Manila, Philippines Report of what it's like to live there - 01/04/14
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?
I've lived in Ajijic, Mexico, and Frankfurt Germany.
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?
My home was in Maine, flying out of Boston, which takes up to 26 hours with two airline changes. There are possibly shorter routes - costing more money. The first time I flew to Manila, I flew out of Los Angeles non-stop. It only takes 12 hours from L.A.
3. How long have you lived here?
I've been living in Antipolo City, which is very near Manila since August, 2013.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
I'm a middle 50's early retiree.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The cost of groceries are higher in Manila than the rest of the Philippines with the exception of some other large cities that are also quite expensive. The outer Provinces are where you can find foods that are less expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All the normal American style fast food places, along with Filipino fast food places such as Jolibees.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No real issues with any insects. Once in awhile I see and get rid of a cockroach.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Sending packages is pretty easy, and just requires a trip to a local mall and then finding the nearest shipping store that uses Fed-Ex, UPS, or some other companies. As for letters...do people still write those?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
The cost of maids can and does vary depending on the area you live and the people you know. The maid we had costs us 4,000 pesos a month and worked about 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. After a couple of months, I let her go because there was not enough work in my home as we usually keep our place clean anyway.
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?
I use my ATM card every week with no issues
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are many religious services availabe in English.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
For the most part you can get by with just English, but the people that you have contact with do appreciate it if you try to speak some of the language.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
I am an above-knee amputee who wears a prosthetic leg, and I get around well, but i do have to be careful of sidewalks that are usually in poor condition. For anyone who is wheelchair-bound, they would only be able to have limited movement from a vehicle directly to a home or business - it would be a big challenge.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
The local taxi driver often ask for fares that are much higher than it would be if you used the meters. In other words, get out of any and all taxis that try to take your hard earned money in an unscrupulous manner. The light rail can be crowded at times, but it is safe, cheap, and clean. Traveling by bus is also very affordable.
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?
No idea, as I travel by taxi, but it's always congested.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
The internet is available but it is not uncommon to lose internet service, and for it to be slower than expected.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
There is normally no quarantine here but if the incoming paperwork is not correct, then the animal can be put in a quarantine area until any issues are resolved.
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are orphanages that would appreciate any help.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Expats appear to generally dress less formal than the Filipino people. It is normal to see expats dressed in shorts and t-shirts, whereas male Filipinos seldom wear shorts, and then most often wear a short or long-sleeve buttoned shirts.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
The State Department recommends no travel to Mindano Island. There have been some violent exchanges of gun fire in the lower part of the island and a very small island just off the coast of Mindano. Now, having said that, I have also read blogs from expats living In Davao, the largest city in Mindano, and they feel very safe in this area. So, as always, do a lot of research, and personally talk with fellow expats who write these blogs and reside in the area, by either cell phone, messenger, or, even Skype.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The quality of medical care seems very adequate for minor checkups and I've read that there is some medical tourism here in the Philippines. I've visited a couple of doctors and have no complaints. The big difference is that the doctors here actually listen to you and try to solve any medical issues.
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?
In Manila and many of the other cities, large towns, and villages have serious problems with air quality. The Jeepney is a popular form of transportation, however, there are no air quality controls enforced, and smog control devices on these jeepneys are just as unheard of as well. Because of weak or unenforced laws governing air quality, everyone suffers, and the long-term effects will show new health problems and increased death rates from air quality related health concerns. As long as the local, Provincial, and Federal governments sit on their hands, take bribes, and show no concern for the people and the country, the population of the Philippines will suffer. Unfortunately, this is no stretch of the imagination. Water quality is okay; water is still delivered on a regular bases to most households.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather in the Philippines is, as expected, very hot and humid. There are a few areas in the mountains that are several degrees cooler. Each year there are typhoons that always hit the country, and more often than not, there is wide-spread destruction of homes, accompanied by high death tolls.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. 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?
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are bars, nightclubs, and various other forms of good entertainment in the Manila area.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Manila area is good for all segments of the population.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
There is no evident outward discrimination against people who are gay or lesbian, nor have I ever read anything about people becoming targets nor trying to hurt this segment of the population.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
None that I have seen,or read about.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
I've visited Tagaytay, which is about 1.5 hours from Manila. Tagaytay is in a mountainous area, offering a respite from the tropical heat, but also has, what is called a "super" volcano, named Taal. There are other interesting areas to explore in the area or you can take a boat ride over to the island and get close to Taal. I've also visited Puerto Galera as well, which is a boat ride out of Batangas. The area of Puerto Galera gives you a feel for a much more relaxed way of life. Nearby Puerto Galera is a mountain that is well worth the ride. It is best to hire a trike to go up to the very top of the housing area called the "Ponderosa". There are 360 degree views of the ocean, shore lines, and forests all with a cool breeze blowing constantly. I also spent a weekend in Baguio City, a very popular city up in the mountains, in the area of Benguet Province. It is the summer capital of the Philippines as it is several degrees cooler than Manila. There are also quality universities and strong tourism.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There is a lot of history in Manila, and interesting churches to explore. The old section of Manila has been kept up, partly for tourism, but also for the people of the area.There are also museums, some free, and others requiring a small entrance fee. This is also true for other areas throughout the Philippines.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Nothing special stands out.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
I like the idea of using the Manila area as a jumping off point for all of Asia plus the Philippines have a lot to offer for tourism on a budget. The food is very good, and if you leave the city behind, you save a lot of money because everything costs less.
10. Can you save money?
You can save money, but then, you would miss out on so many exploration opportunities.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How terrible the air quality is throughout any city or large town.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, without hesitation.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
The hopes of getting things done in a quick manner.
4. But don't forget your:
Bring your curiosity with you so that you can explore and enjoy what the Philippines have to offer.