Best Places to Live in the Philippines
The top 10 best cities to settle down, based on standard of living and quality of life measures.
50 March - April 2008 MoneySense www.moneysense.com.ph By Heinz Bulos from place to place, especially from the Iprovinces to the big cities, particularly t’s not unusual for Filipinos to move You don’t have to go abroad for a good living and better quality of life. As they say, there’s nothing like your own country to call home Bacolod City Population: 453,873 Why it’s great: Friendly people, laid-back lifestyle, easy access to nearby vacation destinations Photo credit: Rhonson Ng (Masskara Festival) Picture this: on weekdays, you work at a multinational corporation, enjoying all the modern conveniences of city life. On weekends, you drive along the highway dotted by sugarcane plantations to bathe at a hot spring near a mountain resort. Or you take a short boat ride to frolic along the sandy white beach. Living in Bacolod City is having the best of both worlds. Glady Tomulto, 31, works as a government employee and writes a blog called PromdiLiving.com. Born and raised in a small town in Iloilo, she is now living for the last four years in Bacolod, where she finds life much sweeter. She likes that “Bacolod is an urban city with that distinct Southern charm. It keeps abreast with development yet www.moneysense.com.ph in Metro Manila. And it’s not unheard of from city slickers to settle in smaller towns. Deciding where to live and raise a family is no longer just about greener pastures, though economic opportunities remain a big factor. But people are starting to think about not just standard of living but also cost of living and quality of life. It is true millions are moving abroad to seek a better life but the fact remains that for the majority of us, we are staying in this country for good. And it is for this reason why we compiled our first list of the “Best Places to Live.” While we were hoping to find quaint towns while filtering the data, it’s inevitable we ended up with cities. After all, that’s where you’ll find the best jobs and business opportunities, enjoy modern conveniences and recreational activities, and have access to top schools and health care facilities. But not all cities met our criteria. Sure, a good number of Metro Manila cities are represented, but the CALABARZON (Calamba-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) cities aren’t in the top 10 at all. The residents there may enjoy above average income but suffer from a lower quality of life – urban blight, smog, traffic jams, higher crime rates, etc. Not that our top 20 cities are immune from these; they just have a lot more to offer to compensate. You may or not agree with our list. It’s not a perfect list, to be sure, but it’s a start. It’s certainly more methodical than pop surveys on online message boards (see the sidebar “How We Chose the List”). And so, here are the “Best Places to Live.” still maintains the laid-back lifestyle.” But much of the charm of the city comes from the friendly and gracious people, known for the melodious tone of their Ilonggo dialect. Glady shares, “Bacolod is known as the ‘City of Smiles.’ Anybody who’ve been to Bacolod can attest to the warmth and hospitality of its people.” And there’s of course the famous chicken inasal, batchoy, and the festive MassKara Festival. Think of Bacolod City as an over-achiever, bagging the “Most Competitive Mid-Sized City in the Philippines” from the Asian Institute of Management, ranking high on all criteria. Bacolod is the gateway to the sugar-rich cities and towns of Negros province, which supplies more than half of the country’s sugar needs. But you don’t have to be a sugar baron. Bacolod City has a thriving commerce and trade economy. And there are lots of business and job opportunities in growth areas such as technology, business process outsourcing, financial services, travel, ecotourism, and energy. Entrepreneurs and investors will like the fact that the MoneySense March - April 2008 51 Photo credit: Bacolod City government 52 March - April 2008 MoneySense Makati City Population: 471, 379 Why it’s great: financial and business center, cosmopolitan culture, excellent infrastructure Makati is the closest thing we have to Manhattan. As the country’s financial capital and commercial hub, it is home to the headquarters of 40% of the top 1,000 multinational and local corporations and more than 62,000 businesses. But the real draw of Makati is that it’s the ultimate in urban living. And it’s literally home to many of the country’s wealthiest, inside the posh Forbes Park and Dasmariñas Village, among others. There are also a lot of expats living and working in Makati. There are many condominium buildings and apartments with different price points across the central business district and its