Daily Life, Daily Struggle in Manila Philippines

The struggle is real here in the Philippines.

As a foreigner here, I have been able to live a bit like a local to experience (and now report) how it feels in the daily life in the Philippines.


Maybe its not just Philippines, but Asia, or the insanity….the chaos. I see life like a beating heart….and the struggle for a human to create something out of one’s existence. To find themselves. I have blogged on my personal blog in April about the frustrations of Filipinos, today its a bit of the same, with more of a Manila city twist rather then country wide.

Foreigners think I’m crazy, and even local Filipinos think I’m insane….but I take local transportation. I have been here since Friday and I still have not taken a single taxi yet this trip. They are hard to deal with for the most part, but also…its the “easy” way. I want to learn the local way. I want to feel how it is to live daily life in the Philippines.

And life is HARD here!!

I do see some beautiful malls, but the public transportation is horrible. The subway is called the MRT, and it is constantly jammed with people….I think worse than subways I had seen in Beijing, China. They need security guards to hold back people from crushing into the overfilled trains.

Pollution is rough…I have blown my nose many times and had black soot in the tissue….walking through construction zones, crammed with too many people and having exhausts from trucks blowing into my face with dirt and sand coming from the backs of their tires.

Tricycles zipping around, loud motorcycles. Police inspection checkpoints into most major stores and malls. The list of what you see on the streets can go on and on.

Yet somehow people stay positive, stay strong. There is a photo I took today of a mother and her daughter across from me on the jeepnee. The girl was so sweet, eating her chips (yea, not the most healthy diets…) and giggling. All the while looking out the window there is traffic, police holding large guns, “barkers” yelling to get customers into the next jeepney. And this mother and daughter calmly and noticeably contently enjoying the time together. The ride was about 30 minutes, and you could see them taking turns sleeping….mom napping when I took the pic, later the daughter leaning into the mother and getting some rest.

I really wonder how I could sleep on a jeepney…..maybe if I grew up in this environment I would be used to it.

TO BE USED TO IT. to be used to living in this day in and day out.

Then others kind of say I am not really seeing the real life. I mean, I can say this is fun and idea-sparking for me….but I can just hop on a plane and come and go when I please. I am not “trapped” in this life every single day.

So many hate the commute between Quezon City and Makati. Quezon City is where the majority of staff for call centers live, and Makati is the main “downtown” for call centers and outsourcing. They can spend up to an hour and a half each way, between buses, traffic, and MRT trains. Thats 3 hours a day…and this is in no way a relaxing commute. When I have taken these trains and buses, its not been as easy as when I’m in New York or Shenzhen, China…..these are so jam packed all day around that I can never get a chance to open my laptop to write some blogs or proposals and emails…..instead I am forced to only try to use my mobile phone to check some emails quickly…..but even then I am afraid it may get stolen if I am showing off my phone too much in the open.

If I had to make that commute each day….man, I can barely handle it once! It would wear me down more then when I was stuck in the daily grind back in New York between 2003 to 2007….I need to do something when I’m traveling….write, read, make logical thinking inside my brain. But this type of commuting seems mind-numbing…..

And am I supposed to support this type of living? Open a call center in Makati, hire workers in Quezon City, and put them in that daily rat race commute? seems horrible life and why would I want to support that? And to put them behind a cubicle, count their hours, their time management, and bean count their work performance.

There has to be something else, something better….

Mike Michelini

Mike Michelini

Michael is an American social media, e-commerce, and SEO Specialist that has lived in Asia since late 2007. He is a passionate business connector that helps companies do business in Asia as well as Asian companies to work in overseas markets. He built the cross border e-commerce community GlobalFromAsia.com. GFA is a platform to help cross border business owners learn, network, make business partnerships, and grow global businesses.

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Comments 12

  1. Avatar

    hey mike good article and great picture. i am thinking about days when i used to travel on busses back in poland and what a commotion that was. when you walk into a bank there are a couple of guys with machine guns and masks, and they are the GUARDS. insanity. so i just remembered those things when reading your post.

    so heres an idea. instead of contributing to that commute – why not open a call center in Quezon city, the town where people live? can you do that? then you are part of the commute solution – i bet someone thought of that already and there is a wall to get around – what is this wall

    1. Mike Michelini Post

      yea, i was pretty proud of that pic, it was sweet scene right there in front of me , true KODAK MOMENT.

      so did you enjoy taht in Poland? I get annoyed here with all the people pushing, but i have learned to get a rush from it….

      well, i do have the call center in Quezon city. thinking instead of a call center – a “cyber cafe” (clearcafe.com) that is a work-from-home headquarters. marie and the people here now can know where they are working and go there for spot checks. also inspecting the home office to make sure it has proper equipment. And the workers have to come in weekly or 2x a month to pick up pay and submit work reports.

      this is what i’m thinking…..

