Last time, I wrote about where I chose to stay when I’m living in the Philippines. I chose to reside in Balanga city in the province of Bataan, not because it came out the best among my choices, but because of “an incident” I wrote about in my previous post.
I was not able to explore the places on my list because I was overwhelmed and could not decide which place/s to scout first.
Maybe it was fate that brought me to Balanga. But be it fate or what, all I can say is that Balanga city had all that I look for as a “perfect” residence in the Philippines.
Some of the things I deemed important are:
1) Clean air, not congested and no traffic. Not like Manila which is terribly congested, polluted and traffic is bumper-to-bumper.
2) Fresh seafoods. I like grilled seafoods a lot, specially fresh fish and squid. That is what I miss when I’m in Toronto.
3) Green surroundings. Being close to ricefields and plenty of trees is important to me. I’m born and raised in Manila but I have dreamt of living in the countryside since I was a teenager but never had the opportunity.
4) Proximity to the airport. Well this one ain’t very important but I’d love it if there will be a flight from Clark Airport to Toronto so that whenever I go back to Canada, travel time to the airport is only an hour. Other than Toronto, Clark airport services other gateways in Asia, so I can still use it if I want to fly to Hong Kong, for example. No big deal – if I want to go back to Canada, Manila is just 2.5 hours away.
5) Closeness to the beach. Balanga is adjacent to Manila Bay. But Manila Bay is not what I have in mind when I said “beach.” What I meant was a beach town that is nice and the water is beautiful.
The Western part of Bataan Province comprises the towns of Mariveles, Bagac and Morong which is facing the South China Sea – a vast expanse of ocean that’s very nice. Bagac beach resort town is just 30 minutes away and that is where I’d like to spend lazing-out when on a beach. The travel time to the farthest Bataan beach town from Balanga is about 1 hour. Subic Bay is about an hour and a half via Pilar-Bagac-Morong road (J.J. Linao National Road in Google Map).
6) Health care and doctors. There are at least 4 hospitals in Balanga that are capable of treating emergencies: Bataan Provincial Hospital, St. Josephs Hospital, ICMC Medical Center and Bataan Doctors Hospital. At ICMC, I know that they can do surgeries because someone I knew was treated there when he got into a serious motorcycle accident. I’ll find out more about Balanga hospitals’ capabilities and will report an update. Family doctors clinic is spread out all over the city and so are dentists.
7) Peace and order. The present government of Balanga takes peace and order seriously. Last year (2010), CCTV surveillance cameras were installed in busy parts of the city. Barangay brigades or city marshalls, who were tasked to oversee order, are very visible around the city. I saw a police patrol stationed at the entrance of the city everyday when I come back from my morning exercise. I feel safe in Balanga but still I exercise caution when I go around at night.
8) Low cost of living. The cost of living in the city is very low compared to Manila. Though, it does not have a lot of conveniences that Manila has, for an average daily life, there is nothing else anyone will need that could not be found in Balanga.
Those were just some things I deemed necessary in choosing my residence in the Philippines. Other factors that other people may be looking for but not necessarily important:
9) Nightlife. I’m not into that anymore, so I have not really explored night life in Balanga, but there is a club in town called Razz that I tried once and they have a live band performing. I’m sure there are other spots but have not really looked for it.
10) Public transportation. The city is serviced by buses going and coming from Manila and other places like Baguio. There maybe other routes but I have not really checked. From anywhere in Balanga to the bus station is not a problem because tricycles operate 24 hours, I think. I was able to catch a 1 am bus to Manila my first time there and I didn’t have a hard time flagging a tricyle to take me to the station.
11) Brownouts and electricity
. Electricity is really cheap compared to Metro-Manila. My room airconditioner and 5 PC’s run more than 12 hours a day and was only paying 4,500 pesos (roughly $105). We hardly have any blackouts, too, compared to Manila.
12) Water. Potable, as well as ground or mineral water is very abundant. There are at least 2 places in Balanga where free flowing clean and drinkable water is available. Metro Manila will run out of water but not the city of Balanga.
13) Roads and streets. The highway leading to Balanga were well paved, except for a very short portion of Gapan-Olongapo highway. Even around the city itself, the roads were well maintained.
But not all is good in Balanga city. What I dislike most, and I hope the city government do something about, is the proliferation of two-stroke motorocycles or tricycles. They should be phased-out because they are causing air pollution in the city. Although it is only noticeable on busy hours and concentrated on a few busy streets, still it would turn into a pollution problem if allowed to go on for long.
The coastal area facing Manila Bay is another, although not as dirty as in Roxas Boulevard in Manila – it’s not a nice sight to see. They are filled with litters washed ashore from Manila, I’m assuming. The city of Balanga should regularly mobilize volunteers or the residents to clean up the Manila Bay coastal towns of Tortugas, Sibacan and Puerto Rivas because tourists, both local and foreign are being invited there to see the migrant birds flocking on that part of Bataan during the winter months. The coast is littered with garbage that are washed from the current coming from Manila, very noticeable when its a low tide.
Other than those, I find Balanga a very nice place to be called home in the Philippines. I’m not saying you reside in Balanga, but it won’t hurt if you try living in the city. I love it there.
I hope other balikbayans or returning-Filipinos who were planning to move back to the Philippines find this article something to consider when doing their search for where to locate in the Philippines. Research places in the Philippines intensively and choose the right one that will fit your lifestyle or create your own criteria. There are so many to choose from and it doesn’t matter where as long you feel “you’re at home” where you decide to stay for good.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think.