periphery. And that’s the main selling point of Makati City – location, location, location. Haidee Enriquez, 36, agrees. The HR head of a major contact center has been living in the Makati CBD for the last five years. “Commercial and business establishments are very accessible,” she says. With a vibrant cosmopolitan culture, Makati is also a center of entertainment – you are just a stone’s throw away from massive malls, modern museums, luxury hotels, hip bars, charming cafés, and trendy restaurants. Haidee says, “Fun and enter- tainment options are endless, catering to varied interests.” With the proliferation of call centers, a 24/7 economy has emerged, leading to the mushrooming of fast food chains, restaurants coffee shops, and convenience stores in practically every corner, many of them open for 24 hours. In terms of area and residential population, Makati City is quite small. But that’s one reason it’s a great place to live. On weekends, living in the city can be quite charming. With pockets of quaint cafés, breezy parks, and farmers markets, there’s ironically a small town feel in the midst of skyscrapers. Haidee shares that there’s a “Saturday market at the Jaime Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village and free ‘Saturday Nights Live’ concerts held at the same venue from time to time.” Makati also has excellent graduate schools, such as the Asian Institute of Management, Ateneo Professional Schools, and De La Salle University’s Professional Schools www.moneysense.com.ph Photo credits: chilledsunshine (Greenbelt), Mike Gonzales (Ayala Ave.) city government was named the “Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit in the Philippines.” Quality of life is enviable. As a mid-sized city, the pace of life is a little slower than other highly urbanized cities. The streets and air are clean (it’s a “Clean and Green Hall of Fame” awardee), there’s little traffic with its wide roads and excellent traffic plan layout, and there’s still a provincial feel to the place. It’s also a safe city with a low crime incidence and low percentage of illegal settlers. As Glady says, “Bacolod City has the amenities that Manila and other highly urbanized cities can offer but without the traffic problems, pollution, and high crime rate. [It] also has very good road network that allows high mobility so traffic is not a problem.” Cost of living is affordable – housing for instance is relatively inexpensive, ranging from high-end subdivisions to middle-class houses. “Cost of food, utilities, and even real property are lower compared to neighboring highly urbanized cities,” Glady points out. Bacolod is a great place to raise your children. Glady says, “There are a lot of public and private schools that offer quality education in all levels.” It is home to two internationally recognized universities – La Salle University and University of Negros Occidental – and a number of colleges that produce topnotchers in various fields. Bacoleños love to have fun. There are diverse cultural and recreational activities, from golf courses and an enormous sports stadium (it was recently declared as Football City) to shopping malls and coffee shops. “There are also a lot of recreational amenities such as a golf course, bars and restaurants, coffee shops, sports facilities, and resorts. Bacolod is also rich in history and provides avenues for the appreciation and development of culture and the arts,” Glady says. And of course, she shares that “people in Bacolod love to eat. Food is not only the number one source of business but also provides bonding opportunities among families and friends. The city boasts of fine dining restaurants, local delicacy, pastry and coffee shops, and hole-in-the-wall carinderias that can surely satisfy one’s discriminating taste without making a hole in the pocket.” “Most outsiders don’t know that Bacolod has more to offer than just piaya to satisfy one’s sweet tooth,” Glad adds. And what’s Bacolod’s best-kept secret? “Those who visit Bacolod should try Roli’s napoleones and cakes frame Calea to have a taste of how sweet life in Bacolod is,” she concludes. Another great thing about Bacolod’s location is that it’s so easy to go anywhere such as nearby mountain resorts like Mambukal and beaches like Boracay. Cebu is half an hour away while Manila is only 45 minutes by plane. With the new Bacolod-Silay City International Airport, expect more flights to more cities here and abroad. This combination of a more laid-back lifestyle and modern conveniences makes Bacolod City the country’s “Best Place to Live.” as well as numerous colleges. Makati’s infrastructure is second to none, making it the preferred location of investors. Local government services are also topnotch, with state-of-the-art police and fire departments, the first free-standing emergency care facility, and