|Preface Last Updated: 1/26/2004
"Three hundred and fifty years in a convent followed by fifty
years in Hollywood." This is the way one observer has described the
profound impact of over three centuries of Spanish colonialism and
over four decades of American political control on the culture of
It is indeed true that evidence of Spanish rule can be found
everywhere in the Philippines, from the architecture and the
surnames to the predominance of Catholicism. In addition, the
continuing close relationship between the Philippines and the United
States, and the assimilation of American cultural icons into
Philippine society, create an especially accessible and welcoming
environment for Americans. However, both the Spanish and American
influences constitute a thin veneer over the deep-rooted foundations
of Malay culture, which, more than anything else, define Filipino
society. The resulting mix is a rich and colorful tapestry that is
more complicated than it may appear on the surface, occasionally
confusing and frustrating, but always interesting.
A tour in the Philippines provides a rare opportunity to gain a
more thorough appreciation of the richness and diversity of a unique
society in Southeast Asia.
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 1/26/2004 9:58 PM
The Philippines is composed of 7,107 separate islands (7,106
during high tide), only 880 of which are inhabited. The three major
geographical areas in the Philippines are the large island of Luzon
in the north, which includes Manila; the large island of Mindanao in
the south; and the group of islands lying between them, known as the
Visayas. The three stars on the Philippine flag symbolize these
The island geography of the Philippines includes about 21,000
miles of natural coastline. Much of the coastal area is rugged and
irregular, punctuated by numerous natural harbors and picturesque
coves. The Philippines also has some of the most spectacular beaches
to be found in the South Pacific. Sites that would live up to
anyone's fantasy of a pristine South Pacific paradise of white sand
beaches and crystal blue waters, they are a popular destination for
tourists from around the world. Unfortunately, the heavy pollution
and rocky coastline of Manila Bay render the metro Manila area
itself unsuited for leisurely Sundays at the beach.
The interior of the country is generally mountainous, with
several mountain peaks reaching almost 10,000 feet. In addition, the
Philippines has extensive fertile plains along the coast and in the
center of the country. It also features lush and scenic rolling
hills, with rich valleys crossed by rivers. There are numerous
volcanoes in the country, and some are frequently active. The most
recent and infamous example was the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo on June
12, 1991, which was the largest volcanic eruption of the century.
The Mt. Pinatubo eruption permanently altered the topography of
northern Luzon and continues to cause flood control problems.
Minor earth tremors occur frequently. In 1969 and 1970, major
earthquakes hit Manila, resulting in moderate damage and some loss
of life. In January 1982, an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter
scale hit Northern Bicol. In August 1983, an earthquake measuring
5.7 occurred in Ilocos Norte. Both caused extensive property damage
and loss of life. On July 16, 1990, one of the largest and most
destructive earthquakes ever to hit the Philippines struck in
Central Luzon. At its epicenter near Cabanatuan, it measured 8.0 on
the Richter scale. This "killer earthquake" caused great destruction
and loss of life in Baguio and some other cities of Central Luzon
but did not seriously damage Manila.
The Philippines is a country rich with unique tropical rain
forests and coral reefs. It has been referred to as the Galapagos
Islands times ten. It hosts more than 510 species of mammals, birds,
reptiles, and amphibians that exist nowhere else on earth. The
country is also on the East Asian Migratory Flyway for birds that
travel from the south pole to the north pole and back again each
year. The Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, just minutes from Cebu
City, has won international ecotourism awards for its educational
tours and conservation efforts. Scuba diving and snorkeling on the
biologically diverse coral reefs are also popular activities, with
good resorts and coral reefs within driving distance from Manila.
Illegal logging, over-fishing, and destructive fishing practices
(e.g., use of dynamite and cyanide) threaten the forests and coral
reefs. Less than 18% of the land area remains covered by
forests-only about 5 million hectares. And only 800,000 hectares of
this forest is considered old growth forest. These natural resources
provide the basis for food security and employment for millions of
Filipinos. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and
other partners are working to strengthen the ability of local
governments and communities to protect these forests and coastal
The Philippines has a tropical climate, but it is marginally less
hot and humid than many tropical countries for most of the year.
Although the sun shines almost year round, there are slight seasonal
variations in the weather. The dry summer season, which runs from
about late April to early June, is comparable to summer in
Washington, D.C. - i.e., hot and humid and with little rainfall.
Many Americans find the heat during this period too intense to enjoy
outdoor activities. The typhoon season runs from June to September,
with frequent drenching rains that can temper the heat somewhat but
also preclude any outdoor activities. The downpours are often
limited in duration, but the resulting flash floods can create chaos
by blocking streets, stranding motorists, and bringing the already
congested traffic of Manila to a virtual standstill. The most
pleasant season follows the rainy season, from November until March.
During this time of year, mornings can be fresh, and even the midday
temperatures remain bearable, with frequent breezes that temper the
heat. Most Americans will find it enjoyable to engage in outdoor
recreational activities during this time of year. However, even when
the temperature is at its most pleasant, the poor quality of the air
in Manila may preclude many outdoor activities, particularly for
those individuals with respiratory trouble.
The temperature range in Manila is relatively narrow, with
minimum temperatures in the mid-70s and highs in the mid-90s, and an
annual mean of about 80°F. Average relative humidity ranges from 69%
in April to 84% in August or September. The warm and humid climate
of the Philippines can lead to problems with mold and mildew.
Air-conditioning in the Embassy and all staff housing alleviates
serious problems, but any valuable items, such as furniture, rugs,
cameras, books, etc., must be watched carefully for mildew. A home
dehumidifier is useful in storage rooms, particularly during the wet
season, and many closets have light bulb sockets. A light bulb of
about 100 watts usually generates enough heat to suppress mildew.
The tropical climate is also a breeding ground for fungal and ear
infections, especially for swimmers. In addition, most Americans in
the Philippines will suffer from some sort of respiratory discomfort
during their stay here, which is often compounded by the poor air
quality. Manila is a particularly inhospitable climate for those
with asthma or other chronic respiratory ailments.
The usual tropical insects abound throughout the Philippines and
are especially prevalent in rural areas and during the rainy season.
The mosquito nuisance in Manila is at a tolerable level and is less
than most Americans would expect in a tropical climate. In addition,
the mosquitoes in the Manila, Baguio, Cebu, and Davao area are of
the non-malarial, nuisance variety. Anyone visiting rural areas
overnight, however, should consult the Embassy Medical Unit about
the need for anti-malarial precautions. Mosquitoes can also carry
dengue fever during certain times of the year, including in Manila's
Cockroaches and ants are a common problem in Embassy housing.
Residents are advised to keep sweets and breads in the refrigerator
so that they do not attract insects. Regular spraying of Embassy
residences usually keeps the pests to a tolerable level, however.
The small lizards that often make their homes on the walls and
ceilings of Embassy housing are harmless and can be useful, since
they eat mosquitoes and other insects.
Baguio, the original summer capital of the Philippines, is
located 155 miles north of Manila at an altitude of about 5,000
feet. The climate varies between the dry and the very wet season,
each lasting about six months. The dry season runs from December to
May, with temperatures ranging from the 50s and 60s at night to
highs in the mid-80s during the day. Baguio averages 176 inches of
rainfall a year, about half of which falls in July and August alone.
The rains begin tapering off in September and are light in October
Baguio traditionally has been a popular destination for Mission
employees to escape the heat and pollution of Manila. The U.S.
Embassy maintains an official residence in Baguio that includes a
large and elegant main house and a cabin, surrounded by fragrant
pine trees. Embassy personnel are entitled to use these facilities,
when they are not needed for representational purposes.
Population Last Updated: 1/26/2004 9:59 PM
The Philippines is inhabited by about 80 million people of
varying races, traditions, cultures, and religious beliefs, speaking
87 different dialects. The island geography of the Philippines has
created a number of distinct and separate cultural and linguistic
groups, and inhabitants of different areas of the country identify
closely with their home provinces.
Filipinos can be divided into four major religious/cultural
groups: Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and indigenous groups.
Catholics and Protestants comprise over 90% of the population and
are generally found in the lowlands. Some 80% of Filipinos are Roman
Catholic. About 9% belong to the Philippine Independent (or
Aglipayan) Church, the indigenous Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of
Christ), and various Protestant faiths. Muslims comprise about 5% of
the population and are concentrated on the southern island of
Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. The fourth group, composed of
indigenous mountain peoples (Igorot, Ifugao, Negrito, and Mangyan),
is found in the mountainous interior areas of the country.
Anyone who has spent time in the Philippines will agree that its
people are one of the country's great natural resources. Filipinos
are noted for their warmth, friendliness, and hospitality.
Philippine nationalism can at times be tinged with an anti-American
flavor because of the U.S. colonial past. However, these tensions
subsided with the removal of the American military bases in the
early 1990s. Americans and American culture are generally respected
and admired by Filipinos, and most Filipinos are eager to develop
friendships with Americans who live in the country. It is very easy
during a tour in the Philippines to develop strong personal
relationships with minimum effort, and most Americans will find that
Filipinos share many of their hobbies and interests. Filipinos enjoy
socializing and are extremely generous in sharing their culture with
Working with the Filipino employees in the Embassy is one of the
high points of a tour in Manila. The Embassy is fortunate to have
some of the best local employees to be found anywhere in the Foreign
Service, combining a strong work ethic and professionalism with a
pleasant, friendly demeanor.
Because of America's historical relationship with the
Philippines, Filipinos have an especially keen interest in travel
and immigration to the United States. Anyone who works at the
Embassy, regardless of his or her position, is presumed to have
knowledge of and influence over the visa process, and it is not
unusual for the subject of visas to come up in conversation with
even casual acquaintances. The Filipino tradition of helping those
who have helped you often makes it difficult for Filipino friends to
understand why it is impossible for Americans to pull strings to
arrange a visa. Maintaining a sense of humor about such encounters,
along with professional integrity, is a must.
Social customs of the people of Manila are superficially Western,
but Americans should keep in mind that the underlying culture is
Asian. The society is cosmopolitan, but not nearly as international
or heterogeneous as in other major Southeast Asian cities such as
Singapore or Hong Kong. Western clothing styles are common, but many
locals (and some Americans) adhere to traditional Filipino dress,
which is more appropriate to the sultry local weather, especially on
The family remains at the heart of Philippine culture. Filipinos
have a strong sense of family cohesion and responsibility. Women in
the Philippines are highly educated, well respected, and generally
share an equal status with men, both in the home and in the
workplace. American visitors will be impressed by the preeminence of
female leaders in business, commerce and politics throughout the
Philippines. At the same time, however, women are exploited in bars
and sometimes trafficked as prostitutes.
English remains one of the official languages of the Philippines,
along with Tagalog. English is the common language of business,
commerce, and higher education, and many leading newspapers,
magazines, and a few TV and radio programs are in English. However,
Tagalog is the predominant language in everyday life in many parts
of Luzon, including Manila. In addition, Filipinos from other areas
speak a native dialect, with Tagalog taking a back seat to a more
familiar second language, such as Cebuano, Ilongo, Bicolano, or
Ilocano. In numerical terms, Cebuano is the native language for more
Filipinos than Tagalog.
There has been a marked decline in the use of standard English in
the Philippines in recent years, especially among the lower classes,
and many Americans will find the brand of English spoken by
Filipinos hard to understand at first. A combination of Tagalog and
English, called "Taglish," is the standard language used in everyday
life in the Philippines and on TV and radio programs. There is a
noticeable gap between the level of spoken English, which is
generally excellent among educated Filipinos, and the standard of
written English, which tends to lag behind. It is at times
challenging and frustrating to communicate with those in the service
industry in Manila, such as taxi drivers, store clerks and waiters,
particularly in light of the Filipinos' propensity to say 'yes' to
any statement they do not understand. Americans should remember that
their brand of English sounds different to Filipino ears, so they
should speak slowly and politely. It is increasingly useful for
Americans in the Philippines to have at least some knowledge of
Public Institutions Last Updated: 1/26/2004 9:59 PM
The Filipino people made history in early 2001 with "People Power
2," the non-violent ouster of President Joseph Estrada.
Then-Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as
President, following days of large, peaceful demonstrations calling
for Estrada's resignation in the wake of corruption charges. (The
original "People Power" movement refers to the EDSA Revolution of
1986, in which Corazon Aquino's followers successfully demanded the
removal of President Ferdinand Marcos.) Americans who experienced
either of these peaceful revolutions were impressed by the ability
of the masses to affect a change in their government simply through
sheer numbers and persistence.
After Mrs. Aquino assumed the presidency in 1986, a new
constitution was ratified, which returned the Philippines from the
Marcos dictatorship to an American-style presidential system. The
national government is divided into executive, legislative, and
judicial branches. Despite occasional attempts to destabilize the
government, democracy, Philippine-style, is alive and well, but is
less efficient, more corrupt, and more personality driven than the
Each of the People Power revolutions in the Philippines resulted
in tremendous optimism and ambitious plans for reform. Goals
included the elimination of corruption in the government, and
economic improvements that would lead to greater foreign investment
in the Philippines. Unfortunately, successive administrations have
been unable to deliver on many of these goals. As of the winter of
2004, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is still striving to improve
the standard of living and economic conditions in the Philippines.
The Executive Branch is composed of the President, who serves for
a single six-year term, and his or her cabinet, consisting of the
Secretaries of government departments. (Note: Under the
Constitution, President Arroyo may seek another full term in the2004
national elections.) The bicameral legislature consists of the
Senate, with 24 nationally elected members, and the House of
Representatives, with up to 250 members elected by local
constituencies and through a party-list system designed to increase
the participation of under-represented sectors. Judicial power is
vested in a 15-member Supreme Court and lower courts that operate on
a hybrid of the American system of common law and the European
version of civil law.
The national government maintains branch offices of its executive
departments in provinces, cities, and towns across the country.
However, these local jurisdictions elect their own officials and
manage most of their own affairs. Administratively, the 79 provinces
are divided into 15 regions plus the Manila National Capital Region.
President Arroyo made a state visit to Washington in May 2003;
President Bush reciprocated in a successful state visit to Manila in
October 2003. These visits highlighted our common struggle against
global and local terrorism, and our bilateral and multilateral
efforts to bring peace and development to conflict-affected areas in
The Philippine Government has had limited success in implementing
a constitutionally mandated program of regional autonomy in the
south, where the Muslim population is concentrated, and in northern
Luzon, where sizable cultural minorities live in mountainous areas.
However, separatist groups, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front, the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Jemaah Islamiyah, continue to
pose a threat to the stability of Mindanao. The violence associated
with Muslim rebels has been confined mostly to certain parts of
Mindanao, though its impact occasionally has been felt in Manila.
The New People's Army, a communist insurgency, operates in various
parts of the country, including Manila, inflicting "revolutionary
taxes" on political figures, judges, businesses and the general
population. Overall, however, travel for tourism in many parts of
the country is safe, and Mission employees enjoy frequent domestic
travel with family members. Americans are advised to heed the travel
advisories of the Regional Security Office with regard to Mindanao
and certain other areas of the country.
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 1/26/2004 10:00 PM
Arts. Before the independence of East Timor, the Philippines was
East Asia's only predominantly Christian country. Western ideas and
values have strongly influenced its arts, which are diverse and
robust. In Manila, for example, there are two ballet companies, two
symphony orchestras, and strong drama and musical theater
presentations --many of them in English -- including a long-running
production of the musical "Miss Saigon." In addition, foreign
companies and international artists perform throughout the year.
The Sciences. The government and university administrations
realize that they must strengthen their scientific institutions in
order to keep pace with the international scientific community.
Despite insufficient resources, the country is progressing in some
scientific fields. The Department of Science and Technology actively
supports academic science. For example, Philippine scientists,
working with their international counterparts at the International
Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, developed new strains of
miracle rice that made many countries self-sufficient in rice
Increasingly, Philippine scientists are working with their
international colleagues on such critical issues as environmental
degradation, energy and water conservation, reforestation, and
pollution control and abatement. Phenomena such as El Niño have
given even more urgency to the push to institute conservation
measures. However, distilling scientific research into practicable
policies remains a great challenge.
Filipinos are known as talented computer programmers. AOL's
International Help Line facility, manned by 900 employees, is
located just north of Manila. In addition, the so-called "Love Bug"
computer virus originated in Manila.
Education. The Philippines is home to an extraordinary number of
educational institutions. According to the Department of Education,
there are 10,666 preschool institutions, 41,288 elementary schools,
7,890 secondary schools, and 1,479 colleges and universities, 272 of
which are public institutions. Though more teachers are needed to
respond to the rapidly growing population of the country, the number
of professional teachers is large. There are 354,063 elementary
teachers, 119,235 secondary teachers, and 93,884 university- and
college-level instructors. Unfortunately, the quality of instruction
in public schools at all levels suffers due to severe overcrowding,
lack of resources and insufficient preparation of teachers.
