Misadventure: Losing my passport abroad

Traveler’s nightmare coming true.

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I lost my passport.

I, of all people, lost my passport. How bad is it to lose yours abroad?

samnak ecological park
Kael and I at Samnak Ecological Park in Busan

Three years ago, Kael and I traveled to South Korea in the spring season. It was the first time I saw cherry blossom trees. We spent a few days in Busan and then took the KTX to Seoul. Everything was awesome until our (supposedly) last day.

Before we left our Airbnb (near Seoul Station), we bought tickets for the AREX Airport Express Train.

While waiting for the train that will take us to Incheon International Airport, Kael asked me to check-in online. With our rented pocket wifi, I got my phone and used AirAsia’s mobile app. The app asked for my passport number and since I didn’t memorize it, I turned to my sling bag to get this essential book.

Ta-da! Passport wasn’t in my bag.

I checked my bag pockets. It wasn’t there either.

Train arrived. Should we step in or not?

Yes, we should. We don’t want to be late. For sure my passport is somewhere here in my bags.

So we stepped on the train, chose our seats, and I started rummaging my luggage.

I kept my cool. All throughout my hunt, I told myself not to panic. It’s okay. You got it, girl.

hermione sorting relax

But no, I don’t have it. I don’t have the most important document of my life when in a foreign country.

I thought of where I could have left it. Did I place it somewhere else? I don’t even remember pulling it out of my bag. I didn’t check my passport before leaving the Airbnb because I was sure it was in my bag.

No time to spare, we searched the web on what to do and found the Philippine Embassy’s contact number. I dialed and an operator answered. Kapag sini-swerte ka nga naman, wala silang pasok noong araw na ‘yun and holiday pa ‘yung susunod na araw. 😬 But they gave us a Viber number.

We made contact with the embassy personnel and they gave us instructions on how we can fly back home. It was impossible though, for us, to make it with our scheduled flight (which was only 4 or 5 hours away).

Kael booked accommodation that was a few stations away from the airport. We checked in, left our bags, booked airplane tickets for tomorrow, and then went out for lunch. After that, we went back to our Airbnb in Seoul to check for my Philippine passport. Waley talaga.

Philippine Embassy required me to bring four (4) copies of passport-size photos. We found a photo booth at a Lotte Mart. All I remember was it cost the equivalent of P700. 😩 How I missed Tronix’s P60 Packages!

Our embassy appointment was at 4:00 PM but we arrived almost an hour late. I hate making excuses but it was hard to move around when you don’t understand most of the directional signage. I tried to enjoy the extra day in Seoul but had that dragging feeling of when you know you’ve had somebody waiting for you.

Philippine Embassy in South Korea
Philippine Embassy in South Korea

Entering the Philippine Embassy felt like home. I am grateful to the embassy people who helped us, especially the lady who waited for us and processed my papers. She jumped back to work to help her kababayan.

I remember asking her, “Madalas po ba na may nakakawala ng passport nila?” And she replied, “Mga apat na tao siguro sa isang taon.”

Pang-ilan na po ako ngayong taon?”

Pangalawa ka na.”

Feeling ko nagkaroon ako ng award. Para akong nabunot sa raffle. Sa apat na tao sa isang taon, ako ang isa.

hiding in shame

I wanted to ask her how’s it like living in Seoul. I had many questions for her that’s not related to my lost passport. Only I couldn’t bring myself to ask because I was guilty of interrupting her vacation and being late.

Glad I kept a photo of my passport bio page on my phone. I emailed it to the lady and she made me fill out an affidavit form stating how I lost my passport. To be honest, up to this date, I still don’t know what happened. I just made a story there.

She pasted my new photo and gave me my one-page Travel Document. I paid an equivalent of around P3,000.

The Travel Document served as my temporary passport. That’s what I showed to the immigration officers.

For the optimistic side of me, it was definitely an experience. I have become extra careful with passports after the incident.

The negatives: G-A-S-T-O-S. We had to rebook our flights, book another night of stay, buy more food, and pay for the travel papers. Not to mention when I got home, I still had to pay for the processing of lost passport/renewal (P1300). Beshiewap ansaket-saket.

Even with the doom of our pockets and the thrill of not being in control, I believe I handled the situation well. It was worth noting I had the best support system with me. I never heard Kael complain. Not a word.

At Kkanbu Chicken in Incheon

This was us during dinner. Making fun of ourselves for screwing up. 😆 I knew I would be marrying a good man. We walked to our stay sharing our fascination with the breath vapor we were producing in the cold.

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