Manila, Philippines Report of what it's like to live there - 02/21/20
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?
First tour with Dept of State, but I have lived overseas in the past. Fougeres, France; and Kitzingen, 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?
Meadville, PA. It takes 25-30 hours to get home. Connections through Narita since I have been here with Delta but route is changing in March 2020. Connection will be Seoul. Philippines Air offers non-stop to California and New York.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Department of State.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get everything for a price. Dairy items are very expensive. Chicken and pork are very affordable here. Vegetables can actually be pricey here. Many of my vegetarian friends complain that it is expensive to be a vegetarian here, but it can be done.
I had a hard time finding graphing calculators and when I did they were too expensive to buy. My mom had to buy me one and send it to my DPO.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Canned black beans and green chiles.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
So many restaurants to choose from in Manila! We also order Food panda or Grab food for delivery. (Note* You can get just about ANYTHING delivered here).
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes, ants and cockroaches....typical for tropical weather. We also have little lizards that don't seem to hurt anything.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO for US stuff. I am not sure how reliable the local postal facilities are. Even my cable bill gets delivered by the actual cable company.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Drivers -16,000 php (325 USD) to 22,000 php (450 USD) per month Depending on hours and days. OT about 100 php (2 USD) per hour. (Many drivers like OT). Yayas and household help are common and prices can really vary. Live in or live-out, full-time or part-time. One can pay anywhere from 10,000 php (200 USD) per month to 20,000 (400 USD) per month, depending on what you need.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Barre Class in BGC and Rockwell. Gold's gym seems very crowded. I've seen people through the windows.
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?
IN Manila, yes you can safely use cards at restaurants and large grocery chains. ATMs that are guarded are also pretty safe IMO.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Filipinos speak English very well. No problems finding any service here.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Filipinos are great English speakers. Learn some Tagalog to be polite, but it isn't really needed.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
BGC and Makati would be okay, but some other places in Manila might be rough to get around.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Diplomats cannot use Jeepneys or trains. Getting around can be super frustrating. Public transportation is lacking .
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?
BRING A CAR (or get one as soon as you get here) Something with high clearance for rainy season. Toyotas are popular here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Fiber internet is good. It took two weeks to get ours.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring your favorite unlocked phone. Local sims are cheap and local services are cheap and easy to use.
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?
Yes, there are qualified vets. My helper takes care of my cat when I travel. No quarantine. I buy my cats food and litter from Amazon.
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?
Local salaries are not comparable to US.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
AWCP, BWA, and ANZA are popular.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
People dress pretty nicely here . I think it seems pretty conservative as well. Some restaurants have dress codes.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I feel relatively safe, but it is always a good item to stay vigilant as in any big city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There is quality medical care here. ST Luke's in BGC is very nice. I know people who have had babies here and some go back to the states. I think it's your preference. I really don't know much more than that.
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?
Pollution is common, but overall in the three years I've been here, I have complained very little.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
I get anxious because of the traffic. The Philippines is a very busy place. Lots of people. Filipinos are very friendly and like activity. It can be a bit overwhelming for me because I like peace and quiet and there is rarely that here.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot & wet and hot & hot.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
K-12 at International School Manila. ISM has been great. My two sons that are graduates were well-prepared for college. My third did middle school and one year of HS and he is also well prepared to move on to anywhere. There is also a British school that is great.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
ISM has some special needs children, but I cannot speak to the availability or quality of care (although I have never heard any complaints).
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
My boys did Rugby both at school and in the community. Soccer and basketball are big here.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Lots of expats!!!!!
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?
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
For both...so much to offer for everyone.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes. The Philippines is very accepting.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Filipinos are generally very friendly.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I don't really see too many problems.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Traveling in Asia.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Scuba diving is a must.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are great finds here, but you have to leave the city to find the gems I think (pearls).
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Fiber internet (my boys like the internet...when its working and it works about 85% of the time).
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had a live-in driver...again I hate the traffic and feel trapped when my driver is not around (I can drive here, I JUST CAN'T find parking all of the time and it's frustrating).
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes...just throw them away ;-).
4. But don't forget your:
Flip flops and sturdy car.