It has pounded me for a few times, on whether this post should be right up because it’s simply EPIC … EPIC and MORE EPIC! But here’s everything that happened in 3 days on our trip to MANILA:

I’ve always had a dream to visit THE PHILIPPINES for a country that speaks the same language like us everywhere, the cheap food that you can chomp for, like the irresistible mango and banana cake that i see my friends spamming for, as well as the friendly land of people. However, nothing as epic that i’ve experienced before, not once but more on my 1st trip to MANILA on a personal trip.

I got all my flight tickets ready on Cebu Pacific Airlines and if you realised, the system does it slower that terminals are opened 3 hours before flight departs, when normally it’s 2 hours. But that’s not the point of the epic-ness.

EPIC #1: OVERCROWDING! I GO OMG when i see this sight from my plane window – houses are built TOO CLOSELY that i doubt anyone can really stay there, and even escape when there’s a fire. And this is the 1st time that i see such serious overcrowding that you will think “Are you sure it’s safe to live in? How many neighbours you will have in a row of houses?”

EPIC #2: When I reach NAIA Terminal 3, I was surprised my plane arrived 30 mins before schedule and was happy that i’m going to have more time to go around shopping and reach the hotel early. Sadly did i know, that the IMMIGRATION was NOT OPENED!

I’m shocked, we didn’t have this here in Singapore – ours is 24 hours operational and why is the immigration not opened???! And after us queueing orderly for 10 mins, a lady came out and say, “Wow, you are here! Pls wait for a while, the officers will be here soon” .

Apparently, anyone can just step across the line to get out of NAIA, without getting your passport chopped but you might face issues going out of the country. After waiting for another 10 mins, a few immigration officers ran out of the lift, and say to each of the travellers at the counter, ” You are early! ” . “Ummm.. ya…” I replied. I was assuming that counters are opened 24 hours daily, but not only when flights arrive at ETA. So, that’s a bit unique, but everything went well and we went out of the terminal.

EPIC #3: ” Wow, ARE YOU SERIOUS YOU TOOK A BUS and a JEEPNEY to get to your hotel ??” – a friend exclaimed over skype when i’m over at GoHotels.ph – the official accommodation for our trip. “Umm.. yes, but why you so shocked?” i asked. ” The transport system isn’t that efficient in Manila than your country and i’ve never hopped onto a train or bus or jeepney before in Manila! It’s too confusing and never expected you to really get onto one!” he said.

Well, i was pretty shocked by how the system works – getting from manila airport to city is a painful wait because it has only a van which can fetch 12 pax and yet, you can see operators trying to squeeze as many passengers as possible on a route to and fro. That’s pretty shocking, but i can understand that, since houses are also built in that way.

Or rather, you can get onto the jeepney for a cheaper rate that you can sway through the roads, pretty hectic because the traffic is quite bad here and there are always jams everywhere that jeepney can help you get to places faster with their skills.

EPIC #4: WOW! SO MANY PEOPLE AH?! We alighted off the van and figuring our ways to get to our hotel when we were faced with crowds of human traffic being stuck in this little place! I’m just shocked- IS THIS THE MRT STATION?! And true enough, it is – a run-down place that looks like a shophouse with nothing and how frantic it is with the security checks to get our luggage entered for the size, if we were to get on board the train. And we know, this wouldn’t work things out, and decided to get a bus to the hotel.

EPIC #5: EPIC-ness ! Getting to everywhere is so tough with the MRT full at anytime of the day – even during non-peak periods like 10-11am. That’s how many people in the MRT that you know more than 200 people are within a carriage and you can hardly stand a space, with everyone squeezing each other and trying to get some support whilst taking care of belongings. Pickpocket is something common in the MRT, and it’s just so un-noticeable that your things can be lost, just like this because it’s quite dark and EPIC with the squeezy space – so treasure the much space you enjoy in Singapore, dude !

