I have been to Manila in the Philippines many times and moved here 12 months ago. I have had a wonderful time, but it isn’t all smooth sailing, so I thought I would jot down ten things I love about Manila and ten things that I hate.
Here is the first part in the series, the 10 Things I Hate About Manila.
I just would like to premise this section to say that over all I enjoy living in Manila. I understand that it is a third world country and developing, so the money is just not available for some things. I also am comparing life in Manila to the life I am used to in Australia. Perhaps it just a foreigner having a whinge, but no offense is intended and I am not having a go at the city, but sometimes the less attractive aspects of a city need to be brought to the surface. By nature I do not really ‘hate’ these things (it’s just a catchier title) but sometimes they really get on my nerves.
1. The Smog
The air pollution is bad here. There doesn’t seem to be any regulations (or it’s not policed) about what you can or can’t spew into the air. Industries as well as many of the millions of cars shoot out thick black smoke into the air. Every few days a thick, black layer of dust settles on everything. It’s not just the outside either, if I leave a window open it will get on the desk, on the computer and especially the fans. God knows what is in it or what it is doing to my lungs.
2. It’s Crowded
Manila is one of the largest cities on the planet. There are roughly 12 million people living here and it is tough to get some time alone. Almost constantly there are people wherever I look. It can make being in a hurry tough as people of all shapes and sizes negotiate their way around, bumping into people and such. Such a frenetic city, it gets to me sometimes when just walking down the street is a challenge as I have to dodge the Jeepneys, motorbikes and people.
3. The Lack of Common Sense and Inefficiency
Someone once said that common sense is not that common and that can be true of some people and organisations here. Local councils will put up poles in the middle of the side walk, leaving little room for people to get past. On a small pedestrian bridge vendors will set up stalls, so that what once could fit 5 people abreast can now only fit 2, causing a bottleneck and congestion. Security guards will feel your belt area to ensure you don’t have weapons, but don’t check the outside pockets in bags or check hats or socks. Supermarkets will not let me in the store with empty carry bags, making it necessary to use their plastic bags, whilst paying for things seems to be whoever can push in the best, even if I have been waiting longer. I had a parcel sent to me and had to go to the post office to collect it, yet the card did not tell me which post office, and I spent about 3 hours travelling around to locate it. I could go on and on but here are just a few examples.
A pole in the middle of the sidewalk and rubbish out for collection
4. Broken Side Walks / Common Infrastructure Maintenance
While this is not really anyone’s fault as there may not be enough money to pay for maintenance, it can still be annoying and downright dangerous. There are rusty pipes sticking out of the footpath, which itself is uneven and broken. Large holes to the drains below, left open, waiting for an unsuspecting pedestrian to trip into if not careful. I can’t count the times I have stubbed my toe or tripped.
5. It’s Dirty.
Tied in with the amount of people living in Metro Manila and the lack of common sense is the fact that it is dirty. Really dirty. Large rats and cockroaches are a common site. The garbage men come every day, yet there are no bins, people put out their rubbish in plastic bags straight onto the street, so of course the street cats, dogs and kids get into the rubbish looking for anything of value or scraps. Then the garbage ends up all over the place for the rats and cockroaches. Men relieve themselves wherever they like, making some places smell rank. It is common, even widely accepted to throw your rubbish on the ground without a second thought. A wrapper or packaging gets dropped wherever, which ends up polluting the river. Have some pride people.
6. The Silly/Strange Rules And Regulations
A different culture than what I am used to, but being a developing country I would have thought that Manila would be trying to improve itself, rather than making it hard. Some things that astound me include; many organisations, like the post office, shut down for an hour each day while they have lunch. There is no shortage of labour here, so it is not like it needs to happen. I went swimming at a local pool and was told I could not swim as I was wearing board shorts and needed swimming trunks and my fiancé was not allowed to swim without a swimming cap. There is a dress code to get into some buildings, not for workers but for members of the public. I went to pick up tickets to a concert once and was not allowed in as I was wearing shorts. Not very customer focused. Just some examples of policies that I find strange.
7. The Traffic
With so many people and many of them driving it was inevitable that there would be extreme congestion. I always add on an extra hour in travel time if I need to go somewhere important, just in case. There does not seem to be a peak hour as such as it is always busy. It can be frustrating when getting in a cab at 10 PM only to be confronted with bumper to bumper traffic and travel just a few hundred meters in 20 minutes. It is so bad that odd and even number plates are banned on the road on alternating days of the week.
8. The Taxi Drivers
Even though the fares can be considered cheap by western standards there is no shortage of tricks and scams to part you from your money. From advising the meter is broken, to changing the agreed price, to driving miles out of the way, the cab drivers in Manila are a ruthless bunch. Sure you find the odd one that is okay, but as a general rule they cannot be trusted. I always ask for the meter and will get out of a cab if they won’t use it. I always carry small denominations these days as it is common for drivers to advise they have no change.
9. Foreigner Tax
This is not an official tax, but rather how some sellers have two prices, one for locals and one for foreigners. As is often the case in developing countries, they view all westerners as rich. While I am nowhere near rich, I guess it is all relative when some people have to search every day for a place to sleep. Even though it should come as no surprise that when I buy something off a local merchant, the price will be higher than a Filipino would pay, but it still stings. I have even had some vendors up the price mid-sentence.
10. The Public Toilets
Toilets in most of Asia are pretty bad and Manila is no exception. At least most places actually have a bowl rather than a squat hole, but rarely is there any toilet paper provided. I have become used to carrying my own around to be on the safe side. Most look like they haven’t been cleaned this millennium and if you are lucky there will be a water gun on a hose to ‘wash’ after. Men here don’t bother to lift the seat, so there is urine all over it, if you are lucky enough find one with a seat that is.
Image above courtesy of http://migrationology.com