The capital city of Manila lounges on the shores of Manila Bay, one of the world’s finest natural harbours. Owing to its excellent protected harbour, Manila has been a thriving trading hub for over a millennium. It has also been the site of many a bloody battle over the centuries, as Spain, Britain, Holland, the US and Philippines have vied for control over the strategic port.
This palm tree-fringed coastal city now serves as the chief seaport of the country and boasts a diverse manufacturing sector that produces anything from chemicals, to food processing, electronic goods to tobacco products. Local entrepreneurs thrive here, processing primary commodities for export, such as rope, plywood, refined sugar and coconut oil.
Manila is the world’s most densely populated city. Its population density per km2 is more than double Calcutta’s and almost three times as high as Shanghai’s. This understandably places considerable pressure on the city’s infrastructure. During storms, Manila’s streets are prone to flooding and electrical outages are the norm rather than the exception.
If you are moving here for work, it is advisable to find accommodation near to your workplace, given that the public transport infrastructure is often overwhelmed. While taxis are abundant and cheap, the traffic is often extremely heavy.
Manila’s passion for trade, which predates the Spanish conquistadors to the Ming Dynasty, is evident in the city’s plethora of shopping options. Manila’s early trade link with China lives on in the Binondo (the world’s oldest Chinatown), which you can find in the Qiapo (Old Downtown).
The city is liberally endowed with major shopping centres (notably Robinsons centre) and local shopping districts. Western foodstuffs can be found in Robinsons and Fiesta centre and Food Aisles, as well as in a range of specialty shops, such as Union Jack. If you tire of the fantastic local fare, a handful of pubs offer traditional "pub grub" and international restaurants abound.
Manila is the world’s most densely populated city. Its population density per square kilometer is more than double Kolkata's and almost three times as high as Shanghai’s. Understandably, this places considerable pressure on the city’s infrastructure. During storms, Manila’s streets are prone to flooding and electrical outages are the norm rather than the exception. Manila’s passion for trade, which predates the Spanish conquistadors to the Ming Dynasty, is evident in the city’s plethora of shopping options. Manila’s early trade link with China lives on in the Binondo (the world’s oldest Chinatown), which you can find in the Qiapo (Old Downtown). The city is liberally endowed with major shopping malls (notably Mall of Asia) and local shopping districts.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Filipinos are very warm and welcoming; they are resourceful and talented, providing an abundance of gifts to take home and memorable performances in whatever genre of arts you prefer. A newcomer is quickly drawn into society. It is very easy to make friends. It is also easy to find imported items and just about anything can be sourced in the Philippines, if you have the time to research. On the down side, the pollution tends to be bad during rush hour (in the morning and evening). During these times, the heavy traffic is also very stressful and this is being compounded by the continuous and rapid growth experienced in Metro Manila over the last ten years.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Fortunately, your positive impressions of the Filipinos as friendly people will be reinforced. Pollution and the bad traffic continue to be challenges that the government is grappling with. If you are moving here for work, it is advisable to find accommodation near your workplace, given that the public transport infrastructure is often overwhelmed. While taxis are abundant and cheap, the traffic is often extremely heavy. For those inevitable moments when you crave space and tranquillity, escaping the throng is easy. Head for the Metro Manila area’s many resorts – or better still, hop over to one of the Philippines’ many exquisite island retreats to fully recharge.
What is the local language?
The local language in Manila is Tagalog, but you will find that in mixed company locals will talk "Taglish," a mixture of Tagalog and English, so that it is often possible to follow the meaning. You may want to try out a few words; your efforts will always be rewarded with a smile.
Salamat Thank you
Magandang Umaga Good morning
Magandang Gabi Good Evening
Kamusta ka How are you
Mabuti naman I am fine thank you
Paumanhin I am sorry
Dito po This way
Ingat po Take care
There is also a language called Filipino, which is similar to Tagalog.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
English is spoken widely so English speakers should have no problems communicating in the Philippines. Local people are very patient and will try to help you even if you are not comfortable speaking English. However, learning some Tagalog really helps in starting to understand the unique culture of this fascinating group of over 7000 islands. If you are coming to manage an office that is predominantly staffed with local staff, then expect that day-to-day communication will be in Tagalog or Taglish, unless you specifically request otherwise.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Keeping a calm appearance and having a friendly smile is by far the best way to enjoy your time in the Philippines. Filipinos are very sensitive people who always consider others and try to avoid conflict wherever possible. Avoid loud, aggressive behaviour and offensive language when dealing with them. Pointing at people, being unduly impatient or interrupting is considered rude and may cause offense.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The Philippines is a tropical country with two pronounced seasons: dry and wet. During the dry season (January to May), it is very hot and probably wise to not spend too much time in the sun without protection. During the wet season (June to December), many areas of Metro Manila may become flooded during a typhoon.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Metro Manila is a large, sprawling city. Often, modern high-rise buildings and malls exist right next to huge squatter colonies. This takes some getting used to. As in any large city, avoid going to dimly-lit and unfamiliar areas at night.