A Fifty Year Old Passport…


This is my grandfather’s passport from the 1950’s. With a matte, almost linen-like, khaki-colored cover and numbered by hand as “No. 3155.” It provides a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era of civilized travel. Forget computerized bar-coding, filament infused security paper, or even GPS tracking chips in the most modern, highly laminated and tamper proof travel documents. This old passport definitely had style, in the same way my Lolo used to go to court in cream colored linen suits…


A calligrapher spells out personal details in a genteel script in black ink. And my grandfather’s name seems to flow on the pages of this document. His occupation, listed as “Lawyer – Businessman,” never looked so appealing as it did in this passport… and his signature, done using one of his classic fountain pens, is appropriately elegant, and bizarrely, a bit similar to my own signature today, though mine is sharper and somewhat more harried, with less rounded corners.


An embossed gold seal and various signatures of Department of Foreign Affairs officials makes the document seem more legitimate…


…and the black and white photo of Lolo is simply stuck onto one of the pages with glue, albeit GOOD glue, as it remains firmly attached to the passport, some 50+ years after it was issued. No lamination or other safety features are in place. But then again, with just 3155 passports issued that year(?) or in that series, I suspect it didn’t seem necessary at all.


And who can forget those yellow “Certificate of Vaccination” booklets that had to be attached to your passports to ensure that you had your shots for cholera, yellow fever, malaria and other diseases you were likely to encounter in your travels to foreign lands…

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36 Responses

  1. Adore the beautiful handwriting, something that catches my eyes as a vintage pen collector. Asked somebody in the Toronto consulate once whether I still needed the cholera shots and was told I only needed black and white.

  2. Apicio, HAHAHA! My father and grandfather had a penchant for fountain pens. When I had to clear out my ancestors’ homes/personal effects, I searched high and low for the vintage and often stunningly designed pens to no avail… what a bummer… if there is something I would have wanted from my lolo’s desk, it would have been a fountain pen or two…

  3. The perfection of today’s fonts cannot rival the beauty of that script! And it seems to add romance to the staid look of the passport.

  4. What a beautiful work of art! I love the matte like finish on the cover. I remember comparing my old Philippine passport and my first US passport. My last Philippine passport still had the beautiful calligraphy and in my US passport, it looked like my name was printed by a multicolored dot matrix printer!!!
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. The script reminds me of my father’s handwriting. It’s so old-school, just like my Pa.

  6. …hahaha!! black and white…took me a minute..

    those were the days of quality documents and impeccable penmanships.

  7. apicio — you say the funniest things! you really have a way with words and i look forward to your comments.

    MM — truly beautiful calligraphy. ballpens, the computer and hurried lifestyles all contribute to the death of the art.

  8. The bygone era, grandparents with style. The writing on the the passport is something to be hold.I have fond memories of my grandparentsbecause of their style and grace.
    With the fast pace of our lifestyles,this is a refreshing jolt on our psyche.Thanks MM.

  9. Great find! Used only once in the late 50’s or early 60’s, as far as I know. Try checking inside the passport. Our grandmother, Lola, planned a three month trip around the world. First stop was Hongkong. Upon being presented with the first hotel bill my grandfather, Lolo, (they also owned a hotel) was shocked. “Three months of this?” he asked Lola. “Go home” she replied. He returned to Cebu immediately and my Lola continued on the glorious trip all by herself(she had her own funds). So now you know where the wanderlust comes from.
    My pasalubong upon her return from New York? Handcarried all the way, my first honeydew melon and New Jersey Big Boy tomatoes. Marketman’s and my genes definitely came from her tree. So we carry on, travelling and visiting markets everywhere…

  10. Very nice post! I still carry a yellow fever vaccination card in my passport, looks just like the card in your photo. Apicio, I think you’re almost as big a draw as the lechon in the eyeball.

  11. MM, for “intl civil servants” like me, that yellow vaccination card is still a must :-) and it still looks exactly the same!

    makes me sad, somehow, to think that we had to give up style in favor of identity security.

