Metro Manila · Arriving as Tourist, staying as Expat
'I keep postponing my return flight. Once Manila gets you, it won't let you go easily'
Last City/Megacity before Manila: Madrid (Spain)
Purpose of Stay: Life & Work
Duration of Stay: 1,5 years so far
My girlfriend is Filipina, and when she went back home after studying in Europe, I decided to go to Manila as well – at least for a while, to see how I like it. I wanted to stay for only a couple of months and therefore applied for a short-term internship at a political foundation. That way I would learn more about the Philippines and the specific challenges of a developing country.
When these exciting and insightful four months were over, I had kind of become accustomed to Manila's traffic, the crowdedness, the occasional flooding. But more importantly, I got used to the sunny weather, the monthly weekend trips to the beach or to the province, the friendliness of the Manileños, and above all living together with my girlfriend in the Megacity. Without much hesitation I chose to postpone my flight back home and to look for a regular job instead.
Finding a properly-paid job turned out to be easier than I thought, though you have to be flexible as a foreigner and cannot expect to get exactly the job you are qualified for. Via online job markets like Jobstreet and JobsDB, a lot of companies are recruiting European language speakers for the booming outsourcing business in Manila. Just a few weeks after my internship, after successfully applying for a job and passing some intensive tests in business English and German, I found myself doing a month-long training as an analyst for an international financial data provider.
Fortunately, my new employer took care of all the paperwork, providing me with a health insurance card and a work permit and visa, valid for one year. Taking care of this on my own would have meant a long, tedious and expensive process, requiring numerous visits to the bureau of immigration and other departments.
The company in Fort Bonifacio employs hundreds of people, many of them Megacitizens from all over the world – my team alone is composed of a handful of Filipino fresh graduates, a Brazilian, a German, a Danish, a Dutch, a Korean and a Chinese colleague. It was amazing to hear the different life stories: one got married to a Filipina, one is taking a year off from his job in Europe to seek the adventure of living in another country, one is travelling the whole world taking temporary jobs here and there, another wants to gain some international experience after graduating university. The company's cafeteria turned out to be the perfect place to share our impressions of living in the megacity, what annoys us and what we love about it, and how to handle certain everday-challenges, e.g. where to get fresh bread or how to look for a new flat.
We work on European shift, from afternoon to midnight, which makes it hard to meet up with friends during the week. But as we are all sitting in the same boat, the team and other colleagues would regularly plan night-outs after work, going for beer and midnight merienda somewhere in the Fort or reserving a cabin in one of the karaoke bars in Jupiter Street. That way, colleagues easily become friends and we extend our activities even to the weekends, going on hiking tours and to festivities together.
I have been on vacation in Europe twice during the last 18 months, but I keep postponing my final return flight. Once Manila gets you, it won't let you go that easily.