On Buying from Abroad through Philpost Express Mail Service (EMS)

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Ordering online from the Philippines is a difficult journey through inaccurate web trackers, inactive phone numbers, uncoordinated post offices, and high tax levies. However, if you really want the product and can’t get it locally, then a little grit, persistence, and information should let you wrench your package out of the system faster than usual.

TJ Palanca https://www.twitter.com/tjpalanca
It took a lot of manoeuvring around trackers and phone numbers to finally get my hands on this Pebble watch.

Figure 1: It took a lot of manoeuvring around trackers and phone numbers to finally get my hands on this Pebble watch.

I recently ordered a Pebble watch - which I have itching to get my hands on since it came out on Kickstarter. To my dismay, I wasn’t given any shipping choices after ordering online. Instead, it was sent through the Express Mail Service (EMS), managed in the Philippines the Philippine Postal Service or Philpost.

My order was shipped from Singapore on August 22, and I have only received it today, September 10, after almost two weeks, when it should have taken only 4 days to a week considering all factors. This even involved extra effort on my part.

A lot of people seem to having similar problems with the postal service regarding their online purchases, so I’d like to share how I managed to do it. A few facts: I had this shipped from Singapore to Malate, Manila and it’s a small package valued at $150.

Here’s how I eventually managed to wrench my Pebble from the web:

They told me that they’ve already shipped it to the local post office: Manila Lawton (or the famous Post Office Building in the center of the city), so I decided to call them over there. This is where it gets really hairy and annoying. EMS Pasay gave me the phone number to the Office of the Postmaster, and they instructed me to call the Parcels division. You have to know that they are in the same building. They kept telling me to call the Parcels direct line despite the fact that the Parcels line was disconnected. I pleaded the Postmaster to just go over there and tell them their phone wasn’t working, or even to just give me another number, but their excuse was “Hindi pwede eh, nasa baba ’yun.” (“We can’t do that; it’s downstairs.”). Talk about government inefficiency at its worst.

Finally, I had enough of the crazy roundabout phone dance. I decided to go there, whether or not I could confirm the existence of the package, to get my hands on my Pebble once and for all.

My car was off the road due to number coding, so I decided to take the LRT to the post office. It was a relatively easy trip from the DLSU area, anyway. The post office was a beautiful example of old Manila that I wish was preserved. It was a beautiful building and I could almost imagine what it was like in its heyday. Unfortunately, now it’s just another run-down building maintained with patchwork engineering.