Manila, Philippines Report of what it's like to live there - 11/23/13
Personal Experiences from Manila, Philippines
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
West Coast, 14-16 hours generally through Narita.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
If you buy U.S. products only, probably 10% higher than DC prices. If you buy on the local market, much cheaper.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing, really. Most items we use are available locally or on Amazon.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Extensive selection of U.S. based chains.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
In Manila, few to speak of. Some units have cockroaches or ants, but rarely are they troublesome. Outside of the city, mosquitoes can carry dengue or (in Palawan) Malaria.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap, reliable, plentiful.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Generally fine, though I did have a couple minor incidents that my bank quickly reversed.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
All affordable. Taxis are generally safe (with standard precautions). RSO advises against trains and buses and "Jeepnys" though I've never heard of anyone having an incident on any.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Asian brand is easier to repair, rugged is not necessary, though high clearance can be helpful for the handful of days when the roads flood. Otherwise, something you don't really care about too much.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Everyone uses prepaid minutes, or "load." Most use a cheap phone, but smart phones with data plans are available. Coverage is excellent throughout the country.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
A few, but slim pickings.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Depends on your job and which office you're in. Anywhere from jeans (for LES) to business casual, to suits. In public you can wear almost anything.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Within Manila, very few. Only the usual "big city" stuff. I've walked around various parts of Manila with no issues. Select parts of Mindanao have terrorist elements. Much of Mindanao is pleasant and safe and spectacular, but due to the threats in western Mindanao, the whole region is off-limits to personal travel for USG employees.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Generally very good and much cheaper than the U.S.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Somewhere between moderate and unhealthy. It's not nearly as bad as I had expected, but it's still worse than most U.S. cities. The poor air quality is primarily from auto exhaust, rather than factory particulate like you see in many Asian cities.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Mid March - early June, hot and dry. June - November, hot and wet. December - early March mostly pleasant and dry, but still a little muggy.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I understand both International School of Manila and Brent are highly regarded. ISM is in the Fort and can be inconvenient unless you live there. Brent is inconvenient regardless of where you live.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Plentiful. Several daycares and prechool are around and reasonably priced. The Embassy community runs its own preschool at Seafront. Many family have a full or part time ya-ya (nanny) to help out.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Like all places, it depends on the person. We have had a great time.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes to all.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Better than most.
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Gender prejudices exist, but females wield a surprisingly large amount of power, from the highest levels of business and government down to the family unit. Yes, racial and religious problems exist like anywhere else in the world
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Traveling to Palawan and seeing the underground river.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Travel, beach resorts, dining scene is actually good and cheap. Mountain/jungle trekking is fun, but the industry is not at all developed.
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Beaches, diving, island hopping, cheap regional travel, and friendly people.
8. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?