Manila - Moving to



Sorry to be gravedigging, but wife and I are a bit in a process of moving over to Manila in the course of the next 2 or 3 years. If, and if … if the wife does not change her plans again, like she loves to do. Wife has gotten the cold shoulder of her local Taipei family, some First vs. Third sister war thingy being fueled by the fact that the husband of daughter No.3 may not be very Chinese but a laowai (you might guess that is me). 2nd sister is married to a Chinese-Filipino and already doing business there, so she is quite hooked to move over to Manila.

I was quite much against it, as a quick googling through mainly German websites (you may guess my nationality here) revealed Manila would be:

  • heat
  • smog
  • garbage
  • street girls
  • people hating whites
  • Muslim terrorist trying to kidnap the whitebread foreigner

Being there was totally different though. Friendly people. Bonifacio Global City full of condo buildings and shopping malls, very nice city center there with lots of foreigners. People speak English everywhere. Security everywhere. Local family lives in Paranque City in a gated … low middle class … community. A bit rundown, but Okay. Housing is cheap, live-in maid is cheap, driver is cheap. German school is much cheaper than in Taipei.

I am aware going to the wrong part of town would get me to feel more of the disadvantages listed above, but I would not intend to do that.

Just wanting to share, if anyone has recently visited Manila as well then I’d love to hear some chit chat.

EDIT: Always fought the urge to speak Spanish there. Fighting this urge was easy as I had forgotten most of my Spanish which I spoke a bit from my pre-Taiwan travel days (Cuba, Dominican Republic).


Do you think you’ll stay in Paranaque if you do move over there?

I’m surprised that some German-language websites cited “people hating whites” - maybe this is related to terrorists kidnapping whitebread.

I visited Manila twice this year (not counting New Year’s time) and I was surprised how much WORSE the traffic has become. I was surprised I was surprised - it’s been bad for 20 years, and somehow, I’m still shocked at how much worse it could get. Before my last visit to Manila, the government did kick-off the first of several infrastructure projects that will tie up and worsen traffic for the next 5 to 10 years. I remember reading about it one week before the first project was scheduled to break-ground. They were calling it “Carmageddon”. The funny thing is that this is a city that really needs its roads - it’s entire transportation system, in fact - re-examined. So I felt this hopeless frustration about what life there will be like, and was feeling some relief that I would not have to put up with it.

Also, this year, I signed up for Uber. It has been a blast using Uber in Taipei. I haven’t used in Manila yet, and I can’t imagine how it would be sitting in Carmageddon in an Uber car. If you know what the traffic patterns are like in the areas you plan to visit, I can see how Uber would be great. Walking around in the heat isn’t fun (but I do it anyway in Manila - at least for the first few days of my visits - because I’m used to being a pedestrian and a commuter outside the Philippines).

Another hopeful thought - I met friends for breakfast at the Fairmont (, which for me is a completely new hotel in the middle of Makati. That was nice, and it was cool to discover by accident that you could reach other parts of Makati Commercial by going underground (it was raining the day I was there) and seeing the massive underground parking that has appeared below. I wouldn’t be surprised if that eastern half of Makati Commercial is now interconnected. Cool.


As long as you have a guy with a shotgun at the entrance everything will be OK … or did that change over the years? No need for a shotgun anymore? Even Mc Donalds had them … and 7-11 … and Goldilocks cakeshop.


I don’t think that has changed.

Growing up there, I didn’t think that was anything but normal. After living in the US, China, and Taiwan, I was amazed that I wasn’t bothered by them. There are a lot of guns there.


I remember some years, raining season … parts of Manila flooded. Not that I’ve lived there, but traveling through and applying for visa many times made me aware that parts of Manila are not that good to live at. But I liked the jeepneys, easy to use, cheap but hot at times when stuck in traffic. I guess I only used the LRT system once. The only time I really felt unsafe was at night alone on the street after 6PM, night comes fast.


