International School Manila

Integrity - Service - Merit

Living in the Philippines

Video Credit: Department of Tourism


The information below is provided to assist you with your move to the PHILIPPINES. Should you need any clarifications or have any questions on the information provided, please do not hesitate to contact the Human Resources Department.


Click here for the Pre-Arrival Checklist.


Filipino cuisine has developed from the different cultures that shaped its history. As such, it is a mélange of Chinese, Malay, Spanish, European and American influences. Though its cuisine is not as renowned as many of its neighbors, such as that of Thailand and Vietnam, Filipino cooking is nonetheless distinct in that it is possibly the least spicy of all South East Asian cuisines. Don't make the mistake of thinking that Filipino food is bland, though. It is just that instead of spices, Filipino food depends more on garlic, onions and ginger to add flavor to dishes. Painstaking preparation and prolonged cooking time is also a characteristic of most Filipino dishes, and when done properly is often what brings out the flavor of the food, as opposed to a healthy dose of spices. Some Filipinos who were born and raised in rural provinces still eat with their hands, mostly at their homes during mealtimes. This is called kamayan which literally means “eating with hands.” They would often say that kamayan makes the food taste better. 


There is a wide choice of medical and dental practitioners. Mall clinics are very common in Metro Manila and for a more serious injury or illness; St. Luke’s Hospital and Makati Medical Center are within a 5-minute or 20-minute car ride from the school. The ISM Clinic Staff can assist in navigating the system and have a directory of preferred physicians.


ISM has a pool of apartments/condos and houses in Makati and Fort Bonifacio areas. These accommodations are within easy traveling distance to the school. Overseas hired faculty will be allocated a unit based on your family size and what is currently available within the allocated housing pool. Generally, singles and couples are housed in one or two-bedroom units and families in three-or four-bedroom units.

Units/Housing are normally supplied with the following:

Item Inclusions
Basic Appliances * refrigerator * air-conditioning unit for bedrooms * washing machine * cooker
Living Room * couch * lounge chair * coffee table
Dining Room * dining room table * chairs
Masters Bedroom * queen sized bed * night tables
Children's Room * twin bed * night table
Den/Study (when applicable and available) * couch * end table * study desk * chair
Settling-In Kit

Upon arrival, the school will provide basic necessities for short-term use. All non-consumable items provided in the settling-in kit must be returned to the Expat Housing Office after the arrival of personal shipments or after the items have been purchased.

On the day of arrival, overseas hired will find:

  • Made-up beds
  • Very basic crockery and utensils
  • Towels
  • Basic Groceries (e.g. cereal, milk, bread, coffee, juice, etc.)

The school expects all staff to take reasonable and prudent care of all property entrusted to staff for personal use. This includes assigned accommodation, appliances and furniture. Periodic inspections may take place to ensure such care of property. Cost of damage, including that caused by pets, or loss of items resulting from negligence or lack of prudent care will be faculty responsibility.


Electrical current in the Philippines is 220 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachments and two-pin round plugs are used. Overseas-hired faculty may need a step-down transformer depending upon the voltage of items. It is best also to bring such items that work universally such as those electronics marked with a 100V-240V 50/60hz compatibility to avoid voltage concerns.

Household Help

Teaching couples with children may contact the school prior to their arrival to arrange for a household help to be available upon their arrival. This is recommended so child care arrangements can be set up and parent(s) and child(ren) can feel comfortable during the orientation weeks. The salary of your household help is your personal expense and employment terms are to be confirmed by the overseas hired faculty and the household help. 

During the first month, make judgments as to the job/family fit with household help. Employment arrangements can be terminated if one party is dissatisfied. Inherited staff has often worked for many ISM families, and may have their own set of ideas that may not suit your family circumstances or personal style. At the end of the day, you need to be comfortable with your household help. Singles and couples will need to make their own arrangements for household help upon their arrival.



Philippine Immigration only allows entry to those whose passports have a validity of six months or more. Please check your passport and secure a new one if you have less than a year left prior to arrival in the Philippines.

9g Visa

Your (9g) work visa will be processed after your arrival. As such, you will enter on a standard tourist visa issued to you upon your arrival at the airport.

For the list of requirements for visa application, click here.

Outbound Ticket

The school will obtain an outbound ticket and forward it to you via email for immigration purposes. You will need to print it and bring it along with you during your inbound trip to the Philippines. Many airports in the US will not permit you to check-in unless you can provide this ticket. This ticket proves that you have plans of departing the country since you will not have your working visa until several months after you arrive. When you arrive in the Philippines your passport will be stamped with either a 21 or 30-day tourist visa, as ISM waits for the processing of your visas you must show proof of an outbound ticket whenever traveling. 


Common places such as malls, hotels, coffee shops, and restaurants have access to free Wi-Fi. Internet cafés charge as little as P15/hour (approximately USD$0.35).