Nevertheless, both the Department of Education and the Commission on
Higher Education are working on strategies to improve education at
all levels, and USAID, PAO, and the Peace Corps are now providing
some assistance in this area.
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:23 AM
From the end of the Marcos era in 1986 to the present, the
Philippine economy has begun a gradual transformation from inward to
outward looking. In the face of political upheavals, external shocks
such as the Asian financial crisis, and natural disasters such as
the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, successive administrations have
managed gradually to lower trade barriers, privatize government
corporations, reform financial markets, and ease restrictions on
foreign investment. During this period, national income (GDP)
increased by an average of 3% per year. Annual population growth of
around 2.5% per year, however, has meant that the Philippines has
fallen behind most of its Asian neighbors, including China, in terms
of per capita income.
Services make up about half of the Philippine's national income,
while industry accounts for 35% and agriculture the remaining 15%.
One bright spot in the services sector has been the success of
information technology firms, while investments made by electronic
components manufacturers have boosted industrial output.
Agricultural workers, however, make up about 45% of the work force,
with service workers at about 40% and factory labor at only 15%.
Agriculture remains inefficient in the Philippines, with so much of
the labor force accounting for so little national income, in large
part because the economic reforms of the last 15 years have not
extended to this sector. Agricultural tariffs are still high (in
many cases over 50%), and ineffective land reform efforts have
reduced many landowners to sustenance farming.
Over 30% of the Philippine population is poor, with the highest
incidence of poverty among households engaged in agriculture. This
rural poverty has led to rapid urbanization, as farmers move to
Manila, Cebu, Davao, and other cities in search of higher salaries.
These aspirations often do not pan out, and many arrivals from the
countryside end up in city slums, such as the ones along the Pasig
River or railroad tracks in Manila, living in conditions worse than
those they left behind.
Economic liberalization in the Philippines has pushed the country
to extend its formal international economic links. The Philippines
is one of the founding members of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
and is also a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Through
these organizations, the Philippines has pledged to continue
lowering trade and investment barriers. Meanwhile, bilateral trade
and investment relations between the United States and the
Philippines are broad and deep. The United States is the
Philippines' largest trading partner, while the Philippines is the
United States' 20th largest partner. The United States is also the
largest foreign investor in the Philippines.
The outlook for the Philippine economy is mixed. Some of the
immediate benefits of economic reform already have been realized,
such as the beginnings of trade and investment liberalization. The
challenge will be to sustain those efforts, while moving forward
with more difficult changes such as agricultural and tax reform.
There is also a broad range of legislative, bureaucratic, and
judicial reforms that will be needed to combat corruption and
improve governance and transparency in all sectors and at all levels
of government. In addition, the government needs to expand and
improve its efforts to provide basic services, such as education (to
ensure a steady flow of skilled, English-speaking workers prepared
to enter the 21st century world of e-business) and infrastructure
(so that exporters can get their goods from the factory or field to
the airport or harbor).
The Philippines has the lowest percentage of paved roads among
countries in the Association of Southeast Asian nations, including
Indonesia. It also has fewer telephone lines than Thailand or
Malaysia, and power costs are high. Some economists believe that the
Philippines was unable to match the economic growth rate of its
Asian neighbors over the last decade in part because the country's
infrastructure could not handle the strain of more business.
Transportation Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:24 AM
Traffic is a major concern throughout Metro Manila. Along with
bad air quality, traffic is a primary contributing factor to
Manila's hardship differential. It is impossible to truly appreciate
the traffic in Manila without experiencing it firsthand. Getting
around Manila at any time of the day or night can be a stressful and
daunting task, and, as a result, some people simply choose to stay
home and avoid certain parts of the city rather than face Manila
It is difficult to predict when and where a major traffic jam
might occur in the congested city streets, and a Manila traffic jam
can mean sitting literally immobile for long stretches, surrounded
on all sides by exhaust-belching buses and jeepneys. Industrious
Filipino youths stroll among the stranded drivers, selling food,
drinks, and cheap toys.
For most Americans, the most frustrating aspect of traffic is the
uniquely Filipino style of driving, which is often erratic and
unpredictable. Those with orderly driving habits will find it
difficult to adjust to the chaos of Manila's streets. Lane markers
and crosswalks painted on the streets of Manila, as well as many
stoplights, are often ignored. Buses stop in the middle of the
streets to allow passengers to exit into oncoming traffic, and taxis
cross cars stacked five abreast to make left turns from the far
right lane. Drivers also turn into oncoming traffic when the proper
lane is too congested, while pedestrians and cars play a dangerous
game of "chicken" to see who will get to the intersection first. At
the same time, Filipino drivers are remarkably polite and less prone
to road rage than their American counterparts. To some extent, the
absence of stringently applied traffic rules compels the average
Filipino driver to be more aware and attentive to his surroundings
than the average American driver.
Although most city streets are concrete or asphalt, many are in a
constant state of disrepair. Some Manila streets become treacherous
mazes of potholes, open sewers, garbage and other hazards during the
rainy season. Side streets can be narrow and hazardous year round,
and traffic signals often are broken. Traffic guards attempting to
regulate the flow of vehicles at major intersections are sometimes
ignored. There are many unauthorized vendors and beggars in Manila,
who must constantly be removed by the Metro Manila Development
Authority (MMDA). Caution is always the rule to follow.
The MMDA has completed construction of a modern light rail system
(MRT), designed to alleviate some of the congestion by connecting
major commercial areas of the city. This rapid transit system is
clean and efficient, but its network unfortunately is not extensive
enough to make a significant impact on Manila's heavy vehicle
traffic. The MRT station begins on the corner of Edsa and Taft,
ending on North Avenue, Quezon City. Most Americans have found the
light rail network too limited in scope to present a viable
alternative to automobile travel. In addition, stations are often
inconveniently located and not easily accessible on foot. The rapid
transit system can, however, be a very pleasant alternative to a
private car or taxi when traveling to certain parts of Makati, the
business and commercial district of Manila.
There are several new toll roads connecting the city to certain
outlying areas, with further construction planned for the future. In
theory, this should help to alleviate some traffic problems in the
next few years. However, planned improvements in the transportation
infrastructure of Manila often suffer serious delays and slowdowns
during construction, and the increasing number of private cars on
the streets has more than kept pace with the implementation of
upgrades to the transportation system.
Automobiles Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:25 AM
An automobile can be useful in Manila, but driving in the
Philippines is not for the timid. Many Embassy employees choose to
hire full-time drivers instead of driving themselves. Good drivers
are readily available in the Philippines for about $150 to $200 a
If you plan to ship a car to Manila, ensure that you arrive
before your car does. Philippine Government regulations require that
you, not your representative, sign the tax exemption certificate and
certificate of title or sales invoice for release of the vehicle
from customs. Vehicle clearance through customs normally takes about
three weeks. Storage fees are also high. The vehicle's bill of
lading should describe the car fully, including the vehicle's make,
type, year, model, engine and serial numbers, color, weight, number
of cylinders, and piston displacement (either in cubic centimeters
or cubic inches).
Air-conditioned cars are an absolute necessity because of
Manila's hot and humid climate, pollution, and annoying dust. It is
also useful to drive with the windows rolled up, to avoid harassment
and petty theft that may occur at intersections. Cars should be
undercoated, tropicalized, and equipped with heavy-duty springs and
shock absorbers. Due to heavy rains, frequent flooding, and poor
road conditions, employees planning to travel outside metro Manila
often import vehicles with a high clearance. The following are
useful spare parts to include with a vehicle: a muffler, tail pipe,
fan belts, extra fuel, air, and oil filters, brake pads, and
radiator hoses. If you ship a U.S. model car, include a good supply
of spare parts, especially those that are susceptible to Manila's
heat and humidity. It is virtually impossible to make it through a
tour in Manila without several minor dents and dings to your
personal vehicle, so touch-up paint and chrome protective lacquer
are also useful. The good news is that bodywork in Manila is cheap,
and technicians are competent. Alternatively, you can sensibly
resign yourself to the inevitable and stoically accept that a
vehicle with a few dents is just as drivable as one with pristine
body and paintwork.
High humidity and poor road conditions accelerate the
deterioration of vehicles in the Philippines. Repair facilities are
available for most U.S., European, and Japanese cars, at prices
comparable to the United States. Exceptions are repair services for
automatic transmissions and power electronic features, which are
expensive and hard to find. Most spare parts and tires are available
at slightly higher than U.S. prices.
Unleaded gas and diesel fuel is available on the local economy.
Major oil companies (Petron, Caltex, and Shell) operate
gas/convenience stations in and around metro Manila. Super and
regular unleaded gasoline, premium and regular leaded gasoline, and
diesel fuels are also available in major cities in the provinces.
The mission also operates a fuel station that provides both unleaded
and diesel fuels.
U.S. Mission personnel are allowed to import one tax-exempt
personal motor vehicle to post. Administrative and technical
personnel can import one vehicle duty free (as well as personal and
household effects) at any time during their tour of duty. Employees
may import or purchase locally a second duty-free vehicle (at the
owner's expense) if they are accredited staff members,
administrative/technical personnel, or if their spouses hold a valid
Philippine driver's license. It is advisable to wait until after
arrival at post to request a second duty-free vehicle, as
authorization is subject to prior approval from the Philippine
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). Please check with the Embassy's
Transportation Unit before making any commitment to buy a second
Replacement of an initial vehicle may be authorized only after
two years of registration at the Land Transportation Office (LTO),
except in extenuating circumstances (e.g., theft, accidental damage,
or hazardous safety condition due to mechanical faults). The DFA
must approve the replacement. Theft of privately owned vehicles is
not a major concern in the Philippines, and there is no indication
that American-made cars or the vehicles of Embassy personnel are in
any way singled out.
The DFA exercises import restrictions on diplomatic, official,
and all other vehicles shipped into the country. There are no
exceptions to these restrictions. You may import a gasoline-powered
passenger vehicle or a diesel-powered vehicle, including passenger
cars. Under the Philippine tariff and customs code, vehicles such as
jeeps, sport vans, econo vans, panel vans, pick ups, wagons, and
other vehicles with a similar configuration are classified as
The Philippine Government considers a motorcycle a privately
owned vehicle, whether imported or locally purchased. If an employee
intends to register a motorcycle, the government will need its own
shipping, import, and customs documentation. If you are shipping a
motorcycle in your HHE shipment, be sure that the bill of lading
clearly shows that a motorcycle is included. The bill of lading also
should show specifications, such as the make, model, and year of the
Sales of vehicles registered to diplomats must be approved in
advance by the DFA. The sale of cars to non-privileged buyers will
be authorized only if such vehicles have been registered in the
Philippines for at least two years, and if the owners of such
vehicles are departing the Philippines for a permanent change of
station, after having completed a tour of duty of at least 12
months. DFA permission to sell a vehicle may not be requested more
than 90 days prior to your scheduled departure date.
Employees whose tours of duty have been curtailed are entitled to
sell vehicles that have been registered for at least one year.
Personnel who depart without a year of registration, due to
curtailment, reassignment, or resignation, may be authorized to sell
a vehicle to another privileged buyer by "exception" from the DFA.
Employees temporarily departing post on home leave or other travel
or serving an extended tour do not qualify to sell vehicles under
The LTO requires Mission personnel to have a valid driver's
license from the United States or another country, so they can
obtain a Philippine driver's license. Local third-party auto
insurance with a Philippine insurance agency of the employee's
choice also is required. This coverage must be for at least
P750,000, with P20,000 for compulsory third-party liability and
P365,000 each for bodily injuries and property damage. Third-party
liability insurance, as well as comprehensive and collision, can be
obtained from several local agencies that also provide claims
processing and accident assistance. In addition, many people at post
carry comprehensive (damage to your vehicle from causes other than
an accident) and collision coverage, through a U.S. insurer that
will insure in the Philippines. Be sure to check with your U.S.
insurer to find out if it will provide such coverage in the
Philippines. Incoming personnel are encouraged to purchase a marine
insurance coverage policy for personal vehicles being shipped to
Some standard automobile makes are available locally at higher
prices. You may place special orders for a variety of U.S.-,
Japanese-, and European-made vehicles through the Overseas Military
Sales Group. A few used vehicles are available at reasonable prices
from departing employees of the U.S. Embassy and other foreign
missions in Manila, particularly during the summer transfer season.
If you decide to order a new car after arrival, expect a 90-day wait
Local Transportation Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:26 AM
Personally owned vehicles are the most convenient mode of
transportation, but many people manage very well for an entire tour
in Manila without them. City transportation varies, but most Mission
employees without cars commonly use air-conditioned taxis that are
usually plentiful in Manila and its suburbs. The quality and
condition of Manila taxis (and their drivers) can vary widely, but
most taxis are safe and affordable. Those without air-conditioning
drive with windows open, making passengers vulnerable to heat,
pollution and petty crime. Most taxi drivers are able to speak and
understand basic English and can understand instructions. Good
judgment regarding the condition of the vehicle and the competence
of the driver should govern your decision on whether to take a
Taxi prices are extremely reasonable, particularly as compared
with the United States, but drivers frequently try to avoid using
the meter by negotiating a higher price in advance (often double or
triple the normal fare), particularly when the passenger is a
foreigner. Embassy personnel who already know the standard taxi
fares in Manila can avoid this type of scam by insisting that the
driver turn on the meter. Taxi drivers are also known to refuse
passengers who want to travel to especially inconvenient or
congested areas, or may try to negotiate a higher fare for such
trips. Many drivers attempt to get more money by arguing that
traffic is heavy, but traffic is always heavy in Manila. Use your
own judgment in deciding whether the higher fare is worth it.
Buses are plentiful, extremely cheap and very popular with
locals. Their use generally is discouraged, due to the possibility
of petty crime, such as pick pocketing. Also, most Americans find
the open-air buses too uncomfortable, due to overcrowding, heat, and
exposure to exhaust fumes. One of the most enduring (and endearing)
forms of mass transit is the jeepney, the uniquely Filipino jitneys
that clog the streets of Manila by the thousands and contribute
significantly to the city's poor air quality. The jeepney was born
when the Philippines inherited a huge stock of surplus Army jeeps
after the American occupation. The Filipinos placed passenger
compartments on top of the jeeps and thereby created a cheap form of
public transportation. Even though jeepneys are now manufactured
from scratch in the Philippines, they still maintain the same
awkward design and charm of their cobbled-together ancestors. In
addition, jeepneys have developed into an art form of their own.
Each owner decorates his jeepney in bright decals that announce the
name of his children, his favorite American cartoon characters,
sports teams or products, etc.
In addition to jeepneys, Manila is populated by scores of public
buses and tricycles, which are motor-driven or manual bicycles with
a passenger compartment attached to the side. Traffic is further
congested by occasional horse-drawn carts, which are popular for
sightseeing but largely impractical. The use of buses is
discouraged, due to uneven standards of maintenance and safety, and
the reckless driving habits of many drivers. Tricycles may be used
with caution, and they can be quite convenient for short trips when
a taxi is not available or feasible. However, tricycle drivers often
ignore traffic laws and are especially accident-prone, due to the
tricycle's small size and its tendency to weave in and out of
Train travel is not recommended because of unsafe roadbeds, low
standards of car cleanliness and maintenance, and frequent
pilferage. Travel by ocean ferry can be a fast and enjoyable
alternative to land travel, but Americans should use common sense in
selecting a carrier. There are a number of reputable ferry services
-- like the WG&A, Inc. ferries that operate between Manila and
various other points in the Philippines -- that use modern,
well-maintained equipment and observe standard safety procedures.
However, there is no enforcement of safety precautions or
maintenance standards among commercial passenger ships, and some can
be extremely hazardous as a result. Several large, overloaded
ferries have capsized with loss of life in the past few years. The
CLO and GSO have current information regarding which boat lines are
deemed safe and trustworthy.
Two major highways lead out of Manila: the Northern Highway,
which leads to Angeles City and Baguio, and the South Superhighway.