I don’t think that has changed.

Growing up there, I didn’t think that was anything but normal. After living in the US, China, and Taiwan, I was amazed that I wasn’t bothered by them. There are a lot of guns there.[/quote]

I hate the gun culture in the Phils. It’s very much like the US - people think guns keep them safe, whereas the opposite is quite clearly true (there was a case of a businessman being robbed at gunpoint by the police a few weeks ago, and it’s rather common for criminals to obtain a weapon by knifing a security guard). There is also a simmering undercurrent of interpersonal violence in the country that can boil over for no apparent reason: a population with anger management issues and easy access to black-market weapons is a recipe for tragedy. Revenge shootings and vendettas are common. I know two people who have had family members shot dead over some trivial matter.

Indeed. They could start by simply banning cars, instead of spending limited funds on infrastructure which has no economic justification or social purpose. I spent three hours in a taxi from Manila airport to QC (about 11km). If I hadn’t had a suitcase, I would have walked. I’m writing this from the NAIA lounge - the reverse trip was 1.5hrs, in “good” traffic conditions.

Personally, I don’t detect any hatred of foreigners. However, because foreigners are forbidden to interact with the country in any but the most trivial ways - spending money, basically - people see us as either a curiosity, or as walking ATMs. Even in Mindanao etc., I don’t think the various criminal organisations there actually hate foreigners. They just see them as golden geese to be squeezed for golden eggs. It’s, like, nothing personal.


On Boracay a Belgian guy and his family were murdered and the house set on fire over a (business) dispute many years ago … I would say over there it’s not as safe as Taiwan.


That’s what it is … a business. We take you, you pay us and we’ll let you go.


Manila reminded me much more of Latin America than of Asia. Guns are also very common there.

Another strange metric is the ability of vendors to make change. In Latin America (Peru/Ecuador) it was a daily battle to break the large denominations because virtually no vendor could make change. I remember being so thirsty one day but I couldn’t buy a bottle of water for 50c because a $20 would be impossible to break. I even ran into a vendor that had to run up and down the street to find $13 in change for $7 purchase. In the Philippines this happened every damn day. It never happened in Laos, Cambodia or Thailand despite the 1st two being quite poor.


Way too many people there seem to have all the emotional maturity of 12-year-olds. Any material dispute inevitably devolves into something deeply personal, even when it’s something that would (in any other country) be easily resolved by negotiation and a search for the common good. I really don’t know what that’s all about. I suppose the basic reason is that there is no functioning rule of law, so people are left to their own devices and the worst of human nature emerges.

I agree. Reminds me a lot of Mexico (the only S.American country I’ve been to). Can’t help wondering if Catholicism has something to do with it - or rather, the peculiar fucked-up version of it that was exported by colonialists.

Yes, there is a shortage of paper currency. Add to that a basically failed banking system, and there’s really no way for business transactions to take place. I’m convinced this is deliberate. The more I see of poor countries - and the more interactions I have with government officials and employees - it seems to me that poverty and economic dysfunction is carefully cultivated, the way Baron Harkonnen cultivated his boils.



Yes, there is a shortage of paper currency. Add to that a basically failed banking system, and there’s really no way for business transactions to take place. I’m convinced this is deliberate. The more I see of poor countries - and the more interactions I have with government officials and employees - it seems to me that poverty and economic dysfunction is carefully cultivated, the way Baron Harkonnen cultivated his boils.[/quote]

I hadn’t considered it as a shortage of paper currency but rather an inability (or other reason) for small businesses to maintain a float of small denominations for customers.


I suppose it may be a hedge against being robbed. But even banks don’t keep much paper lying around. I’m just assuming it’s a deliberate restriction of M0 money - could be wrong about that.


Perhaps robbery but more likely simply not tying up cash reserves just for making change.


