Manila – Teraffic place

So I was lucky enough to secure some remote work through the company I was working for in Sydney before I ventured out. The engagement involved overseeing some activity in Manila so I made my way there after Boracay.

Leaving Boracay was quite seamless given that it involved 2 tricycles, a boat and a plane. Getting to the AirBNB condo in Manila where I was staying was unfortunately not so seamless.

Traffic in Manila is bonkers. The place I was staying at was 8km from the airport. It took an hour to get a yellow taxi (the non-dodgy airport taxis with a proper meter and a driver who won’t try to up the rate on the way). It then took another 3 HOURS to get to my condo. 8km away. That’s an average pace of….not enoughl km/h. Slower than walking pace.

I was hoping that this was just a once off incident, as I’ve been to Manila before and never recall it being THAT bad. It wasn’t a a once off incident. The office I was working out of was located 1.7km from the place I was staying. On average, a taxi would take 30 minutes to get there. Average. So sometimes longer. I walked it the first couple of days but as I had to buy new work-appropriate shoes they had torn apart my achilles and walking was quite painful for the next few days. The traffic situation alone made my stay in Manila nothing to write home about. It’s a gamble every time you jump in a cab to go somewhere. You could be there in no time and have a productive day, or you could end up stuck in traffic for a couple of hours, and there is no real reliable way to predict it.

Different faces of Manila. Having said that, Manila does have some very nice places, some very dodgy places, and some in between. It seems that people generally stick to their area and therefore you can see a night and day difference between parts of the city as you jump around. For Example, Eastwood is an area in Quezon City which has nice restaurants, bars and  is home to many high-rise commercial buildings, however on your way there from anywhere else you will pass areas that are obviously very poor, with electrical wires hanging everywhere with only the more traditional type of street-side shops and street vendors. This alone makes Manila an interesting place to visit. Definitely a place with it’s own character.

Working in Manila for a corporate company is not too far off what I am used to in Sydney. The main differences I found are;

Lift etiquette:

Sydney: The lift stops, the doors open, wait for people to exit the lift, enter the lift,  choose your floor. Repeat.

Manila: The lift stops, the doors open, everyone rushes at each other from both directions.


Sydney: Sometimes the toilet paper runs out and you need to use the adjoining cubicle instead.

Manila: There is no toilet paper. You are expected to bring your own into the CR.


Sydney: Head downstairs to the foodcourt at the bottom of the building and buy an overpriced sandwich for $16, then go to the best cafe in the city to get a coffee for $3

Manila: Head to the food court on Level 6 and buy a rice topping meal for less than $2, but later go to Starbucks and get a coffee for $5

Accomodation in Manila can be very cheap. If you look on Agoda or any of the hotel sites you will find most decent looking hotels are looking for the realm of $100 a night for accomodation. Divert your attention to AirBNB and you will find nicer condos for a third of that price. Once you’re here, you are likely to halve that price again by finding something privately. It is amazingly cheap to stay in Manila.

Manila is a city that I feel I haven’t yet figured out, and I’m not sure if that is an achievable thing. I know where it is, and I know what parts of it are like, but I can’t really place a particular emotion against Manila because of its inconsistencies. It might be that I haven’t spent enough time there to get it. Or it might be that there is nothing to get. I will surely be back here soon enough one way or another and will have another shot at finding out.


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