EPIC #6: JAM AND MORE JAM!!!! No matter where you go, there’s a jam elsewhere. Pinoys should gear up better driving skills, to give way to other drivers instead of trying to cut queues and the traffic is so terrible that i was stuck in the task for an hour, without moving a kilometer. Therefore, Singaporeans should be thankful for the jam that isn’t so serious, and it is no joke that i rather eat somewhere near my hotel than going somewhere else – RUINS the mood to be trapped in the jam, just for a dinner.

EPIC #7 : The place where i suspect my phone is Pickpocket. Despite several warnings from locals and even FRIENDS from PHILIPPINES to be very aware of my belongings, my phone just gone missing so silently that i didn’t even realised i was PICKPOCKET in Chinatown which is a hotspot tourist attraction! So be aware of all your bags and keep them in front of you, always.

EPIC #8 : I was expecting a lot at RESORT WORLD MANILA when i was turned down with disappointment by the availability of shops and casinos. Situated just OPPOSITE NAIA Terminal 3, it won’t take too long for you to get to the hotel, i guess. Never did i expect that we wanted to U-TURN back to the airport about 3 hours before the departure and guess what happened….

A shuttle bus that is operating every 30 mins made us wait at the pick-up for almost 40 mins and we went in to check at the information counter and the staff said that the shuttle should be arriving soon because it is every 30 mins and told us to wait while they call. We said, ok and waited till it’s another hour later and went into check but they said they couldn’t contact the driver and reassured that the shuttle will be here soon. WHAT?! – it’s impossible to not be able to get the driver on the phone and we waited for almost 1.5 hours before we decided to leave and grab a cab because we’ll be late if we did not hop onto one!

It was a bad experience and never had we expect, a turn to the airport that usually takes us 10 mins from RESORT WORLD MANILA will end us with almost an hour of cab being stuck in heavy traffic jam. However, there should be backs-up as everyone knows that there’s always traffic jam and it is just too much for guests to wait meaningless-ly without knowing that the shuttle is elsewhere and what if we were to miss our flight because of the shuttle bus?

Just as we arrived at 17:30 to check-in, we thought, finally everything is coming to an end and it will be smoother here after we depart for china. Never did we expect EPIC #9 comes along with the check-in counter that takes us long enough to wait. By the time we reached the counter, it was 18:15 . We thought everything could be smooth and NEVER DID WE EXPECT, the CEBU PACIFIC staff says that SINGAPOREANS NEED A VISA TO ENTER INTO CHINA. I’m particularly shocked because i’ve traveled to China many times and never heard this reason of requiring a VISA.

However, she didn’t believe what i had said as a traveller and held us up for about 10 mins before authentic sources confirm her suspicions and decided to give us the boarding pass but not the deperature form. That delayed another minute and i was actually quite pissed off, because our flight is flying at 19:15 and it’s already 18:30 when she isn’t experienced enough to handle things that are unnecessary to do when you’ve a long queue behind.

When i thought everything was finally over, i went to the departure gate and we faced another issue – our bag weighed 9kg. I persuaded the staff that our bag consists of a laptop and adapter, hence it weighed 2 kg more but he was not too happy as he says the luggage was bulky and insists that we need to check-in at the counter.

I followed and returned to the service counter BUT the lady at CEBU PACIFIC AIRLINES said that, No, you’ve to join the queue at the check-in counters to get the baggage tag and weigh it at the counter but not here. I’m wondering, then WHAT’S THE USE OF THE SERVICE COUNTER ?! It’s not just to rebook your air tickets but for services too, but she insisted to queue up again. We aren’t too happy as the queue is still long and the flight is in 40 mins time, but still decided to get back in the queue to get us on board ASAP.

When we finally get all our luggage weighed, the staff said it was ok and tagged it before we can get it into the departure gate and it’s all fine that we are not stopped ( because the staff was not there! ) and entered directly after paying for the terminal fee of PHP 750 for FOREIGNERS – many don’t even know how much it is, even locals.