Maybe so. I’m just extrapolating from the general government policy towards business. Bear in mind the Phils is one of the planet’s few remaining fascist countries - overtly so under Marcos, and as set in stone in the 1987 Constitution. Business, therefore, is a plaything of the State and is tolerated only if it serves its needs. Keeping a tight rein on money flow is consistent with fascist ideology and ensures that the state can throttle business activity at will, although not necessarily in a well-targeted fashion.


Is this for real? I would like to understand this better perspective better (it’s fascinating). It surprises me because my impression of a fascist state is a government that is organized and strict to carry out its control policies, and my impression is that the government in the Philippines lacks this organization and discipline. Indeed, only now, under a president elected largely because he was/is most likely to “steal less”, are policies like enforcing tax collections (this is fun episode to listen to about the fear BIR Commissioner inspires today: … d-the-nosy hers is the first of 3 profiles in the episode; I never thought of that as fascistic until maybe now)

I was also surprised that PNoy has started talking term extension: … -sc-powers … -extension

Maybe from the perspective of it being a fascist country, this makes more sense. Could it be an unwitting fascist country?

New Filipino President - Dictator?

I thought it was common knowledge, Goose Egg. The Philippines has been fascist - or at least under heavy fascist influence - for the better part of the 20th century. It’s one of the reasons they had such a “close relationship” with the US during the Cold War years. The only people who don’t realise it are Filipinos.

The history and policies of the Partido Nacionalista has strong parallels with the original Spanish Falange (there are even a couple of prominent political family names that crop up in both countries) and some similarities to Mussolini’s Italy. The concepts of National Socialism are enshrined for eternity in the Constitution (I assume you’ve read it?). Marcos is listed under “Fascist leaders” on Wikipedia, since the NP was the party with which he had the strongest links, at least during his heyday. The defining characteristics of a fascist state are:

  1. Corporatism, which is the overt management of business and industry to serve State policy, ostensibly for the public good but in practice to facilitate grand larceny and social control. In the Philippines, corporatism is characterised by closed industries (government-approved licenses and certifications for professionals), a planned economy (including some limited price-fixing), protection of state-affiliated monopolies, and heavy state interference in the details of business operations. The main weapon against business is the BIR, which has open-ended authority to levy any taxes it pleases upon anybody, and can thereby give favoured industries a boost or shut down ‘undesirable’ ones. I surmise that Corporatism is popular in the Philippines because it’s associated with the Roman Catholic church (although their views on the subject are rather more idealistic) and resembles traditional clan-based allegiances.

  2. Highly traditional/conservative social attitudes, especially regarding gender roles, allegiance to State and Country, racial/national purity and superiority, and ‘moral purity’. For example, lip-service to religion, rejection of meaningful foreign participation in the economy, “Pinoy Pride”, male chauvinism, and opposition to contraception are all historically consistent with fascist values.

  3. Suppression of opposing political views, with violence if necessary. I don’t think much needs to be said on that point, except to note that violence is rarely necessary because Filipinos (as a broad generalisation) do tend to believe and repeat whatever they’re told to believe, and will aggressively shout down anyone with an opposing viewpoint. The threat of violence from the Police and the Army is muted, but ever-present. There probably are some decent Filipino policemen, but nobody in their right mind would trust the Police force as an establishment.

Point (1) makes fascism easy to confuse with communism. In theory, fascism proposes a benevolent state apparatus that resolves social conflict by deciding who gets what, while communism proposes that this is achieved by common consensus. In practice, fascist and communist states are virtually indistinguishable.

The Philippines is far better organised that you think; once you’ve established a system of education that discourages thinking and prevents any intellectual progress or discourse, and a legal system that prevents 90% of the population from accessing the law, it’s easy for an oligarchy to keep its position with minimal effort. The Marcos government was a model of efficiency - at all the wrong things, obviously, but Marcos was far from stupid and built a complex, mostly-legal structure to carry out his pillaging. Much of what he built remains intact. There are academic studies about what he did and how he did it. Google it. The place appears disorganised because of deliberate obfuscation of State functions. Complicated and logically-inconsistent rules, massive redundancy of data and job functions, and reams of (apparently) pointless forms and procedures are not (entirely) down to incompetence. They are there to discourage the average person from looking under the rug.