Employees often travel by U.S. Government vehicle or by air when
going outside of Manila, due to the poor condition of roads outside
the metropolitan area and frequent traffic jams. Philippine Airlines
(PAL), Air Philippines, Asian Spirit, and Cebu Pacific make
scheduled flights to important Philippine cities and towns. It is
possible to make a one-day round trip to some destinations,
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:27 AM
International air travel can be arranged to numerous destinations
in Asia from Manila. Many employees cite their ability to make
frequent weekend trips to places such as Hong Kong, Bangkok,
Singapore, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, etc., as one of the major benefits
of a tour in Manila, although air travel around Southeast Asia can
be quite expensive. Airlines connecting Manila with other points in
Asia, Europe, and the United States include Air France, British Air,
Cathay Pacific, China Air, China Southern, Egypt Air, Emirates
Airlines, EVA Air, Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch
Airlines, Korean Airlines, Lufthansa, Malaysian Airlines, Philippine
Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and Royal Thai. Northwest and
Continental, as well as Philippine Airlines, have daily scheduled
flights to the United States.
Mission employees can make business or personal travel
arrangements at the Travel Office on the 4th Floor of the Chancery
Annex Building. USAID has a separate travel facility for its
employees. There also are several reputable local travel agencies
that often work with Embassy personnel and offer frequent package
tours and weekend getaways. These agencies are familiar with U.S.
Government regulations regarding R&R and other types of official
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:42 AM
Over the past three years, the clarity of telephone
communications within the Mission has vastly improved, due to the
upgrading of trunk lines via optical fiber connections. This has
facilitated the use of efficient Internet service within the Mission
over the same telephone lines. The Embassy also has several
International Voice Gateway (IVG) lines to the United States that
employees can use free of charge.
Domestic telephone service is common in the Philippines, but it
is not as reliable as in the United States. Although almost all
telephones in Metro Manila are serviced by digital exchanges, there
are not enough links between the four major telecommunications
companies that service the city. As a result, there are frequently
connection problems during peak hours, especially when trying to
reach a number connected to a different service provider. Also,
wrong numbers are a constant problem, due both to faulty connections
and hopelessly outdated directories and phone records. Storms and
even showers can disrupt telephone service, and repairs can be
extremely slow. U.S. Government-leased lines can be repaired by
requesting assistance from the Mission's Information Management
Most government-owned and leased residential units already have a
phone, and occupants are responsible for paying the monthly fee
(around $15 for local service from a single phone) and any
additional long-distance charges. A second phone number may be
requested at the resident's expense. The waiting period ranges from
two weeks to two months.
Long-distance service to the United States is excellent, with the
cost of direct-dialed calls averaging only $.40 per minute. However,
operator-assisted calls can run as much as $4.37 for the first
minute and $1.54 for each succeeding minute.
Embassy employees may use the IVG line to Washington, D.C., free
of charge during non-peak hours, and this line may be accessed from
the residences by calling the Embassy operators. The IVG line gives
you a dial tone in Washington, D.C., from which it is possible to
make calls with a calling card as though the call were being placed
from the D.C. area. Most employees find this an economical method of
making calls to the United States. It is advisable to arrange some
kind of calling card before arriving in the Philippines that may be
used in conjunction with the tie line. It is also possible to
arrange for such service after arrival at post. GlobalPhone has
become a popular option with many employees, because it may be
arranged via the Internet.
Telephones and Telecommunications
Wireless Service Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:44 AM Cellular phones
have become almost indispensable for most Americans and are
relatively inexpensive in the Philippines. These serve the added
purpose of remaining functional even during power outages, and
provide additional security while on the road or stuck in traffic.
Most Filipinos, many of whom do not have access to a personal
computer, use "texting" (text messaging) by cellular telephone to
deliver messages (and jokes). The Philippines sends more text
messages daily than the rest of the world combined-about 40 million
messages a day! It is not uncommon to see Filipinos sending and
receiving text messages on the street, in movie theaters,
restaurants, and even during business meetings.
Internet Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:44 AM
Internet service is widely available in the Philippines, and
there are numerous Internet providers in the Manila area offering
service at competitive rates. Much of Manila, including the business
and residential areas of Makati, are now served by cable modem,
which has greatly improved the speed and quality of Internet
connections in those areas. Several Internet providers in the
Philippines offer unlimited monthly Internet usage for a set rate,
while many others provide service on an hourly basis or in some sort
of package that includes a set number of hours. Pre-paid dial-up
cards are also available for quick access or while awaiting a more
permanent service installation. Fees tend to be higher than most in
the United States, and Americans will also find the speed and
consistency of Philippine Internet providers a bit disappointing,
when compared with the standards of U.S. Internet service.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:45 AM
FPO facilities to and from the United States, and to other FPOs
and APOs, are available for all U.S. Government agencies and
officials, members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and American personnel
with official government positions in the Philippines. Mail is sent
to and received from the United States via American and foreign flag
carriers seven days a week. Transit time is usually five-six days
for first class letters or Priority Parcels. FPO parcel post
services are available. Merchandise can be mailed to the United
States, its territories and possessions, any APO/FPO address, and
foreign country members of the Universal Postal Union. All
merchandise mailed through the FPO is subject to customs inspection
and the required customs duty.
Parcels mailed by FPO to the United States are subject to certain
limitations. No package may weigh over 70 pounds or be over 108
inches in length and girth combined for priority mail. The proper
address format for the Embassy is:
PSC 500, Box [varies by agency or office]
FPO AP 96515-1000
The address for international mail is:
American Embassy [Agency if not Department of State]
1201 Roxas Boulevard
Ermita, Manila 1000
PSC 502, Box I
FPO AP 96515-1200
Radio and TV Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:45 AM
Radio and TV stations in the Philippines are commercial and
highly competitive, resembling those in the United States. American
movies, television programs, and popular music are all widely
available in the Philippines, and many popular American TV programs
are shown in English. Increasingly, local TV stations are producing
their own programs in Tagalog. Local news and public affairs
programs on early prime time TV (5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) are in Tagalog,
while those on late prime time (7:30 p.m. - 1:30 a.m.) are in
English. The frequency and repetition of television commercials in
the Philippines can be annoying.
Five national networks, all located in Metro Manila, dominate TV
broadcasting in the country. ABS-CBN 2, PTV 4 and GMA-7 broadcast
their prime time programs nationwide via satellite. RPN-9 and IBC-13
use ground relay stations and affiliates to reach their national
Cable TV service is available in all residential areas, and many
Mission personnel subscribe to one of three cable service providers
in metro Manila. Cable packages include a varying array of
English-language channels, such as CNN, Fox News, NBC-Asia, CNBC,
ESPN, Cinemax, MGM Gold, HBO, Discovery, TNT, Animal Planet,
National Geographic, etc. Cable service providers also include all
local TV stations and stations from other countries such as BBC
World, Deutsche Welle, TV-5 from France, and Malaysian, Indonesian,
Indian, Arab, Spanish and Japanese stations. All stations are in
There are 517 radio stations in the Philippines, with 50 in
metropolitan Manila. Station programming consists of news, music,
drama, and talk shows. Music varies from European classical to jazz
to new age, hip-hop and rock, and listeners can hear American pop
music of the past four decades on a variety of radio programs. There
are 24 Manila stations that broadcast in FM stereo. Radio/TV
stations report on international and U.S. news. One FM station
carries CNN news on the hour.
Electrical power in the Philippines is 60 cycle, 110v or 220v,
depending upon wiring in individual homes, which may have dual
wiring for both voltages. TV in the Philippines is broadcast using
NTSC format, the same system used in the United States. American TV
sets can be used without modification (except for power if a 220v
receptacle is used). There is generally no three-wire grounded
electrical service in residences, except in the Seafront Housing
Compound. Bring transformers for TV sets as well as other electrical
appliances, since homes may have 110v, 220v, or a mixture of the two
currents. Check the voltage on wall outlets before plugging in any
appliance or lamp. Since most receptacles are not grounded, use of
spike/surge protectors does not necessarily protect sensitive
electrical and electronic equipment from power surges. Computers and
other sensitive equipment should be unplugged when not in use.
Sporadic electrical power blackouts, sometimes province-wide, can
last from minutes to hours and are hard on appliances.
Radio and TV sets are sold at Philippine duty-free outlets but
are expensive. The latest models are not always available and
selection may be limited. The most widely used videotape format is
VHS. Laser discs and DVDs also are popular. Local video rental shops
carry wide selections of current family movies and American
television programs and specials.
Movies are popular and extraordinarily cheap (about $2.00 for
first-run movies), and there are many comfortable, air-conditioned
cinemas. Seating in movie theaters is usually ample, except on
Sundays and Philippine holidays. However, Americans may be
frustrated by the tendency of a few in the audience to engage in
conversation, talk on the phone, and move about during the showing
of a movie.
Recently released American and international films play in the
Philippines but generally have runs of only a few weeks in any
individual cinema. American films and television programs are
subject to substantial censorship for profane language and sexually
suggestive content. Popular Filipino movies in Tagalog are not
subtitled or dubbed.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
1/27/2004 4:45 AM
There is a vigorous and competitive free press in the
Philippines. Nine major English dailies are published in Manila, and
three other papers specialize in current business and trade affairs.
Newspapers sometimes feature splashy headlines and undocumented
"facts." Most major hotels and bookstores sell The Asian Wall Street
Journal, USA Today, and The International Herald Tribune, usually on
the day of publication. Many English-language magazines are
published locally, e.g., Metro, Mega, Preview and FHM. Three
magazines, the Philippine Free Press, Philippine Graphic and
Newsbreak, specialize in political news. Several dailies feature
commentary by well-known American journalists, some carry articles
for specific audiences, and weekend newspaper supplements have short
articles of general interest. Among popular local magazines are
Women's Home Companion, Celebrity, The Journal Weekender, Women's
Journal, the Philippine edition of Cosmopolitan, the recently
launched monthly Men's Zone and Focus Magazine. Most articles are
light, human-interest features or other nonpolitical subjects.
Occasionally, periodicals carry in-depth analyses of current events.
Weekly Asian editions of Time, Newsweek, The Far Eastern Economic
Review, The Economist, and Asiaweek are available by subscription
and at local newsstands or bookstores.
Limited supplies of many American magazines, four-six weeks old,
and paperback books are sold at local newsstands and bookstores,
such as National Book Store. To ensure regular receipt of favorite
magazines, you should subscribe to them through the FPO.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:46 AM
Manila: An excellent Embassy Medical Unit is located on the
Seafront Compound. Its staff consists of a Regional Medical Officer
(RMO), a Foreign Service Nurse Practitioner, three Filipina nurses,
a laboratory technologist, one X-ray technician, a secretary, and a
receptionist. There is also a small walk-in clinic on the Chancery
compound, staffed by one local nurse.
The Medical Unit is responsible for the delivery of primary
health care to direct-hire American personnel and their eligible
family members. The Medical Unit will act as your primary care
provider, referring you for consultation with a specialist when
appropriate or desired. The Medical Unit also advises the Mission on
preventive and administrative medical matters. Excellent and
inexpensive dental care is available on the local economy, including
periodontics, endodontics, and orthodontics.
The Medical Unit also provides care for on-the-job illnesses and
injuries for Filipino employees. Employees of the Department of
State, USAID, and other Government agencies covered by the
Department of State Medical Program, receive medical care at the
Medical Unit under a shared administrative services agreement.
Agencies not covered under the Department of State Medical Program
may be granted access to the Medical Unit after entering into an
Manila's hospitals, such as Makati Medical Center and St. Luke's
Hospital, are staffed by excellent medical staff, many of whom are
U.S. Board Certified, but nursing and other support services are
sometimes considered inadequate, and equipment can be outdated or
incomplete. Obstetrical delivery is not recommended in Manila.
After working hours, most medical emergencies are handled at the
Makati Medical Center's emergency department. Other facilities are
also adequate for emergencies, including Manila Doctors Hospital and
San Juan de Dios Hospital, which is located within a quarter mile of
the Seafront Compound. The medical officer on duty can contact
emergency department staff to organize initial care and admission,
Baguio: In general, common diseases may be treated locally. The
two hospitals considered adequate are Notre Dame de Lourdes Hospital
and Pines City Doctors' Hospital.
Health and Medicine
Community Health Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:47 AM
The following general health advice is applicable throughout the
The general level of sanitation in the Philippines is lower than
in the United States. Manila's population growth since independence
in 1946 has greatly overtaxed city water supplies, sewage and
garbage disposal, street cleaning, and utilities. Water at the
Chancery and the Seafront compounds is safe for drinking, as the
Embassy has its own source of treated water for those locations.
Manila has open sewers in many areas, which are a health risk.
Waste disposal and food handling in many areas are inadequate.
However, most Mission and all U.S. Government-owned buildings have
septic tanks or adequate sewers. Garbage collection is also adequate
in most government-leased quarters. Cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes,
fleas, ticks, termites, rats, and mice abound in the Philippines and
require periodic pesticide service.
Health and Medicine
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:47 AM
Occasional gastrointestinal upset, due to poor sanitary
conditions, and colds and other respiratory ailments, are almost
unavoidable in Manila. Asthma patients may experience difficulty in
the Manila area, due to the extremely high level of air pollution.
Despite reasonable precautions, serious diseases such as hepatitis,
typhoid, bacillary dysentery, and intestinal parasites also
occasionally occur within the Mission community. You should be
inoculated against typhoid, tetanus-diphtheria, poliomyelitis,
hepatitis A and B and rabies. In addition, children should be
vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, and hemophilus B.
Tuberculosis also is very common in the Philippines, so yearly skin
tests are recommended. All household help and drivers should have
periodic physical examinations, stool tests, and chest x-rays.
Many areas of the Philippines, including Manila, are relatively
free of malaria. However, several forms of the disease, including
chloroquin-resistant Falciparum, are prevalent in many rural areas
around the Philippines. Personnel traveling in these areas must take
appropriate malaria prophylactics, which can be provided by the
Medical Unit. Mosquitoes also carry dengue fever, which does occur
Although the level of incidence still is relatively low, AIDS/HIV
infection has been identified in many areas throughout the
Philippines, especially among bar girls and the homosexual
community. All other sexually transmitted diseases also are present,
including drug-resistant gonorrhea. Hepatitis B, which is
transmitted in the same ways as AIDS, is endemic in the Philippines.
Rabies is on the increase in Luzon, and is present throughout the
Stray animals must be avoided, and domestic pets should be
Rabies vaccine (pre-exposure) is recommended for all personnel
prior to coming to post but may also be obtained after arrival.
Fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking water should be
approached with caution. Peel, soak, scrub, and/or cook local
produce appropriately before eating it. Do not drink untreated or
unboiled water. Boil water for five minutes to sterilize it. Bottled
beverages are plentiful and safe. Bottled beverages or hot tea or
coffee are safer than water in public places. Americans patronize
many fine restaurants in Manila without concern. Ice is always
suspect, and remember that alcohol does not kill bacteria. Do not
let children eat ice cream and food from street peddlers.
Overexertion and excessive fatigue should be avoided in Manila.
The tropical environment makes for rapid dehydration, and you may
not recover from exercise as quickly here as in temperate areas.
Short exposure to the sun may result in serious burns, particularly
on weekend excursions to beach resorts. Heat rash responds best to
frequent cool showers, air-conditioned rooms, and loose clothing to
reduce perspiration. Superficial skin infections are extremely
common in the tropics. Carefully clean even the smallest wounds with
an antibiotic disinfectant, and cover.
The Embassy Medical Unit dispenses some medications for acute
medical problems to American personnel and their eligible family
members. Generally, you must supply your own medicines for chronic
conditions. Larger pharmacies in the Philippines stock most standard
medicines at prices equivalent to those in the United States,
although brand names may be different and unfamiliar. Vitamins,
over-the-counter medicines, bandages, and first-aid supplies are
usually available locally. Drugs that are unavailable locally can be
ordered from the United States and delivered by FPO, if labeled as
prescription medicines. Most employee health insurance plans now
have pharmacy services that provide prescription drugs for long-term
use by mail at nominal cost.
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 1/27/2004
Manila has one of the largest overseas Embassy family employment
programs in the world. Both full-time and part-time positions within
the Mission become vacant throughout the year as Mission families
come and go. It is usually possible to place in jobs all eligible
family members interested in working, but not always in the type of
position they would prefer. Many available jobs are clerical in
nature and pay less than a professional's customary salary.
Eligible family members interested in employment within the
Mission are encouraged to enroll in the M/FLO Skills Bank program
and to forward a completed SF-171 (Application for Employment) to
the Human Resources Office and to the CLO in Manila. Vacant
positions are advertised via Administrative Notices, which also are
available on the Embassy's web site. The Embassy often hires family
on a temporary and intermittent basis. In general, those applicants
with office and/or computer skills will have a better chance of
finding a job within the Mission.
