Philip Laureano wrote this in response to my post about arriving in Manila. I think it deserves better than to languish as a response to my post (I'm sure I'm the only one who reads my posts more than once! :-) ) So let me quote.
I am a Filipino-American living in manila, so here's a few tips just to help you out while you're still there. :)
[About those cops you mentioned--you might have given them $20 dollars
each, but to them, that is equivalent to an entire week's pay.]
Overall, watch your back. The taxi drivers that you spoke of will try to rip you off for up to four times the cost of the ride; just remember that the average cost of a taxi ride should never exceed about 150 pesos (about three dollars or so).
Common sense rules apply here, of course. :) If the taxi driver refuses to turn his meter on, do NOT get in. That's a surefire guarantee that he is going to rip you off.
Another thing you have to watch out for are pickpockets and cell phone snatchers. They are all over the place, so if you have to use your mobile phone in public, be careful. Don't let those smiles fool you. (They're smiling at your money).
Now, for the geeky stuff. :)
If you are a coffee addict like myself, there are starbucks coffee shops all over the place to cater to your addiction--and the best part is that they are 50% cheaper than the prices in the US.
If you are the type that is looking for bootleg DVDs, you can literally find them all over the place (one such place is called Uniwide Coastal Mall, on the way to the airport). They are typically screener quality, and get this--the average cost of a DVD in Manila is $1.50 (about 80 pesos). You can even ask the vendor to let you preview the movie before you buy it.
Hmmm...what else? Oh, yes, that reminds me about the malls in Manila. They're absolutely huge. Filipinos absolutely LOVE their malls. We're talking malls literally a quarter of a mile long, stacked over eight stories high. If you have some extra time, I highly recommend that you give them a visit. :)
Anyway, that's just a few things I know off the top of my head about Manila that I just wanted to share with you, Rob.
If you need help with anything else, let me know. I might look like one of the natives here, but I'm about as foreign to this land as you are. The Filipino exterior just fools the natives :)'
A couple of comments by me (Rob). Yep, I'm very aware of the need to 'watch my back'. My wallet is never in my pocket when I pass through Manila airport. Always in my carry on luggage, which is going to be a lot more difficult to get out of my grasp than a wallet. But those aren't precautions I reserve specifically for the Philippines. I'm careful anytime I'm in an unfamiliar environment. To this day that includes Phoenix Sky HarboUr Airport.
I remember the time, a couple of years ago, when I arrived at Tullamarine Airport Melbourne. I put my bags on a trolley and turned away for maybe 10 seconds to light a smoke. When I turned back some old bastard (I mean old - he'd have been 70 not out) was trundling it away. He had the face to claim that they were his bags! What he didn't have the face to do was brazen it out - I was fully prepared to call the cops and detail exactly what was in each bag; he didn't know so he departed with his tail between his legs.
Each night I catch a cab from the plant to the hotel. The usual fare is about P60 (a little over a dollar US). That's excellent value from my point of view given that it's a 15 minute drive over some very hilly country. Come time to pay I always hand over a 100 Peso bill and I don't wait for the change. I'm tipping maybe 80 US cents. Not much to me; maybe a lot to the cabbie. They always seem happy when I wave away the change .
I've been to the SM Mall in Baguio City a few times. First time I was amused to see, at one side of the main ground level entrance a Starbucks. Opposite side of the same entrance? A Seattles Best coffee house! It was good to see a Starbucks; there's a good market on Ebay for the more exotic Starbucks mugs. My wife makes about US$400 a week on Ebay and the Cebu mug I brought back in October last year netted about 6 times the cost despite the handle that was broken in transit. This time I'm taking back a Cebu mug and a Tagaytay mug. (I'd never heard of Tagaytay).
I'm digressing! I have to agree that the malls I've seen here dwarf almost anything you'll see in Australia or the US. Can't speak for Manila but in Baguio you have to pass the gauntlet of security before you can even enter a mall. Sticks to poke bags and a pat down. Had to show my wallet twice because it set off the metal detector!
Philip, I thank you for your response. If I ever find myself spending more than a couple of hours in Manila I'll drop you an email; maybe we can go see some of Manila together - I'd enjoy that. Oh, and a plate of boneless Bangus wouldn't go astray either.