07 APRIL 2015 – 04 MAY 2015:
First stop on my travels was always going to be Manila, Philippines. Being half Filipino, and with family in the area, it made sense to start here. In the UK I am always seen as different because I look oriental, but here they also look at me like I am alien because of my white skin. I’m beginning to feel like I don’t actually fit in anywhere. But hey, who wants to fit in any way!
It’s been 7 years since I was last here, when my close friend Anna was pregnant. Now I see her son looking so grown up and it reminds me how time really does fly and lives change.
I’m fortunate that my family own three apartment units at Jazz Residences in Bel-Air Makati, Manila. Everything is very easily accessible – downstairs is the Jazz Mall which is mainly for residents and includes a hairdressers, supermarket, spa, and lots of restaurants and coffee shops. Other amenities are being worked on as we speak so in the coming months when it is all complete there should also be a state of the art gym.
My apartment is on the 26th floor so I try to not look down when I am on the balcony! I can see all the lights of the city from my bed. Right now it’s 2am and everything is calm and relaxed and there is nowhere I would rather be. It’s amazing how being somewhere different can change your perspective almost instantly. After just a few days here, my mind is clear and I’m genuinely happy. I may have even managed to cure my shopping addiction at least temporarily, because I have no desire to go ‘stress’ shopping. This would shock anyone who knows me well… That could also be a direct result of moving house and realising just how many pairs of shoes I already own.
In recent years the Philippines was ranked as the 58th poorest country in the world (on Gross Domestic Product (PPP) Per Capita 2009-2013), compared to the UK ranked at 162nd place. What never fails to amaze me every time I visit Philippines, is that despite the fact that they’re considered a relatively poor country they sure do have everything you could ever want here. Their shopping malls are in a completely different league to everything we have. Within 10 miles from where I am right now there are at least five massive shopping malls, all probably in the same league as the Westfield shopping centres in London. One thing that is obvious is that the Filipinos love to eat whilst socialising because they are definitely not short of dining venues. They have every fast food chain I have ever heard of (a mix of all of the US and UK brands), many of which deliver to your home. Everything is open until late so I could probably get my KFC delivered to my apartment at 4am and no one would think anything of it! The shops in the mall seem to close around 9pm every day. I walked passed Starbucks the other night and there were loads of people there at 3am! There’s a huge variety of multicultural restaurants – so much choice everywhere! I don’t really understand how so many Filipinos remain slim!
Service in general is second to none here. All workers look nicely presented and will go above and beyond to be helpful and provide an outstanding service, whether it’s at the supermarket or whilst giving you a pedicure. Service with a smile really does go a long way!
The cost of living is quite strange to me, some things are relatively priced compared to the UK salary vs. expenditure rate but some things are ludicrously expensive. I suspect because a lot of things are imported. Whilst manual labour in the UK is very expensive, here people providing such services seem to get paid the least.
I am taking advantage of this fact. I treat myself to a home visit massage most evenings. They come to me, give me an amazing massage all for a mere 250 pesos for an hour. That is equivalent to less than £4, compared to the UK which is probably £50 for an hour and you have to go to them. The 250 pesos gets given to the company they work for although any tips seem to go straight to the masseuse. I suspect they probably only take home 6,000 pesos per month which is around £90. Not so bad if all expenditure is relative to their salary but unfortunately that is not the case.
For homes which are not equipped with economical modern inverter air con units, the bills can be very high and trust me when I say you need air con! It’s 36 Degrees Celsius this week. An average household could spend as much as 3,000 – 4,000 pesos per month for electricity. That doesn’t leave many workers with much left of their monthly salaries. Because of the salary vs expenditure rate, many people here never have the opportunity to move out of their family homes (and you thought it was hard to move away from Mummy and Daddy in the UK!) Despite that, people still find happiness in other ways and constantly wear a smile. It’s hardly surprising that I suddenly feel very appreciative for my life and I realise how easy I have it.
I’m very excited to have my two best friends joining me this week. After 20 or so years of friendship, I think it’s about time they saw the country that I call my second home. My next post will have some details on interesting places to visit in Philippines. My friends will be here tomorrow so it’s time for me to stop relaxing all day and get my tour guide hat on so I can show them the very best the Philippines has to offer!
|Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant||£12.00||£2.30||-80.85 %|
|Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course||£50.00||£11.64||-76.71 %|
|McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)||£5.00||£1.99||-60.17 %|
|Domestic Beer (0.5 litre draught)||£4.00||£0.61||-84.68 %|
|Imported Beer (0.33 litre bottle)||£4.00||£1.38||-65.53 %|
|Cappuccino (regular)||£2.56||£1.74||-31.84 %|
|Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litre bottle)||£1.20||£0.41||-66.04 %|
|Water (0.33 litre bottle)||£0.97||£0.30||-68.63 %|