There is a Bilateral Work Agreement between the United States and
the Philippines that permits family members to work in jobs on the
local economy after approval is granted by the Department of Foreign
Affairs. However, because of high unemployment and the availability
of local professional and technical skills in the local labor
market, chances of obtaining employment in the private sector are
slim. Salaries in general also are very low by American standards.
The International School in Manila and Brent International School
employ family members who are qualified teachers or administrators.
Compensation is in both dollars and pesos. For ISM teachers
recruited overseas, the beginning salary range is $16,100-$29,632,
paid in 50% pesos, 50% dollars. The local hire pay scale is
$4,082-$13,587 per year, paid in 50% pesos and 50% dollars on a
one-year renewable contract. In addition, there is a bonus of $1,000
paid at the end of the school year, plus $150 paid in December and
$150 paid in June. The pay scale at Brent School is similar. Direct
requests for employment information for teachers (either local or
overseas hire) can be made to:
International School Manila
P.O. Box 1526 MCPO
1255 Makati City, Philippines
Brent School of Manila
University of Life Campus
P.O. Box 12201
Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines
In Washington, D.C., contact:
U.S. Department of State
Office of Overseas Schools
Washington, D.C. 20037
Phone: (202) 261-8203
Make direct requests for other types of employment to:
American Chamber of Commerce
of the Philippines, Inc.
Corinthian Plaza, 2nd floor
Paseo de Roxas
P.O. Box 2562 MCPO
Makati City, Philippines
Generally, a family member working outside the Mission must apply
for a Philippine Labor Permit, which is usually a pro-forma
requirement. The Human Resources Office can make the necessary
arrangements with the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs after
you find a job in Manila.
American Embassy - Manila
Post City Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:49 AM
Metro Manila, located on the main island of Luzon, is a major
city along the coastal lowlands of Manila Bay and the Pasig River.
Legend has it that originally the town was known as Maynilad, which
is Tagalog for "many nilads grow there." The nilad is a water lily
that can still be seen floating on the Pasig River and into Manila
Bay. Greater metro Manila currently has a population of about 12
million and encompasses Quezon City, Pasay City, Caloocan, Makati,
Mandaluyong, Paranaque, and San Juan.
Manila Bay, one of the largest and finest harbors in Asia, is
Manila's outstanding feature. It is rimmed by distant mountains and
islands, dotted by ships, and is frequently the setting for
spectacularly colorful sunsets. Pollution has made the water of
Manila Bay unsuitable for swimming, and there is no beach along the
The Embassy sits on Roxas Boulevard, which follows the shoreline
for several miles, in the Ermita-Malate section of the city. Roxas
Boulevard was one of the main thoroughfares of the city several
decades ago when the historic Embassy building and the Philippine
Government buildings around it were at the heart of downtown Manila.
However, the business and commercial center of the city has moved to
Makati, about seven miles from the Chancery, along with virtually
all of the other Embassies in Manila. Although Ermita has lost its
commercial significance, it has recently made a comeback as a
dining, shopping, and entertainment district.
Roxas Boulevard is lined with a variety of buildings, including
office buildings, apartments, hotels, nightclubs, and the Cultural
Center of the Philippines (CCP), which was built under the
supervision of Imelda Marcos during the Marcos era to become one of
the region's premier arts centers. The CCP remains a showplace and
the vibrant hub of the Philippine artistic community. Roxas
Boulevard typifies the contrasts that exist in Manila: a luxury
high-rise apartment building occupied by Mission employees sits on
one side of the street, directly across from a shanty town of
squatters built on land reclaimed from Manila Bay.
There are still remnants of the rich architectural heritage of
Manila's 300-plus years of Spanish culture, particularly in the old
city of Intramuros near the Embassy. However, much of the city was
destroyed during World War II, and the prevalent architecture of the
city is a modern American style. The high-rise business district of
Makati could pass for the downtown area of any large U.S. city. New
construction is ubiquitous in the Philippines, particularly office
and apartment space, but projects are sometimes delayed or abandoned
in mid-construction, due to lack of financing, or sit empty upon
completion due to lack of renters.
More than 150 American businesses have active operations in
Manila, and many more have agencies or representatives here. The
oldest American Chamber of Commerce in any foreign country is
located in Manila. Manila's foreign community includes over 150,000
Chinese, 6,000 Americans, and a large number of Spaniards, Japanese,
Indians, Britons, Germans, Swiss, and other nationalities.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:50 AM
The Embassy is located on Roxas Boulevard between United Nations
Avenue and Padre Faura Street. It fronts on Manila Bay, looking west
to renowned Corregidor Island at the mouth of the harbor 26 miles
The Embassy is organized along traditional lines, with the
Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission exercising overall
supervision of the Mission. As senior representative of the United
States in the Philippines, the Ambassador ensures that the programs
and activities of all Mission agencies are coordinated and
contribute to the attainment of U.S. foreign policy objectives. The
Embassy community includes the Consular, Economic, Management,
Regional Affairs, Public Affairs and Political Sections. Each
section is headed by a counselor. Commercial and Agricultural
counselors are also assigned to the Mission, as well as Air, Army,
and Naval attachés.
Several regional offices of the Department of State are attached
to the Embassy in Manila. These include the Regional Information
Management Center (RIMC), the Regional Security Office (RSO), and
the Regional Printing Center, a publishing facility with a large
offset printing plant (the only such State Department facility
outside of the United States) located on the Seafront Compound
USAID head offices are located in an office complex just off of
Roxas Boulevard that also houses the Philippine Senate, next to the
Cultural Center of the Philippines and near the Seafront Compound.
The Economic Cooperation Administration, the forerunner of USAID,
established an office in Manila in 1951. Its successor agencies and
USAID have provided continuity of assistance operations and continue
to work closely with the Philippine Government to improve the
welfare of Filipinos.
Other organizations that make up the U.S. Mission family in
Manila include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Naval Criminal Investigative
Service (NCIS), the only office of the U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs (DVA) located outside the United States, and the American
Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) office. ABMC takes care of the
American Cemetery and Memorial located within the former U.S. Army
Reservation at Fort Bonifacio in Manila. The Philippines
Transmitting Station (International Broadcasting Bureau) is also
under the jurisdiction of the Embassy and is located just outside of
the metro Manila area.
The Commercial and Agriculture Sections are located in Makati.
The Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) has offices in
Manila. Headed by a colonel, it is composed of Army, Navy, and Air
Force representatives. The Thomas Jefferson American Center, which
is operated by the Public Affairs Section, recently moved to the
Chancery Annex from its former home in Makati.
Just over 100 Peace Corps volunteers currently serve throughout
the rural provinces of the Philippines. Recent projects have
included a sustainable island development project with an
environmental focus, with volunteers working in coastal resource
management, local development planning, and water and sanitation.
About 50 Peace Corps volunteers are involved in English-language
programs in the Philippines, including teacher training, curriculum
development, and resource material development. The Peace Corps
presence in Filipino host agencies and communities has helped to
sustain and renew Philippine-American cooperation and understanding,
and its programs in the Philippines are considered a model of
The Embassy's Management Section provides a variety of support
services to all Mission agencies. In addition, Manila's management
team has regional medical, pouch, and communications
responsibilities. The U.S. Delegation to the Asian Development Bank
(USADB) is also provided limited support by the Embassy.
Most agencies operate on the same schedule: 7:30 a.m. to noon,
p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The agencies that differ are as follows:
Monuments Commission, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (public hours are
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.); USAID, 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00
p.m. to 6:00 p.m.; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 7:30 a.m. to
4:00 p.m.; Drug Enforcement Administration, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.;
and Department of Homeland Security, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The Community Liaison Office (CLO) administers a sponsorship
program to ease the arrival of new employees. Ensuring a smooth,
friendly transition for our new personnel and their families is of
the highest priority. Your community sponsor ensures that your
housing is ready upon your arrival, stocks the cupboards and
refrigerator with the basics (on a reimbursable basis, meets and
assists you at the airport, escorts you around the Embassy and
familiarizes you with the Mission, and in general introduces you to
the community (i.e., social contacts, where to shop, school
registration, etc.). Prior to your move, the CLO is available to
answer any questions you might have about your transition to Manila
or lifestyle issues. You can contact the CLO by e-mail at CLOManila@state.gov.
During the summer rotation cycle, the CLO and the Human Resources
Office sponsor several newcomer orientation tours to acquaint
newcomers with Manila and the Mission. New employees should inform
the CLO, as well as their respective agencies, of their arrival
plans as soon as possible to make arrangements for a sponsor,
provide appropriate information regarding housing and assist with
school enrollment in Manila.
Housing Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:50 AM
Housing assignments are made for all agencies (except for Peace
Corps and JUSMAG) by the Inter-Agency Housing Board (IAHB)
approximately two months prior to an employee's scheduled arrival,
based on rank, family size, and timing of arrival at post. The IAHB
also considers any other factors that are specific to the employee
being assigned, such as medical requirements, physical limitations
of elderly EFMs and any preferences the employee may have expressed.
Any specific housing requirements, concerns or preferences should be
clearly communicated to the GSO Housing Coordinator and the CLO. The
earlier the Housing Board receives this information, the better. If
you consider your assigned housing inappropriate, you may appeal to
the Housing Board for a change of your housing assignment; each case
is considered individually on its own merit.
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:51 AM
When possible, the Mission assigns newcomers to permanent
quarters immediately upon arrival at post. However, if immediate
placement is impossible, the employee will be assigned to temporary
accommodations, usually in a vacant unit in the post's housing pool.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:51 AM
The American Embassy in Manila provides both government-owned
(GO) and short-term-leased (STL) living quarters for all employees
at post. There are 42 GO units at the Seafront, and 177 STLs: 109
apartments and 68 houses, making a total of 219 units in the housing
Embassy personnel are generally housed at three locations: 1)
government-owned apartments and townhouses on the Seafront Compound,
about 2 miles from the Chancery; 2) commercially leased apartments
in the Malate District about a mile from the Embassy; and 3) leased
houses and apartments in the Makati residential areas and villages (Bel-Air,
Magallanes, Dasmariñas, Forbes Park, San Lorenzo and Urdaneta),
which are located five to seven miles from the Embassy. The Marine
Security Guards live in the Marine House on the Chancery Compound,
and the Ambassador's residence in Forbes Park also is
government-owned. About 69% of U.S. Government personnel in Manila
are assigned to apartments or townhouses; 31% to single-family
homes. School bus service to both of the schools typically attended
by Embassy children is provided from all residential areas.
The government-owned Seafront Compound includes a staff apartment
building for single employees and couples, and a townhouse compound
for couples and families (and a limited number of singles). These
units are generally considerably smaller than commercially leased
apartments and are well below the square footage allowances for most
occupants. They also are older than many apartments available on the
Manila/Makati housing market. Most standard-level personnel are
assigned to the Seafront Compound, including the vast majority of
junior officers. The Housing Board is required to fill the
government-owned units at Seafront before it can make assignments to
leased housing outside of the compound.
Some employees prefer the safety and convenience of the Seafront
Compound to other housing in the city. Armed security guards are on
duty 24 hours a day at the compound and access is strictly
regulated, which creates a safe play area for children. It also
features a number of recreational facilities that are run by the
American Recreation Club (ARC), including a swimming pool, tennis
courts, squash and racquet courts, library, gym and spa, and
community center. ARC membership costs $190 per year per family or
$120 per year for singles. There's also a preschool run by Amerikids,
a playground and ball field for everyone's use. There is a
restaurant on the compound. Electricity on Seafront Compound is
110v, so employees can use all U.S. electronic equipment and
appliances. The compound is equipped with a heavy-duty generator
that provides power to all homes during Manila's frequent power
outages. It also has its own source of treated water, so the tap
water at the Seafront Compound is safe.
The three-story staff apartment building currently includes a
mixture of one, two and three-bedroom apartments. A complete
renovation of the staff apartments was begun in 2000 in different
phases. This project will combine two of the older staff apartments
into one large three-bedroom apartment, featuring marble floors,
separate dining rooms, modern kitchens and bathrooms, at least two
bathrooms, and a laundry room. All of the apartments have split-type
air-conditioning units in each room. Storage space is at a premium
in both the old and renovated staff apartments.
The 24 Seafront townhouses are a mix of two-, three-, and
four-bedroom units with central air-conditioning, washer, dryer, and
dishwasher. Most of the townhouses are multi-level units, with a
living room, dining room and kitchen on the first level and bedrooms
on the upper levels. The townhouses are newer than the staff
apartments and feature an aesthetically pleasing modern design with
generous outdoor terraces and balconies. The townhouses are
especially popular among families with younger children.
Ample parking is available for both the staff apartments and
townhouses directly adjacent to the units. The Seafront Compound
also includes dormitories for domestic employees, as the housing
units are not large enough to accommodate them.
The houses leased by the U.S. Embassy are located in residential
villages in the Makati area. Though not necessarily contemporary in
design and often lacking modern accessories, the houses are
comfortable and functional three- and four-bedroom dwellings. They
are comparable in size to their American counterparts, with
interesting lay-outs and facades. Some houses have a swimming pool
in the yard, others have limited yard space. Most have limited
Subdivisions, such as Bel-air, Forbes Park, Magallanes, San
Lorenzo and Dasmariñas and Urdaneta Villages, are incorporated into
associations that provide gate guard service, garbage collection,
and street maintenance. These gated communities are desirable for
families with children, as they include playground facilities and
are closer to the International School of Manila and Brent
International School South Campus. The streets are clean and
private, conducive for bicycling, jogging, and walking.
A new cluster of very modern apartment buildings at a former
camp, Fort Bonifacio, has also become very popular to the expat
community, including embassy families. These buildings include many
amenities such as outdoor/indoor swimming pools, walking trails,
tennis courts, gym and spa areas, as well as very good security and
service from the building management staff. These housing areas are
located in a more desirable neighborhood than the apartments closer
to the Embassy, with excellent shopping, dining and cultural
opportunities within the development (commonly referred to as The
Fort) as well as in nearby Makati. Because of the convenience of
these new, modern apartments and the greater security they afford,
post has consciously sought to increase the number of such
residences for our personnel. Since post no longer authorizes
security guards for any single-family residences other than for the
Ambassador and DCM, all chiefs of agencies who believe that
additional security measures are required for their safety will
automatically be assigned to the newer, very secure high-rise
However, the five- to seven-mile commute to the Chancery, the
USAID office building, and the Seafront Compound can take from 20 to
60 minutes or longer from either the villages or the Fort, depending
on the traffic, which is wildly unpredictable.
The majority of government-leased apartments and houses in the
Embassy pool are wired at each outlet for 110-120 (American) and
220v (Philippine), 60 cycles (two-prong round plugs for the 220 and
regular, American-style flat plugs for the 110). However, housing
units on the Seafront Compound are inadequately equipped with
functioning 220v plugs, so employees assigned to the Staff
Apartments or Townhouses should assume that they will only be able
to use 110v (American) electrical equipment. There are enough
outages and fluctuations in Manila's power supply to make surge or
spike suppressors essential for the protection of sensitive
electronic equipment, such as musical instruments, stereo equipment
Furnishings Last Updated: 1/27/2004 4:53 AM
The residence of the Ambassador and the homes of the DCM and the
Director of the Asian Development Bank are completely furnished,
including representational needs, such as dishes, silver and
glassware, and artwork. State, USAID, and most other agencies in
Manila supply basic furnishings that are predominantly American
made, with occasional locally manufactured accents. Most furnishings
are upholstered with imported fabric, comparable to American styles,
and replaced on a six-year cycle. Upholstered furniture will be in
one of three standard, neutral color schemes. Drapes will be
installed in all rooms of the house (excluding maid's rooms), also
in standardized, neutral colors.
The following is a list of basic furnishings for the majority of
the Embassy's housing units. The quantity of furniture is based upon
room sizes, number of rooms and availability of property in the
warehouse. Upon the discretion of the Property & Supply office,
furniture will be scaled accordingly, or quantities reduced to
accommodate room sizes.
1 three-seat sofa
1 coffee table
2 end tables
2 table lamps
1 area carpet
1 dining table
8 dining chairs
1 china cabinet
1 area carpet
1 queen bed with headboard
1 chest of drawers
2 table lamps
1 occasional or armchair
1 area carpet
1 air purifier
1 single bed with headboard
1 chest of drawers
2 table lamps
1 desk with chair
1 desk lamp
1 area carpet
1 air purifier (occupied
1 three-seat sofa
1 loveseat or 2 armchairs
1 coffee table
1 end table
1 table lamp
1 desk with chair
1 desk lamp
1 area carpet
1 gas or electric oven/range
1 washing machine
1 clothes dryer
1 A/C each living room and
1 A/C each occupied bedroom
Draperies are installed in all rooms of the house (excluding
maid's rooms) in a standardized, neutral color. Bedroom draperies
are lined. Draperies and area carpets are either shampooed or
replaced, depending upon the replacement cycle of the item.