#EPIC 10: When we got all our items scanned for security purposes, it has never crossed our minds that we’ll be stopped by an officer. I was pretty shocked because there’s no weapons or whatsoever in my luggage but he came over, unzip my luggage and touched my tripod. Before that, he was trying to figure with my DSLR, without MY PERMISSION! How rude is that but he didn’t know how to switch the button on so luckily he didn’t delete my photos, else i’ll definitely scream at him – i’ve my clients to answer for the lost of photos.

Back to point, he touched my tripod and asked, if it’s necessary for my travels because tripod is required for check-in ( if NOT NECESSARY, I BRING FOR WHAT??? ). I was astounded because i had been to so many countries, with my tripod hand-carried up the plane and yet, now i’m being told that it is impossible to carry up the plane. I couldn’t part with my tripod because it was hundred over dollars and i need it for my trip to China so i said a FIRM NO because i know that where got such thing?

Yet he keep asking if it’s important, unzipping and zipping the luggage. I know he needs it very passionately and keep trying to persuade me to hand over the tripod to him, when i know it is not possible. I told him, i’ve been to so many countries and yet, i don’t face such issues but he wasn’t much taken in by the reasons and brainwashed me with the tripod confiscated to him with his low tone of voice.

I’m sorry, i’m not attracted by your tone of voice and i looked at my watch, DOOM, it’s 19:14 and my flight is 19:15 – i SURE do not have MUCH TIME TO DELAY. I decided to zip my bag, tell him, LOOK SIR, I’M LATE FOR MY FLIGHT, MY FLIGHT IS DEPARTING IN 1 MIN, I WILL HAVE TO GO and i JUST RAN MY WAY for the gate! Luckily the gate is so near and i’m just in time to catch the flight.

My heart beated as if i’ve ran kilometers and it’s the first time i’ve met with so much obstacles, yet ONE AFTER ANOTHER during my 3 days here in Manila. I caught my flight, everyone was waiting for us and the few other passengers who are probably caught in the same place too and we flew off at 19:31 after waiting for the last passenger who didn’t manage to board the air-craft.

The beautiful puffy clouds calmed me down and i thought back that if situation turns worst, i might have to surrender my tripod because i couldn’t afford to miss the plane than to give up my tripod and i might even be delayed just for a tripod. Hence i tell myself, next time, no more MANILA. I’ve enough of this place with all these epic experiences that makes my travel so difficult and it’s one of the most unpleasant place i’ve been to among all the others i went to. SO EPIC !!!

As the plane touched down on the grounds of Guangzhou, i know things will be much better as a new adventure has begun and true enough, no epic things happen. It’s just luck and fate that friends heard my stories, and said they don’t face such issues so it depends on individuals – maybe i don’t have the luck to be in Manila !

Moral of story: THINK TWICE before you really want to visit MANILA. Friends mentioned that tripod and umbrellas have to be check-in in the Philippines and perhaps it might be true.

Fingers crossed for the EPIC Episode not to be continued, and I will only use Manila as a transit point than a vacation destination. Transit counters aren’t even opened at all at the time i reached Manila from Singapore at 14:00 in the day, showing how efficient it is.

Have an EPIC story to share? Feel free by dropping your comments below. I’ll be waiting and on all ears to listen to ’em !

14 thoughts on “10 Destination TRUTH: MANILA PHILIPPINES”

  1. Sorry to hear about your bad experiences in Manila. I’d have to agree that Manila is not safe for tourists especially if you’re traveling solo. Unlike Singapore, Manila has poor system and all but the best places to travel in the Philippines are actually outside of Manila. In case you go around Manila, make sure you have a Filipino friend to go with you.

    Sy Reply:

    I’m quite agree with what you’ve mentioned to go with a Filipino friend on my trip to MANILA and yeah, perhaps the best place to travel is outside manila! Beautiful beaches are un-resistable!