generous social services. “Local barangay units actively offer activities and programs to promote the community atmosphere and provide support to their residents,” Haidee says. Traffic can be bad on work days, but a network of underpasses and walkways facilitate movement. There’s also a planned rail project called Makati Loop, making it even more convenient to get around. As more and more professionals decide to live where they work, Makati City will become home to a more economically diverse population. Davao City Population: 1,725,355 Why it’s great: low crime rate, clean environment, great schools and hospitals Photo credit: Davao City government Web site If you plan to live in Mindanao, Davao City will definitely be the first on the list. In fact, it has always been on best cities lists, including Asiaweek’s “40 Best Cities in Asia” for four consecutive years. And for good reason: Davao City is certainly a lot more exciting city to work, live, and relax than most provincial cities. As Ria Jose, 25, a marketing and PR consultant and a lifetime resident of the city puts it: “It’s not as fast-paced as most urban centers, but also not as boring as most rural areas.” In terms of land area, it is the largest city in the Philippines and one of the largest worldwide. It is also the de facto capital of Mindanao, with its strategic position serving as a gateway to the rest of Mindanao and the flourishing BIMP-EAGA (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area) trading hub. Its international airport and seaport are among the busiest cargo hubs in the southern Philippines. With close to two million residents, it has attracted billions of investments and the presence of www.moneysense.com.ph the country’s top 200 companies. Davao City is a major player in export commodities, particularly bananas and pineapples. While half of the economy is agricultural, it has diversified into industrial and service sectors. It is aggressive in investment promotions, prioritizing sectors such as property development, tourism, agro-business, light manufacturing, and telecommunications, among others. For three years, it has topped the ranking of Asian Institute of Management as the “Most Competitive Metro City in the Philippines.” It’s also considered the “Most Livable City in the Philippines.” Although highly urbanized, “It’s not as chaotic as people expect it to be,” says Ria, who is also a professional blogger (she maintains several Web sites including online lifestyle magazine MyDavaoCity.com). She explains, “The Davaoeños are disciplined, hospitable, and nice. And the local government really takes care of the people.” Davaoeños enjoy a clean environment, fresh air, abundant harvests, clean potable water, and temperate weather all year round. Davao City has earned a reputation for peace and order, earning the “Most Peaceful City in East and Southeast Asia” citation for several years. From a three-digit crime rate per 10,000 people in 1985, monthly crime volume has decreased to a negligible 0.8 cases per 10,000 persons from 1999 up to present. The city also has the “Best Police Office in the Country.” Davao City also boasts of some of the best schools such as the Ateneo de Davao University, University of Mindanao, and University of the Philippines Mindanao, producing the biggest number of professionals in the region and the most number of MBA graduates in the world. It also has training hospitals like Davao Doctors Hospital, Brokenshire Memorial Hospital, Ricardo Limso Medical Center, and Davao Medical Center. It’s also a major tourist destination, having being chosen as “Destination of the Year” by the Kalakbay Awards. Residents love to “eat out, hang out with friends, drink, socialize, enjoy the beach, and the great outdoors,” Ria shares. Foodies would love the inihaw na tuna, kinilaw, pomelo, and (this is highly suspect) durian. You can swim at some of the finest beaches in the country, trek at its highest peak, Mount Apo, or see the majestic Philippine Eagle. It also has a vibrant shopping scene and night life. Davao City literally has everything to offer. Marikina City Population: 479,394 Why it’s great: clean streets, squatter-free environment, plenty of residential subdivisions When you think of Marikina, you think of shoes. And it’s not surprising that one of the country’s hottest shoe designers comes from Marikina. Brian Tenorio, 29, principal designer of Tenorio Manila, grew up in the city and likes the fact that Marikina has “the world’s largest shoes, the most expensive Philippine-made pairs (that’s us!), and most of Imelda Marcos’s pairs.” Today, the city is being developed and promoted as the country’s “Little Singapore.” And it’s quickly growing into that image. It has clean surroundings, a low crime rate, disciplined people, and a good number of man-made attractions. Of