Makati has a reputation amongst some of being the haunt of the rich, effete and privileged. Those fat cat expats with the big salary packages who live here in the company owned house surrounded by walls, guards, with a driver, maids and so on. True. Makati is also home to some of the poorest in Manila.
The city of Makati came about after the Second World War when the Ayalas bought up Nielsen Field, the old US Army Air Corps airstrip. Even today, a glance at a map of Makati shows how Makati Avenue used to be the main runway and the old control tower is still there, near the intersection with Ayala Avenue, the alternate runway. Both roads are on a similar axis to the existing runways at NAIA as the prevailing winds haven’t changed.
The City of Makati has slums like any other Manila city, especially along the disused railway tracks of the old North Luzon rail line that runs parallel to Taft Avenue along the south western boundary of the city. Across EDSA to the north east and also to the north and north west lie areas of working class housing, squatter “jerry builts” and out and out shacks and shanties!
The super rich areas of Forbes Park are more what we think of when someone mentions Makati. Walled compounds containing huge family homes and servants quarters, immaculate grounds kept so by an army of gardeners and dozens of fawning domestic help almost like something from a Graeme Greene novel. It takes serious money to live here. No matter whether it is dollars, euro or peso, expect to hand over a lot of them for the privilege.
Of course there are also very affordable apartments in Makati that can be rented, fully furnished for P20,000 to P30,000 a month. If you want to live nearer the working class but still boast a Makati address you can even rent small apartments for half that!
Some argue that living in Makati is expensive and the truthful answer is yes, it can be. If you choose to live that way. Those single men who haunt P.Burgos Street and the go-go bars that line the curving carriageway would go through vast amounts of cash just keeping up with their bar tab, let alone renting company from time to time. But even there, ‘Happy Hour’ at some bars like ‘Rogues’ above the Pizza Hut can be reasonable with beers costing around P40 until 10pm!
If you are like me and are no longer an avid attendee of these bars, then the best value I was shown would have to have been Chilli’s. Two beers for P65 or six for P180, it varied over the time I was doing my empirical research. The same kind of deal could be had at Pier One in nearby Taguig at The Fort, a very flash new development I might say. The food at Chilli’s is very American, huge portions and so on but I love their Ranch Burger for P275. You really had a hard time stepping around the thing it was that big.
The malls of Makati are many and world class. Glorietta has four malls, then you flow into the Greenbelt series of four Malls and some of the cafe’s and eateries there are simply superb. Not all of them are ridiculously priced in fact all were far cheaper than what I would pay for similar fare in Sydney’s Darling Harbour. I have also been to Rodeo Drive in L.A. and Greenwich Village in New York, Berlin and London and I would have to say for value for money, Makati offers everything the other cities promise.
As well as the great cafe scene, the shops are full of eye candy for the discerning voyeur and great bargains for the serious shopper. The department stores like SM and Robinsons charge the same prices as they do in Cebu, and the malls go on and on for miles!
All of the insider information was passed on to me by my good friend, David in Makati as he signs his emails. A retired British Ghurkha Officer, David has lived and worked his own consultancy firm out of Makati for over twenty years. He knows his way around and he also, understandably, knows where to get a decent curry! As he quite rightly points out, “why live in the boonies and suffer when you can live in a civilized part of the world with everything you need close to hand, just as you would in the center of New York, London or any major cosmopolitan city?”
He’s quite right and I think you could live in Makati within a P50,000-P75,000 (US$1,100-US$1,750) a month budget and be very comfortable on half that again. Try living well and eating out regularly in Manhattan or Mayfair for less than US$1500 a month! And there aren’t all of those fashionista Filipinas to feast your eyes upon, either!