  2. Sad to hear that bad experience.. Next time i would suggest other cities instead of Manila to visit such as Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Bacolod, etc. I’m a Filipino but I’ve never been to Manila ever since,, Next year would be my first time though..:-) I live in Cebu and We have a lot of nice places here for you to visit, Beaches, Falls, Shopping Malls, Land marks, etc.. just avoid going to downtown area which very crowded place and the criminals are just around the corner.. 🙁 Anyways nice reading your article.. Have a nice and safe trip always..

    Sy Reply:

    Yeap, heard alot of Pinoys have never even visited Manila! And yes, there’re lots of nice places to explore except crowded areas to avoid!

  3. What you experienced in Manila may also be experienced by a Filipino,too! Or other tourist. but it’s case to case! Some tourist adores the country whle some pinoys are aghast with own country.
    Cannot blame you to rant your experience online & I am ashamed that you only see the ugly side of our country. For Manila & Philippines has a lot to offer! We also get investors from your country!
    It just so happened that you came from systematic country & rich. While Philippine officials are corrupt & get rich only for their own good.
    But SY-the time you came to Manila must be your UNLUCKY time!
    give the country a try again? But this time be prepared! & be wary of your staffs. Cause only. Opaline can guarantee your own safety.

    Sy Reply:

    Hi Lui,

    Yes, it’s true that we’ve intl investors in Philippines and it’s something good to see with how things can get better from time to time!

    Yeap, i’m pretty sure it will turn out for the better next time! 🙂 Will love to visit Philippines again, if i’ve the chance to!

    Thanks for the comments Lui!

  4. Hi, I chanced upon your blog while trawling the web. As a fellow Singaporean, I felt a little embarrassed reading your post on Manila though of course you are entitled to your very strong, negative opinions. And this feeling exacerbated when I realized that there were Filipinos who commented and apologized for your experience. I feel strongly that It is a bit unfair and insulting to your host country to caution your readers to “think twice” about visiting the Philippines when the situations you’ve encountered and consider “epic” are firstly not epic at all, they being mere travel inconveniences that could take place all around the world including Singapore. For instance, to say that “pinoys do things slower” is downright racist and insulting, it is surely wrong to make such reductive statements. Overpopulation in major cities (what more a capital!) is not a problem that takes place just in Manila but also in Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and to an extend, Macau. Also many airline counters in Singapore do open their counters three hours in advance, award-winning airlines such as Emirates and Qatar and even Singapore Airlines are cases in point.

    Also, pickpocketing is something that does not happen only in Manila. In fact, pickpocketing takes place all over the world especially in many European countries and even in so-called first world countries such as the USA. Of course it is more prevalent in some countries than others, but rather than blaming the “dishonest” people, travelers should also take it upon themselves to safeguard their own belongings. Instead of leaving your handphone in your pocket, perhaps it would be wiser to zip it up inside your bag.

    Thirdly, there is no need to speak of the security officier in such an high-handed and arrogant manner. Yes, he certainly might not be as privilege as you are but he was only doing his job. In an age where terrorism is very real we cannot and should not discount these inconveniences. If you do travel to the USA, France or even London, you will find that the security there is a lot tighter than you have described, the queues longer and the chaos and frustration very similar.

    I traveled to the Philippines for a month before when I was 20 and I loved it despite not having had the opportunity to visit any of their renown beaches. They cook delicious food, they have wonderful, beautiful landscapes, they are rich in their tradition and culture and the people are a lot less uptight compared to Singaporeans and very friendly and calm. I’m sure in your short three days there you did not just experience negative “epic” moments, there must have been good ones too. And I hope that those nice moments might compel you to visit the Philippines again some time later in your life.

    Sy Reply:

    Thank you for your comments and we apologise if you feel offended by any statements made in the blog post- we do not wish to insult anyone who might feel insulted for this.

    I agree that pickpocketting does not happen in MANILA only, in fact in other countries too and i did not put it in my pocket, it’s in my bag zipped and secured in fact . As for the security officer, we do not want to elaborate in details here as it’s not very good to mention on the situation to avoid us from landing into any troubles since the security is the upmost importance of the country and we’ve no right to comment on this.