      1. Avatar

        cool dude! that sounds like a good idea i hope it works out.

        its interesting you ask how do people stay positive in this lifestyle – how do they live like this every day. they know no other. this is life to them and its normal and you either cope with it or you get depressed and then you are a weak nobody. you gotta fight and live or someone else will. survival of the fittest right. in the us life is easier and to many people like you say this is all people know here and they chose not to fight as much, because it is possible to be supported by the society. the strong support the weak more and it is necessary but some people get lazy and they take advantage of the system

        1. Mike Michelini Post

          yea, working on this work-at-home system now, kind of “Report card” that will measure their performance.

          clearcafe will be the name, still early stage research.

  2. Avatar

    Liked the article. I can feel that you’re in agony. Metro Manila is really such a horrible place to be. Unlike here in Davao where I live, it’s quiet and peaceful down here. Yeah, almost everything is in Manila but peace and order is always the issue plus the traffic and all that. Anyway, enjoyed your post though.

    1. Mike Michelini Post

      thanks Shelton,

      Yes, I have been to Cebu, Angeles, and Puerto Galera – as well as small places between….and all much more relaxed and enjoyable then Manila.

      I guess that is nice about the Philippines, so many cities and beaches, so different, and not really that far away from each other.

      1. Avatar

        manila is struggling in terms of urban design & landscape architecture. that i think explains
        why we feel the “agony” & find it “horrible” place.
        but thanks to a few people that’s trying to find ways.

        mark salvatus, a visual/artist & a fellow blogger
        who started Neo-urban Planners/Pilipinas Street Plan which calls for people to share their ideas on how manila would look better turned so good that he was contacted by the Ayala Foundation founder & Rockefeller Foundation to get ideas.

        a bus rail transit system is also on its way where busses will only stop on specified locations that i think will create order. the failure of the government to build quality landscapes, private enterprises are coming to the rescue.

        manila’s urbanity is i think one of the concerns that the media & the people today should be conscious of not monitoring the personal life of our bachelor president. i think manila is not in the bottom list at all as it ranked 9th in the 30 most dynamic cities in the world 2010 by the atlantic.

        now, when are these beautiful things gonna happen? that im not sure of since politics is a business here.


        1. Mike Michelini Post

          AGREE, its bad urban planning……but its not too late…..

          transit in a city i feel is one of the core ways to grow it quickly…..I think of major cities, I think of pretty good transportation systems – Hong Kong is AWESOME. Shenzhen, China is growing their subway system. New York’s is older, but still allows people to get almost anywhere in the city without too much hassle of traffic.

          I do agree about this BACHELOR b.s. I see on the newspaper headlines….

          Politics is always like this, USA is also distracted by bullshit things…….

          I think those countries / cities that focus on CORE development, such as infrastructure and transportation will flourish the fastest.

          Hope Manila is one of them….

  3. Avatar

    “TO BE USED TO IT. to be used to living in this day in and day out.”

    that’s true.

    for people like me who grew up in manila, we get used to it. yes it’s a choice, and i’m glad i made that choice: to get used to the insanity, the crowded places, all the pollution, the uncomfortable commute.

    making the choice to live here means that I see these things and maybe, just maybe, be in the position to do something about it.

    i’m impressed that you take public transport here. that’s no mean feat. welcome to manila.

    1. Mike Michelini Post

      I hear ya man……guess there isn’t much of a choice.

      I just hope it motivates people to work hard, make a plan, and create a better life for themselves and people around them.

      and NOT to turn to violence or illegal business

  4. Pingback: Digging Deeper in Manila Philippines Transportation System

  5. Avatar

     daughter wants to go to Philippines with her son 2 1/2 years old to live there, they’re both canadian citizen, It cost a lot of money if you get sick there, and it’s a struggle to go to the hospital commuting,  I remember when I was in the PHilippines with my kids when they were little, It takes a lot of patience, struggle and toughness to face everyday life with children specially when they get sick, just imagine. 

    I guess you have to be rich to live a comfortable life there, with good insurance 

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