Manila - Moving to



My Taiwanese wife has an excellent opportunity for career advancement if she moves to Manila. Neither of us have ever been there, so have no idea what the city is like. Do any of you tried and tested forumosans have any idea how it compares to living in Taipei in terms of traffic, housing, career opps for me (white, english copywriter), schooling for kids?

I will try the Philippines forums but am after a comparison between the 2 countries.



my cousin was robbed at gunpoint for $1000 us in that city if that helps at all


it helps. I certainly won’t carry that much cash around. About the one thing I do know is that it isn’t as safe as Taiwan, but very few places are.


Manila is probably one of the last major cities in Asia that I would like to live in. I’ve been there twice and ick is the only memory of the Manila that I have. The rest of the Philippines I found to be stunningly beautiful though. I honestly don’t even know where to start as far as a comparison. Everything was worse and I actually felt like it was more like being in Lima or Quito than Taipei.


About the traffic

Do you know where you will be staying there (what part of the city will your wife work)?

I grew up in Manila - and lived in two different areas of the city. Both are very nice parts of the city. You will have to always factor in traffic. I don’t drive in Taipei, but nothing I’ve ever experienced here has matched the kind of traffic that residents in Manila go through on a daily basis. You can spend most of your time in certain areas and not be so affected by it - for example, Global City, Alabang, Pasig, and Makati (the villages) are each pretty self-contained: you can eat/sleep/work/play there. But if you live in one area and commute to work in another, then your experience about Manila is going to be different.

About work as a copywriter

I’m curious about what you learn about career opportunities for English speaking copywriters. I expect it to be a completely different situation than here. In Taipei, our English writing efficiency and our personal experience of Western cultures make us a natural resource for our local colleagues (and bosses). Those advantages change or disappear in Manila. I grew up with friends and relatives who spoke like and viewed the world like any blue-blooded American, but had never left the Philippines. Sure, most of the country isn’t like this (and we can argue long about the negative impact the nationalism that swept the Philippines in the 90’s had on the working population’s skill base), but the people you will be competing with for freelance and corporate work will have comparable communication skills and a much lower cost base. The Philippines did not surpass India as the top BPO destination simply because we’re friendly.

Don’t let me discourage you, just understand that your approach will have to be different. I would start making connections by visiting AmCham Philippines (Asia’s oldest AmCham, I think) and the European Chamber (ECCP) - and volunteer to help out if you can. Build a network this way and offer to write copy for free for the first 3 to 6 months. Pick up a copy of Whats On Expat and look into doing some work for them, at least in the beginning. Also, check out news sites like to get a sense of the quality of writing there. Use your LinkedIn connections to reach out to people who write and work at all those places. If you are able to sit down for coffee with any of the people you find there, I bet you will see that writing copy in the Philippines is very different from here – probably more competitive work-wise and pay-wise.

Schooling for kids

I expect this to range very widely for you. Hopefully, your wife’s package will offset some of the costs. I’m a product of the International School Manila - so if this is on your radar, lmk and maybe I can help connect you to someone there for advice (but realize that ISM has 7 priorities above regular admissions - US embassy families at the top, followed by ADB and Big Corp expats; alumni families are 5th priority, I think?). But there are many many alternatives if you have an open mind: from elite local schools, to religious non-Catholic international schools, to conservative Catholic private schools. And others: my buddy’s sister founded the Chinese International School - with some teachers recruited from ISM (I’m not advocating them, but they should deserve a look); when I was growing up, the 2 most highly regarded schools that I had heard of that are not one of the elite parochial schools were UPIS and PSci (the University of the Philippines Integrated School and Philippine Science High School). And there are many private schools that deserve a serious look, but you will have to spend time to find them

Remember to think about what school options you would like your kids to have AFTER they leave the Philippines. To go to university in the US, for example, your kids do NOT have to go to an international school, but you would want to make sure they are prepared for the transition culturally and by ensuring they prepare for the standardized testing on your own. To go to university or secondary school in Europe, you probably would want to check if your kid’s school offers IB curriculum – unlike when I was growing up there, MANY schools today offer this. To go to university in Taiwan, be sure to check in at the TECO office - I haven’t done this, so do not know what resources they can give, but I have friends who grew up in Taiwan expat families in the Philippines and took the Taiwan entrance exams from there, I believe at the TECO offices.

Please share with us what Philippine discussion websites and forums you find to be most useful.


Thanks Goose Egg, that’s excellent advice. I’ve seen a website that describes the Chinese International School and that will certainly be of most interest to us and it looks like there are copywriting jobs in Makati, which, if Google maps is to be believed isn’t too far away.

It’s still very early days, my wife only told me last night, so this is very much a fact finding mission.

I’ll certainly keep you updated as to the state of the forums, from a brief inspection there are many but the quality doesn’t seem high.


