Frankly, the answer to the question can only be, “Not enough”. If I stayed here for a thousand years, I would still have so much to learn. Am I the right man for this job? Do I have the Carlos Celdran type knowledge about the history and culture? Am I familiar with the hot spots and places of interest? Absolutely not. So who the hell am I to try and educate anyone. I mean after all, I hardly even speak any Tagalog.
I admit that there are better qualified people than me to write this account. To really educate outsiders as regards what to expect, then it will take the help of readers and travelers alike. There is plenty of information already online about the usual places in the capital. To find the unique and alternative things to do whilst in Metro Manila, then I need you to lead me there.
Music venues, shows, interesting cinema, street festivals, as well as various foods are all to be explored. So lead us to them and where possible, I will check them out for myself.
Being a newcomer to the Philippines is not easy. Time eventually teaches you and your confidence increases as a stranger in a new land. The early days and weeks and even months are times for making mistakes and being falsely led. People act without fully studying, buy businesses they have no knowledge of, and then wonder what went wrong. As a visitor, you can be a little too hasty in forming friendships, and a cool thinking head is required, especially in those early weeks that you are here.
The simple message here is slow down and do not make any major decisions for a very long time. All too often, people come here full of ideas and throw good money at a project that if they simply looked into it, would have known it was a non-starter. I don’t want to dampen anyone’s fun but it really pays to simply ease yourself into the environment. Time will tell you why.
I met an Australian who was talking of fish and chip shops and had a successful one back in Australia. He hadn’t been here that much although his wife was a Pinay, and he had good intentions. He simply thought that if he applied the same formula to the same concept here, he would have a successful business. One vital thing he did not consider in his business plan was one overwhelming fact. That this is not Australia; it’s the Philippines.
What became of him after that and whether he started his fish and chip shop or not, I have no idea. For all I know, he may have started and has 20 branches already. But you have to concede that it really does take a long time to understand this place. Many of us are guilty, we come over here and thinking we know everything, and because we may have success elsewhere, we believe it’s just a matter of doing the same thing in a new location.
If you’re thinking like that, you most likely are going to have a fall. Slow down, and above all, be prepared to learn. This country, its people, its thinking and culture are like nowhere else on earth. It really pays to sit back and watch for at least a year before you do anything.
No, I’m not the best qualified person to explain all this. I am just an Englishman that has spent a few years watching and learning. But I know enough to know what not to do, and following simple advice from me and others here could possibly just save you from making a big mistake. With the help of readers’ contributions, I hope over time we can put together a useful jigsaw of shared thoughts, wisdom and advice.