The majority of the furniture at post reflects those items
featured in the State Department Package Furniture Program, with the
addition of some locally manufactured pieces. The furniture consists
mostly of light-finished transitional pieces, with a limited supply
of traditional dark-finished items. Furniture items, such as kitchen
tables and chairs, etageres, additional bookcases, television
stands, outdoor patio furniture, etc. are available, but in limited
supplies. Furniture suitable for a den is generally available but
cannot be guaranteed. GSO does not provide computer furniture for
In keeping with State Department regulations, furniture will not
be provided for the use of maids or other household employees and is
the sole responsibility of the American employee. Based upon
availability, vacuum cleaners, ironing boards and baby cribs can be
furnished temporarily until household effects have arrived, provided
they are in stock.
Some of the leased free-standing houses and larger apartment
units, particularly units meant for executive employees (regardless
of family size) and housing for families, may have sufficient space
to accommodate other furniture items that employees may wish to
include in their household effects, such as bookcases or an extra
refrigerator. You should inquire about the specific space
limitations on your unit once your housing assignment has been made.
However, government-owned Seafront townhouses and apartments have
very limited space for additional furniture and no space for extra
appliances. In addition, GSO cannot store issued furniture in order
to make space for personal furniture items brought to post.
For employees of agencies participating in the post housing pool,
a Welcome Kit is set up in every housing unit prior to a new
employee's arrival. This kit is for your use until your household
effects have been delivered and then must be returned to GSO. The
kit includes pillows, sheets, towels, blankets, dishes, pots and
pans, glasses, flatware and some kitchen utensils, iron, ironing
board and toaster. You may want to include in your airfreight
shipment such items as casseroles, baking pans, mixer, blender,
mixing bowls, refrigerator storage containers, teapot, coffee maker,
broom, mop, bucket, dish drainer, etc. These items are available at
the Duty-Free stores and the local stores, however. Bear in mind
that Seafront apartment have few or no outlets to accommodate the
220v currency of locally manufactured appliances.
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:00 AM
Metro Manila, as well as most of Luzon Island, suffers from
occasional electrical outages, called "brownouts" locally. These are
usually brief interruptions of several minutes, but they can on
occasion last several hours during the typhoon season and other
severe weather conditions. Both the Chancery and Seafront Compounds
are equipped with backup generators to provide full power during
power outages. In addition, the Mission has attempted to locate as
many employees as possible in apartment buildings with back-up
generators. Generators in these buildings have varying capacities,
ranging from power for emergency lighting and one elevator to full
back-up power. Most of the freestanding houses do not have back-up
power sources, and in some cases the water also goes out, due to the
failure of the electrical water pumps during power outages.
Some periods of low water pressure in the city may cause water
shortages. Seafront apartments and townhouses have modern,
well-maintained plumbing, and all units have bathtubs. All other
units in the housing pool have modern plumbing, but plumbing
problems are frequent in the Philippines because of poor
construction and lack of owner maintenance.
Food Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:01 AM
Although Americans usually are not enamored of Filipino cuisine,
with its fried pork and sweet sauces, it is possible to eat very
well in the Philippines. Manila features a wide variety of
restaurants that appeal to American palates, including a broad
spectrum of outstanding Asian cuisine, such as Chinese, Thai,
Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. There are numerous other ethnic
dining options in Manila as well, including excellent Italian
restaurants and other specialties such as Indian, Mexican, Spanish
and French cuisine. All of the major hotels feature upscale dining
that is usually a version of Continental cuisine with a Filipino or
pan-Asian flair. Exceptional and reasonable buffets are a favorite
among both locals and expatriates. Fish and seafood also are fresh,
cheap and plentiful in Manila (although not from Manila Bay), and
there are countless seafood restaurants. Local fish, many of which
are unfamiliar to Americans, are extremely inexpensive and good, and
a limited range of familiar imported fish also are available at
somewhat higher prices. Local budget shellfish offerings include
shrimp and prawns, clams, oysters, mussels, crabs and squid. Other
luxury seafood, such as lobster and scallops, are generally imported
Filipinos and Americans share a special fondness for fast food.
There are countless outlets serving Filipino and Asian food, many of
them little more than stalls. Questionable sanitation leads most
Americans to avoid them. However, numerous American fast food chains
are represented in abundance in Manila (and to a lesser extent in
other parts of the Philippines), including McDonalds, Burger King,
Wendy's, Pizza Hut, Dominos Pizza, Kenny Rogers Roasters, KFC,
Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks Coffee and Shakey's Pizza, as well as 7-11
convenience stores. Expatriates are pleased to learn that most of
these establishments, as well as many other restaurants, offer home
delivery. Jollibee, the homegrown equivalent of McDonalds, tends to
serve sugar-added foods (hamburgers, hotdogs, and spaghetti) that on
average are far too sweet for the American palate.
Manila is home to a number of supermarkets, most of them
connected to the large department stores at major shopping malls,
featuring a broad array of local, Asian, and Western products. Most
supermarkets include a section specifically devoted to imported
foods (usually at significantly higher prices than local goods), and
a new membership-only supermarket recently opened in Makati features
many imported American products. Although a few specific specialty
food items may not be available at any price on the local economy,
most Americans have found that the range of products available in
local supermarkets is adequate to satisfy the majority of their
family's food needs. Supermarket produce can be especially
disappointing to Americans, however, because the selection is
sometimes limited, the produce is often not fresh or of mediocre
quality, and the prices can be quite high for certain fruits and
vegetables popular with Americans.
The crowds in the supermarkets can be daunting, so Americans tend
to shop early in the morning to avoid the rush. The stocking of
supermarket shelves in Manila can be rather haphazard and random,
which means it is impossible to count on finding a particular
product simply because you saw it in a particular store once before.
In addition, supermarket employees, although invariably polite and
helpful, tend to be poorly trained and unable to effectively assist
customers with problems or inquiries.
An alternative to the supermarkets are numerous outdoor "wet
markets" that feature extremely reasonable fresh products, such as
fruit and vegetables, meats, seafood and fish and eggs. The smell of
these markets can be intense, particularly toward the middle of a
hot and humid Philippine day. As a result, many Americans prefer to
send their domestic employees to the wet markets with a little cash
and a shopping list. Many of the local domestic staff are able to
work miracles in the wet markets on a very limited budget.
One of the delights of a tour in the Philippines is the
availability of delectable tropical fruits of every imaginable
variety (and some you never would have imagined) at prices that
Americans will find astoundingly low. Many people develop a strong
yen for certain fruits during their stay in the Philippines,
especially mangoes, pineapples, and the tiny super-sweet tropical
Fresh vegetables are a more mixed bag in Manila. Certain
vegetables, such as peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, cabbage,
onions, etc., are cheap and plentiful. Other items that Americans
are accustomed to finding in the United States, though, may be
expensive and of lower quality in the Philippines, such as broccoli,
tomatoes, cauliflower, celery, carrots and mushrooms. Good lettuce
is particularly hard to come by. There is, however, a wide
assortment of Asian vegetables that may not be familiar to
Westerners but are cheap, interesting and abundant. There is a vast
selection of cheap, low-quality meats in commercial supermarkets,
but it can be a challenge to find acceptable meat, especially beef.
Locally raised chickens are fed on fish meal and have a peculiar
fishy taste and texture unpalatable to many Americans. Better
quality meats and vegetables, as well as a number of imported
cheeses, wines and other specialty items, are available in a limited
number of small and expensive European-style markets, primarily
located in the Makati business district.
Clothing Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:02 AM
In general, cotton and other lightweight clothing are worn year
round in Manila. Some heavier clothing may be necessary for visits
to Baguio or winter travel to colder Asian locations such as Korea,
China or Japan. Sweaters and shawls also can be useful in
air-conditioned rooms and public areas. Nylon, polyester and heavy
wool clothing are usually too warm and uncomfortable during the
extreme heat of the hot season in the Philippines, and most people
prefer cotton or cotton/synthetic blends. Most personnel at the
Embassy recognize that comfort in the tropical heat takes precedence
over style, and they dress accordingly.
Manila in general is a very style-conscious community, and
Filipinos tend to follow the latest fashion trends. Personnel
attached to the Embassy will likely attend more (and dressier)
social functions than they would in the United States. Several
formal and semiformal events are held throughout the year. Long and
short evening dresses are usually required for women, and men will
need a tuxedo or a formal barong. Formal attire for both genders can
be made locally at reasonable prices.
Clothes wear out much faster in the Philippines, due to the
climate and the attendant need for more frequent changes and
washings. Shoes also deteriorate more rapidly during the rainy
season and because of poor sidewalk conditions. Unless clothing is
stored in air-conditioned rooms or dry closets, it needs to be aired
on a regular basis to prevent mildew. Clothes and shoes are readily
available for purchase in petite and small sizes, but larger size
clothing and shoes (which includes clothing for people who would be
considered average-sized and not overweight by U.S. standards) are
difficult to find in the Philippines. Some exclusive stores do carry
Western sizes at premium prices, and virtually anything can be made
to order in Manila.
Men Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:03 AM
Many men have discovered the "barong Tagalog" as a pleasant
alternative to shirt and tie for the office. The barong is a
traditional, loose-fitting Filipino shirt. Barongs designed for
daily wear are usually made of cotton or synthetic fabrics (as
opposed to the dressier barongs made of delicate, sheer fibers) and
can be either short or long-sleeved. Barongs are available
ready-made in any local department store or can be made to order
easily and cheaply. Barongs are popular among American personnel for
their convenience and comfort as compared to suits and ties, and
locally are considered the dress equivalent of a shirt and tie.
Suits made of lighter wool or other lightweight fabrics can be
worn during the cooler months in Manila, as well as in Baguio, Hong
Kong, Korea and Japan. Washable suits are convenient and practical,
but dry-cleaning services are readily available in most hotels at
rates comparable to those in the United States. Dacron and cotton
blends are most useful. If possible, bring several pairs of washable
slacks. Formal attire is necessary on several occasions during the
year. If you do not already have formal summer evening clothes, you
can have them tailored in Manila at reasonable prices. In addition
to a tuxedo, a formal "barong Tagalog" is appropriate at any formal
occasion. A formal barong is made of sheer material (usually banana
fiber) with an embroidered collar, cuffs, and front, and worn with a
T-shirt over dark trousers during the day or in the evening.
Cotton underwear (including many American brands and styles) is
appropriate for use in Manila, and is readily available locally.
Cotton, rayon, or wool socks are all suitable, according to
preference. U.S.-made shoes are quite expensive on the local market.
In addition, Filipino shoe sizes are significantly smaller than
American sizes, and men with a shoe size larger than 8 may find it
difficult to find shoes. On the other hand, men with small feet will
be delighted with the selection and prices of local shoes as opposed
to those in the United States. In general, shoes that would be
appropriate for use in the summer in Washington, D.C. will be
equally suitable and comfortable in Manila.
Women Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:03 AM
The term "casual" on an invitation in the Philippines means a
simple cotton dress, or a skirt or dressy slacks and blouse for
women. Cocktail dresses tend to be dressier than those in the United
States and are worn more often by Mission personnel and family
members than in the United States. These are often made of cotton or
linen, but silks, brocades, laces, chiffon, and similar materials
are popular and comfortable during the cooler months (October
through January). Long dresses or evening skirts with blouses also
are suitable for cocktail parties. Therefore, bring several long
dresses, but not necessarily formal ones.
Lightweight fabrics of all kinds are available in the
Philippines, and local dressmakers can make all types of women's
clothing, from simple and basic work suits to expensive "haute
couture" clothing. Prices and results, however, will vary
accordingly. A seamstress will work at your home for about $15 a
day. She will use your sewing machine and other necessary tools and
will also expect you to provide thread, buttons, zippers, etc.,
unless you and she agree that she purchase these items on a
reimbursable basis. Most Filipina seamstresses sew from a picture or
a sample rather than from a pattern. If you do not have a machine or
require a seamstress on a limited basis, you can arrange to have
things made by someone who sews in his or her own house or shop.
These seamstresses and tailors are usually more expensive, charging
by the garment. In any event, a trial-and-error period is necessary
to find the seamstress or tailor who best matches your needs.
Appropriate fabric is available at many well-stocked shops in
Manila that carry American, Japanese, European, and local materials.
The latter include Dacron/cotton, ramie/tetoron (a linen-like
fabric), cefrele polyester knit, piña (pineapple cloth), jusi
(banana fiber cloth), and hablon (hand-woven cotton/silk). Simple
Dacron/cotton and ramie/ tetoron dresses, which usually have hand or
machine embroidered fronts, are popular for everyday and office
wear. Piña and jusi cloths are stiff, sheer materials similar to
organza, beautifully hand embroidered, and are made into pantsuits,
evening dresses, and cocktail dresses. Real silk is hard to find and
expensive, as are good quality lining fabrics. Some Americans like
to bring fabrics from the U.S. or Hong Kong to supplement local
Most Filipina women wear stockings or pantyhose to work and on
special occasions. Many shops sell attractive handbags and costume
jewelry. Since only a limited stock of bathing suits is available
locally (Philippine sizes generally fit only the very petite
American figure), several should be brought to post. Local shoes are
comfortable, stylish, and reasonably priced. They also are only
available in smaller sizes (below size 8) and are often too wide for
American feet. You can have them made to order inexpensively,
however. Remember that Philippine leather is generally softer than
that used for shoes sold in the United States. Bring shoes to post
if you have unusually narrow or wide feet or wear sizes larger than
Other necessities include raincoats, umbrellas, rain boots, and
other rain accessories. Umbrellas and plastic raincoats are also
available locally. Bring an adequate supply of cotton underwear.
Undergarments in both nylon and cotton are available on the local
market, but the selection of styles and sizes is quite limited.
Therefore, bring an initial supply of your favorite brands and
styles, especially bras.
Children Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:05 AM
Children wear the same clothing here as in summer in the United
States. When they play outdoors, they will need many changes of
washable, durable play clothes, including shorts, jeans,
short-sleeved or sleeveless T-shirts, and knit shirts. Bring extra
bathing suits, because correct sizes may be difficult to find, and
kids can swim for most of the year. Teenagers generally follow
American clothing trends for parties, school, and sportswear. Bring
a good supply of underwear and socks, especially cotton socks for
infants, which are difficult to obtain at post. Sturdy shoes for
young children are hard to find through size 8, though local stores
carry a good supply of sandals, sneakers, and lightweight shoes.
These shoes are usually available in medium or wide widths and wear
fairly well. Daytime wear for infants and toddlers is usually
diapers, shorts, sunsuits, bathing suits, cotton dresses, and
embroidered cotton shirts, which are available in abundance locally
at reasonable prices. Local disposable diapers are either of poor
quality or very expensive. Any special school dress considerations
can easily be met at post. Small children need lightweight rainwear.
Remember to bring some warmer clothing for children when traveling
to Baguio or out of the country.
Cub Scout, Girl Scout and Brownie uniforms can be ordered from
the United States. Girl Scout leaders in Manila will do the ordering
for the entire troop. You can place individual order for Brownie and
Cub Scout uniforms from the United States, and delivery is easy
through the FPO.
If your child has a particular clothing or shoe need, such as
unusual size or an allergy to certain fabrics, it is advisable to
identify a U.S. source prior to coming to post, in order to place
call-in or on-line orders at a later date. In addition, mail-order
catalogs are available at the CLO.
Office Attire Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:05 AM
Office wear for men at the Embassy is generally more casual than
in the United States or at embassies in European countries. A
traditional business suit or a barong is required for some meetings
and other occasions, particularly for section heads and those
personnel whose duties include frequent contact with high-level
officials outside the Mission. Most other men dress more casually,
generally in dressy slacks and shirt and tie. Shirts should be of
lightweight summer material, and may be either long or short-sleeved
for office wear (few men wear jackets in the office). Short-sleeved
cotton sportshirts, such as polo shirts, are most common after work.
Long-sleeved sportshirts are useful in Baguio.
Women working in the Embassy wear suits, dresses, skirts and
blouses, and pantsuits. A light sweater or jacket is often useful in
air-conditioned offices. Women's off-the-rack clothing tends to be
small and tight on the average American figure. It also tends to
contain more polyester and double knit than is popular in the United
States, largely because of its easy care qualities. Most women
either order clothing from the United States or have it custom made
locally, which is easy and inexpensive. Sports clothes, such as
slacks and shorts, may be worn after work or during sports
Supplies and Services Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:06 AM
Shopping is one of the national pastimes of the Philippines. It
is difficult to say whether shopping malls or karaoke bars are more
ubiquitous in the Philippines, as it is difficult to travel more
than a few blocks without running into one or the other. Department
stores and supermarkets in Manila carry a wide range of household,
clothing, and recreational items. As long as you are reasonably
flexible and not too wedded to a specific brand name, style or color
for the items you routinely need, you should be able to find most
products that are available in the United States and generally at
more reasonable prices.
