What are new years for if not to reflect on old ones?
Looking back at 2018, my time has been divided between three continents. Now, for the time being, I’ve settled back into my old neighborhood and it’s time to start a new series: Things to do in Manila.
Though I’ve lived in Manila for a good eight years altogether and developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with the place, it’s nigh time to experience the city in a new life.
Thus begins a new year, with a new perspective. Besides condo living, look forward to posts on malling, China town, the street food you were never brave enough to try, and more.
Condo Living in Manila
Wondering what to do in Manila?
There’s the bay walk and Intramuros, there are jeepneys and museums, and a couple of amusement parks and attractions.
But more than anything else, the two things you’ll find just about anywhere in this metropolitan mashup are malls and condominiums.
As a foreigner in the Philippines, condos are the only real estate you can own. On the other hand, as a tourist or short-term visitor, experiencing the condo lifestyle might be something to add to your list of things to do in Manila.
Whether you’re renting an Airbnb at which to crash after landing in Manila–gateway to the other 7640 Philippine islands, booking a staycation, renting for short or long term, or looking to make an investment in real estate, you’ll want to know a bit about condo living in Manila first.
When it comes to Manila living, I’m definitely a southerner. I prefer avoiding the CBD and enjoy the more open and less smoggy skyline the south offers. I have yet to explore farther north of the metropolis but that might just come in the new year. For the time being, however, most examples in this post are taken from the south (Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Muntinlupa) and no farther north than Makati.
Condominiums like to offer everything in one place, so you hardly have to go outside of the little world they’ve built for you. Sometimes, this is because outside is not very nice.
Many condos in Manila are built along major highways, such as (from North to South), Siena Park Residences and Azure on the West Service Road or Escalades, East Bay, and Rhapsody Residences on the East Service Road.
Because highways stack like Lego blocks in Metropolitan Manila, being along one such highway means you are automatically exposed to noise and pollution from both service roads, the South-Luzon expressway (SLEX), and the Skyway.
Depending on how much noise you’re used to, this can be quite a struggle. If you’re a light sleeper and by some stroke of luck the trucks that ride through the night have laid off their horns, you can certainly count on a wake-up call from the 5am busses.
On the other hand, being by the highway does have its benefits by way of easy access to many other parts of the city. As far as the noise pollution, it can depend a lot on which building you are in as being toward the back of the complex can be quite pleasantly quiet.
In fact, some condos do an excellent job of blocking out the city surroundings. Azure Urban Resort, located on the intersection of the highway cluster and the notoriously crowded Doña Soledad Avenue, has it’s towers laid out around the center that you can enjoy a nice breeze without actually seeing any of the surrounding roads or buildings.
At the Paris Beach Club (there are no beaches in Paris, guys), you can sooth your concrete-sore feet in the sand and swim in a large wave pool. The pool is closer to the size of a lake than of the ocean but I have to admit that they’ve done quite a good job of recreating the island feel smack in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities.
While the location of a condominium can be more or less ideal, a definite benefit of the condo lifestyle is access to free amenities. Every condo I’ve been to has at least a pool and a fitness gym and most are quite nice.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys regular swims or values a gym membership, having these facilities on your doorstep is a huge plus.
If you’d like to become the kind of person who engages regularly in such activities, starting the new year in a condo can be a great way to do so. You don’t even have to pay the gym membership or travel to get there: no excuses!
Other features commonly found on condo grounds that encourage activity include playgrounds and basketball courts. Lancris Residences in Parañaque also had a badminton court and sky gardens on each building roof. At Rhapsody Residences in Muntinlupa, they’ve got an entertainment lounge with a pool table and air hockey.
Most condos also have a clubhouse with party rooms or areas available for booking by residents. They might have a community billboard with various activities as well, such as basketball tournaments. Some have convenience stores, where you can get everything from San Miguel beer to spaghetti.
Condos like to boast not only their amenities but the community built around them. Unfortunately, the newly built ones can feel a bit lifeless and some of the older ones can be a bit dilapidated.
Nowhere have I seen such enjoyable amenities combined with a genuinely vibrant community as at Rhapsody Residences. In fact, while condo hunting earlier this month, this spot became an instant favorite.
The building at the back of the complex, being the newest and farthest from the road, had great rooms and a rooftop bar serving cold beer and cocktails. What we couldn’t see past, unfortunately, was the thick smell that pervaded the air from an oil refinery located directly behind the building.
Otherwise, Rhapsody has numerous pools, a basketball court, playgrounds, a bustling clubhouse, and a beautiful garden.
With condo living, you get loads of space to enjoy: pools, parks, sports facilities, and manicured gardens galore. However, in exchange for such spacious common areas, you must accept smaller living quarters.
When it comes to opening up the space, a lot rides on the layout and furnishings of an apartment and some condos do this better than others.
There are many ways to divide space in a condo. Rooms can be bigger or larger, kitchens can be fairly spacious or very minimalistic, and living and dining areas can be open or cramped.
Well-placed mirrors and partitions can do a lot to open up a space, however, and with big windows or a balcony that opens out to a pleasant view, condo living can become a lot less claustrophobic.
Do look out for bathrooms and kitchens with no windows and poorly functioning vents. In this tropical climate, damp rooms will quickly become moldy without proper ventilation.
On the other hand, living high up means you can capitalize on a breeze you wouldn’t catch down below and you’ll likely suffer less from mosquitos.
Developers in Manila vary in how well they build their condos. Some are known for advertising a high-class style of living while delivering a building quality that is not quite up to snuff (SMDC). Others will build condos with a simpler look but solid structure (DMCI).
Do some research!
Last but not least, what are the internet options and how good is cell reception in the buildings?
Some condos–such as the recently unveiled Escalades–are out of coverage areas for major providers, while others come prepped with say PLDT lines and others–such as Asteria Residences–offer no-lock-in promos for Globe’s fiber plans.
But be patient. In my experience, the only provider who efficiently installed home internet was SkyCable. If your only options or PLDT or Globe, start working on being zen now.