Manila, Philippines: Surveying after the first COVID-19 case

    Mar 31, 2020 @ 08:15 PM / by Philli Wong

    Manila.Philippines - Face Masks Sold Out

    Handwritten sign in Manila, Philippines: "All kinds of FACE MASK sold out!!!" Photo taken by AIRINC surveyor Philli Wong.

    Arriving in Manila just after the first confirmed COVID-19 case

    The Philippines confirmed their first case of COVID-19 on January 30th, the same day I arrived to start my cost-of-living survey in Manila. I observed what seemed like a swift local response as much of the population was already wearing masks, and hand sanitizer was provided in most hotels and restaurants in the Makati area. One supermarket even advised customers to put on a mask upon entering, but it was not mandatory.

    During real estate meetings, we shook hands and greeted each other, then we shared a bottle of hand sanitizer. One of our long-time real estate contacts gifted me a pack of ten surgical masks after learning that I’d been trying to find some during my survey. It’s funny how we adapt in a crisis.


    hand sanitizer in Makati area in Manila

    Stacks of sanitizer in a surveyed supermarket in Makati, Philippines. Photo taken by AIRINC surveyor Philli Wong.


    Shortage of face masks, but plenty of hand sanitizer in Manila

    While masks were temporarily out of stock around Manila, hand sanitizer was readily available in supermarkets, though there was a limit on purchases. Somewhat surprisingly – based on my experience as a resident in Hong Kong – I did not witness any signs of panic purchasing; I was able to buy a few mini bottles of sanitizer at typical prices. Overall, it seemed like everyone embraced the new measures without being too anxious about it at the time of my survey.

    Now, at the time of finalizing this post at the end of March 2020, the Philippines has over 2000 confirmed cases. You can view live updates by following this link:


    supermarket mask advisory in Manila.Philippines

    Sign in a supermarket window in Manila, Philippines encouraging mask-wearing. Photo taken by AIRINC surveyor Philli Wong.


    On-site Insight: 

    This post is part of AIRINC's On-site Insight series. On-site Insight provides readers with an exclusive “behind-the-surveys” perspective of new and existing expatriate locations based on commentary and photos from our global research team. Included is information on general living conditions as well as changing costs for both Goods & Services and Housing & Utilities, along with much, much more.


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    Topics: On-site Insight, Hardship, Global Mobility, Insights and Experience, Hong Kong, Manila, Philippines, Global Mobility News, Coronavirus, COVID-19

    Philli Wong

    Written by Philli Wong

    Philli joined AIRINC in 2011 as a researcher, she moved to the client engagement team in 2020, and joined the marketing team in 2021. Philli primarily looks after the Chinese-speaking market, and coordinates marketing activities in APAC. While in her researcher role, Philli conducted researches in over 200 locations in more than 90 countries. Philli received her B.A. in Chinese Business Studies from Hong Kong Baptist University, and gained experience in a Chinese financial institute prior to joining AIRINC. In addition to English, Philli speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, and intermediate Spanish. She is based in Hong Kong, and her clients are based in Greater China.