How would I compare living in Manila to living in Taipei? I landed in Taipei 1993 from New York, and I credited my LACK of culture shock here because I related to city life here to where I grew up in Manila. I spent my very first week in Taiwan around Taipei Main Station - cramped, dirty, rundown - it didn’t bother me a bit, because for me, it was a lot like Cubao (I grew up in New Manila, which is next to Cubao in Quezon City). When I ventured out to eastern Taipei to get my medical exam done at Jen Ai Hospital, I remember be struck at how much Dunhua and Jen Ai reminded me of Salcedo Village and Legaspi Village in Makati.

That was 20 years ago, but I think to a great extent, these comparables still hold. Although I only lived in Manila for a total of 18 months since graduating from high school there, here is how I would compare parts of Taipei to parts of Manila

Neihu = Alabang - because when you finally get out to both areas, they are actually pretty nice
Tienmou = Makati, the Villages of Makati
Gongguan = Diliman area (but way more convenient than Diliman), Malate in its heyday
Hsimending = Binondo, but Binondo has more character and is more difficult to navigate
Da-an/Hsinyi = Makati, Ortigas area, Greenhills shopping area
Minsheng E Road = Ortigas, Makati
Hsinyi around 101 = Global City, Greenbelt
Linsen North Road = Quezon Ave and Malate - but its scarier (and more exciting) in Manila
Taipei Main Station = Cubao on a good day
San Chong, Banquiao = Quezon City, along East Ave and E Rodriguez, and the stretch from Welcome Rotunda to the University Belt

CKS Memorial Hall and SYS Memorial Hall have a counterpart in Luneta, but CKS and SYS are so much more accessible. In a similar way, NTUH and the government offices here are so much easier to reach than PGH and government offices in Manila

There are stretches of Taipei that look like industrial wastelands, Manila has plenty of those, so that’s going to be familiar.

The worst nightmarket crowd in Taipei pales in comparison to Quiapo (especially on Wednesdays - “Baclaran Day” when the traffic in that part of town hikes up)

Chinese International School is in The Fort aka Bonifacio Global City. On a map, it’s next door to Makati – in fact, I always thought it WAS part of Makati (it’s not, it’s part of Taguig). As close as it seems to be to Makati, on foot, it’s an annoying trek (at least, from Global to Makati its a trek that goes largely downhill. There are shuttle buses connecting them, and I don’t find them very convenient, but at least they are there)

Jobstreet and JobsDB are good places to start looking. Just be prepared for a mark down in compensation levels. Cost of living is cheaper in Manila. Unfortunately, if you want to live in Makati or Ortigas Center, you need to be pulling in Taiwan and HK level expat salaries, at least (not local Taiwan salaries). If your wife’s package includes housing in Makati or Ortigas or Alabang, then get excited, living in Manila can be real fun. If it does not, then welcome to the club and expect to spend a lot of time sitting in traffic

Incidentally, is looking to expand to Manila. Soon. I suggest you contact contact Byron Perry and ask him for his impressions of the city and how easy/difficult it was to get around. He visited the Philippines for the first time a couple months ago. Maybe you can work out some freelance projects helping them get established. I can get pretty negative about living in in the Philippines if you get me going, but I actually prefer it to Thailand (no question that Thai food trumps Filipino food, but beyond that and their super-sized fruits, what’s there?)

Here’s an article from 2007 about the localization that continues to happen in the Philippines: … _Mills.pdf Reminds me of what’s happening in Shanghai, too


Thanks again those area comparisons are great. Looking at the photos it certainly looked as though Makati is expensive and probably unaffordable.

It appears that my wif’e’s job may be in Paranaque city, which from Google looks quite nice, but i guess is expensive because it’s rural(ish)? Any thoughts on the area? I’m happy to live out of the city if I can.


Let me start with a quick pronunciation lesson. “Paranaque” is pronounced pa-ra-NYAH-keh – not Piranha-Q, even though the latter would make for a good name for a rock band. Most Filipinos will express amusement whenever foreigners mangle Filipino names - but if you get it right the first time, you will impress.

Paranaque is that broad stretch in between Makati and Alabang, with Taguig (City) bordering on the east and Cavite (Province) down the west (a little further down and you can slip into Tagaytay, the ridge that overlooks Taal volcano).

I recommend you contact ICRT DJ “Tito Gray” Gleason – his website is He knows the area well, and stays close to Alabang when he’s in Manila. As a foreigner who spends a lot of time in Manila, his views should be very relevant for you.

About the traffic

To get there, you take South Superhighway, which used to be a parking lot similar to the freeways in LA tend to be, but it has improved a lot because of the Skyway that connects Makati to Alabang. That Skyway will be meaningful for you because it will cut travel time signficantly.