Filipinos use English as the common language in urban settings, especially in the central business districts. People in rural areas are able to understand and speak in broken English so you will not find it difficult to communicate.


Television and video in the Philippines use NTSC. Region Coded DVDs are Region 3 (SE Asia), though virtually all Filipino movies are region-free.

Cable and Satellite TV are available. Almost all hotels and major commercial centers have cable or satellite TV.

BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, ESPN, National Geographic are some of the international channels that are available in cable and satellite TV.


International and English newspapers are available throughout the country as well as newspapers in other language options, such as Japanese and Chinese.


The school provides postal assistance for faculty and staff. In general, letters may be sent safely to the Philippines although it may take some time to arrive. Packages however are less safe. These can often be “inspected” by unauthorized individuals.  You should use the school's address for incoming mail. The address is:

International School Manila
University Parkway
Fort Bonifacio, Global City
1634 Taguig, Metro Manila

Please be cautious when sending confidential documents via mail, it is not recommended to send credit cards, bank statements, etc., via snail mail.


Philippine Peso (PHP; symbol Php) is the official currency. Peso bills are in denominations of Php1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, and 20. Coins come in 5, 10 and 25 centavo variants in addition to the 1, 5 and 10 peso coins.

Currency Restrictions

The import and export of local currency is limited to Php10,000; any amount above this must be authorized by the Central Bank of the Philippines. The import and export of foreign currency is limited to the equivalent of US$10,000.


It is recommended for overseas hired faculty to open new bank accounts, and have an internationally recognized ATM/debit card. The school shall assist in this process. The usual banking hours in the Philippines is Monday to Friday 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.

Credit Cards

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted in major establishments throughout the big cities of the Philippines. However, it is advisable to bring cash when travelling to rural places.


It is difficult to estimate your weekly living costs for food, beverages etc., as the prices will vary from store to store and according to availability. 

Cash purchases will usually attract a discount except in fixed price supermarkets and department style stores. Buying from the "palengke"—the large local produce market—will often be cheaper than the general supermarket. The household help will be very capable at this, especially since they can bargain in the local language. Go along yourself to experience the place, to see the variety of goods offered and to show the level of quality that you desire in your weekly shopping. Shopping should be done early in the morning when the goods are fresh and not affected by the heat.

Meat from specialty delicatessens can be expensive. Supermarket quality is fine, provided you select wisely. Fish, seafood and chicken are kept refrigerated here, so they are safer to purchase at the supermarket rather than the wet market.  Most supermarkets carry a very good range of items; you may not find your exact brand but you will find a close substitute.


Shopping is easy in the Philippines as some of the largest malls in the world are found in the country. It is a fact that consumerism has become part of the Filipino's life, as seen during mall sales when a discounted price on a product will entice a shopper even when the purchase is unnecessary.

Sales tend to happen during pay day and last for 3 days and also during the Christmas season. (In the Philippines, the Christmas season begins in September and lasts until the first week of January.) Cheaper items are sold at flea markets and open markets. 


It is important that you make an application and submit school records and recommendations for your own children to attend ISM. Please do this as soon as possible and follow normal admission process/ procedures found on the website under Admissions. Be sure to HANDCARRY copies of your children's school records; do NOT put them in your shipment. If you have any questions, contact the Director of Admissions and Advancement at

Clothing and Shoes

There is an abundance of choices here, though that becomes less true as the sizes increase. You will not need warm weather clothing unless you visit the mountain areas.

ISM expects its teachers to be well groomed and to dress in a professional manner. In general, lightweight cotton clothing is most comfortable in Manila. For male teachers, short-sleeve shirts with collars are common and comfortable. Shorts are not acceptable for school attire.  Pressed cotton or blended slacks and closed shoes are fine. For female teachers, cotton trousers, skirts, dresses and blouses with sandals are comfortable and acceptable for school attire.


Paperwork and forms will mark the early days of your existence in Manila.  Having the correct documentation on hand will be useful. The following checklist is designed to assist you in the tedious process. Be sure to bring all important documents, and if necessary, appoint someone at home with a Power of Attorney. Make sufficient copies of these documents. A fireproof locked box or safe can be purchased here.

Document Checklist (original or Certified True Copy):

  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Insurance Policies
  • Wills
  • Professional Qualifications
  • Current Driver’s License
  • Property Deeds
  • Banking Information / Records
  • Medical Report
  • Children's School Records
Professional Items

Since each teacher has his or her own needs according to subject and grade level, it is important to make contact with your principal.  In this way, you can gain knowledge about particular curriculum information for your grade or specialty area and allow you to plan the teaching resources that you will need to bring in your shipment.  Although not necessary, you may bring your favorite teaching materials, supplementary texts, activities, worksheets etc. ISM is well-stocked with classroom materials. 

