What's cool in Metro Manila, Philippines? I'm new and I need friends.
July 13, 2013 12:46 AM   Subscribe

What's cool in Metro Manila, Philippines? I'm new and I need friends.

I'm Canadian and I'll be living in Metro Manila, Philippines for a year. My work won't have me at an office regularly, so I might not be able to befriend coworkers. So I need your help to point me towards the right direction for cultural life, entertainment, and company.

Also, what are the recommended neighbourhoods to check out, and which are the places that I should avoid traveling alone in?

I like: creative writing groups especially for genre fiction, progressive/liberal/academic circles, independent movies (at least I'm far more open to them than Hollywood films), outdoor sports, combat sports, cycling, video games, geeky people into tech, Filipiniana kitsch, quirky contemporary art, social justice organizing, people who make things regardless of market value, healthy food with lots of veggies, walking around

I don't like: giant malls with stores that I can find in Canada, celebrity gossip, reality TV, clubbing, shopping for shopping's sake, Mall of Asia, group sports, conspicuous consumption

More about my background: Female, 20s, and I have some family in the Philippines. I can speak conversational Tagalog and understand maybe 80%. I'm ethnically Asian but not Filipino, and as my family has roots here, I'm not treated as a foreigner and more as a balikbayan (returning national).

Thanks in advance!
posted by Hawk V to Travel & Transportation around Philippines (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
A Mefite here Ferdinandcc runs a really cool non-profit, Ferdinand Center for the Creative in Metro Manila. He's also rescues baby kitties.

Check out his website, you might be able to volunteer/help/contribute and do some good in the community. He also seems like a super-cool dude.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:41 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I lived in Fort Bonifacio for about two years, which is right next to Makati city. Both are relatively safe to travel alone, though you should keep your wits about you anyway; don't ride in sketchy cabs, be wary generally, etc.

Kind of tough to avoid celebrity gossip, shopping/consumption, and mall mentality in Manila, but there are a few decent galleries around Makati, mostly on Pasong Tamo extension/Chino Roces Ave. Manila Contemporary is maybe the biggest. B-Side Collective is a weird open-air venue with shops, a bar, and some gallery space and has different events daily, including some international acts. Ritual is a shop at The Collective with all locally sourced stuff and some really nice owners (Rob and Bea) that also have a booth at the Saturday farmer's market in Makati in Salcedo Village. There's also a Sunday market on Legazpi park, both have great food booths that I looked forward to all week.

There's a great speakeasy in Makati called The Blind Pig, and a hole-in-the-wall bar in the Fort called Big Bad Wolf if you want a cool place to hang out that doesn't play terrible club music.

Not too sure about group exercise or cycling since I found it too humid and polluted to do either, which was really frustrating for me as they're things I really enjoy in other places. Plus the Manila bus drivers are seriously fucking crazy and they WILL run you down. No joke. Be careful.

MeMail if you want more info, I left late in 2012 but still remember a few things.
posted by a halcyon day at 2:14 PM on July 13, 2013

Sent you a MeMail!
posted by drea at 2:31 AM on July 14, 2013

Best answer: I've been living here for 2+ years now, if you find somewhere to show independent movies on a regular basis please let me know. The only ones I've seen are one off events at UP or Ateneo and I normally find out about them just after they finish.

There is a Spanish film festival once a year that shows a range of movies from Spain and Latin America, and usually its incredibly cheap too.

Seconding cycling is quite risky, I've a friend who is determined to do it and has been knocked down on EDSA a few times by the bus drivers.

In terms of combat sports, I've seen an aikido club and a few other martial arts. I myself go to a boxing gym which is really good (I was a dead set beginner when I started).

In terms of spontaneous artwork, the walkway beside the carpark on dela rosa (near the corner of paseo de roxas) a bunch of paintings have appeared on the ceiling. There was no announcement they would be there and they change every now and then, I really like them. I tried to take a photo on the way to work this morning (I walk past it every day) but they didn't really come out well. Seconding the B Side Collective, though it can be a bit hit and miss in my experience.

For outdoor sports, there is the quite posh Makati Sports Club in Salcedo where you can play tennis and a few other outdoor activities. For sailing theres the Puerto Galera Yacht Club, or for kayaking theres the kayak Philippines (they do events including races, eco touring and lessons) For anything else, people I know usually get out of Manila to indulge in mountainbike riding, or to the resorts in Batangas or nearby beaches for water sports.

If you feel the need to chill out, I can recommend The Farm at San Benito - set in the mountains, vegan cuisine and very delicious (I say this as someone who is definitely not a vegetarian).

If you are interested in joining an expat club theres a list here and I see theres a Canadian one.

I hope that as a tagalog speaker you will be able to get more of an insight from people living here than I have. All anyone ever says to me about what to do on the weekends or their spare time is sleep, go shopping, and watch movies, I've literally not heard another answer to that question.
posted by Admira at 6:25 PM on July 14, 2013

Best answer: The first thing I'd recommend to someone with your interests is to find at least one friend here, and take them to van gogh is bipolar. It's a small restaurant run out of the chef's home that serves 3, 4, or 5 course meals, mostly organic, with ingredients chosen for their mood altering abilities. A very artsy, unique and always evolving space. Very surprising. The chef's name is Jetro, and he'll make it a point to greet you and have a conversation with each person at your table, and he's just so friendly and lovable that I'd say that right there is worth the price of admission. VGIB runs on the honor system, so you just pay in a box at the end of the meal, and take change out of that same box.

