Five reasons the Philippines keeps me smiling one year on

Some more conventional than others

Manila city and bay at sunset


I’m from Canada. In case you haven’t been, it’s cold for a good part of the year. (Picture yourself in bed on a January Winter morning, really not wanting to get out of bed since you know it’s -25 degrees Celsius outside, and bone-chilling gusty wind will greet you as you step outside. And to add to this joy, the sun doesn’t rise until nearly 8am, and will already have set by 5pm.)

Poblacion Bambike tour

Street chaos

I respect the law-abiding nature of the citizens of Canada, America, the UK, and other Western countries, but I can’t help but admit there is some novelty in the chaos on the roads in Manila. I do certainly respect laws and regulations, particularly when it comes to protecting lives, but breaking free from a little ‘stuffiness’ once in a while with a bit of counter-flowing is admittedly fun, to my law abiding roots.


I live in the barangay of Poblacion (but not in Rockwell) and wouldn’t live anywhere else in Manila. BGC (Bonifacio Global City) and Rockwell are both very nice, but too sterile (and too much like Canada or Singapore) for my taste. I want grit and character — both which make me smile. I love walking around at any time of day or night in Poblacion (never feeling unsafe) amongst local socializing, eating, singing, or playing basketball. This part of the city is raw and alive. Along with this delightful grittiness though comes poverty, begging, and some very poor living conditions. This breaks my heart much of the time, however it also inspires me to help make positive change.

Binondo kids during Chinese New Year

Laughter and spirit

Despite the various struggles here, Filipinos are definitely joyful people. I love to see friends joking and laughing with big smiles. Life is definitely too short to focus on the negative and the things you don’t have. More than one study has shown citizens of developed countries that possess vastly more wealth, are often caught up in unwinnable race to amass more wealth and prestige — and as a result are not particularly content or joyful. So despite the regularly visible poverty here, I’m still inspired by the spirit and joy of locals in Manila and the Philippines.

The enthusiasm of the next generation

When I graduated from university in Canada many years ago, my vision (although it would still be years before I was even introduced to the idea of creating a vision for my life) was to get a high-paying job so I could buy a great car, a cool condo, and a ski boat. The furthest thing from my mind then was thinking about how I could serve others with my career and my time, and help those with less than me.



On a mission to find: innovators, status quo crushers, culture builders, hungry creatives, and warm sandy beaches

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David O'Hagan

On a mission to find: innovators, status quo crushers, culture builders, hungry creatives, and warm sandy beaches