    Sure, thank you for your comments and yes, we will wish to explore philippines again, but not manila!

  5. Hello Sy!

    I’ve enjoyed your blog for a long time but have never written. While I understand the opinions of travelmaniac, I think it’s important that you continue to share your true feelings, regardless of how politically correct or incorrect people may find them. Some people might not agree with you, and that’s ok. I don’t think you’re being intentionally offensive; you’re simply describing a series of unfortunate events that happened to you.

    I appreciate the honesty, even if I don’t always share your opinion. I like your style of writing, and I hope you don’t change.

    Sy Reply:


    Thanks much for leaving your first ever comments and happy to see you voicing out your comment here.

    Well, it’s true that we always have to strive to deliver true opinions and voices – similarly to hotels that we cannot always sweet talk the hotels when they aren’t that good – there’s always a balance in reviews as well as balancing the opinions towards the blog posts which means the TRUTH that i’ve always place emphasis on.

    Thank you for the great encouragement – appreciated very much and of course, i will deliver more news, yet improving my style of writing too throughout these few months!

    See you again!

  6. I’m glad you were honest about your Manila experience. At the same time, it reads to me (sorry if I’m wrong) that you went into the trip with a lot of assumptions and not enough preparation. (For example, I think your friend on Skype told you before your trip not to take the bus/jeep from NAIA airport, not after.) Not to mention the fact that you had too little time to wander. If you had had somebody to accompany you at the outset, if you had done your homework, and if you had more time to do the trip in, your story would probably have been very different. Cheers!

    Sy Reply:

    Hello Mike,

    Thanks for the comments – true enough, there wasn’t much of a preparation because i always go on trips just like this and wander around without much planning. Hehe, i assumed the friend is just a reach away and of course, as a tourist, i’ll pretty like to experience the local life of a civilian, hence the reason why i hopped onto the jeep or bus instead of a cab.

    Yes, it might be good for a local to accompany me for the trip + more time for preparation, might not turn out that bad!

  7. Hi! I’m Ruth from Manila, Philippines. I’m a big fan of you and your travel blog, so I immediately read your entry about your visit to Manila.

    I’m sorry to hear/read about your bad travel experience while visiting Manila. I really don’t blame you for writing all those things, since I agree that what you’ve experienced really does happen, not only to tourists, but to locals as well. The processes and system of travelling does take time (a really long time), which could test a person’s patience to its limits. The traffic jam, is pretty much the same, especially along EDSA (the highway featured in your Epic #6), as it is one of the main arterial road connecting the North and South of Metro Manila. The MRT—well, it’s really crowded throughout its daily operation, for the same reason that it’s the fastest and most direct commute route to major Central Business Districts (Makati and Ortigas).

    Well, I can’t provide excuses for the rest (like Cebu Pacific personnel and security officers), as I don’t know how they do things too–another thing that baffles even a citizen like me. I hope that someday you’ll visit Manila again, but hopefully you can have a friend to meet up with you when you visit so they can help you get around the metro. It can be dangerous and frustrating to explore a city with a culture vastly different than Singapore’s.

    Sy Reply:

    Hi Ruth,

    Thanks for dropping by, as well as leaving your comments here.

    Well, i thought it might be good for me to share my experiences on my trip to Manila though it appeared to me that such unfortunate things actually happened to me and maybe luck isn’t shining on my side. And yes, i must admit that i just grumbled all my thoughts without any second thoughts because it was just plainly from my experiences.

    Yes, i took up the courage and visited Cebu just last December (http://sylistic.com/travel/search/cebu/) and i just have to say that the traffic isn’t as bad as Manila and much more peaceful. And i do agree that you need a local to get you around, else you might face something like this, which many of my Pinoy Friends told me about too. And yes, i do really hope to see a different side of Manila on the next trip up. I believe i wont be failing in luck for every trip haha!

    Thanks again for your comments and looking forward to your next response!

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