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Manila: more fun than a 1st world city

More fun because it’s home

manilaVisiting a 1st-world city can be a bittersweet experience. Sure, you’ve waited so long to finally have the chance to travel, but once you see how far advanced they are from us – how fast their internet is, how efficient and reliable their mass transport systems are, and how proficient and impressive their public services can be, you can’t help but ask yourself, “why can’t we have these in the Philippines?”

But not all disadvantages are in our country – there are some things distinctly Filipino that are better. Things like –



Sure, you can argue economies of scale or cheaper labor or a thousand other factors – but the long and short of it is: it’s cheap to live in the Philippines. A 337ml Coke bottle, for example, would cost about P11-20 (in some places) in our beloved archipelago. But when you’re in a city like Rome, prepare to shell out P400-P510 to satisfy that cola craving. If you’re in a Philippine salary traveling in a tourist-trap, 1st-world city, things can get prohibitively pricey real quick.

I also love that you can buy things in tingi (individual units) here in our country. I don’t need the whole pack of band-aids, for example, when I find blisters in my feet for going full-tourist mode and walking non-stop in a city I visit – two or three pieces would do. And of course, haggling is far easier when you’re speaking the native language. Even in places where haggling is usually non-existent (mall stores, for example), I’ve found a way to get better deals just because I know the local parlances.



Not all 1st-world cities are like New York and Tokyo – some can even feel provincial. While visiting some cities in Europe, you’ll be surprised to notice that we have a far deeper pool of brand choices in Manila. Maybe it’s our culture of consumerism, or maybe because shopping is an integral part of the tourist experience when foreigners visit our country, but if you’re the type of person who’s brand-conscious, Manila has it for you.



Correlated to the rich variety of brands available in Manila, I also love that most things are readily available – no matter the hour. The wife and I once found ourselves starving in Kyoto – simply because it was 2:40pm and no restaurants were serving lunch at that time in that area. Hankering for some quick, hot meal in Switzerland at 3am? Good luck. It’s not like the Philippines where pares joints and tapsi places are all over – ready to give you that hot fix at any time of the day.

Unlike in the Philippines, other countries require you to be more deliberate – to plan ahead and be more mindful of the schedule. We’re a more spontaneous people, and local commercial establishments have capitalized on our more erratic and whimsical nature.


When I first came to Hong Kong, I found it extremely frustrating to spend 20 minutes in a restaurant just to get an order of Coke – a brand known worldwide. There were also several stores that flat out shooed me away when I began to talk to them in English. I’m not saying that everyone should learn English – but for a city known as the shopping capital of Asia, I was expecting them to be a lot more cosmopolitan.

In Manila, you can pick any jeepney driver, any street hawker, any random person in the street and ask something in English – chances are, he will try to respond to you even in hilariously broken English. If he can’t, he’ll probably laugh and get someone else that can help you. That’s the Filipino – always trying to be accommodating even in an unfamiliar language.



This can be a polarizing subject – but personally, I love that we’re not so rule-bound as some other nations. Sure, it’s migraine-inducing to hear your neighbors belt out their videoke rendition of Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ at 11pm on a workday, but I honestly believe that it adds flavor to the neighborhood environment. I love that our response to somebody’s loud music at the beach is to crank up the volume of our own sound systems, and to never ever involve the police in such matters. I love that in every place in the Philippines where I’ve lived for more than a week – Bulacan, Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Guimaras, Manila, Guinayangan – I’ve been able to walk the streets without a shirt on and not get in trouble. It can be quite problematic, but I love that we’re free.

This is not to say, of course, that I condone lack of discipline. I too, raise my fists to the heavens and lament the culture of selfishness that creates drivers brazen enough to counter flow against traffic, the ingrained corruption that makes dealing with government offices such a hassle. What would be ideal is for Filipinos to obey the laws we already have (like anti-littering) and be more mature in our way of life so that we will never need to enact suffocating rules like banning gum or any law that limits freedom of speech. We need to discipline ourselves to continue enjoying our freedom.


The Philippines is a cauldron of ‘crazywonderful’ things – a place where order and chaos create a dynamic, vibrant city life. And while there are basic things that we continue to fail at – an efficient mass transport system, affordable education, etc. – that 1st world countries enjoy, we do have our own gems that make life more interesting in the Philippines. It is up to us to protect these treasures and keep the delightful aspects of our culture alive.