Life in Manila
May 9, 2005 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone provide any insights into Manila in the Philippines -- positive or negative -- as a place for a Western female to move to and work?
posted by nthdegx to Travel & Transportation around Manila, Philippines (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I went there quite a few times for work, and I have to say it was a pretty scary environment. The hotels all have staff to check under every car coming in for bombs, since almost all of the hotels have been bombed. The city itself is little tiny clusters of the wealthy surrounded by huge swaths of people living in shantys.

And the looks I got! Wow. You could taste the hostility towards the West - I should've taped my Canadian passport to my forehead. And you couldn't turn your head without seeing a pedestrian with a handgun or a guard with an automatic rifle.

'course, if that sounds like your thing, go for it :-)
posted by LukeyBoy at 8:57 AM on May 9, 2005

Here's a bunch of links on living in "my" islands. This one may be of particular interest to you. Also here and here. Hope that helps.

IMHO: Danger, yes it is present just like everywhere. Hostility, it depends on how you act and how you perceive it.
posted by azul at 10:00 AM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: Here's a small amount of first hand experience from a white male. Stay the hell away, unless you like lots of danger, and you look ethnic.


As said above, the amount of anti-west sentiment is astounding to me (and I've been to Israel). Also, I was there in the late 90s. I've since heard that the Muslim population has an even stronger hold on the country. Keep this in mind since you're a female.

Since it looks liek you're from the UK, I'll also mention that my limited experience seems to say that in the eyes of an inhabitant, that's no different from being from the US. Sad but true.

Personally, I would need a staggering raise to live there for any but the briefest period of time.

Singapore and Vietnam are much better choices. Think about that.

posted by kungfujoe at 10:14 AM on May 9, 2005

Singapore is one of the nicest places I've ever been and lived. What's bad about there?

And azul, the original poster asked about Manila - not any of the islands in the Philipines (which for all I know are shining paradises).
posted by LukeyBoy at 10:17 AM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: Did you ask brownpau, nthdegx?
posted by terrapin at 10:19 AM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: [DISCLAIMER: I'm Filipino by blood, and I grew up in Metro Manila, but I haven't lived there for three years now, and things may have gotten more volatile since then.]

Note that there are two "Manilas." There's the City of Manila itself, which is rather run-down, polluted, and crime-ridden; and then there's Metro Manila, the National Capital Region, which also encompasses places like Quezon City, Makati, Pasig, San Juan (where I grew up), and the northern and southern suburbs.

Now, unless she works as a missionary, a white female working in Manila will most likely spend her time among the snootier upper-class bracket of the population, mingling among people who speak fluent English, use the internet, and watch cable TV. There's a strong "colonial mentality" among lots of Filipinos, especially in that upper bracket, so there may be lots of ogling and fawning. Expect to be stared at a lot on the street and in the mall. Not that it's wise to just be walking around on the streets of Metro Manila.

Best places for a white female to live would probably be Makati, or Alabang, busy commercial centers with a somewhat higher international population density.

I've only witnessed the above-mentioned extreme anti-Western sentiment among the left-leaning media and in the Southern islands. From the media, a lot if it is reactionary nationalist anti-colonialism, but it isn't hateful or inciteful in any way. There is a bit of a stereotype, not entirely inaccurate, of many of the Westerners (mostly Americans and Australians) who come to the Philippines being deadbeats, derelicts, or bottomfeeders. (I remember talking to a guy on a flight who said he was headed to Manila to (1) avoid being arrested, and (2) get some easy Asian pussy. Uck.)

Email me if you have any questions. I've known a lot of Westerners in Manila, and they love it there, despite the political and economic instability, if only because the Philippine peso is weak and falling, so dollars go a loooong way.
posted by brownpau at 10:59 AM on May 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I personally spend a couple of months a year in Manila for business and enjoy it quite a bit. I think it has politically calmed down quite a lot, and I don't feel unsafe there. I think you're more likely to experience a natural disaster than a bombing.

Primarily, you'll need to make sure the salary is right. $50,000 a year or so is quite enough to live comfortably and safely in Manila. You'll want to look at the Makati area for a home or apartment. It is very nice and clean and safe. It is a little expensive. I personally prefer the Malate/Ermita area. It is a bit seedier, but still frequented by plenty of foreigners. Most foreigners and affluent Filipinos live in walled enclaves with guards at the gates. The benefit for a foreigner is that you cannot own a gun, but the guard at the gate will be armed.

At any nice or crowded place you'll see lots of guards, and your bags will be checked with a stick for bombs.

You will experience more brownouts and power outages than you are accustomed to.

You should use taxis for travel or get a car and driver. I wouldn't recommend walking around much until you know where you are going and what kind of neighborhood it is.

I don't have the same perception of hostility as some others here. I think a lot of it is curiosity an cultural differences. Filipinos can be jealous also, and most of your problems may stem from that. As long as you're humble and don't act stuck up or flaunt your wealth you should be ok.

You will see poor people. Squatters are common and the the average person is not as wealthy as you are accustomed. You should practice basic safety for yourself and your posessions. Scammers do exist. You should rely on other foreignersand the huge amounts of good advice on the internet.

I would love the opportunity to live in Manila full-time. Feel free to contact me if you want more info (email in profile).
posted by joelr at 11:00 AM on May 9, 2005

Second-hand information, so who knows what it's worth, but:

One of my (Filipino) coworkers grew up in Manila, moved from there to Jerusalem and then to Toronto, and said that Manila was much more dangerous than Jerusalem ever was. I don't know what part she grew up in, but she was never allowed to drive alone. She said it was due to the fact that people commonly fake being hit by cars so that you will stop, and then they steal your car/kidnap girls/other nasty stuff. I think she left around age 18.
posted by heatherann at 12:49 PM on May 9, 2005

You'll be ok. Just be aware of your sorroundings and deal with the right kind of people. Email me if you have any questions/need connections.
LukeyBoy: Fortunately, I lived in one those "shining paradises".
posted by azul at 2:30 PM on May 9, 2005

A friend of mine and his wife lived and worked there for some years until recently. They loved it, and from the way they describe it, the comments above sound like descriptions of a different world. You'd have to look pretty hard to find a whiter couple, too.

So, I have no idea... I imagine it depends on a lot of things, like your attitude, expectations, etc. Some people feel extremely welcome there.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:45 PM on May 9, 2005

I visited Manila (Makati) last year. The Makati area was very modern and I felt safe there.

Makati Shangri-la: quite possibly the nicest hotel I've ever been in...includes guards with shotguns and bomb-dogs...

Air pollution: Walking a few blocks gave me a sore throat. Lots of diesel smog. Traffic was really bad too.

Extremely heavy airport security when departing (multiple xrays, complete inspection of all carry-ons for everyone, personal interviews about trip and carry-on contents for everyone...)

If you go to Manila, look into a trip to the island of Boracay for a vacation.
posted by jsonic at 5:01 PM on May 9, 2005

Almost forgot...when landing in Manila, look closely at the bold red print on the declaration card: "Death To Drug Traffickers Under Philippine Law"!
posted by jsonic at 5:07 PM on May 9, 2005

Response by poster: Right. Thanks everyone. I might take you up on your email offers if my friend has any questions.
posted by nthdegx at 3:04 AM on May 10, 2005

« Older Webbot   |   Letters, we get letters Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.