Diary of a citizen

Diary of a citizen (June 6, 2002)

The View From Taft, Business World

It's that time of year for me. Car registration time. Going to a government agency is not on top of my list of fun things to do, but mobility is a necessity for productivity and I don't have anyone to do the registration for me. So with my insurance policy and registration documents, and with a book for the waiting time, I'm off to the LTO at Pililla Street, Makati.

A block away from the LTO, several men on the street sides note my license plate and know my intention to register. With their long pencils (used for stenciling engine block and car body numbers for registration), they point at me and vigorously motion me to park beside the sidewalk. They wear no LTO identification so I mutter "No, thanks" to myself and continue to drive directly to the LTO compound. Pililla Street fronting the LTO is filled with cars on both sides and I see more men with long pencils discussing documents with some of the car drivers. I worry about whether I still have space inside the compound.

00:00 minute. As I turn into the compound, my heart sinks as I see many cars already double parked. This is a busy day. Am I destined to deal with the pencilmen in the streets? I shouldn't have worried. A man wearing an LTO vest marked "Inspector Aide" points his long pencil at me and motions to two parking slots still free. I smile at him and park.

00:02 minute. With my documents and book, I approach the application area. The first window is marked "Customer Service Center." The woman behind the window makes eye contact with registrants like me. I feel at home already. I get my bearings by reading the procedure signs. I submit my documents to the third window and a man, "Edward" as the sign on the window shows, studies it, attaches a form and puts the documents down beside the window.

00:04 minute. An inspector aide comes along and gets my documents. I proceed to where my car is parked, followed by the inspector aide and open my hood. He deftly puts the application form against the car body and engine and uses his long pencil to stencil the required numbers. "Pumunta kayo sa cashier sa Window 9 para antayin 'to," he tells me. "Salamat," I respond. Too bad, I can't make out his name. I should have asked.

00:07 minute. On the way to Window 9, I look around the waiting areas. I see large metal signs explaining various procedures in detail, for license renewal and car registration, among others. I walk over to a computer information kiosk with a handsomely done touch-screen presentation. In the background, I hear the cashier barking out names through a PA system. I have some time and so I fiddle with the touch-screen for a while and am pleasantly surprised that it works very well and explains the procedures exactly the same way as the metal signs.

00:10 minute. I walk over and sit down in the waiting area fronting Window 9. I begin to read Amartya Sen's Freedom as Development. I figure I can finish a chapter, at least. Sen is not easy reading and with the background chatter and cashier barking, I reread paragraphs three times to understand them.

00:20 minute. I look up from reading and look around me in the waiting area. I see a series of posters all around generically titled "Good character" and "Magandang pag-uugali."Each poster explains a particular aspect of character such as "Faith," "Contentment," etc. "Wow," I say to myself naughtily, "values education while-you-wait." The poster on "Contentment" gets my attention: "Pagkakaroon ng kasiyahan. Pagkilala na ang tunay na kahulugan ng buhay ay di nababatay sa materyal na bagay." Sen was trying to explain the same thing. I guess everything is simpler in Tagalog.

00:35 minute. After two more pages of Sen, I look up and see a suggestion box. I decide that some positive feedback is in order. I tear out a fourth sheet of yellow pad tucked as a marker in my book and begin to write. "Dear LTO. Keep up the good work. I appreciate the (1) courteous and efficient personnel, (2) adequate and comfortable waiting area, (3) clear procedures, (4) values education posters and (5) efficient process." I leave a blank beside the last item for the total processing time. I put my name and sign at the bottom of the sheet.

00:45 minute. The cashier calls out my name and I pay the fee. I show the application documents to Dolly at the releasing window and she gives me my registration stickers with a smile. I smile back and say thank you.

I sit down and note the elapsed time on my feedback sheet: "45 minutes." I look at the suggestion box and wonder how often they open the box. I decide not to be my usual wimpy self and be more direct. I ask at the Customer Service Window who the head is. Ayee at the window tells me it's Luciano Caparas, but he isn't in. Rollie Soriano is in charge. (I put the names of the two gentlemen on my sheet.) I ask to see him. Ayee, with a worried look, asks what I need. "Magbibigay lang ako ng feedback," I say while smiling. She motions me towards Soriano's desk. I wait while he attends to two gentlemen. I see that the "good character" posters are also lining the walls inside the office. "Benevolence (Pagkakawanggawa)." I introduce myself. He seems a bit worried as I shake his hands. "May problema ba?" he asks. "Good morning. Mayroon lang akong feedback," I say as I hand him the note. He reads the note and his face lights up. "Thank you," he says and we shake hands again, the worried look gone from his face. I'm pleased with myself and wish him a nice day.

As I drive away from the compound, I see more drivers inside cars talking with the long-pencil men. I'm tempted to advice the drivers to just proceed directly inside, that the service inside would put some banks I know, even after all the mergers, to shame. But I decide that this isn't the day.

I drive home with only one complaint. I didn't get to finish that chapter of Amartya Sen.