Living Here Things To Do

Manila city guide: Doing business in the capital of the Philippines

Night view over Makati, Manila's business district, Manila city guide, doing business in the capital of the Philippines
Night view over Makati, Manila’s business district

Name: Oliver Ellerton
Age: 30
Nationality: British
Position: Founder – Asia Sports Network



1. How often do you travel to Manila and who do you fly with?
I used to live in Manila, but since I’ve moved I generally go no more than three times a year; mainly for holiday and to see friends, as well as the annual Pan-Asian Jiu Jitsu competition that I take part in. I fly with Cebu Pacific. They’re great value for money and I’ve never had any issues with lost luggage, service and so on. (Fingers crossed!)

2. One thing everyone ought to know about Manila.
It actually used to be a very beautiful city – although that may not be apparent nowadays. Manila experienced heavy bombing during the Second World War which destroyed many of the Spanish buildings and architecture.

3. How quickly can you get a visa? Online, embassy or visa on arrival?
You can get a visa on arrival (I am British). It’s just a matter of queuing.

4. Fastest way into and around the city?
From the airport into the city take a taxi. If you’re flying Cebu you will disembark at Terminal 3. I recommend leaving the arrivals area and walking to departures and taking a taxi from there. The taxis at arrivals will overcharge you severely and you will be subject to the harassment that visitors often experience on arrival at such airports. Taxis at departures are often dropping people off and are happy to take you on. The fee is between Php400 and 500 into Makati city. Around the city, take taxi or, if you’re brave enough, a jeepney!

5. When are the good and bad times to visit?
Typhoon season is the worst time. Non-stop tropical rain that floods most of the city on an annual basis including the airport (flights are often cancelled anyway so not much choice). Around Christmas is the best time to visit, or November and early December before half the city disappears to visit their family in the provinces.

6. Hotels you recommend.
I used to stay at the Mandarin Oriental in Makati. It’s very ugly on the outside but full of character on the inside. However, I understand it has since closed. Other than that there are plenty of top hotels in the city to choose from.

7. What’s the dress code for meetings?
Jacket no tie is acceptable.

8. Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
Not really. The Philippines is quite a Westernised society. When I first arrived I thought I had left Asia completely for a mix of Spain, America and Asia. Very genuine, friendly people both professionally and socially.

9. You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
Dinner at Elbert’s Steak Room, located on HV Dela Costa Street, Makati. You will have to really strain your eyes to see its small sign. It is two flights of stairs above an Indian restaurant (directly opposite a Mini-Stop) and very “out of the way”. The steaks are great and the atmosphere is cosy and warm. Go for the USDA Prime grade Porterhouse. This is a high-end place so fine to take important clients.

10. Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
For upscale go to Fort Bonifacio. Plenty of high-end establishments there where you will not get hassled. For a slightly grittier, but more memorable experience, head to El Chupacabra taco bar on Felipe Street, on the edges of Makati. Great tacos and tequila and you’re not likely to get hassled. I would always recommend keeping an eye on your wallet and phone wherever you go in Manila but this is a safe area.

11. Any unsafe areas to avoid?
I think the poorer parts of Manila should be avoided. This is based on common sense rather than any personal experiences. Manila is a desperately unequal and poor society so do not show off visible signs of wealth. There is also a prevalence of guns to take note of. Again I have always felt very safe but I have also generally kept to the safer areas.

12. You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
Legaspi or Salcedo markets. These occur on Saturdays and Sundays and feature a huge range of foods from the Philippines and around the world. All freshly cooked on the spot. You can have Filipino sisig, Greek wraps or Mediterranean chicken. Carlos Celdran’s walking tour is another. This takes place in old Manila – called Intramuros. Celdran is a noted Filipino comedian and celebrity and does a fantastic and entertaining job of explaining the history of the Philippines.

13. Gifts to take home for family and friends?
The Filipino coffee from Legaspi market (Tong Coffee is good).

14. How long before your flight do you really need to be at the Airport?
Well, the last time I was in the Philippines I left four hours before my flight left. Traffic was so bad I only just made it; the taxi driver resorted to driving on the opposite side of the road in order to get me there! So I would say aim to arrive at the airport the usual two hours before the flight. Others may have a different opinion though.