I am handcuffed and being escorted by several security officers into a dingy cell. I can hear the word Filipino in a thick Malay accent mentioned a couple of times and the rest are gibberish to my ears. The looks on the faces of the foreign people, who are now gazing at me, are nothing but hollow and terrifying. I am wearing a bright orange jumpsuit with my last name on it and a capped letter P at the back. I got busted for a crime I irresponsibly and unknowingly did.
After our 5-day stay in Phuket, we flew to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysia league of our short Southeast Asia trip. It was my turn at the immigration for the entry stamp when the immigration officer, upon examining my passport, left me and her post without a word. Something’s not right, I thought. I was so anxious I didn’t notice that I was pinching my orange plush I was carrying with me so hard I swear I was almost ripping it. Rowjie, who was assisted by another officer in the booth beside me, was apparently cleared and was let off the immigration hall. He waited at the area that connects the immigration and departure zones of the airport, might be ten to 15 feet away from where I was standing. He couldn’t go near me but I know that wondering look in his eyes. What’s going on? Why are you being held up?
Then the immigration officer went back with her supervisor, an older woman with a poker face. I asked if there’s something wrong and got stunned by what she replied which was another question, “Where is your Thailand exit stamp?” She had flipped my passport a dozen times but couldn’t find what she was looking for. “What are you going to do here in Malaysia? Who are you with? Let me see your documents.” I politely responded, “I’m here with my husband (with a quick glance at Rowjie who’s still in awe) to visit Melaka just for two days. We will head back home to the Philippines after,” and handed her the documents I had with me including tickets, itineraries, and lodge vouchers.
She murmured something and sought the advice of her supervisor now standing beside her also scanning my passport. Then they fixed their eyes on Rowjie, who was holding the same plush as mine (but different in color), as if examining him. I was numb and couldn’t feel a thing.
I am in a place where I know no one. I feel like fainting. The scent of the cell makes me want to throw up. This can’t be happening. We are supposed to be on a holiday. I shouldn’t be here. Tears are now gushing down my cheeks, warm and hopeless.
After a seemingly infinite discussion, I assumed that the two immigration officers came into an agreement. This time, the supervisor spoke. “You do not have your Thailand exit stamp. We will let you in but next time, do not leave the immigration without checking the passport.” She handed me back the documents I submitted earlier.
I passed out after nearly four hours of crying when I heard my name being called by an officer. I am told that I am free, that I can leave and be with my husband. Tears start to fall down again, this time out of joy. I took off the orange jumpsuit I was wearing and asked the prison officer for all my possessions back. Rowjie is already waiting for me outside the prison cell. He got help from the Embassy officials. We were told that we can carry on with our vacation. Nah. Never mind the money we lost out of paid hotels and tours. I just want to go back to the Philippines.
I thanked them several times and left the immigration hall. I, without noticing, irresponsibly and unknowingly left Thailand without an exit stamp on my passport, one that could turn out into something serious if not for the consideration of the immigration officers who assisted me. I ran to Rowjie nearly crying with the thought of me being Viktor Navorski, if you know what I mean. I can now forget about the thoughts that were clouding my mind earlier, of me inside a prison cell.
After the incident and becoming afraid of what could have been, I did a little research on what could possibly happen if one entered a country without passport exit stamp from the country which s/he left. Majority of what I’ve read says that though few countries strictly demand passport stamps, most countries, especially non-Asian, do not require stamps as long as you have all your legal documents. Some countries even have their own advanced (digital) way of knowing who comes in and out of their premises.
But you can save yourself from trouble of long interrogation and possibly being suspected of doing illegal business if you’d regularly check the stamps on your passport or if in doubt, asking the immigration officer about it before leaving or entering a country just in case the state you’re entering strictly requires such. You’d never really know when you need it.
No exit (stamp), no entry.
Glen Villar says
I feel sorry for what happened to you. Going through immigration thing is a bit of a hassle. Lucky though that they must have realized you’re not a drug mule or something.
Thanks for this because now I’ll have to make sure my passport gets an exit stamp whenever I leave a country. 🙂
Hi Glen! Thanks for dropping by!
And yeah, I must have shown them my innocent-nearly-crying face that made them let me enter their country. haha. Lesson learned almost the difficult way.
