I learned how to live with it anyway. Thank you for reading, Allison 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. amleta says:

    It’s very nice to know you and to read about you. You like the job you’re doing now? You like living in Dubai? Please talk about that next time. We are very curious to know your life 😉😅

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I liked living in Dubai! It was a stunning city. And sure I will haha! Grazie 🙂Come stai?!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. amleta says:

        I’m at home every day now, for the quarantine, and I stay in my garden reading books and playing with my dog. I listen to music and watch movues. I’ve enough to stay at home but sometimes I go out with my dog and we walk together.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That sounds very fun to me! Nothing’s like reading in the garden and playing with a dog!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I am flying back to manila from the US next week, any tips or where I can get some info about what happens whenyou arrive in Manila, we live in Isabela… not really sure how we can get home?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Monch Weller says:

      Hi! Permit me to answer your question, though I extend my apologies if I bear bad news.

      If you’re flying next week (May 3 to 9) to Manila from the US, it might not be a good idea. The capital is still under lockdown as President Duterte lengthened the extended community quarantine (ECQ) until May 15 — with checkpoints posted all around city borders. Immigration officials might require you to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine as you’ll be coming from the US, which is a Covid-19 hotspot. Strict social distancing measures will be observed (e.g. only four passengers for sedans, etc.) with heavy fines for noncompliance.

      Going to Isabela from Manila might be equally difficult, as the province itself also has Covid-19 cases and travel from one province to another is restricted (unless necessary.) I don’t know if the ECQ in Isabela province will be relaxed to a general community quarantine (GCQ) on May 1 – as local officials there are appealing for an ECQ extension. (Maybe other Filipino bloggers here can give us a heads-up?)

      Hope this helps.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Its the end of our visa and we do not want to over stay and extending at the moment is difficult because of the lockdown here in the US

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Would you know what happens when we arrive in Manila? Does the government decide where we will be quarantines? Is it similar to OFWs? or can we book airbnb for the quarantine and go to isabela after the manila lockdown

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Monch Weller says:

        I think it’s still the usual – you pass by PH immigration for passport checking, get your temperature checked, and you can go. I think he only ones that are sent to government-mandated quarantine areas are those found with Covid-19 symptoms (e.g. cough, fever, etc.)

        For those without, they are usually encouraged to do self-quarantine for 14 days. No idea about airbnb bookings, though.

        Like

      4. Thank you very much Monch… really appreciate the info 🙂 stay safe bro!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Monch Weller says:

        Welcome, and glad to help! Stay safe!

        Like

      6. Thank you so much for that information, Monch!

        Eduardo, have a safe flight going back!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Great article and insight Marron.
    As an Australian citizen, I have similar problems as you do with visas, Schengen, etc. The New Zealand passport is even better than an Australian one.
    I didn’t know about 2 years’ only as a legal resident. You should do it! Italy is so much harder.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not quite sure in converting into Spanish citizenship. But getting my last name from my grandfather who was from Spain makes me qualify for it.

      I was also about to get working holiday visa to Australia this year but I found out Philippine passport holder is not qualified for the program. But that’s alright! And yes, I know about the privilege of the New Zealand passport for I have Kiwi cousins. Someday I’ll backpack Straya!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All these rules in different countries, it’s a pain! Hope you get to Straya one day as it’s very close to you…. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Jenorillo says:

    I never thought of it that eay. It deifnutely feels unfair that westerners can come so easily in our country but we can’t. Though, that never stopped Filipinos 😹 Weak visa but are found almost all over the world lol

    Liked by 2 people

    1. OFWs are considered our modern-day heroes but it’s a sad fact that this huge number of Filipinos working all over the world is one of the reasons why the Philippine passport is not that powerful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, really appreciated it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jenorillo says:

        That is true. When I pass through immigration abroad, they always give me that look 😅 but I understand that they consider everyone as a possible illegal immigrant. Tough. that’s why having our complete documents is very important when travelling. 🙂

        Like

  16. Timothy says:

    Having a Belgian passport I do have passport privilege. At least pre-COVID-19. We’ll see how it evolves.