More adventurous shoppers also take advantage of numerous outdoor
markets throughout the city, including the expansive (but not
expensive) Divisoria market near the Embassy. Items of every
description can be found at Divisoria, the most popular of which for
American shoppers is fabric. Prices are very reasonable, and
haggling for even lower prices is the accepted practice.
The U.S. Embassy Club hosts a large biannual "Shopper's Day,"
with similar monthly events on a smaller scale, sponsored by the
American Women's Club of the Philippines. Shopper's Day brings
together artisans, craftsmen and merchants of all kinds from
throughout the Philippines under one roof to give the expatriate
community an opportunity to shop for crafts such as basketry,
quilts, woodcarvings, furniture, clothing, and a variety of other
local specialties. Shopper's Day has become so popular that
Americans from surrounding Asian countries fly to Manila for the
The shopping experience itself in Manila is different from going
to your local mall in the United States. Shopping centers in the
Philippines tend to be a recreational destination for scores of
Philippine youths and families, primarily because they are pleasant
and air-conditioned, and as a result they are routinely packed,
particularly on weekends. Most Americans have learned to get their
shopping out of the way early in the morning in order to avoid the
crowds. The stocking of items in Philippine stores tends to be
rather random and unpredictable, and often only a single size or
color of a particular item may be available at any given time. Also,
store clerks and cashiers tend to be poorly trained when compared to
their American counterparts. The level of English ability among
retail employees is inconsistent, and even those with a reasonable
command of English may be unable to answer questions regarding
products, help locate different sizes or styles, or offer shoppers
any other sort of the basic assistance to which Americans are
accustomed. Even if there appear to be about five clerks for every
customer in many of the department stores, shoppers should be
prepared for inefficiency and long waits at the cash register.
Pharmacies in Manila offer most products that are available in
the United States, including over-the-counter versions of many items
that are available in the United States only by prescription.
Pharmacies in Manila differ from their American counterparts in that
they offer only medicines and related products, but not a wide range
of toiletries and other products often found in U.S. drugstores.
These are available in supermarkets and department stores instead.
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:07 AM
Because Manila has FPO service at post, it is very easy to order
a wide range of products from the United States via the Internet.
Catalog orders also are possible from Manila because 800 numbers in
the United States can be accessed without cost using the Embassy's
IVG line during off-peak hours. Shipping to the Philippines usually
takes a week to 10 days, and most personnel at post routinely
receive a wide variety of products via the FPO from the United
States, including clothing, books, food items and medications.
In general, you should be sure to bring any items to Manila for
which you have very specific preferences or requirements that you
may be unable to fulfill locally, such as medications, cosmetics,
shoes, and any items that may be of an unusual size. The following
are specific items recommended you bring to post:
Mop: Bring enough mop head refills to last your entire tour.
Household employees are accustomed to using the string mops that
must be wrung out by hand but quickly adapt to the sponge-head type.
String mops are available locally.
Broom: American-style brooms are hard to find in Manila, so you
should bring one if you plan to do your own cleaning. However, your
domestic staff will prefer to use a local version of the straw
broom, available in stores for around a dollar.
Dish rack set and sink tub: The majority of homes in Manila do
not have dishwashers.
Kitchen gadgets and tools: Basic kitchen gadgets and tools are
available here. If you use something beyond the basics, bring it
VCR/DVD: There are several video rental stores near most of the
housing, with rentals costing about $1.00 for 2 days. Be aware of
the many cheap counterfeit tapes that also can be purchased locally.
Video cameras: Bring one if you have one. It's great to send a
tape to friends and family back home!
Cookware: Pots and pans are not always available on the local
economy or, at least, are not the quality to which Americans are
Computers: It is best to pack these in the original boxes and
styrofoam if you still have them. It is not recommended that high
value electronic items be included in airfreight shipments, because
the required inventory makes such items more susceptible to
Computer accessories: Buy your printer ribbon and paper in the
United States. Since the military bases have closed, these items can
be expensive and difficult to find.
Surge protectors: Buy these for all major electrical appliances
(microwave, TV, VCR, computer, dehumidifier, etc.). In the past,
blackouts have been a daily occurrence, and without surge
protectors, your electronic equipment will be ruined quickly.
TVs: Available locally but very expensive.
Vacuum cleaners: Bring enough replacement bags and belts to last
your tour here. The local stores basically carry the Philippine-made
Area rugs and carpets: Most of the houses do not have wall to
wall carpeting. Typically the houses have a marble-like floor or
wood tile floor. GSO provides area rugs for some areas, but most
residents of houses find that a few additional rugs are desirable.
Rugs can be expensive locally. Bathroom decor: Bring items such as
shower curtains, commode covers, shower rings, toilet brushes. Local
stores typically have the basic cheap curtains and accessories, but
if you want something nice, it can be quite expensive.
Shoes: If you have a shoe size larger than 8, it is best to
purchase shoes in the United States prior to your departure.
Bathing suits: In the Philippines, suits are made for the local
population and therefore usually are not large enough for Americans.
Diveskins for scuba diving can be ordered locally to fit your body
measurements and are completed in less than a week.
Women's clothing and undergarments: The best fabric for the
Philippines is cotton due to the heat and humidity.
Fabrics: Philippine fabrics typically are not of the same quality
as U.S. fabric. Some fabric balls, fades, and falls apart after
being cleaned. Usually, the better fabrics are imported, and
excellent fabric is available in nearby countries such as Thailand
or Hong Kong. Local barong fabrics for men are of good quality.
Notions: The local fabric shops have a good variety of buttons,
lace and sometimes zippers, but buttons are sold individually in the
Philippines. Thread comes in a good array of colors, but is not of
U.S. quality. If you use shoulder pads in any of your clothing, buy
your pads in the United States, because the Philippine version tends
to be stiff or have to be made from scratch. Fabric and notions in
Manila are usually comparable in price or even more expensive than
in the United States.
Cosmetics: Most department stores stock the less expensive
make-up, such as Cover Girl, Maybelline, Revlon, L'Oreal, etc., as
well as some higher end brands, like Estee Lauder, Clinique, etc.
However, selection and availability are uneven, and in-stock items
may be very old. Virtually all cosmetics in the Philippines are
imported from the United States and therefore are quite expensive
Pantyhose: U.S. brands such as L'eggs cost in excess of $8.00 in
CDs: Many local stores (including Tower Records) carry CDs at
prices comparable to those in the United States, but local music
tastes differ from those in the United States, and many artists and
musical styles are unavailable in the Philippines. In addition, many
lower priced CDs are counterfeit (particularly those from booths in
shopping malls) and the quality is unpredictable.
School supplies: Basics can be purchased locally. The local
international schools will issue a list of items that students will
need, and the school bookstores will sell all paper, notebooks,
pencils, etc., together in a pack according to grade level. You can
buy attractive, stylish backpacks cheaply (Jansport, Barbie), as
well as decorative pencils and accessories in the Philippines.
Lunchboxes, as well as insulated bags and mini-ice chests, are all
available locally at reasonable prices.
Car parts: Bring enough hoses, tune-up items, air, gas and oil
filters and belts to last your entire tour, especially if you have
an American-made car. The Philippines has no auto supply stores as
we know them and parts are frequently more expensive. Another
alternative is to use a mail-order car part company that will mail
parts through the FPO.
Medication: If you are on medication, bring an extra supply with
you. You should contact the Medical Unit at the Embassy in advance
to see if they have certain medications that you need or whether
they can be bought locally. Drugs, serum, eyeglasses, etc., written
on a prescription can be sent to you via the FPO. Drugstore.com and
other on-line drugstores provide fast, efficient delivery of
prescription and over the counter medications.
Pet supplies: Ticks and fleas are a problem in the Philippines.
Sprays, shampoos and collars are sometimes available on the local
market but can be expensive. Pet toys and accessories are cheaper in
the United States but can be ordered through a pet supply catalog
after you arrive at post.
Sewing Machine: If you don't have one and you would like to have
your own seamstress make a wardrobe for you, you may want to buy one
in the United States. A basic, non-computerized machine is adequate
for a local seamstress. There are several tailors that can also sew
garments if you provide the fabric.
Garden tools: Avoid electrical tools, and bring manual hedge
clippers, shears, rakes, shovels and other small gardening tools. A
step stool also will be useful.
Entertaining: National Book Store and other stores carry party
decorations and favors, but may not provide the variety you require.
Party goods can be brought from the United States or ordered
on-line. Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and Easter decor are
available at a number of stores and at Shopper's Day. Hannukah and
other seasonal decorations should be brought from the United States.
Christmas decorations: The celebration of Christmas in Manila
begins in September. There are a wide variety of ornaments and tree
skirts, and house decorations are available from local craftsmen.
The local Christmas "trees" or "Philip pines" are made of dried
twigs in the shape of a tree and are painted green, red or white, so
you may want to bring an artificial tree if you prefer something a
bit more traditional. Imported fresh-cut Christmas trees are
available at prices somewhat cheaper than in the United States. The
supply of Christmas cards on the local market can be limited, and
the themes tend to be heavily religious.
Frames: Bring anything that needs framing. Prices and quality for
framing are excellent in the Philippines.
Insect/pest traps: Unfortunately, ant traps, cockroach traps, and
mousetraps are very useful in Manila.
Mail order catalogs: The CLO office has limited number of copies,
but there is heavy demand for these.
Outdoor barbecue equipment: A great way to entertain. Be sure to
bring the accessories as well, such as charcoal and lighter fluid.
You can find propane for a gas grill.
Dehumidifiers: These are very useful due to the high humidity and
The following items can be purchased locally at very good prices
and are popular among the expatriate community:
1. Furniture made of wicker, rattan, bamboo and local hardwoods.
2. Picture frames.
3. Handmade linens such as quilts, embroidered tablecloths,
4. Clothing for infants and very young children.
5. Paintings made to order from photographs (e.g., of your
6. Wooden folk art and carvings.
7. Decorative ceramic pieces.
8. Woven basketry of every size and shape.
9. Pearls and silver jewelry.
Supplies and Services
Basic Services Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:07 AM
Most Americans in Manila cite the inexpensive and high quality
personal services available in the Philippines as one of the things
they will miss most when they leave the country. The only downside
is that Americans doing a tour in the Philippines may become a bit
spoiled and accustomed to exceptional service, which will make it
more difficult to move on to a Post where good help is not so easy
Supplies and Services
Domestic Help Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:07 AM
Filipino domestic employees are responsible, hard working and
loving with children and pets. In addition to serving the expatriate
community in the Philippines, Filipino domestics can be found
working in households around the world. All types of household help
are available in Manila: yaya (nanny), all-around (cleans, cares for
children, does laundry and may cook simple meals), cook (can read
and follow English-language recipes), laundress, driver, gardener,
etc. Full-time maids earn $100 to $150 per month; drivers earn up to
$150 to $200 per month. Gardeners work on a daily rate of $10 to
$15. In general, domestic employees are handed down from one
generation of American employees to the next, and many have been
working for Embassy families for years. In addition, advertisements
can be found in the Jeepney Journal and the Domestic Servants
Registry under the auspices of the American Women's Club. The CLO
maintains a survey of the wage scale that is updated annually. In
short, it is possible to find any type of excellent household help
on a full-time or part-time basis.
Americans also enjoy a variety of other luxuries in the
Philippines. Excellent massage therapists are popular among American
employees, and a two-hour session in your home runs about $20.
Several manicurists also make weekly visits to Embassy personnel at
their homes and offer a manicure and pedicure for about $10. In
addition, local beauty salons offer a full range of quality
cosmetology services at reasonable prices. However, some Americans
have found that permanents and hair coloring often are not of an
The availability of cheap, high-quality fabric in Manila and
throughout Asia makes seamstresses and tailors another popular
service provider for Americans. Most seamstresses make home visits
for fittings, and several Mission employees employ full- or
part-time seamstresses to work in their homes. Although most
seamstresses have limited ability to design clothes and may not be
able to follow patterns, they are highly skilled in following
samples or pictures, and they can produce quality garments at
reasonable prices. It is not uncommon for women to leave the
Philippines with a stylish new wardrobe. In addition, tailors often
visit men at the Embassy to fit them for suits, shirts and tuxedoes,
which are available at prices dramatically lower than those in the
United States. The quality of men's garments is acceptable but not
comparable to the United States or even other Asian countries.
A wide range of classes and instruction from skilled instructors
is available in Manila at very low prices. Many Embassy employees
take advantage of tennis lessons, golf lessons, scuba training,
swimming lessons, aerobics and other fitness activities, and other
sports instruction. The Seafront Compound includes an adequate gym
for aerobics and weight training, and memberships in more upscale
fitness facilities are available at good prices in area hotels.
Excellent and very cheap music lessons, such as piano, voice
training, and instruction on other musical instruments, are
available from professional local teachers.
One especially popular service among the American community is
Lasik surgery to correct nearsightedness. The procedure is available
in Manila by U.S.-trained doctors using modern equipment at a much
lower cost than in the United States. The current fee, which
includes all follow-up care, is about $1,000. In addition, competent
skin care and plastic surgery is available in Manila at low prices.
There are numerous other personal services available to Americans
in Manila, and the choices are limited only by your own interests
Religious Activities Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:08 AM
The Philippines is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and not
surprisingly, Catholic churches can be found in abundance throughout
Manila. Masses are scheduled in Tagalog and English and are held at
various times throughout the week, and in many unusual places,
including shopping malls.
Service for other denominations are also available in English,
although the variety of times and locations may be a bit more
limited. Most have some sort of prayer meeting or other activity
during the week in addition to regular weekly services. The
following is a sampling of area houses of worship; additional
information about these or other religious activities in Manila may
be obtained from the CLO.
Protestant: Bethany Baptist Church, Dian St., Makati; Church of
the Holy Trinity (Anglican/Episcopalian), 48-A McKinley Road, Forbes
Park, Makati; Cosmopolitan Church (United Church of Christ), 1363
Taft Avenue, Manila; International Baptist Church, Dela Costa,
Salcedo Village, Makati; International Lutheran Church of Manila;
Ayala Museum, Makati Avenue, Makati; The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints (Mormon), Makati Word Chapel, H.V. dela Costa,
Salcedo Vill., Buendia; Union Church of Manila, Legaspi cor. Rada
Sts., Legaspi Vill., Makati.
Roman Catholic: Malate Church; 1016 M.H. del Pilar St., Malate;
Santuario de San Antonio, McKinley Road, Forbes Park, Makati; St.
Alphonsus Mary de Liquori Parish, Humabon Place, Magallanes Vill.,
Other Denominations: Jewish Association of the Philippines,
Temple Beth Yaacov, Tordesillas cor. Dela Costa Sts., Salcedo
Village Makati; Greek Orthodox Church, (The Anunciation of Theotokos
Mission), Filipinas Avenue, United Paranaque.
At Post Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:09 AM International School of
Manila. The International School Manila (ISM) is a nonsectarian,
college-preparatory, and general academic day school for boys and
girls of all nationalities in preschool through grade 12. Formerly
called the American School, it was founded in 1920 by American and
British residents of Manila. It was incorporated as a private,
independent school and is registered under the laws of the Republic
of the Philippines on a non-profit basis. The school is approved by
the Department of Education of the Republic of the Philippines. In
1970, the name was changed to International School to reflect the
increasingly international composition of the student body.
About 1,600 students are enrolled at ISM, of whom 21% are
Americans, 18% Filipinos and 61% students representing about 50
other nationalities. The children of U.S. Government employees
usually comprise about 3% of the total population. The school
comprises an elementary school (Nursery-5), middle school (6-8) and
high school (9-12). ISM is located at a state-of-the art campus
facility in Ft. Bonifacio that was newly opened for the 2002-2003
The school is divided into three sections, elementary, middle and
high school. The elementary school has its own covered playground,
soccer field, gymnasium, media center and dining facility. The
middle school also boasts its own media center and gymnasium. All
other facilities, such as the science/biology/chemistry
laboratories, art and music rooms, computer laboratories, sports
complex with a 400meter running track and playing fields,
competition pool, diving pool and training pool and six tennis
courts, are shared with the high school. Additional shared
facilities include dance, drama, fitness and martial arts practice
rooms, a gymnastics gym, an open seating experimental theater and an
850 seat Fine and Performing Arts Theater. All indoor facilities to
include the gymnasiums are air-conditioned.
