Manila – Awfully Disappointing?

A friend forwarded this travel review to me. I am Pinoy and I don’t find it insulting at all. In fact, it is an honest experience-based opinion that could enlighten us if we take it the right way.

Com’on, patriotism is not blind devotion to our country. Love what is good, dislike what is bad. Sad for us, the bad has overtaken the good. We used to be influential in the South East. But I agree, the mighty has fallen.

NAIA manila airport boarding gate

Here are excerpts of the review:

Philippines – Manila – Awfully Disappointing

by Geoffrey james Quatermaine Bastin

Sorry if Filipinos are insulted, that wasn’t my intention – but this is what I felt at the time of my visit and my OPINION, not “the truth”…


I honestly do really HATE to write negative posts. If you check through this blog you’ll see that even the posts on Afghanistan have a few positive things to say…….

But my GOODNESS the Philippines!!! Or more precisely Manila, because you cannot and should not generalize about such a large country spread over thousands of islands. Manila – what a dump!

The city has got to be the disgrace of South-east Asia, all the more so because twenty years ago when I used to come through here en route to Papua New Guinea it was THE place in the region to come to for shopping and R&R. How the mighty are fallen! 

Let’s start with the international airport. Ninoy Aquino International is exactly the same as it was all that time ago; the same awful green lino when you arrive, the same over-crowded Departure Hall, nowhere to sit if your check-in desk isn’t open. Once through security you find the same down-market shops, toilets that don’t work or are “under repair” and very few F&B places.


Manila itself is a shambles. The traffic is AWFUL (I seem to be using a lot of capital letters in this post) and nothing has been added to shops or other amenities (whereas e.g. Bangkok has transformed itself into an almost livable city).

Look: people will say the Filipino people are nice, and indeed they are polite – we Brits might say “smarmy” – obsequious or ingratiating are maybe less pleasant words. But they do try. That does take the edge off the sheer misery of a crumbling, filthy, depressing city and an economy that exists only on the remittances of the smart ones who have left.

Sorry folks. I know there are many people who love the Philippines, but its economic development has been a disaster; the irony is that Manila is the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank (the reason I come here) and it has the WORST growth history of any of the ASEAN countries – Cambodia which was torn apart by civil war up until 1997 has a first-class airport (fresh ham and cheese sandwiches on foccacia, freshly brewed cappuccino , clean lounges) and some great restaurant food and hotels (see my next post). But the Manila, where the intelligentsia sneer at their Asian brothers and sisters for their lack of English, is beaten hands down even by little Phnom Penh and left standing by every other mega-city in the region.

There seems to be a theme here: the Philippines has many natural advantages and in fact a talented people who provide services everywhere in the world. But there has been no re-investment in the country, neither by the public sector (hence the terrible airport facilities), nor by private industry.

Philippines can be described as an extractive or exploitive economy, not one where people want to build sustainably long term. As I say, the smart one’s all want to leave. 

My suggestion if you want to see the Philippines: get through Manila as quickly as you can, it has nothing to recommend it. Go out to the islands, Cebu, Mindanao, up to the cool of Bagio and see the people in the countryside and some of the spectacular scenery. That’s probably worth the trip. Otherwise pick almost anywhere else in Asia and you’ll get a better deal.


For the Philippines the question is surely will it ever emerge from the mire into which it has sunk? Very frankly based on my very long experience of the place I really doubt it, in fact it is a “disappearing” country if there is such a thing.

To read the whole article, go here.


6 thoughts on “Manila – Awfully Disappointing?

  1. i agree. i am a Filipina and i have a strong love for my country but i agree with your opinion. Manila is really disappointing. Yes, we build new infrastructures BUT with inferior qualities..i think we should preserve and improve what’s already there and add a couple of new INDISPENSABLES. that is why Manila IS DISAPPEARING and being replaced by “modern” but almost-disposable infrastructures..*SIGH* ..i really don’t know how the Philippines, from being second to Japan in economy, became like this.

    i really hope there is still hope for us.


What Do You Think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s