Manila, Philippines Report of what it's like to live there - 01/04/16

Personal Experiences from Manila, Philippines

Manila, Philippines 01/04/16


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?


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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US State Department

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I buy groceries about once a week for a family of 4 (with lots of fruit) for about 100 bucks.
Weekend farmers' markets in Salcedo and in Legazpi villages are usually more expensive than the stores.
Tomatoes here are usually not very good, and if they are good they are very expensive.
Chicken and pork are cheapest kinds of meat. Overall, there are several different chains of grocery stores, including a Costo-type S&R and a super-nice deli (Santi's) with European meats and wine.

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2. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Boxes and boxes of cereal and real maple syrup. Grocery stores have different cereals, but they are considerably more expensive than in the States. The same goes for maple syrup.

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3. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes are impossible, unbearable, and just pure evil. They are small and noiseless, so I cannot hear them attack me!
I do not go outside without a mosquito repellent, especially during the rainy season because so many people we know have had dengue fever.
Watch our for monstrous cockroaches and ticks.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

The best way to hire a helper is through a direct recommendation from someone you know. Prices vary.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

One ATM stole my credit card; just sucked it in and never gave it back to me.
And somewhere my credit card was copied and then "used" elsewhere by someone else.
So cash is the way to go. Of course, all the malls, restaurants, and shops usually take cards, but taxis do not, and often (outside of Manila) only cash is accepted.

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3. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is everywhere in Manila. I get by without speaking a word of Tagalog.

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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are very cheap, but drivers do not always speak English, which might be a problem if there is a need to give specific directions.
Also, a taxi drivers is supposed to turn the meter on when he starts going, but several times I had to remind them to do so. Otherwise, they just charge whatever, whatever they think you can pay. Manila has Uber. Uber cars are very easy to deal with, it works great and rather cheap.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It's expensive and it is very slow. But it works most of the time.

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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?

No quarantine, and yes, there are plenty of vets and good kennels available.

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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?

I had two jobs on the local economy. Be ready for a lot of paperwork and local salaries.

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Health & Safety:

1. 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?

The air quality is not very good.

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2. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid summers and "cool" winters. In February it cools off to lower mid 70s (sometimes).
Mid-April - September are the hottest months.
Rainy season (June - November) can be difficult when Manila's streets flood. Driving is painful then - it takes really long time to get anywhere.
Typhoons of various intensity are regular during the rainy season.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several good schools with provided transportation. My kids got to ISM, and it is great.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

International School Manila (ISM) offers a lot of after-school sports activities.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

We have two kids. On the hand, Manila can be great for kids because there are tons of places to take them, and every mall has some kind of entertainment/playground for kids. And there are several kid-friendly museums - Kidzania, Oceanarium, Museo Pambata (an interactive museum where my kids tried on national outfits, played inside a "filipino mansion" and did other fun stuff). Also: Dreamplay by Dreamworks, Mall of Asia with an Exploreum and an outdoor amusement park overlooking the bay, the Mind Museum (an interactive science museum), Art in Island, and Fun Farm at Santa Elena, villa Escudera, and StarCity in Tagaytay. I am sure there is something I forgot to mention.
On the other hand, in Manila it can be difficult for kids since to get from point A to point B because of Manila's atrocious traffic. There are not many green spaces in the city, so riding bikes for fun might be a problem, especially for those living in condos.
We live near several nice restaurants and bars, and we frequently go out. From what I understand, there is also a pretty active nightlife in the city.
Overall, I'd say it's good for families, but I don't know much about how singles and couples see it here.

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3. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting Palawan, Sagada, and Banaue rice terraces, seeing super cute tarsiers in Bohol, eating mangoes non-stop, discovering yellow watermelons, going to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand for vacation.

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4. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Two things:
"Hidden Springs" in Laguna, about a 2-hour drive from Manila. It's an absolutely beautiful place with several swimming pools, a waterfall, and good food included in the entry ticket.
"Sonya's Garden" is my favorite massage place. It is in Tagaytay (about a 2-hour drive) and has a very nice, relaxing ambiance. Also. there are some nice restaurants and sightseeing on the way.

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5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pearls, silver items, and wooden furniture.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

For our family the biggest advantage was ability to travel in the Philippines and Southeast Asia in general. There are some of the nicest beaches in the world here, plenty of scuba diving, snorkeling and surfing opportunities. We took several day and weekend-long trips outside of Manila. There are plenty of things to see and do here.
Traveling to other countries in Southeast Asia from Manila is relatively inexpensive, and very fun.
Eating out in Manila can be cheap, but there are also some very nice (and more expensive) restaurants.
Massages, mani-pedis are also rather inexpensive.
An overwhelming number of malls and all kinds of markets for any budget.
Cheap household help.

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7. Can you save money?


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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, absolutely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

expectation of always being in control :)

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3. But don't forget your:

sense of humor and patience. Bring a lot of patience :))
When Filipinos ask you to wait a little, they say: "for a while, ma'am/sir", and this "for a while" can be anywhere from 2 to 42 minutes. So bring lots of patience.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"Metro Manila"

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