The school year runs from mid-August to early June, with two
semesters for middle and high schools and a trimester calendar for
the elementary school. The Superintendent, the Curriculum and Staff
Development Administrator, the directors for counseling and
guidance, athletics, and aquatics, and other key consultants are
from the United States, England, Australia, India, Canada, and New
Zealand. There are about 176 full-time and 14 part-time professional
staff members, including about 47 U.S. citizens, 77 host country
nationals, and 66 persons of other nationalities. The 10-member
Board of Trustees devises school policy. Each family with a child in
school is an associate member of International School, Inc. Trustees
are elected to a three-year term at the annual meeting.
A child transferring into the international community may enter
the school at any time during the year, provided he or she has an
acceptable academic record, does not have unresolved discipline or
emotional problems, and meets the standards set by the Admissions
Committee. If you cannot begin your tour in time for the opening of
school, orientation and assistance are offered through the Guidance
Center program. A child must be five years old by September 1 to
enter kindergarten and six years old by September 1 to enter first
grade. No exceptions are made.
Instruction is in English. The curriculum is based on the
American system, which is broadened to include curricula from other
systems throughout the world. Modern languages including Spanish,
French, Chinese, Japanese, and Pilipino are offered as foreign
languages. High school students may earn a regular U.S. high school
diploma or an International Baccalaureate diploma. A wide variety of
advance placement courses are offered in grades 11 and 12. There is
a special language development program (teaching English as a second
language) for non-English speakers. The testing program includes the
College Entrance Examination Board Test, the American College Test,
the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, and the Secondary
Schools Admission Test. The school is fully accredited by the
Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Academic standards are more rigorous than those found in U.S.
public schools, and students are expected to do homework. Students
transferring from other schools in the United States or overseas,
especially those entering high school, should confirm that their
records and course grades are complete in order to receive full
credit at ISM.
Eight full-time counselors provide counseling services: two in
elementary, two in middle school, and four in high school. They
offer students and parents personal and academic counseling and
college and vocational planning.
The International School provides an Optimal Learning Match
education program for learning support and talent in the schools. It
is not able to educate students with severe visual and/or hearing
impairments or those with neurological or behavior disorders.
However, staff will review cases of moderate impairment and decide
on an individual basis if an appropriate program of instruction can
A wide variety of extracurricular activities supplement the
academic program to encourage physical well-being, intellectual
exchange, diversification of interests, and participation in social
activities. Students are encouraged to participate in such
activities as Model United Nations, Math Counts, other academic
games, chess, and a complete Fine Arts program, including drama,
band and strings. Other activities include student government,
committees, numerous clubs, the honor society, and school
The sports program includes interscholastic baseball, basketball,
cheerleading, golf, badminton, soccer, dance, swimming, tennis,
track and field, and volleyball. ISM is a member of the Philippine
Secondary School Athletic Association. International competitions
provide ISM teams the opportunity to travel to other countries for
sporting, cultural and academic events and to host these countries
in return. Active intramural competition is offered in many sports.
For further information and admission forms, contact the CLO or
International School Manila
P.O. Box 1526 MCPO
1255 Makati City, Philippines
Phone: (63)(2) 896-9801-10
Direct Line: (63)(2) 897-5576
Fax: (63)(2) 899-3964
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: http://www.ismanila.com
Brent International School. Brent International School, Manila,
is an international, co-educational day school of nursery school
through grade 12 and is associated with the Episcopal Church in the
Philippines. It carries the following mission statement: "Brent
Schools, in an ecumenical environment in the Philippines, are
committed to develop individual students as responsible global
citizens and leaders in their respective communities, with a
multi-cultural and international perspective, and equipped for entry
to colleges and universities throughout the world."
Brent strives to provide an atmosphere of academic excellence,
discipline and Christian values. Students wear a prescribed school
uniform and attend weekly chapel services. The full International
Baccalaureate Diploma Program is offered at Brent, and it is
accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
The school year begins in mid-August and ends the last week of May.
The original Brent campus, located at the University of Life
Complex in Pasig City, offers nursery through 8th grade only. A new
school facility opened in August 1999 at Mamplasan, Laguna, about 20
miles south of Metro Manila. The Mamplasan campus has centrally
air-conditioned classrooms, two gymnasiums (one fully
air-conditioned), a theater, a 25-meter competition swimming pool
(covered), a 400-meter all-weather track, soccer field, computer
laboratories, networked classrooms, media center, play areas,
covered drop-off area and a 225-car underground parking garage.
Currently, all Embassy children enrolled at Brent School attend this
campus. Daily bus service is provided from Makati and other Embassy
housing areas. The average commute is 45 minutes to one hour each
Brent offers a wide range of after-school activities, including a
Varsity and Junior Varsity sports program that offers boys and girls
basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, badminton and bowling. The
school is a member of the Asia-Pacific Activities Conference,
together with Shanghai American School, American International
School of Beijing, Seoul Foreign School, Canadian Academy, and Osaka
Curricular activities include plays and musical presentations,
choir, art exhibits, literary publications, and participation in
inter-scholastic forensic competitions. The school has a debate
team, which competes with both local schools and schools in the
international circuit. Clubs cater to a wide variety of student
interests, such as art, science, literature, and community service,
such as the Good Samaritan Club. Brent also runs a "house" system,
in which all students, teachers and staff are divided into three
teams. The "houses" compete in academic and sports events throughout
the year. This fosters school spirit and a sense of belonging.
At the high school level, Brent offers both the International
Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) Programs. These
programs give high school students an opportunity to pursue
college-level studies, while still in high school. Depending on the
college they attend, IB and AP courses can lead to advanced
placement (skipping entry-level courses) or college credit for the
coursework completed under these programs. The AP courses are
accepted at virtually all U.S. colleges and universities, while the
IB program has more limited acceptance within the United States.
The AP program was instituted in the United States to offer more
challenging courses to capable high school students. Students in the
AP program are enrolled in introductory college-level courses,
followed by an examination in May. The examination, administered by
the Educational Testing Service in the United States, is scored on a
five-point scale. Many overseas and American high schools
participate in this program. Classes can be taken in just one
subject or in a variety of subjects.
The IB program was designed through an international cooperative
effort and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. This program offers an
academically challenging curriculum emphasizing the philosophy of
learning and the integration of disciplines for the last two years
of high school. It can be supported by a curriculum beginning as
early as elementary school. Because it is a comprehensive two-year
program, it can be difficult to transfer during the last two years
and complete the IB diploma at a different school. Individual tests,
however, can be taken for courses completed, even if the full
diploma program is not completed. Exams are completed in May, with
all exams centrally evaluated to set criteria by international
For further information and admissions forms, contact the CLO or
Brent International School, Manila
Brentville Subdivision, Barangay Mamplasan, Biñan,
Laguna 4024, Philippines
Telephone: (63)(49) 511-4330-39
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Web page: www.brent.edu.ph
P.O. Box 12201, Ortigas Center
Post Office 1605 Pasig City, Philippines
Telephone: (63)(2) 631-1265 to 68
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web page: www.brent.edu.ph
The British School. The British School in Manila accepts students
from age five through 12 or 13 and has an enrollment of 280
students. Class sizes are about 15 each. It follows the British
system, is staffed solely with expatriate British teachers under a
British headmistress, and offers a wide variety of after-school
Nursery/Preschools. AmeriKids Pre-school opened on the Seafront
Compound in August 1999. This preschool services the families of
American personnel connected with the U.S. Embassy and who are
members of the American Recreation Club (see page 36). AmeriKids
offers a comprehensive "American style" preschool. AmeriKids has
access to all Seafront amenities, including the swimming pool,
library, Med Unit, and playground. At its current location, the
preschool can accommodate 15 children with a one to five adult/child
ratio. Amerikids follows the same class calendar as the
International School and Brent School.
Manila also offers several local preschools. Concepts vary from
Montessori to social learning. All of the preschools offer a variety
of activities and instruction for the preschool child. The schools
often have small classes and offer a clean and stimulating
environment. The general age for acceptance in preschool is around
2-1/2 years of age or diaper-trained. Some preschools admit children
at 18 months of age, however. These schools all follow the Filipino
class calendar, with summer falling between April and June.
Away From Post Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:09 AM Some families from
Manila, as well as families from other Asian posts, send their older
children to Brent School in Baguio City. Founded in 1909 under
auspices of the Episcopal Church, Brent is the only doubly
accredited (accredited with the Western Association of Schools and
Colleges in the United States and with the Philippine Accrediting
Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities), coeducational,
nonsectarian day and boarding school in Southeast Asia. The 27-acre
Baguio campus, situated at 5,000 feet, offers an invigorating and
healthful climate conducive to year-round study. The school has a
library, chapel, gym, playing fields, tennis courts, and an
infirmary with a registered nurse on duty 24 hours daily.
Brent's curriculum combines the best public and private school
practices and includes SMSG math, BSCS biology, and PSSC physics,
which are high-level courses. Classes are small, with a
teacher-pupil ratio of one to eight, individualized education, and
close personal contact between students and faculty. Brent School
has active creative arts and performing arts programs and encourages
participation in both individual and group sports. In-depth cultural
studies, curriculum-related field trips, and special "mini" courses
contribute to an educational program that combines the richness of a
Western heritage with the experience of living and learning in an
As tuition and board fees change yearly, you should contact post
for the most recent fee schedule. For information concerning the
school, please write:
P.O. Box 35, 2600,
Baguio City, Philippines
Web site: www.mozcom.com/~brent
Special Needs Education Last Updated: 12/21/03
The Philippines has very few programs for the physically
challenged child or for children with learning disorders. Please
contact the Community Liaison Office at post for information.
Special Needs Education Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:10 AM
The Philippines has very few programs for the physically
challenged child or for children with learning disorders. Please
contact the Community Liaison Office at post for information.
Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:10 AM
The University of the Philippines, one of the premiere
institutions of higher education in the Philippines, is accredited
with American colleges, especially for upper level courses
(junior/senior level). The main campus is located in Quezon City,
about a 60-minute drive from the U.S. Embassy, with various branches
throughout Manila. Other high-quality private colleges and
universities, such as De La Salle and Ateneo de Manila universities,
also are open to college-aged students.
The Philippine system provides only 10 years of pre-college
education, six years of elementary school and four years of
secondary school, with no middle or junior high school. Most
American children choose to go to U.S. colleges because of this
difference. Discipline and scholastic requirements at local
universities are less rigorous, and libraries and laboratories are
not up to U.S. standards. Some spouses have taken special courses
and obtained degrees during a tour in the Philippines. Several very
good computer programming and analysis schools are located in
Manila. Private teachers and colleges offer adult and children's
courses in music, art, and foreign languages. Limited Tagalog
courses for employees and their eligible family members also are
available at the Embassy.
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:11 AM
There are nearly unlimited opportunities for water sports of all
kinds outside of the metro Manila area. The Philippines is a scuba
diver's paradise, and enthusiasts from all over the world come to
the Philippines to take advantage of the pristine waters and the
diversity of exotic coral and marine life found here. In addition,
many areas of the Philippines remain relatively remote and
undiscovered by divers. Expert scuba instruction is readily
available, and many Americans have chosen to become certified divers
during their tours in the Philippines. Other popular water sports
include snorkeling, sailing, wind surfing, jet skiing, swimming, and
A number of sports facilities are available on the Seafront
Compound for the use of all ARC members, including tennis,
racquetball and basketball courts, a swimming pool, and a baseball
diamond. Basketball is probably the most popular sport in the
Philippines, in terms of both spectators and active participants.
There is an active national basketball league, and the Embassy also
has a basketball league with teams representing various offices and
agencies that compete in regular tournaments. Other organized
Embassy sports leagues have included baseball, softball, bowling,
tennis, volleyball, and pistol shooting.
Golf is another popular sport in the Philippines. There are
numerous high-quality golf courses in the Philippines, including an
excellent course set against the walls of the old city and within
walking distance of the Embassy. Golf is popular among Filipinos as
well as Americans, and many Embassy personnel have found golfing to
be an excellent opportunity to make local friends as well as
valuable professional contacts. The cost of golf in the Philippines
is extremely reasonable as compared with the United States. The
Embassy has a Golf Association that sponsors tournaments and other
social events for its members.
Bowling is another popular pastime in the Philippines, and
modern, American-style bowling allies are abundant in Manila. Other
popular local sports include mahjong, darts, cycling, tennis,
badminton, and many others. There is even an ice rink in one of the
local malls. The only restriction is that many Americans will find
it occasionally too hot and polluted to engage in prolonged outdoor
activities in Manila.
Recreation and Social Life
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:11 AM
The tropical climate of the Philippines provides almost
year-round touring and outdoor recreational opportunities. However,
the heat of April and May and the typhoons of the rainy season from
July to November may restrict some activities, and the pollution in
Manila also can make many outdoor activities unpleasant.
The Philippines is full of beautiful beaches and resorts to meet
every taste and budget, from rustic and charming native bamboo huts
to upscale five-star resorts with a full range of services and
amenities. The proximity of the outlying islands makes it easy to
take advantage of spontaneous weekend getaways to any one of a
number of beaches, and many Americans also plan more extended beach
holidays during their tours in the Philippines. Among the most
popular destinations are the powdery white sand beaches of Boracay
and the secluded, high-class beach resorts of Palawan, such as El
Nido. Puerta Galera, on the island of Mindoro just west of Luzon and
within easy reach of Manila, has an active social scene that makes
it a popular spot for younger people.
There are numerous natural wonders within a convenient distance
of Manila. Tagaytay Ridge, with its spectacular island volcano, is
about 35 miles south of Manila. At 2,000 feet, the ridge enjoys cool
breezes year round and commands a dramatic view of rugged mountains
and valleys, as well as Lake Taal and the Taal Volcano, the world's
lowest known volcano. Beyond Tagaytay are the Pagsanjan Falls, about
two hours from Manila. Visitors to the falls take a trip upriver on
a native banca (a small dugout canoe) through a gorge that features
300-foot walls rising perpendicularly from the banks and covered by
luxuriant tropical growth. The return trip passes through shooting
rapids, providing the water levels of the river are high enough.
This river gorge was the site for the final scenes from the movie
Corregidor is a pleasant 30-minute boat ride from Manila. This
historic island was the site of the heroic but futile struggle by
Philippine-American forces during World War II against the Japanese
army, after escaping from which General Douglas MacArthur gave his
memorable quote: "I shall return." The remains of the island's
fortress have been faithfully preserved and restored, and
entertaining and informative tours are conducted daily.
Baguio is a beautiful mountain resort city situated at 5,000 feet
above sea level, which makes it a haven from the heat of Manila.
Baguio is 155 miles from Manila, about a 6-hour drive or an hour by
air. During the rainy season, landslides on the road and poor
visibility at the airport may hinder travel to and from Baguio. The
Embassy's property at Baguio consists of the Official residence, a
cabin, and a cottage. These facilities are available to U.S. Mission
personnel and their families. The residence, which was the site of
the surrender ceremonies in September 1945 of Japanese General
Yamashita to American forces, has been redecorated to include period
pieces from World War II and has seven guest bedrooms.
The Banaue Rice Terraces north of Baguio are known locally as the
"Eighth Wonder of the World." This spectacular man-made landscape
features a chain of mountains that were terraced to their highest
peaks for the cultivation of rice by Ifugao tribesmen countless
centuries ago. The Banaue Hotel has good accommodations for
overnight or weekend stays.
Manila itself features a number of interesting sightseeing
opportunities, such as numerous buildings, monuments and other
structures of architectural or historical significance. The
highlight is the old walled city of Intramuros (which means "within
the walls"), a monument to the Spanish era of Philippine history.
Many tourists choose to view this unique and picturesque combination
of the Orient and the Occident in one of the many horse and buggies
that line the streets. The focal point of Intramuros is Fort
Santiago and the Rizal Museum, which chronicles the last days of
Jose Rizal, the foremost hero of the Philippine struggle for
independence. Other places of interest within the walled city
include the Casa Manila, a model of a 19th-century upper-class urban
home; the Spanish-inspired Manila Cathedral and St. Augustin Church;
and Plaza Roma, with its statues of three martyred priests. In
addition, Intramuros contains a number of modern art galleries
promoting the work of local and regional artists. Naturally,
Intramuros also is home to quite a few souvenir shops offering
The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, established in 1960,
is located at Fort Bonifacio in Manila. The cemetery site covers 152
acres and includes the graves of over 17,000 U.S. servicemen who
fought in the South Pacific. The cemetery is a peaceful urban oasis
with flowering trees, shrubs, and palms.
