Living in Manila
Evening skyline of Makati, one of Metro Manila's business districts (Photo: Alvin js5 via WikiMedia)
Newly arrived faculty members are initially lodged in condominiums near the GESM while they are given the time to look for more permanent accommodations. A considerable number of teachers decide to continue staying in these "condos" and apartment complexes which include the likes of
Left to right: Siena Park Residences, Azure Urban Resort Residences, Chateau Elysée (Photos taken from the properties' respective websites)
The GESM assists new faculty members in finding their new address in Manila and puts them in contact with a trilingual properties broker who would help in scouting and visiting different housing options near the school.
It is advisable to choose a place close to the campus as traffic can be quite a challenge in the city. The good news is that the GESM is strategically located so that it is close to the city express highway and the airport, all the while able to maintain a green campus in a quiet suburban neighborhood.
While traffic is often a challenge and Metro Manila's public transportation system might be confusing to newcomers, the main street within the school's vicinity, Doña Soledad Avenue, already offers almost everything one might need on a day-to-day basis. Groceries, drug stores, gas stations, bike shops, banks, car repair stations, bars, and all sorts of restaurants big and small are dotted all along its width. On top of all that, a big mall sits right at the end of the street. Those familiar with Latin America should feel quite at home around Doña Soledad, as the street is said to have the exact same feel as those one would see in México, Lima, or La Paz. The mode of public transportation in and around this street, including going to and from the campus is the tricycle (Fare ranges from PHP10 to 50).
As with all metropolitan cities in the world, Metro Manila has its own affluent areas -- and from GESM, these places can be reached practically from all directions. To the North and East lie the very modern business districts of Makati and Bonifacio Global City, centers of commerce where one could enjoy high-end shopping and lavish dining. To the South are the sprawling residential estates of Alabang, home to some of our teachers who prefer a living environment that's more family-friendly. Finally, to the West is one of the world's largest mall, Mall of Asia, sitting by the picturesque Manila bay. These locations can quite easily be reached via taxi from where GESM is (PHP200 - PHP500, depending on time of the day).
As mentioned previously, the school is located close to the international airport and the city's express highway, a fact that proves very useful for weekend of vacation trips either to exotic Philippine islands by air or to one of the many resorts South and North of Metro Manila by car.
Cost of Living
The Philippines' currency is the Philippine Peso (PHP). Currently, EUR 1.00 is equivalent to PHP 55 - PHP 60, while USD 1.00 is equal to PHP 45 - PHP 50. Understandably, the cost of living in Metro Manila is a lot less expensive compared to most cities in first-world countries. Estimates indicate that Manila's consumer prices are about 57% lower than in New York and 48% lower than London. Even in a relatively inexpensive city like Berlin, Manila's consumer prices are still estimated at almost 40% lower, with rental prices almost 30% cheaper than its German capital counterparts.
Like in most large megacities, prices vary within Metro Manila itself. GESM's location, Parañaque, is comparatively cheaper than other parts of the city. These differences are of course most notable with regard to rental prices. But even then, we've had a number of teachers who opt to reside in the more affluent parts of the Metro, particularly the ones mentioned in the previous section above.
GESM is located at the narrowest part of the isthmus that divides two bodies of water: the Manila Bay and Laguna Lake. This, and the fact that most of the vicinity is occupied by suburban residential developments, make for a favorable environment away from the city's usual hustle and bustle.
Metro Manila can be very hot and humid especially during the tropical summer (March to May), but air quality is actually not as bad as one might think. In fact, in the latest World Air Quality Report by IQAir, the Philippines did better than most of its Southeast Asian neighbors with the capital ranking as "moderate".
Manila: A True Metropolis
It is true that Manila has changed a lot since the time it was known across the world as the "Pearl of the Orient". Over the years, it has turned into a true megacity manifesting all the advantages and disadvantages that come with the transformation. And yet despite all the chaos, the city still has its own charm and pleasant little surprises, there for the taking for anyone who cares enough to look past the surface.