  12. Saving those antique passports for posterity only means MM is a sentimentalist like some of us. I too would do the same.

  13. how cool. gotta ask mom about my lolo’s old travel docs/passport. rifling through his library as a kid i found little books in spanish which turned out to be like the inflight mags on planes..;except these were for the ships that he sailed on to & from spain(where he studied law). It had maps of the voyage, ports of call information, menu’s, ship activity schedules et al. i was wide-eyed looking at pictures of the bygone days. it’s great to hang on to family historical artifacts.

  14. mikel, yes, it is a cool document, and you should try and save your grandfather’s items as well! Homebuddy, I have been sorting through thousands of pieces of paper but things like this are definitely worth keeping! winter, how cool, I didn’t know they still had the vaccination cards! Jenny, travel and food, some of the best things to really get into, don’t you think? Sister, YOU ARE SO RIGHT ON! It was issued in 1957 and only has one entry into Hong Kong and back to Manila… I was wondering why it was such a short trip! :)

  15. You should look out for Lola’s passport. She travelled intermittently from 1957 to 1980. Her last trip was with Mom through Europe to NYC to await the birth of my daughter.

  16. My grandmother used to write that way and my aunt still does to a certain extent. How funny that your grandparents have such opposing views on travelling. I have alwasys considered it a blessing to have good travelling companions with similar interests. Your lola and mom seem to be it. As you and your sister. I can not travel with my mom for longer thatn 3 days. Poles a-part!

  17. That cover is so elegant! Today’s passport covers are quite pedestrian. I went through my old passports recently when I had to renew my US visa, and noticed that my earlier ones still had that beautiful calligraphy inside. They must’ve used to hire someone to do it, so I guess modern passports have cost that someone a job.

  18. I wish I was able to hang-on to our Lolo’s things, same with my great uncle’s. Unfortunately, we were justing renting my birthhome in Sampaloc, and when we came to the States, we left the house to my brother who had to move out, without having had the chance to clear our stuff. I remembered religious statues, prayer book in latin, a WW 2 canteen, my uncles’ war helmet with a bullet still lodged in it, hand etched mirror with hand carved mahogany, documents in calligraphy, and most of all pictures of my dad when he was still working in San Miguel Brewery in Ayala Bridge.

  19. Zena, One must choose one’s travelling companion carefully. My favorite one is myself, solo is hassle free. On the 1980 trip my grandmother arrived in NYC starved for a real meal, my mother had only dined on desserts in Vienna. Considering that both were diabetic it took it’s toll. One of my deepest regrets was not to be able to travel with my grandmother before she died at 92.

  20. how wonderful! i love finding old family memorabilia as well. btw, i posted a link awhile ago but i don’t think its allowed. anyway, just wanted to share my dad’s old baby kit. i found a box of baby powder and soap still intact :) it’s pretty cool!

  21. What a great memento of you grandfather. I think I am going to ask my mom if she found anything similar from my Grandmother that passed on last year. I would love to keep that as a keepsake of her.

  22. oh my, this response is for apicio’s comment up at the top. it’s almost 2 years late but:
    when i had to renew my passport at the Philippine Embassy in Toronto, one of the questions I had to answer on the form was: are you an illegitimate child?
    why that would even matter, i don’t know. and why they would ask that question here when it’s not asked when you renew your passport in the philippines, i wouldn’t know either. but i told my canadian colleagues and they couldn’t believe it!

  23. When I was sstudying in England in the 60s, Coutts, the bank of the Royal family, used to issue statements written out by hand.
    Dipomas also used to be written out in penmanship in those days.
    In fact people used to write letters to each other, rather than text and email. These days my pens are used only for greeting cards, at Xmas time particularly.
    I am pleased to see that some wedding invitations still are in calligraphy, though printed invitations are becoming more common.
    We have lost something with technological advances.

  24. quiapo: my diploma when i graduated from politecnico di milano was done by hand :p looks super awesome, since most documents i get look computerized :p i just graduated last year haha so it’s still pretty recent.

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