Adventure Kids

Practically speaking

09:01Meg Cowan

Just like that, our time in Manila is done for now.
There are a lot of deep and meaningful things we have learnt. There are also some practical things that make a difference when living in Manila so should you ever be considering living in this fine city, here is my run down on travelling and some things specific to being a foreigner in Manila.

Housing
We came with only one night booked at a hotel. That was a little nerve wracking.
However it gave us the opportunity to get a feel for the city a little bit and where the various locations are that our friends frequent before we said yes to a house that was going to be our home for two months.
Where we were going to live initially in Eastwood was more of a high rise, apartment complex kind of area. It would have been fine there, however it feels a little more hollywood. Pricing for everything there is higher and it just doesn't quite feel like the Philippines to me. As it turned out every thing fell into place on the first day and where we've been is just what we needed.
We have ended up in Marikina which feels a little more local and we kind of like that. It is near to SM mall with a decent supermarket, Santa Lucia and Robinsons mall.


It has been important to have a guarded complex and we have enjoyed getting to know them as they regularly patrol the perimeter and wave us hello and goodbye at the gates.
The pool has been a lifesaver and we've swum almost every day and aircon has made some of the stiffling hot days bearable. Getting to know the neighbours has been a little difficult as everybody bustles about their days and tend to work all kinds of shifts so you never know who's going to be around but everyone has been super friendly when we do see them.

Transport
The main modes are Jeepneys and tricycles, LRT''s and taxis.
Jeepneys are loud and flamboyant in every respect. Blinged up metal bodies, covered in paintings both impressive and ridiculous. With 'barkers' hanging of the back and small sign inconspicuously placed on the front windscreen somewhere, I was almost never certain of where one of this fantastical machines might take me. This was definitely an activity which required a local in my opinion and the general consensus from our filipino friends was that for us with the kids it would be best to find other modes of transport.


Although cheaper at only 8peso for a short ride, these trips also invariably take longer than most other available methods.Tricycles are more available in the smaller areas and come in the motorised and pedal powered version. These are sometimes the only option as taxis may drop you off someplace out of the way but they won't generally wander too far off the main routes for pickups.
I haven't actually used the LRT yet but Evan tells me that is was efficient although ticketing was slightly confusing. It's also not really a kid friendly activity.

The taxi's have been our mainstay. It costs 40 peso just for the pleasure of hopping in one and they will have a go with foreigners at naming a price rather than putting on their meter.
I wondered at the malls why the guard at the taxi stand often hands you a small ticket as you get in. Not to hand to the driver apparently as I first thought. Turns out its a slip with the taxi company and vehicle number so you can issue a complaint if you need to. It's also helpful that the taxi can issue a receipt if you require one.

Something we had to quickly acquire regardless of which mode we took was nerves of steel. Taxis don't tend to have seat belts in the back or any sense of ease on their swerving and braking.
A trip to the local mall cost 50-70 peso while a nail biting ride across town to Makati (the expat and business district, which felt a lot like hong kong) cost about 250 peso.

Climate
September was the end of the rainy season and I doubt I would have wanted to be here for it any earlier.
It is humid and very rarely drops below 25. We have had the aircon set at 27 most evenings and walked in to feel rather chilled by it.
The rain and storms here are magnificent. Like monsoon buckets it drops from the sky but can come and go within the space of a few hours. The fork and sheet lightening is impressive and the thunder claps and rolls like the percussion section at the symphony.

No deodorant I have possessed here has made much impact and the most effective method of staying sweet has been twice daily showering and regularly changing and washing clothing.

Clothing and Shopping.
I did start using the washing machine rather than shipping things to the laundromat as our local one took 2-3 days to process a load, and we were cycling clothes faster than that. The upside of doing more washing is that it dries very fast here and having a covered courtyard greatly assisted that.
Jandals have been our mainstay and even better a the new rubberised ballet flats I've recently purchased. Sounds terrible, but they actually great and much easier to drain and wipe than my canvas shoes.
We all really ought to have come with just a pair of jandals, one change of clothes and a basic toiletries kit. The price of clothing here is ridiculously cheap. So too is some of the quality and it's not worth the fabric it's made with, but if you shop right it can be a great place to stock up.
Most malls have department stores which are great for when you need to just walk in and find what you're after. It's slightly cheaper than a department store at home but t is really over whelming the amount of options available wherever you go.
My favourite of all time however has been a place called Market Market. In fact I think it may be the only place I shop while here next time. It is a mall with multiple levels and then wings of 'markets'. Not like typical outdoor markets, these are more like temporary shops with only side dividing walls and open fronts, except they are permanent. They have levels for jewellery, clothing, homewares, the list goes on. The prices range but you could easily walk in and find tops and dresses for under 200 peso ($6 nzd), shoes for under 400 peso ($12).

