Manila - Post Report Question and Answers
What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
For those assigned to the embassy, housing consists generally of one of three areas: Bonifacio Global City: Leased apartments in luxury condos. Far from the embassy, which may take an hour or more to get to commute to the embassy, depending on the traffic. A newer area with lots of restaurants and shops, and lots of amenities. Closest to the international schools and best hospitals. Makati: A combination of single-family homes in gated communities and apartments. Homes are generally reserved for senior-ranking officers and large families. A medium commute to the embassy, but there is some walkability, nightlife, and outdoor shopping plazas. Seafront Compound: U.S. embassy housing, a combination of townhomes and large apartments. Generally for singles, couples, and families with small children, typically (but not exclusively) first-and-second tour officers. Very short commute to the embassy, between 10-15 minutes, which is one of the best selling points. Another selling point is that everything is on the compound: gym, tennis courts, pools, coffee shop, day care, basketball courts, western-style playground. Townhomes are spacious. Embassy security means it's very safe. Downside is that immediately outside the gate is lower-income housing, which is unpleasant to walk. However, you're close to the Mall of Asia complex, and numerous grocery stores. - Oct 2020
I live in a house, but most people live in high rises. High rises are very nice. BGC and Rockwell are the most sought after places to live. - Feb 2020
Housing varies. We are in a comfortable 3-bedroom high-rise apartment, but we know several expat families who are in houses. Commute times vary widely but for the U.S. Embassy are awful from where we are. I found a driving route to my son's school 1 mile away that takes only 20 minutes in normal traffic. If you go the wrong way it can take 45 minutes. Plan on traffic taking twice as long as you think it should at first. - May 2018
Embassy personnel are housed in one of four areas. Embassy/Seafront compound: primarily families with very young kids; itâ€™s a tight-knit community with a short commute, but thereâ€™s very little to do in the immediate area other than whatâ€™s going on at the compound itself.
Makati: good mix of singles, childless couples, and family with kids; itâ€™s a longer commute, but there are tons of restaurants and shopping in the area; however, itâ€™s also much more spread out than the other neighborhoods, so itâ€™s hard to have a strong sense of your community.
BGC/Fort Bonifacio: primarily families with school-age kids, given the proximity to ISM and BSM; most of whom are clustered in a few large high-rise buildings, making for great satellite communities; however, this is the farthest neighborhood from the Embassy, so the commute ranges from long to brutal, depending on traffic.
Makati Villages: usually older and larger families; single-family homes, surrounded by roads where you can walk your dog, and each with reasonable green space; but the houses are spread out from one another and make it very hard to build ties with other families in the area. Housing is fairly nice across the board, but things can be tough for families who end up assigned to a neighborhood that doesnâ€™t fit their family size/structure. - Feb 2017
There are three housing options: high rise apartments in the uptown neighborhoods of Makati and Fort Bonafacio, and government owned apartments and townhouses on the Embassy "Seafront" Compound located downtown. A few high ranking officers or those with very large families live in houses within uptown gated communities. We lived at Seafront in an apartment.
The houses and high rises are posh. Generally three or more bedrooms and spacious living and dining rooms which are great for entertaining. Kitchens are large, and some buildings have separate entrances and elevators for domestic staff. Fort Bonafacio is a little ritzier than Makati, but both have a wealth of dining and shopping options. Most high rises feature the same sort of facilities you'd expect in DC corporate housing (basic gym, pool, lounge, etc.) Both are also about the same distance from the Embassy. Without traffic the commute could be as little as 15 minutes, however rush-hour commutes generally average about an hour, much more if its raining.
Seafront is a walled compound about half the size of the Foreign Service Institute located two miles south of the embassy. Embassy housing takes up about 1/3 of the compound. GSO offices and warehouses take up the rest. There is a large pool (and kiddie pool), playground, well equipped gym, tennis, squash, racquetball, and basketball courts. There is also a dog run and small grassy field. The compound is guarded by local hire security. Entering the compound requires going through the same security procedures as entering the embassy.