A few months ago, I went to meet up with Tito Gray in Alabang coming from Makati Medical Center (I wasn’t sick, just visiting friends). Thanks to the Skyway, I made the time in 15 minutes. He could NOT beleive how quickly it took me to get there. I also can’t believe it. This was mid-day on a weekday - and I got to the meeting place faster than he did, and he was staying pretty close by.

On either side of South Super are those industrial stretches I mentioned - mostly warehouses and factories that are accessed by “service” roads - that you get on from the highway at one of only a few toll interchanges. BEHIND those colorless industrial lots are the residential villages that make up Paranaque. I wouldn’t call them rural, but more like sub-urban. Like living in Hsintien or Banqiao is sub-urban if you consider Bitan, Linkou, or Pali “rural” by Taipei standards.

About the schools

Global City (The Fort) is where you’ll find ISM, the British School, Chinese International School, the Korean School, and the Japanese School. It’s in the north end of that Paranaque - you can cut through the Fort to get to Makati from Paranaque.

South of Paranaque – beyond Alabang – is Brent - a highly-regarded Episcopalian international school. You should also research De La Salle’s Alabang campus and the Opus Dei-run South Ridge - both are highly regarded, but there are other schools that are known to be popular to foreign families

About the housing

Paranaque is not a walkable area. Not like how Taipei can be – despite how some popular streets here lack side walks, ex. Yongkang St, Jinhua St. You could walk around parts of Paranaque but you wouldn’t stroll around like you might on Zhongxiao or Dunhua or in Hsinyi area. Your wife should expect a car and driver as part of her secondment. Getting around in a taxi is doable, although the cabs there are not like taxis here. Taipei taxis are typically luxurious by comparison, and Manila are more worn down like how most taxis in Shanghai seem so overused (taxis in both Shanghai and Manila certainly are).

I don’t think there are any high-rise apartments in Paranaque. Maybe – just maybe – close to one of the mall areas that are found near the junctions to South Super. So, expect to stay in a house-and-lot, typically a small 3 or 4 bedroom that is about 30 to 40 ping, not including the small garage and the backyard. It will be in a gated community – maybe not as fancy as George Zimmerman’s in Florida, or maybe very similar with 2-lane streets and speed bumps and friendly security guards at the village gates.


Excellent post, Mr Egg, and highly informative too.

OP, wherever you end up, make sure you’re close to a steady supply of Jolibee Burger Steaks and Marigold Bumble Bee ice cream. :lick:


Thanks Goose. You’ve given me more than enough to get going. Time to discover what sort of package the missus will get and move from there.


Indeed. Philippine food is mostly shite, but if you like junk food, Jolibee hits the spot.

And don’t forget to try sisig. Essentially the same ingredients as goes into a burger.


That’s worrying


That’s worrying[/quote]

Not really. I’m referring to street food or restaurant food, which in my experience is too full of grease, meat, salt, and unidentifiable animal parts. It’s OK if you’re in the mood for it, but it can get a bit much if you’re eating it every day. OTOH fresh food from the market is cheap and good quality. So if you can cook, you’ll eat well. Or maybe just eat like ordinary people do - a bowl of rice and a few trimmings to spice it up.

Personally I think you’ll like the Philippines. Manila looks like a freeze-frame car crash, but it has a certain charm. It’s impossible to compare with Taipei/Taiwan, because there are more differences than similarities. As G.E. implied, you might want to go elsewhere when you get the chance. Out in the boonies, it’s a different world.

The people are incredibly friendly as long as you stay out of trouble. Don’t start any arguments with the wrong people, and get to know who “the wrong people” are in your neighbourhood; you most likely won’t have any, but it’s worth checking whether you do. Stuff tends to disappear if it’s not nailed down, so don’t buy an expensive car or ostentatious stuff for your home. Stay on friendly terms with the people at the local barangay (neighbourhood council); they are the law when it comes to minor disputes.


That’s worrying[/quote]

Not really. I’m referring to street food or restaurant food, which in my experience is too full of grease, meat, salt, and unidentifiable animal parts. It’s OK if you’re in the mood for it, but it can get a bit much if you’re eating it every day. OTOH fresh food from the market is cheap and good quality. So if you can cook, you’ll eat well. Or maybe just eat like ordinary people do - a bowl of rice and a few trimmings to spice it up.[/quote]

Yeah, you wouldn’t want to be eating a giant bowl of adobo every night (oh, wait, maybe…), but Finner’s spot on, all that regular supermarket stuff that you grew up with that is either unavailable or outrageously overpriced in Taipei is normal fare in the PIs.
I mean like being able to run down to the corner to buy a roast or a pack of hot dog buns or grab some butter at the 7-11, like.
With a selection of fruit and veg pretty much on a par with Taiwan.

Don’t even get me STARTED on Kenny Rogers’ Roasters.