course, it’s still far from being the major financial, commercial, shopping, and entertainment center it aspires to. But it’s certainly trying. It wasn’t named the Most Competitive Metro City in the Philippines by the Asian Institute of Management for nothing. In a relatively short period of time, it has attracted a growing number of large local corporations and multinational MoneySense March - April 2008 53 Photo credits: Ranger 2007 (chapel), Parc Cruz (river park) 54 March - April 2008 MoneySense area are a 20-minute walk away; Eastwood, a short drive; and supermarkets and the palengke minutes away from all directions,” Brian ends. Iloilo City Population: 365,820 Why it’s great: top schools, natural wonders, strategic location At first glance, you would think that Iloilo City is the twin sister of nearby Bacolod City. Both are major cities in the Western Visayas region and are key agricultural exporters. They are known for their charming sing-song Illongo accent and famous dishes such as La Paz batchoy, chicken inasal, and pancit molo. And their location makes them easily accessible to nearby Boracay, Palawan, and Cebu. A life-long resident of Iloilo, Marcos Caratao, Jr., 20, a student and administrator of ExploreIloilo.com says, “Iloilo’s peaceful environment, its food, and the hospitality of its people definitely make the city a great place to live. Aside from having an excellent peace and order situation, one can have a peace of mind when in Iloilo simply because there is not much stress brought about by the problems of urban congestion.” It does sound like Bacolod. But there is in fact a key difference: Iloilo is a lot bigger economically. It is actually the regional center and the main economic hub of Western Visayas. The city has formed an alliance with nearby towns and the island of Guimaras, dubbed Metro Iloilo-Guimaras or MIG, to promote itself as an agri-industrial-eco-tourism giant. It has racked up awards such as “Cleanest and Greenest City in Western Visayas,” one of the “Dream Cities” of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia, and one of the five “Most Competitive Cities in the Philippines” of the Asian Institute of Management. Iloilo is also richly endowed with mountains, waterfalls, rice terraces, caves, white sand beaches, and numerous islets. “It has a lot of hidden treasures worth exploring,” says Junelle Caravana, 26, a project manager for a software company and administrator of Iloilo Bloggers (www.iloilobloggers.com) who has been an Iloilo resident since birth. And it doesn’t cost a lot of money to have a leisurely life. Junelle shares, “Strolling in the mall – it’s what I do. And mostly, stroll around the Iloilo. I can’t get enough of its beauty and there are still a lot of places I need to explore.” Unlike Bacolod’s sugar, rice is the main crop of Iloilo. And while Bacolod has its MassKara Festival, Iloilo’s has its Dinagyang, along with several other festivities. “The festivities like Dinagyang are one of the best things I like about my city. There are a lot of people strolling, colorful views, and a lot of food,” Junelle says. Marcos says, “Ilonggos love to eat! And it shows through the variety of its delicious local dishes.” He adds adds, “Ilonggos generally prefer to have intimate gathering with friends and loved ones at home or in a place where they can www.moneysense.com.ph Photo credits: Berniemack_southcentral (belfry), Bernardo Arellano III (Calle Real) companies, particularly at its industrial zone. SM City Marikina and the upscale Blue Wave Mall have recently opened. And it boasts of its own tourist and entertainment attractions – Marikina Riverbanks Center, Philippine Science Centrum, Teatro Marikina, and World of Butterflies. The Marikina River Park, a popular camping site, picnic grounds, and recreational park, is particularly notable for being a Hall of Fame awardee for the “Cleanest Inland Body of Water in the Philippines.” The river park is also alive at night, with numerous bars, cafés, and restaurants along the riverbanks. Brian enumerates the good things about the city: “Cleanliness, order, and geographical positioning – a river runs through Marikina.” It certainly has earned a reputation for being a clean city, and is now a Hall of Famer as the “Cleanest and Greenest City” in the country. Aside from lots of spacious parks and playgrounds, tree-lined streets, clear sidewalks, and bike lanes, Marikina has the cleanest and biggest public market in Metro Manila. So there’s good reason it has ranked among the “Most Healthiest and Livable City in Asia-Pacific” and honored the prestigious Global “500 Roll Of Honour” of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The city has the best public schools in Metro Manila and tuition is free at all levels. The city government offers free health services and has