The embassy-run daycare is located on Seafront, and that combined with the other kid friendly amenities makes it popular with folks who have young children. Singles and socialites tend not to like living on the compound. Housing is some of the smallest and oldest we've come across in the Foreign Service but is well maintained.
The biggest selling point for Seafront is its proximity to the embassy. Our two-mile commute is generally around 15 minutes and only once or twice has been more than 30. There is a small computer lab with Open Net computers which is open 24/7. - Jul 2016
Mostly high rise apartments or houses in villages, then there are the unlucky few who get housed at the embassy housing compound in townhouses and apartments. Commute time can vary from 20 minutes to two hours depending on where you live. Traffic is horrible, even worse than I could have ever imagined. It can take over an hour and a half to travel 2 miles. People typically hire a driver because the driving is chaotic, dangerous, and mentally draining/stressful. - Jan 2016
Commutes are simply horrendous. I've never experienced anything like it. Housing varies from single-family homes in "villages" to high-rise apartments. Maintenance of the residences is a significant problem in the Philippines and, at any given time, facilities such as elevators and air conditioners are out of service with no timeline for repair. The power and water go out fairly regularly. - Jan 2016
SMDC High rise condos. Nice homes in sub-divisions. - Sep 2015
There's Seafront, a small compound close to our Embassy, high rises and single family homes. The high rises are ideal- low maintenance and convenient to shopping and restaurants. The homes, while surrounded by coveted green space are often isolated. If you hope to be on foot, high rises are the way to go. Apartments span the Metro Manila area form Pasay where the Embassy is located to Makati and then Fort Bonifacio which is closest to the primary international school. Note that if you have a dog, high rises can make it difficult for you to come and go as you'll be required to use the service elevators of your building. - Aug 2015
Housing comes in all types - houses, apartments, USG-supplied townhouses and apartments - in several areas in the Manila area. Typical commute times from anywhere but the USG-owned complex (which also houses some of the US Embassy offices, like GSO) are long and exacerbated by rain. - Aug 2015
Most houses need constant up-keep meaning carpenters and such are at your house weekly. Roofs leak, drainage is poor and lots of houses flood. Commutes are horrendous!! - Sep 2014
Living in Manila is much more expensive than living in the out lying Provinces, especially if you're living on a tight budget. The cost of living is comparable to living in New York City or any major city. - Jan 2014
For embassy personnel there are 3 choices: Seafront, Makati, and Fort Bonofacio Seafront is best suited for families with young and elementary children. There is a pre-school located on Seafront which is convienent for many families, gated to allow elementary school-angers the freedom to run around, and a short 10 minute commute from Embassy proper. The housing is very outdated, so it is recommended for those that can maintain a minimalist lifestyle. If you leave the Seafront compound, it would have to be in a vehicle or to catch a cab-- there is nothing within walking distance. Many first tour officers will be placed here, simply due to grade level. Makati is considered the Financial District and great for singles, young couples, or families without children. This housing is typically high-rise condos. There are some family homes in Makati for senior officers or large families. The bus to the international schools only run through the family home neighborhoods of Makati. Everything is within walking distance from the high-rise condos, from restaurants to movie theaters to nightclubs and the mall. Fort Bonofacio is reserved mostly for families with school-aged children, as the International School of Manila (ISM) is located here. This housing is typically high-rise condos. "The Fort" is the cleanest part of the city and could be found in any upscale city. Everything is within walking distance. - Dec 2013
1. Seafront compound, which contain nice, open apartments or townhouses 10 minutes from the Embassy. These units are not luxurious, but they are functional and more than sufficient. 2. High rise condos in Makati or the Fort, which both contain good shopping and dining options. 3. Houses in one of the various neighborhoods. All in all, housing is good here, though a few complain about the Seafront vs. Makati disparity. Don't invest yourself too heavily in your housing preferences, as most people I know did not get their preferred housing. - Nov 2013