    But that doesn’t mean I can travel outside on a whim. Practical issues such as being able to get off duty at work or price are also parameters.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s correct and I understand. I hope this whole COVID-19 thing will be over as soon as possible. Hope yu’re staying safe, Timothy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Timothy says:

        Yes, let’s all stay safe 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Jen says:

    Thank you for bringing awareness to this unpleasant fact. I only became aware of the inequality when a colleague’s parents couldn’t get a visa to stay to help take care of her kid whereas my grandparents never had any issues. Unfortunately things seem to be more difficult these days so I wish the best for anyone encountering these roadblocks and hope one day our world will be an overall more accepting place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading! And more importantly, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate it.

      Like

  18. dannymellema says:

    I know the Filipino passport all too well and it’s the reason we didn’t get to visit Canada despite an abundancy in papers, including an invitation from locals and a sponsor.

    Quite often I hear people say “Just do it” with regards to travelling and those wanting to but coming with excuses and I have said it myself too. Because it is possible as I grabbed my bike and with few dimes and pennies I traversed Europe. No excuses there. But I do indeed have in mind those families with a weaker currency struggling to uphold their own famile through illnesses and the citizens of countries with passport problems. Not all can simply pack and leave.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s right, Danny. So sad for you guys for not visiting Canada. But you’ll be there one day when the time’s right! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, old sport. I always appreciate it!

      I’m a firm believer that if you really want something, you’ll do it even if the odds are against your favour. And we’ll stick to that!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. This was so interesting to read. As the holder of an American and a British passport, I’ve definitely taken my ease of travel for granted, only thinking about it because of things like Brexit, which I worry might affect me adversely, but I would admittedly still be better off than someone with a “weak passport.” Thank you for posting this – it’ll definitely make me think before complaining about having to wait in a passport queue for a bit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s totally understandable! My English friends worry about things like Brexit as well. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts, Jessica. Truly appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Anj Salvador says:

    Well said! Having lived in Singapore for nearly 10 years, I have friends who can hop on a plane, take a spontaneous holiday and just worry about flight and accommodation bookings! Nevertheless, while getting visas can be a daunting task, I still love every bit of being a Filipina! There are other things we can be more thankful for. Let not our passport limitations discourage us from seeing the world’s beauty! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! And there’s a kind of thrill while getting visas, right? The place turns out extra rewarding when we get there! Thanks, Anj ☺️

      Like

  21. tminzie says:

    Thank you for sharing this, the fact that you continue to travel, even though you may not have what is considered to be a ‘strong’ passport is awesome because I know too many people who are lucky enough to travel wherever they want and have the means necessary to do it, but don’t even try.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And thank you for reading! I’ll say life is short, the world is wide, and I just want to make some memories.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. This is great and a wonderful reminder of passport privilege.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed it is but it’s more of like a reminder of what we should be thankful for. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  23. Boots says:

    Been actually looking at moving to Spain. Although I am a dual citizen (Filipino and American), I’m always looking for another country to live in. And Spain is the most likely place. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should! I heard a lot of good things about Spain from my friends. They say you’ll enjoy it if you love arts. The good weather is a bonus too!

      Like

      1. Boots says:

        Yes I’ve been there several times and loved it. Also as a Filipino, there’s not too much of a culture shock. Enjoyed reading all your posts!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you so much po! I really do appreciate that compliment. I hope you’re staying well!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Boots says:

        Yes let’s support and celebrate us Filipino bloggers!

        Liked by 1 person

  24. Shy Sayno says:

    I CAN TOTALLY RELATE! When I backpacked for almost a month, the immigration officer had to check all of my tickets! And I always had my old passport as a backup just to tell them that I have been travelling for quite some time. Thanks for sharing this, Marron!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They always do that. And that’s the good thing when you’re a Filipino who loves travelling — the stamps become a privilege for you to enter a country 🙂 Thank you for reading and sharing your journey, Shy!

      Liked by 1 person

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