This one will have you scratching our head. Just having moved into a new apartment here in Manila and it’s come that time to start paying bills. While it was complicated enough to get everything set up at my new palatial estate at Morgan Suites (ok, a 34 square-meter studio apartment that looks like the most comfortable room in an insane asylum), I had a lot of help. My local Filipina friend, Laarni, lived in this building as well and not only found the place for me and introduced me to the landlord but helped with the transition and all of my stupid questions (and numerous complaints).

Paying bills in the Philippines

However, Laarni is moving on to Australia, so I’ll soon be left fending for myself in the ways of maintaining a household here in the Philippines, which will inevitably be equal parts comedy and tragedy.

Just today, this is what I had to handle to get my bills paid for the month.

First, let’s talk about rent. Believe it or not, my rent is a whopping 20,000 Pesos! Oh, that’s only $400 in U.S. dollars, but that’s a fantastic deal for Manila where modern apartments in nice neighborhoods easily go for double or triple that. To pay my rent, I have to make a direct bank deposit to my landlord’s bank.

I was pleased as punch when I heard that that bank was the “United Coconut Planters Bank,” or UCPB. How cool is that? I wondered if they would serve coconuts in the lobby while patrons waited and all of the tellers would have those wide-brimmed sun hats on, but it was just a regular – even upscale- business bank.

But I went to UCPB, which I was happy to see was right in my neighborhood, and made the deposit and was out within 15 minutes. Awesome so far.

However, the rest got a little more confusing.

To pay my other utility bills, I simply had to go into my unit’s mailbox and get the statements which were mailed there. Sounds easy, right? However, the rows and rows of mailboxes in the tower’s mail room had very little rhyme or reason to them. They are split into Tower 1, 2, or 3, but from there, it loses all sense of logic. Some start following a sequence only to stop, so you’ll have like 14A, 14B, 14C, 22P, 6G, etc. So it took me fifteen minutes of scanning every single row of mailboxes to find mine.

Once I got it opened, I had a water bill and an electric bill.

The water bill was almost nothing (like $1!), and I was told that I could pay at the condo’s admin office.

However, the electric bill (about $30, although if you use the AC then electric can easily run $100 a month or more), needs to be paid somewhere else I was told. Unfortunately, no one was really sure.

Wait, isn’t this the same electric bill that hundreds or thousands of residents from the same building need to pay every month? I was told that I had to drive out to a nearby mall (Market Market) to pay the bill at the electric company’s office. But another person said that if it wasn’t after the due date, I could pay at a 7-11 or other remittance center.

However, because the electric bill includes two weeks when the past tenant lived there, I was further instructed to go to the property manager’s office – which is in the condo project next door – and give the bill to them so they could prorate it and pay it.

Wouldn’t it be so nice and easy if these bills could all be paid in one place, or just online? Wishful thinking! Laarni, help!

Rate this post


Norm Schriever is a blogger, Amazon best-sellling author, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His work appears in the Huffington Post,, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show on CNN, NBC, MSN, Yahoo,, and media all around the world.
Norm grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he was never accused of overstudying. After expatriating to Costa Rica in 2011, he started traveling the world and documenting what he saw. He now lives in Southeast Asia, writing his heart out and working with local charities.