Other Considerations

You may want to bring favorite branded medications and personal hygiene items, though most are found here or may be substituted with other brands.

Computers are readily available for teacher's use in school and are relatively inexpensive to purchase.

Public Transportation

You will soon notice that traffic congestion is part of everyday life in Manila. Distance is essentially measured in the time taken to travel from point A to B. Traffic congestion tends to worsen around Christmas time and during the rainy season when flash floods can occur.

The main forms of public transportation in Manila are MRT, taxis, buses, jeepneys and LRT.


The MRT and LRT are very popular forms of transportation. Both run from / to North - South thoroughfares of Metro Manila.

It is recommended that you shy away from the MRT during peak hours (5 pm – 6 pm) as the trains become overcrowded. 


The “jeepney” is a unique form of transportation that is distinctively Filipino. Each jeepney has a designated route painted on its exterior. It is the most economical form of public transportation in the Philippines. In some areas there are designated jeepney stops, otherwise just follow the lines of people. Jeepney drivers are paid according to the number of passengers they manage to carry per day, so they will stop anywhere and anytime. 


If you do not purchase a car during your stay here, taxis will most likely be your main means of transportation. It is best to take a taxi that is part of a franchise. Always note the taxi number on the taxi. It is safer to get a taxi from a hotel. Taxis are metered and you should always insist that the driver turn on the meter and issue you a receipt. There is a start rate or flag down rate of approximately Php 40 for all taxis. Peso meter reading normally starts from this rate.  During the rainy season or rush hour, taxi drivers tend to try and negotiate fixed rates for final destination.

Uber is available as well as Grab Taxi and Easy Taxi apps.

Most drivers understand some basic English but it will be useful for you to write down an unfamiliar address. As in most cities, taxis are hard to come by on rainy days. It is also possible to come to a private arrangement for a taxi to collect you from school at a fixed time each day.


Buses are another means of transportation in the city. Air-conditioned and non-airconditioned buses that run down all the major roads are usually marked with their destination.

Private Transportation

In an effort to help ease traffic congestion the government has implemented an odd-even scheme for private cars. This means that cars with plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 are off the road on Mondays, 3 and 4 on Tuesday, 5 and 6 on Wednesdays, 7 and 8 on Thursday, and 9 and 0 on Fridays.  The ban is from 7 am to 7 pm, Should you decide to purchase a car it would be best if you keep the odd/even scheme in mind as many times it will dictate your morning/afternoon plans with regards to times you can depart to and from school.

Documents Needed to Obtain a Philippine Driver’s License:

  1. Properly accomplished Application for Drivers License
  2. Current valid foreign license
  3. English translation from the Embassy (if license is not in English)
  4. Photocopy of passport (page with picture and with the latest arrival in the Philippines)
  5. Alien Certificate of Registration (can be obtained after issuance of working visa)
  6. Tax Identification Number (can be obtained from ISM)

In addition, you will need to go for a drug test and an eye examination. Total cost for processing of license is less than US$20. Remember to bring 2 to 3 copies of all the documents.

Community Events

The school’s Advancement Office continually sends invites of different community-related events such as art exhibits, ballet performances, gatherings, seminars and other events organized by ISM alumni and embassies.


There are many sights to see and places to explore in the Philippines. ISM has three (3) recognized travel agencies – Blue Horizons, Dominican Tour & Travel, and Marsman Drysdale for the overseas-hired teachers’ personal travel needs.

Safety and Security

Although Filipinos are generally friendly and accommodating, one must be aware of the prevalence of poverty (especially in big cities) and the things that, unfortunately, come with it. Overseas-hired employees live in school-provided accommodation. Apartment buildings have 24 hour porterage, and housing estates have secure and supervised access. Manila is a big city and as such people should be sensible and street-wise when they are enjoying a night out. Many overseas-hired teachers are here with their families, and they seem to feel that Manila is a safe place in which to bring up children.


Weather in the Philippines is tropical in nature. The rainy season starts in June and extends through October with possible strong typhoons. The hottest months are March to May. The coolest months are from November to February, with mid-January to end of February considered the best for cooler and dryer weather. Locations exposed directly to the Pacific Ocean have frequent rainfall all year. The average temperatures range from 78°F / 25°C to 90°F / 32°C, and humidity fairly high at around 77 percent.

Typhoons (the native term is “bagyo”) are common from June to October and they generally affect a wide area, sometimes half of the archipelago. They come from the Pacific Ocean in the east and contain winds of 120km/hr (74mi/hr) or more, moving in a circle and an almost windless "eye of the typhoon" moving to the west or northwest with 17 to 25km/hr (10 to 15mi/hr).

There are several intensities of typhoons, which are usually announced in advance via the newspapers, radio and TV. Signals range from Signal 1 as the weakest, up to Signal 4. ISM has a written policy regarding school closures based on signal numbers.