Manila, Philippines

The past week I traveled to the Philippines to help out one of my brother’s best friend’s family to do some Flash and web programming consultation for their company. Never having been to the Philippines, I didn’t know really what to expect nor did I do much research before going as I imagined most of my time would be there to help out on programming and work for the company.I arrived on Wednesday morning and the first couple of days were mostly getting to know the business, the company, and the code behind the software. It was neat getting to meet everyone and to be involved in work like this after taking a lot of time away from it. I also found that everyone there was very friendly and kind, which made it easy to get involved and comfortable to work.

The first few days we worked but in the evenings we went out around town, playing pool, drinking at bars and clubs, and just having a good time at night while working during the day. After the first few days I got to working a lot with the head development guy at the company, spending a lot of late nights working out code and software architecture, up until the very last night on Tuesday. Although we didn’t get to finish everything, I think a lot of good work was done and that they’ll do well with what we worked on together moving forward.

Most of our time was spent in the office or at the apartment, both right in the middle of the financial district of Manila, so I know that I did not have too many chances to observe and understand a great deal of life in the Philippines in the short trip. There were a few things though that I wanted to note down here to remember for the future:

  • Manila is a very big city, or really a number of cities all connected. I think that something similar would be New York but without the rivers separating the boroughs, as if it just a large continuous city. It was amazing when we were driving around to just feel the city surrounding us, going on and on.
  • The weather is quite warm there, being a tropical climate. It was nice to leave the cold of Warsaw for a week of wearing just a t-shirt to walk around in!
  • The population was much larger than I expected, and apparently one of the largest resources of the Philippines is workers. I remember noticing that 7-11’s and Starbuck’s and many other places employed security guards that would also open the door and greet you when you entered and left the store. Taking a taxi is very cheap (well, relatively to what I am used to from America and Europe) and I think it is not uncommon for people to employ housekeepers (live-in as well) to cook and clean, as well as drivers to drive you around.
  • People are generally very respectful of others, and they would often refer to people as “Sir” or “Ma’am” when talking to them and always appending “Mr.” and “Ms.” or “Mrs.” to everyone when talking about them in the third person. This was the case at least with the service at restaurants and bars as well as the employees of the company I was at.
  • Paying for a service was quite cheap compared to the costs of similar services in America or Europe. The cost of goods themselves were generally about the same or perhaps slightly cheaper I thought.
  • I found it interesting that men would court women for a long time before even going out on a date (six months to a year I think was not uncommon). In a way though, I think that culturally that creates a sense of romance and preserves something that seems to have been lost in human relationships in some Western cultures.
  • The male culture there seemed much more effeminate than other cultures I’ve been in.
  • The culture seemed to be not so much of an angry culture… that’s a bit hard to explain, but I found it was nice that it seemed that people would rather laugh away problems or just take things that happens just to be what they are rather than to stew on troubles. Perhaps it’s the warm weather or the mostly Catholic population or maybe it was just the culture, but I found it refreshing to be in a much more positive environment.

So for my first time to the Philippines I left with a very good impression of Manila and its people. The trip was short and filled with a lot of good hard work and enjoyable time with good people in the down time. It was a great pleasure to have met the people I did (whose kindness and hospitality were exceptional) and I will remember this trip very fondly.

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