As if my blunder back in Manila was not enough..I was in for another surprise.
The flight from Manila to Hong Kong was smooth. Mostly cloudy and the service accorded by the crew of Cathay Pacific was impeccable. On the approach to Hong Kong, dark clouds and heavy rain washed the runway as we headed to our gate, I suddenly remembered that I forgot to bring a raincoat or something since I will be taking the public bus to the hotel. Ominous.
I was finally happy though to arrive in Hong Kong, I was busy snapping photos of the airport, had informed my friends of my arrival, got my arrival slip stamped and collected my luggage. I boarded the double-deck bus A21 for Mongkok, and left my luggage on the luggage rack located on the lower level of the bus. I decided to settle in a seat in front of the second level. My sling bag was in tow and since I kept on using my phone every now and then, I decided to keep it partially open at times. My sling bag is where my passport, ticket and some money was contained, albeit at different pockets.
Since I wasn’t too familar with my bus stop, I kept on checking my walking route to the hotel, alternatively , messaging my friends on my whereabouts. After about an hour out of HKIA, I got to my stop and proceeded downstairs to collect my luggage. The bus was stuck in a bit of a traffic and was still moving as I was getting my luggage. Some people, apparently also boarded the bus and were standing right where I was. Somewhere on the corner of my eye, I saw an old guy that seemed to stare at me, which I didn’t mind.
The doors finally open and I step off…with a light rain, I started walking away from the bus as it pulled out of the stop, crossing the intersection to get to the side of the road where I was supposed to walk when I noticed something amiss.
M y s l i n g b a g w a s o p e n .
In a slight tinge of panic, I made a quick check to see if the contents are intact. My travel pouch was no longer there.. Inside that pouch was my passport, all my money for the trip and my e-ticket as well as my hotel voucher. Wasn’t that the dumbest decision I made?
N o e f f i n w a y!!!
The weather was cool, but deep inside, I wanted to melt in the middle of Hong Kong, literally. Instinctively, I walk back to the bus stop to check if it fell or what…NONE.
In the nearby trash bin. NONE. I even managed to ask a guy standing right outside the Bank of China where the police station was…You know where the nearest police station is? Blank stare…P-O-L-I-C-E? He just shook his head.. Just amazing. I decided to check on my sling bag again..I notice a bundle of folded paper in one of the pockets. My pocket money. T H A N K G O D. I still have my pocket money. My cards and ID, in case you were wondering, were in a separate wallet.
Next move. I muster myself up and decide to head to the hotel…at least I know my friends are there and I could establish my footing there.While walking to the hotel thoughts of either, not being able to go back in time, re-booking my tickets home or maybe, hopefully someone got my passport and would eventually turn up with the authorities crossed my mind.
At the Pop Hotel in Mongkok, albeit still shaken, I informed the front desk of what happend, they sympathized with me about the situation though they were kind of clueless as to what my next move will be. It was at that instant my friend Simon got off the elevator and I narrated the whole passport shenanigans to him. He told me to stay calm and he motioned that we should contact the Consular Office (the Philippine Embassy) in Hong Kong immediately.
We were told to contact the bus operator, and report the incident since it may also be possible that I lost it on board the bus and somebody might return it. Alternatively, we were told to do the following steps in order to secure a travel document in lieu of my passport in order to re-enter the Philippines, in case my passport doesn’t show up on the day before my departure back to Manila:
- A Police Report from the local police declaring it either as lost or stolen
- An affidavit (to be executed at the Philippine Embassy)
- 4 sets of Passport Photo
- A photocopy of my lost passport and any valid identification (in my case, I had a copy of my e-ticket, passport bio page and my ID’s on my mobile phone)
- A processing fee of HKG400
By this time, the whole group already knew what happend. A call was made to the bus company, and we were told that they would call the hotel if anything turns up. We then decided that since the embassy will be closed the next day, we decided to head first to the Mongkok Police Station to make a Police Report. Hong Kong police was actually very efficient, they basically asked to write on a form the details of where, when and how my passports got lost (Oh yeah, another blunder here, although I was just travelling to Hong Kong, I also brought along my older and expired passport which had my valid US Visa). After completing the report, I was told that I would be notified in case something turns up within the span of my stay in Hong Kong. We were actually done in 30 minutes from the moment we entered.
Rather than fret about my lost passport, we decided to concentrate on the vacation instead for a few days. We shall file for my travel documents on the day before my departure since I actually only had 4 days of stay in Hong Kong. I was no longer able to travel to Macau though, without a valid passport, it feels a little disarming, to be in a foreign country without a valid passport.
On my third day, we decided that since nothing has turned up yet, my friends accompanied me to the Philippine Consulate Office in United Center in Admiralty. It was a very busy Sunday morning, but they had a separate office that handles cases for tourists such as me. I was interviewed on how, when and where it got lost, and they reviewed the Police Report from Mongkok Police. I submitted the required photo of my lost passport and ID, Passport photos (which I did the day before in a mall–in between shopping and food tripping), the affidavit and paid the necessary fees. I was told to come back after a couple of hours when my document should be ready. We then went around the city for sometime before getting back at around 4pm that afternoon.
I was issued 4 sheets of legal-sized stamped and signed travel documents, which shall serve as my temporary and one-way pass back to Manila.One document will be for Hong Kong Immigration, one copy for the immigration in Manila, one will be a personal copy and the last one will be for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila when I re-apply for a new passport. I breathed a big sigh of relief knowing that I will be able to fly back to Manila! woohoo!
On the day of departure the next day, there wasn’t any hassle actually, but it did take a little while for all my documents to be chacked and verified both at the check-in counter and the immigration counter, but it was all smooth going all the way nonetheless. In Manila, I was briefly interviewed after scanning my travel documents before I was allowed to re-enter.
Just for the heck of it? HELL NO! How my passport exactly got lost or stolen still bewilders me to this day. To anyone traveling outside their country, the passport is probably the most sacred document you shall never,ever loose, because it is such a hassle to get to reproduce, fees paid, etc. Now, whenever I travel, I just try to be more careful with how I manage my stuff, where my IDs and cash go (always separate the cards and IDs) and to always have an extra copy of the passport, IDs and tickets, be it on your mobile device, a hard copy both in a separate bag and at your home residence (preferably with someone you know). I actually got to process things easier with a copy of my passport and ID on my phone. The hotel was actually also very helpful (I kept on paying for some of the extra printed copies of my documents, but towards the end, they were giving it to me for free since they understood my situation!)
Hopefully none of you will get to have the experience that I had, it is such a hassle, and I could only imagine how things would go if I did not have my friends with me on the trip. After what happend though, I now already have my passport and visa re-issued (re-applied for actually), but now, I am more determined to travel more, and to travel smarter, safer, next time around.