What a scare. Something I can relate to. Many years back in Hongkong, we were also questioned at point of DEPARTURE. My 8 yr old grandson didn’t have an ENTRY stamp when we entered HK, so they wouldn’t allow him to exit! We must have been suspected of child trafficking! Scary thought. By God’s mercy, the officers allowed us after a few questions and many photos with our boy in our wallets!
Hi Tita Lili!
It really was a terrifying experience. It didn’t occur to me to check the exit stamp when I was staring at the passport for a long time while we’re waiting for our flight to KL.
Great thing we both were able to surpass the unpredictable sternness of the immigration. 🙂
Gaye @ Pinay Travel Junkie says
Didn’t know they really look into it. I mean, sa dami ng dumadaan sa KL! Or maybe nagkataon ikaw ang random na nacheck? Wawa naman si bunso 🙁
Pramis, Mommy Gay, maluha-luha ako sa takot nun. Kasi halos lahat ng kasabay namin sa flight, nakaalis na pero ako pinag-iisipan pa nila kung palulusutin nila ako. Next time, next time. 😀
Justin | Hari ng Lakbay says
OMG! I feel for you. Nilalamig yung kamay ko habang binabasa ko ang bawat eksena, nakakakaba!
Siguro mas less takot at kaba ako nun kung nandito ako sa Pinas. Pero hindi eh. Worst, di pa maintindihan mga sinasabi nila.
Scary!!! Until today nakaka-takot pa rin dumaan sa mga immigration offices because of stories like this one. We should all be extra careful everytime. Huhuhu. *hugs*
Ang pagdaan sa immigration ay parang paglusot sa butas ng karayom. 😀
Scary! nakakaloka tlga sa immigration. iba ibang eksena. ung ist time q din mag malaysia naharang aco. mga kasama ko nakapass na. aco naiwan at pina ikot ikot aq sa mga ibang officer. From now on, I’ll check exit stamp na. Lucky nde ka na Viktor Navorski! at nakauwi ka 🙂 naku, thanks for this post. aalis pa naman aco next couple of days. kelangan extra careful na eksena. nakakalurkey!
Girl, ingat ka! Check ng passport palagi. 🙂
wilhem s. says
mahirap nga sila kausap kasi bilang lang ang marunong mag english d2 kasi sa Malaysia ung mga lokal (Malay)hindi nila pinag aaralan yan, mostly Chinese at Indian lng ang marunong.
Wilhem, talaga? Maski dyan sa Penang ganun ang kalakaran? 🙁
thanks for sharing..
my husband does check the stamps every time but I don’t!!
this is a nice reminder! 😀
Great to hear your husband does as neither me nor my husband checks the stamp before this happened. 🙂
Marky - Nomadic Experiences says
I got escorted by Airport police from immigration booth in HK once. Now, I had this bad feeling each time I face an immigration officer.
Good thing, I had the habit of checking my passport every time I pass through immigration coz I collect passport stamp lol.
Minsan nga pg medyo malabo ung stamp parang gusto ko bumalik at mg pa stamp ulet haha.
Good thing you didn’t end up in an episode of “Locked up Abroad” because of the missing stamp.
Marky, being interrogated is insane. Ano pa kaya kung nasa abroad ka. Hahay. And yeah, one of things I dread about traveling abroad is the immigration.
Pinoy Blabbermouth says
Was in Malaysia last March and almost the same thing happened to my friend. Althought it was at the Mactan Airport where the immigration officials almost didn’t let him pass.
Turned out he didn’t have an exit stamp from Singapore.
Indeed, stamps must not be ignored at all.
So wala tlagang exit stamp from Thailand? So kailangan tlaga check-check din ng stamp before leaving the immigration counter.
Yung kay Rowjie meron eh so I can’t tell that they don’t stamp passports. 😐
I always check my entry and exit stamps because I know of two American guys that didn’t get their exit stamps when leaving Bolivia so they got fined when they entered Peru.
Whoa! Fines. I’ll keep that in mind.
Clair A. Goodwin says
Once your identity and authority to enter Australia are confirmed, the clearance officer formally approves your entry into Australia. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officers handle immigration clearance processing at Australian airports on behalf of the department. Note: The Australian Government no longer provides a Port and Date Stamp in travellers’ passports on departure from Australia without a request. If you need a stamp in your passport, you must ask the Customs officer when you depart Australia.