Recreation and Social Life
Entertainment Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:11 AM
Manila is full of leisure activities, with restaurants, clubs,
bars, discos and cabarets of every description. These are
concentrated in the two main entertainment districts of Malate,
which is near the Embassy and the Seafront Compound, and Makati,
which is about seven miles from the Embassy and is near most of the
Embassy's single-family dwellings. Because Filipinos are gregarious
and sociable, the city of Manila is vibrant well into the night. As
with anything else in the Philippines, the cost of entertainment is
very reasonable by American standards.
One aspect of Manila nightlife that is sure to make an impression
on any visitor is the Filipinos' love of music. The Filipinos love
to sing, and live music can be found throughout the city. Many clubs
and bars feature live bands and singers of surprisingly high
quality, and many Americans appreciate the fact that such locales
are not simply gathering places to sit and drink. The Filipino taste
in music is decidedly Western, so Americans will find the musical
offerings particularly resonant. Another favorite pastime is
karaoke, either in the comfort of one of the hundreds of clubs
featuring private karaoke rooms for you and your friends, or in a
large club that coaxes the participation of its patrons. It is
almost impossible to escape a tour in the Philippines without being
coerced into singing at least once.
The cultural offerings of Manila are excellent and appeal to
Western preferences. The theater community is especially robust, and
there are numerous highly professional dramatic and musical
productions throughout the year, mostly in English. There are a
number of high-quality dance companies, including two excellent
ballet companies and several national dance companies that perform
native folk dances. There also is a good local symphony. In
addition, the Cultural Center of the Philippines regularly hosts
visiting artists and groups from throughout Asia, and less
frequently from other parts of the world. There are numerous modern
and comfortable movie theaters featuring a good range of first-run
U.S. movies, as well as local movies in Tagalog.
Americans may take courses at one of the accredited universities
in Manila, as well as non-credit classes in calligraphy, music, etc.
The American Women's Club and the U.S. Embassy Club provide
opportunities to expand your circle of friends and participate in a
number of volunteer projects. The Museum Volunteers of the
Philippines can open the door to Southeast Asia with study groups,
lectures and tours. The In Touch Foundation offers workshops,
counseling and some interesting training courses.
Recreation and Social Life
Among Americans Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:12 AM The large
official U.S. Government family and American business community in
Manila provides many opportunities for social activities among
Americans. Such opportunities also are found through schools,
churches, and the various American civic organizations and lodges,
which also usually include significant Filipino memberships. These
include the American Chamber of Commerce, American Association of
the Philippines, Eastern Star, Elks, Fraternal Order of Eagles,
Jaycees, Knights of Columbus, Lions, Masonic Lodge and Shrine,
Reserve Officers Association, Rotary International, Toastmasters
Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars, YMCA, YWCA, and the American Women's
Club of the Philippines (AWCP).
The United States Embassy Club (USEC) meets monthly and is open
to U.S. Government employees and their family members. USEC sponsors
cultural and social programs and promotes charity projects,
including a nutritional feeding center and day care centers. It also
sponsors scholarship programs for children of Embassy Foreign
Service Nationals and the biannual Shopper's Day bazaar, which
provides funding for several local charities serviced by USEC. The
most popular charity of USEC is Project Smile, which funds surgical
procedures for indigent local children and adults suffering from
cleft palates and other facial and dental defects. Over the past 37
years, Project Smile has helped thousands of Filipinos.
Filipinos are very sociable and newcomers are encouraged to form
acquaintances among the Filipino community, as well as with foreign
residents. Manila is a socially active community, and it is easy to
establish relationships through official and social contacts.
Filipinos, Americans, and other foreign business and diplomatic
community members attend large diplomatic and consular parties and
receptions throughout the year, as well as smaller private
gatherings. Several local clubs have international membership.
Although memberships are becoming harder to obtain and more
expensive, you might be able to join a number of local clubs. The
Manila Polo Club, adjacent to Forbes Park, offers swimming, tennis,
bowling, badminton, and polo. The Manila Boat Club, on the Pasig
River in Santa Ana, has squash courts and rowing (sculls, pairs, and
fours). The Boat Club is inexpensive, has no waiting list, and
prides itself on its relaxed, informal atmosphere. The Manila Yacht
Club, which has a clubhouse and sheltered basin for boats, is
located on Roxas Boulevard. You can join the Manila Overseas Press
Club and use its dining room and bar. Other private clubs include
the Casino Español, with a predominantly Spanish membership, and the
Manila Club, which is a British club.
Other social and community organizations include the Association
of International College Women, Hospitality International and
Infocenter, the All Nations Women's Club, the Latin American Women's
Club, the Manila Symphony Women's Auxiliary, and Manila Theater
Guild and Friends of the Repertory. Volunteer work is welcome
through USEC, the AWCP, or through the Red Cross or various
charity/welfare organizations, such as Youth with a Mission,
Philippine-American Guardian Association, Pearl S. Buck Foundation,
and many more.
Nature of Functions Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:12 AM
Social responsibilities of senior officials and spouses impose a
significant burden on their time, but the demands of official
entertaining in Manila are no different than in other similarly
sized missions. Most entertainment consists of cocktail parties and
informal buffets, with more occasional sit-down dinners. Although
other staff members face fewer social demands, they often attend or
host official or semi-official parties. During the dry season, many
large social events are held outdoors, both on the Embassy lawn and
in outdoor representational spaces, such as at the Ambassador's
residence and the DCM's home. During the rainy season, these
cocktail parties are smaller and held indoors or in covered outdoor
areas. In addition, much official entertaining is conducted at local
restaurants and clubs.
Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:12 AM
An Embassy community sponsor will meet and welcome you upon your
arrival. Soon after, telephone your supervisor to report your
arrival and stop by your work area during the check-in process. The
American Mission in Manila is large, but every attempt is made to
help the new arrival feel welcome. Sponsors, when contacted in
advance, will stock your house or apartment with food for your
arrival, and will make sure transportation is available to get you
to and from work.
Hail and farewell receptions occasionally are held at the
Ambassador's residence and at the Seafront compound. New personnel
will be scheduled to meet the Ambassador and DCM as part of the
check-in process. All family members are encouraged to attend the
courtesy call on the DCM. Calling cards and invitations can be
printed in Manila after arrival at reasonable cost. For additional
protocol procedures, please contact the Protocol Office.
Special Information Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:13 AM
Uniform items are not available in the Philippines, so officers
and enlisted personnel should bring all required uniforms and
accessories. Military uniforms are worn during all official
functions, appointments with Philippine military officials, and
official U.S. visitors. The class "B" uniform is the most common
uniform and is worn with all ribbons and badges. Class "A," Mess
Dress and BDU's are worn only occasionally. Military personnel are
authorized to wear civilian clothes for normal workdays at the
Embassy and will be authorized a civilian clothing allowance for
this purpose. Shirt and tie or "smart casual" are the norm.
JUSMAG personnel do not participate in the Embassy housing pool.
All JUSMAG personnel are placed on the Overseas Housing Allowance
(OHA) system. OHS provides for a monthly housing allowance (based on
pay grade) that is sufficient to obtain very nice housing on the
local economy. JUSMAG will assist new personnel in obtaining local
housing. Since most homes use a 220-volt electrical system, JUSMAG
will provide major appliances, including a washer/dryer,
refrigerator, air conditioners, oven, freezer, fans, and a
You will be required to obtain a Philippine driver's license.
Please ensure that your U.S. license is current and has not exceeded
the expiration date. The Philippine Government will not issue a
driver's license if your U.S. license has expired.
USAA does not insure automobiles in the Philippines. There are
several local companies in Manila that will insure vehicles at very
Address for JUSMAG personnel in Manila:
PSC 504, Box 1
FPO AP 96515-1400
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:15 AM
Two U.S. carriers currently service the Philippines. There are
daily flights from the U.S. out of Los Angeles on Continental
Airlines, via Hawaii and Guam, and Northwest offers daily flights
from Detroit via Japan.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:16 AM
All personnel are entitled to duty-free entry of personal effects
imported throughout their tour in the Philippines. This includes
clothing, new and used household equipment of all kinds, and other
non-expendable household supplies for personal use. Embassy
personnel also enjoy duty-free entry for automobiles. Details
regarding the shipment of automobiles can be found in the
"Transportation" section earlier in this report. Further details can
be obtained from the GSO.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Passage Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:16 AM
Permanently assigned personnel and all of their family members
need to apply in advance for a diplomatic visa at the Philippine
Embassy in Washington, D.C. You should ensure that you have been
issued a visa that will be valid for your entire tour of duty in
Manila and that is the correct category (9E1 for diplomat or 9E2 for
administrative & technical staff). Some employees have discovered
only after arrival in country that their Philippine visas were of
the wrong type. All new personnel should bring a minimum of 12 small
photos (American ID card size, about 1' x 1') for identification
cards at post. If these cannot be obtained in advance of your
arrival, you can have them taken at post.
A number of immunizations are recommended for those being posted
in the Philippines but are not required by the Philippine
authorities for entrance into the country. These include typhoid,
tetanus-diphtheria, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B and hepatitis A, and
rabies. In addition, children should be vaccinated against measles,
mumps, rubella, and hemophilus B. Anti-malarial medication is not
recommended for the Philippines, except for extended visits to rural
areas outside of the metropolitan Manila area. In this case, malaria
medication may be obtained from the post's Health Unit.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Pets Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:16 AM
Veterinary care is available in Manila and is generally good. An
import permit can be obtained prior to the arrival of a pet. If you
plan to bring an animal to post, please provide details to the
Embassy's Transportation Unit at least three weeks prior to its
arrival. These include kind of pet, breed, color, sex, weight, and
age; shipping mode (accompanied or unaccompanied); valid rabies
vaccination; and health certificate issued at the point of origin
not more than 10 days before the shipping date. The fee for the
import permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) is P575
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:17 AM
The Embassy prohibits the importation of dynamite, gunpowder,
ammunitions and other explosives, firearms and weapons of war,
except under a very narrow set of circumstances. Anyone wishing to
bring any firearms or ammunition in-country should consult with the
GSO and RSO before doing so.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
1/27/2004 5:17 AM
The Philippine monetary system is based on the peso. The peso is
divided into 100 centavos. All transactions are made by using coins
in denominations of 5,10, 25 centavos and 1, 5, 10 pesos, and bills
in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000. The
Philippine peso is on a floating rate of exchange against the U.S.
dollar. In accordance with a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central
Bank of the Philippines) circular, local transactions are payable in
Settling-in expenses are an individual matter, but you should
have $500 to $1,000 readily available for writing checks upon
arrival. Personal checks of up to $1,000 a day, limited to $4,000 in
any 30-day period, may be cashed at the Citibank branch on the
Chancery compound, payable in dollars or Philippine pesos. Higher
amounts may be authorized on a case-by-case basis, if additional
funds are needed for a specific purpose. The use of credit cards in
the Philippines is increasing but there is considerable fraud and
unauthorized use of credit card numbers. However, most employees
have successfully used credit at major hotels, resorts, and with
reputable merchants who have a long-standing relationship with
The Philippines has adopted the metric system, and most items are
measured in meters/centimeters and kilograms/grams. Road distance
and speed are measured in kilometers on the two main expressways
(North Luzon and South Luzon) linking Metro Manila to neighboring
provinces. However, some sectors still use the British standard.
Some grocery stores sell items by pounds and ounces or have labels
showing both British and metric measurements.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 1/27/2004
American diplomats are theoretically exempted from the local
Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services. All U.S. Mission
employees and qualified family members are issued a VAT exemption
letter that may be presented at the point of sale. This exemption
was only instituted in August 2000 and has been met with tremendous
confusion on the part of Filipino merchants. However, many merchants
and business establishment are now deducting VAT at point of sale.
As an alternative if VAT is not taken at point of sale, receipts may
be submitted to GSO for reimbursement on a monthly basis. VAT and
Excise reimbursement processing from the Philippine Government have
improved, and there are now few pending claims for reimbursement
presently being processed.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:18 AM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published in this country. The Department of State does not endorse
Foreign Service Institute. In Our Image (video). A PBS video and
companion book that is part of FSI's advanced Southeast Asia Area
Studies course. An analysis of American colonialism in the
Jenista, Frank. The White Apos.
Karnow, Stanley. In Our Image: America's Empire in the
Philippines. Random House: 1989. How the U.S. brought peace and
civil government to the Cordillera at the turn of the 19th century.
Bain, David H. Sitting in Darkness: Americans in the Philippines.
Houghton Mifflin: 1984.
Corpuz, O.D. The Roots of the Filipino Nation. Aklahi Foundation,
Dolan, Ronald, ed. Philippines: A Country Study. Federal Research
Division, Library of Congress: 1991.
Empire by Default. Historical Analysis of the Causes, Prosecution
and Results of the Spanish-American War.
Steinberg, David J. The Philippines: A Singular and Plural Place.
Westview Press: 1982.
Kekvliet, Benedict J. The Huk Rebellion: A Study of Peasant
Revolt in the Philippines. University of California Press: 1977.
Jones, Gregg R. Red Revolution: Inside the Philippine Guerilla
Movement. Westview Press: 1989.
Taruc, Luis. He Who Rides the Tiger. Praeger: 1967.
Bengson, Alfredo, and Paul Rodrigo. A Matter of Honor: The Story
of the U.S. Bases Talks. Anvil Publishing: 1997.
Berry, William E. Jr. U.S. Bases in the Philippines: The
Evolution of the Special Relationship. Westview Press: 1989.
Marcos Years and People Power Revolution
Bonner, Raymond. Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the
Making of American Policy. Times Books: 1987.
Chapman, William. Norton. Inside the Philippine Revolution, 1989.
Mamot, Patricio R. People Power: Profile of Filipino Heroism. New
Day Publishers: 1986.
Mercado, Monina Allarey. An Eyewitness History: People Power, the
Philippine Revolution of 1986. James P. Reuter S.J. Foundation:
Romulo, Beth Day. Inside the Palace: The Rise and Fall of
Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.
Seagrave, Sterling. The Marcos Dynasty. Harper and Row: 1988.
Philippine Internal Politics
McCoy, Alfred. An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the
Philippines. Ateneo de Manila University Press: 1994.
Romulo, Beth Day. Philippine Presidents: Memoirs of Carlos P.
Romulo. Carlos P. Romulo, Cellar Book Shop: 1989.
Wurful, David. Filipino Politics: Development and Decay. Ateneo
de Manila University Press: 1988.
Carlos P. Romulo, Praeger: 1987.
Joaquin, Nick. Manila, My Manila.
Lerner, Ted. Hey, Joe.
Roces, Alfredo and Grace. Culture Shock! A Guide to Customs and
Etiquette (Philippines). Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co.: 1992.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 1/27/2004 5:25 AM
EMBASSY MANILA HOLIDAY SCHEDULE FOR 2002
HOLIDAY LEGAL DATE CLOSING DATE New Year’s Day (USA/PHL)
Thursday, January 1 Thursday, January 1 Martin Luther King, Jr.’s
Birthday (USA) Monday, January 19 Monday, January 19 President’s Day
(USA) Monday, February 16 Monday, February 16 Maundy Thursday (PHL)
Thursday, April 8 Thursday, April 8 Good Friday (PHL) Friday, April
9 Friday, April 9 Araw Ng Kagitingan (Bataan & Corregidor Day)
(Heroism Day)(PHL) Friday, April 9 Friday, April 9 Labor Day (PHL)
Saturday, May 1 Saturday, May 1 National & Local Elections Day (PHL)
Monday, May 10 Monday, May 10 Memorial Day (USA) Monday, May 31
Monday, May 31 Independence Day (PHL) Saturday, June 12 Saturday,
June 12 Independence Day (USA) Sunday, July 4 Monday, July 5
National Heroes Day (PHL) Sunday, August 29 Sunday, August 29 Labor
Day (USA) Monday, September 6 Monday, September 6 Columbus Day (USA)
Monday, October 11 Monday, October 11 All Saints’ Day (PHL) Monday,
November 1 Monday, November 1 Veterans Day (USA) Thursday, November
11 Thursday, November 11 Thanksgiving Day (USA) Thursday, November
25 Thursday, November 25 Bonifacio Day (PHL) Tuesday, November 30
Tuesday, November 30 Christmas Day (USA/PHL) Saturday, December 25
Friday, December 24 Rizal Day (PHL) Thursday, December 30 Thursday,
December 30 Last Day of the Year (PHL)* Friday, December 31
Thursday, December 30
*Anticipated Special Holiday