its Rescue 161, a hotline number for medical, police, and fire emergencies within the city. And it has the impressive Marikina Valley Medical Center. Marikina may not be top of mind for work, school, or leisure, but for many, it’s high on their list for a more affordable and quality place to live in. And that’s a good thing, since Marikina is largely, particularly in the northern section, a residential city (and it boasts of a squatter-free environment). It actually lies on a lush valley bounded by the longest mountain range in the country, the Sierra Madre Mountains, and is cut across by two rivers (on the downside, low-lying areas still get flooded during typhoon season when the rivers overflow). “We live in a valley with a mountain region behind us, and the Loyola heights above,” Brian shares. Loyola Grand Villas is the best-known gated community while Marquinton Residences Complex has earned its status as an upscale condominium complex. But there are plenty of other choices. Marikina is home to many middle- and upper-middle class villages and subdivisions. It’s suburbia at its finest. “I love the small-town feel of Marikina. From my homeoffice window, I can hear birds chirping. The river meanders around our small village. Ateneo and the posh Katipunan enjoy each other’s company. Though once in a while, Ilonggos also like to party whether it is in a bar, club, during the town fiesta or its famous festivals.” Iloilo also can boast of its status as a hub for education in the region. Iloilo has University of the Philippines Visayas, University of San Agustin, Central Philippine University, University of Iloilo, St. Paul University Iloilo, Philippine Science High School, Ateneo de Iloilo-Santa Maria Catholic School, Assumption, PAREF-Westbridge School, and the John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University, the first in Southeast Asia. Iloilo is a fast-growing modern city with hotels, shopping centers, restaurants, golf courses, and convention facilities. As Marcos notes, “Iloilo is a modern city set in a laid back atmosphere. What I like best about Iloilo City is that it has amenities that every modern city possess within a stone’s throw from each other yet still retain its idyllic old world charm.” Las pinas City Population: 365,820 Why it’s great: plenty of residential subdivisions, excellent social services Photo credit: Cealwyn Tagle I i f n www.moneysense.com.ph Pasig City Population: 505,058 Why it’s great: urban living at a lower cost, major commercial and entertainment center, access to good schools Pasig City, particularly the Ortigas district, can give Makati a run for its money. Living in the Ortigas central business district is almost like living in the Makati CBD, at a good discount. Property values and rents are certainly lower, making it a more affordable option for urbanites. It is the country’s second most important district, headquarters of the Philippine Stock Exchange as well as major companies such as Banco De Oro, Union Bank of the Philippines, and Manila Electric Company. It’s also a favorite location for many contact centers and business process outsourcing firms. The Ortigas landscape is ever-changing, as new office skyscrapers and condo buildings are constructed. There are many shopping centers in Pasig – Robinsons Galleria, Metrowalk, Tiendesitas, Robinsons Metro East, Ever Gotesco Ortigas, SM Supercenter, among others – as well as hotels, including Holiday Inn and Discovery Suites. Bars, restaurants, coffee shops, fast food chains, and convenience stores abound, including at the ground floors of office buildings. Ortigas Center is also just one tiny part of Pasig City, its eastern half actually (the western side is Mandaluyong territory). Pasig is primarily a residential-industrial area. The older Pasig districts are a lot more cramped and chaotic. So for those considering Pasig as their residence, it is really the Ortigas district and its periphery that are the major draw. While there are many residential villages catering to every income class, the Photo credit: Ramir Borja Marikina is suburban bliss the east, then Las Piñas is its equivalent down south. It’s like the next BF Homes Parañaque, but with much better infrastructure. Along the new and wide Daang Hari highway are numerous middle- to upperclass villages and subdivisions sprawled across Las Piñas and its neighboring towns of Bacoor, Cavite; Muntinlupa City; and Pedro, Laguna. San There are, of course, the older and traffic-heavy Zapote and Alabang (Muntinlupa) districts, which bisects the city. But the construction and upgrading of the city’s road network has made traffic flow better. The city government has also issued Friendship Route stickers to residents as access pass through certain villages and subdivisions as an alternate route to Alabang, Parañaque, and