This depends on where you live, my husband is home within 20 minutes of leaving work. We live in a nice townhouse, very spacious. - Aug 2013
My apartment was very close to the embassy and I could walk. Most people lived in Makati or Fort Benefacio with a commute time of 45 minutes one way. Traffic is always bad in Manila, unfortunately. - Apr 2013
There are houses in gated communities, high-rise apartments in the nice part of town, and townhomes and apartments in the Seafront compound. Although Seafront has the shortest commute times, the housing is very poor. I could go through a litany of complaints: the layouts make no sense; things are old and falling apart; the parking lot floods and can ruin one's car; there is virtually nothing to do in the areas surrounding Seafront, and the traffic at night makes it a chore to travel to more interesting parts of the city. Also, the "community" mentioned in earlier RPRs is lacking. There is no real communal space for residents to gather. Many people live here but we don't see each other regularly, and there's no system to introduce new residents. We thoroughly enjoyed having a short commute and used the tennis courts/gym/pool regularly, but overall the housing situation had a large negative impact on our experience. - Feb 2013
We looked at condos in the Rockwell area and Bonifacio in Global City, and we liked Rockwell better. One Rockwell West where, we are now, is brand new and very nice. - Sep 2012
American Embassy folks have a “choice” of Seafront, an isolated compound in a rough neighborhood with a close commute to the embassy. This is perfect for singles without children as the commute is easy and there are some facilities for adults --racquetball, tennis courts, a swimming pool. While there are also playgrounds and a preschool there, most families prefer the villages or Fort Bonifacio. The single and childless couples crowd seem to enjoy Makati and Malate. - May 2012
Embassy folks either live at the Seafront compound in old housing with lots of mosquito problems, close to the Embassy, but not close to ANYTHING else. If you have a large family, you might be lucky to live in one of the villages:You get a big house in a quiet gated community your kids can even bike on the roads!For everyone else, housing is split in between Makati (a great metropolitan area with everything you can imagine right at your doorstep) or Fort Bonifacio (looks very much like any planned community in the US).Housing in the Fort is great, all new buildings, a few things walking distance but very very "sterile" -- quiet and not as much to do. - Mar 2012
Several. Seafront, where we live, houses the GSO, CLO, Medical Unit, Amerikids, Public Affairs, has a tennis court, gym, playground, and full sized pool and kids pool. It's a walled guarded place, which is really nice because if you have kids, you can take them to the playground without much problems. However, the location is in the 'bermuda triangle' of three very busy roads, so pollution is high on the compound. Closest housing to the Embassy - commute time by Embassy shuttle is around 15 minutes. There is housing in the Makati area, which a lot of single people enjoy because shopping is very close by. Commute time is much longer. About 25 minutes in the morning, but evening can be up to an hour or more. Fort Bonifacio - VERY Nice area, very rich area, less traffic. Mostly high rises, but the commute time is the WORST.A few folks live in the 'villages' or spread out around the metro Manila area. Many people pay to have a driver as not to deal with the cruddy traffic. - Jan 2012
There are a few different housing types in Manila for government personnel - Seafront, Makati/Fort Bonifacio and the villages. Seafront is a US government property located about 15 minutes from the Chancery (proper Embassy). SF contains several office building including the new VA hospital. It also contains warehouses. The residences are small out-dated townhouses or apartments from the 60s with little renovations or updates to current US standards. Residents complained there was nothing within walking distance and the compound was surrounded by less desirable elements of city-living. However, there is a large pool, several tennis courts, and a small gym on the compound. The proximity to the Chancery is also a positive. Residents also enjoyed (or not) the feeling of small community living with neighbors that were also co-workers. Makati and Fort Bonifacio are cities/areas within the Manila metro area. They are further from the embassy and commutes can take 45 minutes or twice that depending on traffic, weather, etc. The housing is large, spacious apartments built from the late 90s to yesterday. All are within walking distance to Manila's Western-style malls, restaurants and grocery stores. Expats you meet will tend to live in one of these areas if they are not in a village. Villages are small communities of houses around the metro region. Commutes can range from 30 minutes to an hour or more depending on location, traffic, weather, etc. The houses are large and often include are a good-sized yard. They are usually well-placed near the commercial areas of Makati and Fort Bonifacio. - Jul 2011
