Manila through the eyes of an Aussie

When people find out that I am from the Philippines, and it turns out that they’re thinking of traveling there, the usual question that they ask me is “is it safe to travel there?”

I have been living in Manila since 1980, and lived 27 years with only minor cuts and bruises, usually caused by my own clumsiness. But that’s coming from a local who’s used to Manila’s…quirks. How does Manila look like to a foreigner?

Here’s a great article written by an Australian journalist:

MANILA is everything you’d expect of a bustling Asian city, and quite a few things you wouldn’t expect.

The Philippines capital, with a population of 11 million, is bustling to the point of being chaotic. It has its share of traffic jams, crime, poverty and pollution. The sight of heavily armed men outside shops and banks, and signs imploring visitors to leave guns at the door, may well unsettle those of a delicate disposition.

But none of that – with the possible exception of the impossibly busy streets – is likely to adversely affect an enthusiastic, adventurous and well-organised tourist.

If you know where to go, and allow the time to get there, Manila has beautiful and safe public places, plenty of opportunities for a bargain buy, a vibrant night life and – and this was a pleasant surprise for me – a thriving visual arts scene.


He came right after the Glorietta 2 explosion. I wonder how this article would’ve turned up if he came right when Trillanes had afternoon tea at the Peninsula XD

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 6 Comments
  1. estan says:

    i think, kahit in time siya sa nangyari, ganun pa rin sulat niya. Trillanes’ caper was a fluke and a failure.

  2. Gary says:

    While Manila isn’t the cleanest city in the world (the air quality was horrible) at no point did I ever feel in danger.

    …the armed guards at McDonald’s was a bit odd, however.

  3. nina says:

    Estan: Trillanes is a fluke, period XD

    Gary: Nice to hear that, especially coming from a non-resident. I’ve gotten used to having guards checking our bags everywhere in Manila that I am usually taken aback when I don’t see them overseas. My brother-in-law’s favorite sign in Manila says “please deposit your firearms at the concierge,” posted at the entrance of a mall. Yup, that’s Manila for you :D

  4. If trillanes wants to die for the country… Why Not? Who wants to donate a bottle of Poison? nyahaha.. Honestly this i really like this post..

  5. jules says:

    Most security guards in Manila have multifaceted roles in a typical establishment. Other than their main duty of securing business premises they open the doors for customers as matter of courtesy, especially helpful when old ladies have bagfulls of groceries with them. They also facilitate a more orderly flow of people and prevent touts/beggars from harassing customers, kick out drunk customers who make trouble. Enforce company policies like no taking of pictures to protect business trade secrets like store layouts etc. which can also be useful to terrorists planning an attack. If you guys search at the crime rate in the Philippines is one of the lowest in the world. Even better than a lot of so called “affluent countries”. It may be cause for inconvenience but given our circumstances, I would say it’s quite effective and serves our own purpose. Foreigners should learn to respect what system we have in place no matter how odd it might seem to them.

  6. Tony B says:

    Yep, as an Aussie, I respect your system of armed security, and I’d agree, Jules, they do more than just secure the building. It’s great knowing I can sit in Jollibee and not worry about crime. I’ve been to phils 3 times now, and despite the air quality of Manila, really love the energy and the chaos.

    To an outsider, Phils is a very different place, even if you can get by with just using English. I think that actually adds to the culture shock. In phils, you have so many more people around, so it means that there are so many more staff on duty anywhere you go. As an example, to buy a pair of sandles at SM recently I interacted with 6 staff, not 1 or 2 like I would in most western shops.

    In a lot of ways, Philippines works better than many “First world” countries. I’ve never had to wait more than 3 minutes for a jeepney in any city, but here in Melbourne you can wait an hour+ for a bus.

    I must admit I did take a moment or two to get used to seeing guards with assault rifles at a Jollibee in Zamboanga City! (don’t worry, I understand why.)

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