Sounds like we’ll be fine if it all comes off.


Indeed. Philippine food is mostly shite, but if you like junk food, Jolibee hits the spot.[/quote]
I won’t argue with you about this - just count the number of Filipino restaurants and Pinoytowns there are in the world compared to Thai Restaurants and Chinatowns. 'Nuff said.

But the next time you visit the islands, plan ahead what food to look for at websites like this:

At a bookstore on a recent visit, I picked up a copy of their Top 10 Lists of things to eat, and I was surprised at how varied (and tasty) Filipino food can be. Some of the categories are food that has been Filipinized from Chinese or Spanish cooking – you wouldn’t find them anywhere else, or they are adapted enough that while Filipinos might consider something like “Taho” or “Hopia” to be Chinese, you just wouldn’t find the exact same thing in China, Taiwan, or HK.

In a different way, there is food that is done well there that you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere in Asia – like Cochinillo al Horno ala Castellana. This is a baby pig roasted so crispy it is “cut” using the plates
The servers will “ham it up” when they cut the pork, but it’s still fun to watch and eat. I’m getting hungry thinking about it

I don’t mean to be argumentative, but most of the burgers I eat (and that you’ll find in Jollibee) are made of beef. Sisig is classic bar food made from the face and ears of the pig. Finely chopped up, then sautéed with peppers and onions, and doused with hot sauce, it is ideal with ice cold beer.

If you want to live well in Manila, I recommend you grab a copy of Vault when you visit. Sure, half of the articles are about how to choose your private helicopter or how this model of fancy men’s watch differs from that. But you will also find tips on where to eat, what to try, and cool things to buy for your wife/girlfriend in Manila.


Sure. As with any cuisine, really - British fish’n’chips done badly is disgusting. Done well, it’s gourmet fare.

A (Filipina) ex-gf was an amazing cook. What people prepare in their homes doesn’t bear much resemblance to what you’ll buy outside.

Sigh. British humour. Never works outside of Britain.

I like sisig (especially, as you say, with a few bottles of Red Horse). In fact one of the things that does impress me about Philippine cuisine is that they do manage to turn essentially unappetizing crap into something edible (a bit like the British pork pie).

I have a soft spot for Russian Mi-8’s, but that’s just me.


Indeed. Philippine food is mostly shite, but if you like junk food, Jolibee hits the spot.[/quote]
I won’t argue with you about this - just count the number of Filipino restaurants and Pinoytowns there are in the world compared to Thai Restaurants and Chinatowns. 'Nuff said.

I remember when I came back from my first trip to The Philippines, (a looong time ago), sitting around with a bunch of the guys and saying something like this, and one of them was…dang, what’s that guy’s name?
You know him, Mr Egg, ah, Eddie or Ed something…starts with a G…Greco or something? Been around forever, nice guy.

Anyways, after I said this he really came close to kicking my ass, seriously, but settled for berating me for being loutish enough to visit a country without taking any interest in its culture.
He was, of course right.

Also, FWIW, I make adobo at least once a month at home, the girls love it. :wink:


Well, let me continue along the theme of Filipino food that you should try if you ever are in the Philippines. If you have the time, go to the northern part of MetroManila to Quezon City and look for “Nathaniel’s”

Apparently, if you say this name to any food-loving Manilenyo, they will know you are talking about Nathaniel’s Buko Pandan Salad. And here, say it with a Filipino accent: nah-tun-NYELS (not na-THA-nyuhls). This stuff is good. It’s creme - not ice cream - and made of strands of coconut meat and pandan flavors.

Jeez - what a meal: starting with Sisig, washed down with Red Horse, a couple of helpings of Cochinillo with side orders of my grandfather’s “white” (no soy sauce) chicken-pork adobo, a cool green-mango-and-tomato salad with bago-ong, some sina-ngag (garlic fried rice), and finished off with Nathaniel’s. Wow. Guaranteed to give you a heart attack later in life, but maybe worth the trouble.

Here’s a map to Nathaniel’s btw: … uko-pandan

Another recent favorite restaurant there is Bagoong Club ( … -club.html). You know how in Taipei we have Cha for Tea, where everything on the menu is either made with, inspired by, or prepared with tea? Bagoong Club is similar in that way, and uses the super salty shrimp paste (bago-ong) as its theme. And the food is great – classic Filipino food staples with a twist.

Moving the conversation away from food and back to other matters, let me know (PM me) what industry or sector your wife is in. I still know some people who are active in the Taiwanese-Filipino community there (or who should know people) and I have a love/hate relationship with TECO (don’t we all?)

Regarding your own work as a copywriter - lmk what sort of opportunities you are looking for. I know some people in the advertising industry you might want to take out for coffee and get their perspective – both MNC and small agency. Connect to me on LinkedIn ( and I can introduce you