It seemed shocking at first to draw out $10 000 (peso) at a time but I have quite quickly found myself thinking in pesos and so even though when I do the conversion I know things are cheap I am always looking for the best deal, which is a death trap here because you can't possibly compare the options. I think I have developed shopping paralysis and so I set myself a little challenge to not just buy a mass of 'stuff' but rather shop to a list and buy things that are better quality and actually required.
I think I will be leaving with far less than I imagined, much to Mr Evans relief as we still have another three stops before we get home.

Food and Supplies
The first grocery shop in a new country is always tricky but the best thing we could have done from the start was to do a full weeks grocery shop and set ourselves up for more snacks and smaller meals at home. A week of meals from the supermarket could set us back around 7000 peso. The meat section here is rather crucial and some supermarkets have a better handle on hygiene than others and understand the importance of chilling meat.


An oven would also have made it a lot easier as we only have two small elements here, one pot and one fry pan. Eating well has been a bit of a challenge but now that we're settled in I can see how it would get easier.
There are some online places for buying harder to find ingredients like coconut flour and raw coconut oil but I haven't tried these out yet and next time round I would do an order of these as soon as we arrive.
Our favourite easy eat out has definitely been the chicken petso from Chicken Bacalod and G's go to order has been the 'Lumpiang Shanghi' (springrolls). It's around 150 peso each for a meal here but we often found ourselves plate sharing and only ordering meals between the four of us. Freshly cooked veges are a little harder to find and so homecooking is best for keeping stocked up on these.

You really can buy pretty much anything you need here so I would certainly come with even less supplies next time and save the room in the suitcase for the new clothes! Extra luggage is also not hard to buy here so the only thing to watch really is the weight limit getting home.
Human Nature is a gorgeous site that can be ordered online and reasonable prices and they stock delicious natural body care products including insect repellent oils and hand sanitisers, which are a part of life here.

One thing I wouldn't leave home without next time is some high dose colloidial silver for keeping tummy bugs at bay and a box of immodium as a backup.Water arrives at the apartment within 1 hour of calling in the order in 10 litre containers for $30peso each. Bottled water is the only safe way to drink and the kids loved welcoming our delivery man when he came on his motorbike with sidecart.

Kids, care and school.
Disney channel has been our great friend and the kids have developed some favourite shows fairly quickly. Given that we're heading to disneyland after this, which they actually knew very little about, and I have had limited work time, I have been ok with this helpful activity.

They have spent hours and hours in the pool and it's been worth the 100 peso ($3) to invest in two floaty rings for the kids and a huge relief in the heat of the day.
I had visions of me sitting and working through activity books with the kids and them heading back to school and kindy brimming with knowledge. Its safe to say, they will be full of new information however it's not likely to be the traditional academic kind. This has been a good testing ground for us all and I am definitely not a 'homeschool' mum. This will be a consideration for further trips.



There have fortunately been a number of people willing to help out with the kids and everyone has been lovely. As working parents we would now place a travelling nanny on our list of 'need to have if we want to get an inch of work done' list. Aside from enabling us to work, a regular nanny makes it possible to do some night activities and perhaps even have a date together, a strange and distant concept!

The kids have coped remarkably well with all the late nights and plan changes. Some form of gymnastics, dance class or playgroup type activity would have likely helped them by creating some friends for them however they are skilled at finding kids anywhere to play with and have enjoyed inviting people back here to swim.

Communication and culture.
I was kind of hoping to become a little more disconnected from the world wide web while on this trip but instead have ended up spending a little more time that usual online, with skyping family and facebook, which everyone here uses and has been great to help with remembering peoples names!

Reliable internet is essential for these activities and crucial for us to be able to work remote. Phone data plans are unreliable so meeting our neighbour Trisha was the best things we did as she very happily agreed to us splitting her bill with her and tapping into the broadband connection. An absolute godsend.

One thing I've noticed over this trip is that for the first month we felt a bit like we were only here for a little while and so we didn't really stock up on things. like 'load' on our phones. We should have just got the unlimited 'unli' plans from the start and avoided endless stops at the phone kiosks every time we ventured out.

We have definitely learnt to trust the locals, (our local friends that is). Ask around and you're sure to find what you need. It also helps to have a trusted tagalog speaking companion to ask the right questions and do background checks when investigating who to work with.
There are a lot of similarities to the pacific island and maori culture in the way people interact and even word sounds are comparable. Learning tagalog is still a bit of a mystery but a few words have got us a long way.
Kuya - for addressing men older than yourself,
Ate - for addressing women older than yourself
Komusta - hello/how are you?
Salamat - Thank you
Salamat Din - you're welcome
Po - added to the end of every sentence to make it polite.

And there it is. My run down on a few things we've learnt.  I'm already looking forward to the next time we head back and can hit the ground running thanks to all our new found 'local' knowledge.
Now back on the plane and from one fantastical world to another. Next up, Disneyland!






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