I’ll have a listen to the BIR thingy later (the comments are intriguing) - got to get on with some work for now! Basically the tax system of the Philippines is fucked. If people declared their taxes honestly, the country would be in a worse mess than it is already. The BIR is not there to raise revenue for worthy social infrastructure, but to keep the great unwashed in their hovels. Cheating the taxman is an act of patriotism.


Thanks for the interesting observations. Well there are still guards with guns everywhere. I am aware I was in kind of a bubble there. Wife’s family lives in a somewhat slightly run-down but guarded community, has a driver and they avoid going out in unsafe areas. Meaning the driver takes them into the safe areas like Bonifacio Global City or however those fine parts of town are called and then back home through the gates. The husband who is a Philippino citizen (Chinese origin) is going to other places by himself, but makes sure never to let his Taiwanese wife and son go astray in unsafe areas.

Wife and I would copy this lifestyle to try to relief the populance of the burden to evaluate if old Bob H. here already mandates a robbery because watch to shiny or looking too whitey.

Being a newbie I can only guess that may work out. Or not.

EDIT: If it goes on, we might be living in Paranque City or somewhere close in the course of the next years


If you’re happy to do nothing much except shuttle from your gated community to work and back, with the occasional trip to the mall, you’ll probably be OK (apart from the traffic driving you crazy). Everyday life in most countries is like that. I think it’s fairly unlikely you’ll be targeted for thievery or kidnapping; the former is usually opportunistic (jeepney/MRT pickpocketing rather than violent holdups) and the latter happens mostly out in the wilds of Mindanao, AFAIK.


I agree with most of this except for the very last part, which I made bold. But I do not have much more to add than that the kidnapping we (in the gated communities in Manila) often hear about are those that seem to target wealthy Filipino-Chinese families. Now I believe there are plenty of things to qualify about that point: like that there is also an understanding that a lot (most?) of that happens within the Fil-Chi community itself, that is, Mainland Chinese gangsters are involved, as well as some involvement of the police (was it you who mentioned earlier that trusting the police establishment is crazy? This is also my understanding of the general view of the cops - unless you are related to them. And even then.)

I suppose this is different from the kidnapping that occurs in the wilds of Mindanao. What happens in Mindanao sounds like the American Wild West. A friend of mine was based in the sticks of Mindanao in the '70’s. He is a Catholic priest and that was his first overseas assignment. He told me when night came, you stay in your house until dawn. Unless you wanted to be killed. He made it sound like all-out war down there. Given what has occurred in more recent years with the political clans, I would not be surprised if all that has changed is that the guns and private armies have gotten bigger.


I was going to say that the kidnappings that do occur in Manila are (I imagine) carefully targeted, planned and carried out by professionals. They’d want to guarantee a large payback given the risks. Kidnapping some random whitey is unlikely to have that result.

But yeah, Mindanao is a whole different ball game. I was there last year for a few days. I asked a few people if it wasn’t dangerous. They just didn’t give a shit. “Oh, there are some NPA over there [waves hand in the general direction of the mountains], but you don’t need to worry about them”. People stayed in their houses not because they were worried about crime, but because there’s nothing interesting outside the front door. I couldn’t say how dangerous it is really - most of the population seemed to be the standard-issue, blank-faced, cock-fighting, Red Horse drinking layabouts, not hardened criminals. Then again, when life is meaningless, life is cheap. I suppose you don’t find out how bad things are until someone actually pokes a gun in your back.

Sounds plausible. I suspect the various “terrorist” groups are mostly just thugs with guns, with barely enough brains to figure out which end the bullet comes out of. Doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous, but the political clans - who are somewhat smarter and know exactly what they can get away with - are ten times more so.