After living in the quiet and laid back (ok, TOO quiet and TOO laid back) seaside city of Dumaguete for almost two years here in the Philippines, I’m making THE big move to Manila. The capital city of the Philippines is home to probably about 25 million people (if anyone could add it up), making it one of the most populated major metropolitan areas in the world, as well as having one of the highest population densities.
While parts of Manila are incredibly poor and polluted ramshackle slums and dangerous crumbling streets, there are several nice areas, too, just like any city. In fact, Manila is the epicenter of the Philippines for business, politics, art, and culture. It also holds most of the wealthiest families (and politicians) in the country, so, basically, it’s your one option for a city with some cosmopolitan, international influences.
But choosing an apartment is a tricky situation in Manila.
With SO many people vying to live in such limitedspace, and only a small handful of high-end neighborhoods with nice, modern and safe housing, you end up with a crazy land grab that even surpasses the housing market competition in San Francisco or New York, for example.
When I asked around a lot about where to live in Manila, there were various answers, but two common threads: Makati or the Fort Bonifacio area.
Makati is older; the streets are worse, dirtier and more dangerous, and WAY more fun. The best pubs, bars, watering holes, and nightlife establishments in the city are there. But you’ll also pay $700-$1,200 and up just for a simple studio or one-bedroom apartment. That may not sound like much by U.S. Standards, but it’s a fortune here and way out of reach of the average person, who may not even make $1,000 per month.
I have a good friend who lives in a complex in the Fort Bonifacio area, which is closer to the airport, newer, nicer, safer, better-planned, and has a great series of outdoor shopping plazas with shops, restaurants, and malls, etc. She lives in a neighborhood in “The Fort” called McKinley Hill, and that’s where I’ve decided to live.
But it’s not cheap here, either, with towering high rise condo towers lined up, one after another, to provide housing for the multiple call centers and corporations doing business here. Most studios run about $500 to $700 and up, and I was prepared to pay that, reluctantly, just for the clean, polite, and safe confines to call home. I narrowed my search down to two condo towers: Morgan Suites or Stamford Executive Suites, and decided to stay in both for a while to sample them out.
This week, I’m in the Stamford, and there are some good and bad things to report. The location is fine, as it sits right over a small grocery store, pharmacy, pizza hut, and bank machines. My studio apartment, however, is tiny, (though maybe just average by Manila standards?) at only about 23 square meters. That’s about the size of a bedroom in a newer U.S. home, for reference.
The studio apartment is nice enough and has a tiny kitchen area (but with no burner or stove?), but has almost no storage space – just one small wardrobe. That’s ok because I’m only renting it through Airbnb for a week, but I don’t know how I’d be able to live here and store all my junk.
The bathroom, too, is so small that when you sit on the toilet, your face is almost touching the wall (at the risk of being less than glamorous). All that is passable, but I find the building a little outdated and showing signs of aging and disrepair (aren’t we all), which makes sense since this was one of the first ones in the area. But the gym is also subpar and pretty poorly done, and they don’t even have their own self-laundry facilities in the building. They do have a pool on the roof, but it’s just “meh” at best.
Location = yes. Price = ok. But the condition, layout, and amenities are average at best. I’m going to find somewhere else to live other than the Stamford Executive Suites.