Most housing is high-rise condos/apartments. Some people live in housing in a number of developments. Commute is horrible -- traffic is usually terrible and it will take hours to go 10KM. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in cars. - May 2011
Seafront Compound: about 15 minutes from the embassy. Apartments and townhouses, tennis courts, squash and racquetball courts, a gym, and a pool with a lifeguard. Unfortunately, there's nothing around there, and the neighborhood is kind of sketchy. Makati:built-up neighborhood with lots of expats, restaurants, etc. Apartment living - no green space. 30+ minutes to the embassy. A lot of shopping. Fort Bonifacio: apartment living, some green spaces, though construction is booming. Close to most of the int'l schools and shopping. The Villages: single-family homes sprinkled around. Some have pools, most are pretty spacious but not necessarily well-maintained. The layouts can be kind of weird, too. - May 2011
There is an enormous disparity between the 10% who live at Seafront and the 90% who live in Makati, Fort Bonifacio, and the Villages. Seafront has smaller, outdated apartments and townhouses, but a nice sense of community and grass for kids and dogs. The Villages have mansions for larger families. Most people live in luxury highrises in the financial district of Makati or the Beverly Hills area known as the Fort. Seafront commute averages 15 minutes, while everyone else has up to an hour travel time. - Feb 2010
Available housing is U.S. Embassy compound, condo, or house. Embassy compound is nice because doctor is right there, nice facilities such as playground, tennis and swimming pool, safety good and preschool for U.S. Embassy kids. Actual apartments there are small and location not great for anything else. We chose condo which is good in newer Fort Bonifacio area. Condos nice because less mosquitos, swimming pools, gym included, less people to hire to maintain it, good security. Downside is less privacy, no place for kids to ride bike, less space for pets although helpers usually walk the dogs. Also condos usually have 110v/220v options so you can use your appliances etc. from home. Houses- good for size and lots of kids. Quality is not guaranteed so it is hit or miss if you get a house that needs a lot of work or not. Flooding has also been a problem with a few houses where people have to go to a hotel or be relocated to a condo. May not have 110v available. Also need to hire more help to maintain. For example, if you are leaving for a while, you need a security guard or at least your driver or helper staying there to watch the house. Commute time varies for all depending on where location is. - Jan 2010
Housing ranges from small condos near the embassy compound to large houses closer to Fort Bonifacio and the international schools. There is a huge disparity in U.S. Embassy housing. First tour officers are likely to end up on the U.S. Embassy Seafront compound, which is not very well maintained. Senior officers, particularly those with children, are likely to get large houses with pools and large yards. Married couples tend to be housed in condos in the central business district of Makati, close to restaurants and malls. Also expect to spend several weeks to several months in temporary housing. - Jul 2009
Most expats live in one of the Makati villages or Fort Bonifacio. There are the houses that are generally pretty large. They are great and a lot of them have pools but it is a lot of maintenance. You will need to have at least one maid (if not two), gardner, pool man, and most people have a driver. In the Fort you have condos so you don't have to worry about a yard. Commutes vary depending on where you are going. From Fort Bonifacio to the U.S. Embassy it takes 30 minutes during work commute times. - Apr 2009
Housing options range from large older homes with pools to new condo units with full facilities. Many expats live in the Makati or Ft Bonifacio area, as it is close to international schools, shopping and activities. Ayala Alabang and certain villages north of Makati are also popular, with newer houses and cheaper prices, though commute times will increase. Housing is surprisingly expensive, given that this is a developing country, so it's helpful to have some financial contribution from your sponsoring organization. - Jun 2008