Note the instructions on the Facebook page:

EXCLUSIVELY for 12 diners per night. Text +63922.824.3051 for reservations.

The bazaars can be really hit-or-miss. Some will have great tribal clothing, art, etc. and others will just have knock-off Angry Birds merch. It's better to just visit the tourist trap stalls at parks and

I've got 6-7 street kids I care for on the weekends during the school year, and this weekend I took them to La Mesa Eco Park which was pretty relaxing. There's a place there for cyclists, too. P50 entrance fee, plus P80 to access their swimming pool. Zip lines and OK dimsum (about as good as you can expect from a street stall), as well.

Cubao Expo used to be a pretty happenin' night spot for artists too hang out in. I always considered it kind of all the good and bad parts of Portland, OR all condensed to one small block and full of Filipinos. Most of the coolest shops have unfortunately shut down though now (bye, comic shop; bye, cool bars and shows), but there are still some small art galleries (gallery? not sure how many are left) there now, and a couple of ok bars.

Do you have time to travel outside Manila? There are so many beautiful places to visit in the provinces.

Ruthless Bunny linked to my site in the first comment, and if you go to our Contact Us page you can email or text me personally, and I can try to help you find cool things to do or introduce you to people I think you'd hit it off with. :)
posted by ferdinandcc at 10:05 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, if you need a phone number for a reliable, SAFE, friendly taxi driver who doesn't burp all the time, I can offer that as well.
posted by ferdinandcc at 10:18 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the tips! Keep them coming!

@Admira: I'm aware of one ongoing independent film group, they relaunched recently and are having free film screenings every second Friday near UP. Cinema Is Incomplete. Their focus is on Tagalog films but I think they have English subtitles (at least, the last movie I watched had them). Their venue is a cozy restaurant with really tasty pizza.

@ferdinandcc: I'm currently more interested in finding my place within the city, but suggestions outside of Metro Manila.

If I'm in a non-touristy area, people tend to speak to me in Tagalog and assume that I grew up in Metro Manila. When I'm in a touristy area, people treat me like it's my first time in the Philippines and some even assume my English is poor. I definitely want the experience of the former. Unfortunately, the latter sometimes happens in Canada too (ethnic minority problems, yay).

Taxis: which ones are more reliable? Which ones are sketchy? Are there real dangers to sketchy taxis or are they overblown?
posted by Hawk V at 7:43 AM on July 15, 2013

Best answer: I've never been hurt, robbed, etc. in any taxi (although, I'm a 6'2" guy so I can't rule that out as a possible reason why). Mostly, the problems I've run into are drivers who ask for too much (one asked for 4,000 pesos to drive me to the airport from Grace Park, Caloocan), or who ask inappropriate or personal questions (are you Christian? What do you think of Muslims? Are you married? Why? Do you have any porn on your iPad?) or who belch every two minutes (I don't mind friends burping around me, I've let loose all sorts of bodily noises around people I'm actually close with, but it grosses me out when it's coming from someone that I'm a customer of).

There have also been many, many times when I've had to grab the oh-shit handles, or the bottom of the seat, and brace for what I was sure was going to be a head-on collision only to just barely miss it last second.

The MGE taxis are generally above average; they're usually the ones that are red or green and not white. But there's one taxi driver I'd recommend whole-heartedly named Michael. Without a doubt the best driver I've had, and the only one I've liked enough to get his number and use again. The only reason I hesitate to give his information is I'm worried about him becoming too busy to drive me, haha. But if you me-mail me, I'll give you his #. He's a gem.

As far as quirky, contemporary art goes, how's this? There are lots of quirky artists in my core group. Maybe check out the Pablo Gallery.
posted by ferdinandcc at 9:36 PM on July 15, 2013

Best answer: I personally know a few expats who've been help up in a taxi they hailed down on the street. Having said that, for various reasons I took a taxi twice a day for 3 months and had no dramas other than the personal questions ("whats your salary? How much rent are you paying? Those apartments are expensive, you must be so rich. How many queridas do you have? You must have a few mercedes at home, why are you taking a taxi?" etc) or getting ripped off (not using the meter, asking for multi thousand peso tip, one driver wanted me to pay for drive through jollibee, they assume I have no idea where I'm going and take me the long way etc). They also love to hock and spit on the street while driving which grosses me out more than the burping, but thats just me.

I've also got a taxi driver that I use and can recommend, though he sometimes doesn't respond (I also asked ferdinandcc via mefimail for his taxi driver recommendation).

@ Hark V ... you know where to find the kind of food you like to eat? That for me is still the hardest thing, I'm still discovering new places that have something I have missed from Australia.

I'm sensing a Manila Mefi Meetup in the works!
posted by Admira at 1:51 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the responses, everyone! I'm out of the country for a bit but I will return in mid August. Let's do a Manila Mefi Meetup! PM me (preferably with your email address) and we'll organize something in late August. Deal?
posted by Hawk V at 4:18 PM on July 23, 2013

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