Cavite. Half of Las Piñas’ land area is residential, and the rest is used for commercial, industrial, and institutional purposes. Pilar Village, for instance, is the largest housing development in the city with an area of over 1.55 square kilometers and over 4,000 households. The city is long known for world-famous Bamboo Organ, but like Marikina’s shoes, it is shedding its one-hit wonder reputation as it is increasing urban development. It is also a “Clean and Green Hall of Fame” awardee by the national government and belongs to the prestigious “Global 500 Roll Of Honour” of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The city government is active in providing progressive social services, including the construction of school buildings, health centers, maternity centers, daycare centers, barangay halls, recreational facilities, modern tricycle terminals, modern overpasses with escalators, and others. It offers regular free medical and laboratory check-up and medication, free maternity consultations, and free hospitalization benefits to residents. Las Piñas is also home to Southville International School and Colleges and Elizabeth Seton School, both dubbed by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports as “The School of the Future.” Its oldest school, St. Joseph’s Acad- emy, established in 1916, is home to the Bamboo Organ and the Las Piñas Boys Choir. There are job and business opportunities in the South Metro, so Las Piñas is a good choice to live if you plan to work in that area of Metro Manila. most prominent has to be Valle Verde. Alternatively, there are plenty of prime condominiums to choose from. There are also good schools in the area, including the Poveda Learning Center, La Salle Greenhills, St. Paul College, Lourdes School of Mandaluyong, Development Academy of the Philippines, Ateneo Professional Schools, and University of Asia and the Pacific. Residents are also near The Medical City, which is one of the country’s premier medical centers. San fernando, pampanga Population: 221,857 Why it’s great: strategic location, great food, many business opportunities As the capital city of Pampanga and the regional center of Central Luzon, San Fernando has a lot going for it. It is a major producer of rice and sugar, among other agricultural products, supMoneySense March - April 2008 55 Photo credit: Ivan Henares industries. Food processing, specifically for tocino and longanisa products, has become a major industry in itself. The lantern industry is also the city’s main product under the government’s One Town One Product (OTOP) program. San Fernando is famous for its giant lanterns and is known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines” with its annual Giant Lantern Festival. There is also a growing service and retail sector and a flourishing car dealership business. The Kapampangan have a reputation for their culinary skills. As the food center of Pampanga, with around 83 restaurants, San Fernando offers authentic Kapampangan food, such as tocino, longanisa, tapang damulag, sisig, and pancit luglug. It is also the location of SM Department Store and Robinsons Department Store. The city is strategically located at the crossroads of central Luzon and is highly accessible by both air and land. Leisure seekers can easily go to the former Clark air base or nearby Dau and Angeles City for casinos, bars, resorts, and duty-free shopping. Manila is also 45 minutes away, thanks to the worldclass North Luzon Expressway. It’s also near the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (formerly Clark International Airport), which has domestic and international flights. Mandaluyong City Population: 278,474 Why it’s great: the other half of Ortigas, plenty of residential options, good schools The Ortigas district belongs just as much to Mandaluyong City as to Pasig. As the western half the Ortigas center, Mandaluyong can lay claim on hosting the likes of the Asian Development Bank and the headquarters of San Miguel Corporation, along with hundreds of companies, so employment 56 March - April 2008 MoneySense opportunities abound. This is where the posh EDSA ShangriLa Manila, Shangri-La Plaza, The Podium are located, as well as more middleclass hangouts as SM Megamall, EDSA Central, and Star Mall. Mandaluyong City also boasts of good schools such as the Lourdes School of Mandaluyong, La Salle Greenhills, and Don Bosco Technical College. Like Pasig, Mandaluyong has a rich historic past. It was part of the Kingdom of Sapa of the extensive Indonesian Majapahit Empire in the 1300’s. Around 1470, it expanded its territories and was then called the Kingdom of Namayan. Today, the city is loosely divided along land use, with residential subdivisions in the north, heavy industries in the south, commercial activities in the east, and medium-scale commercial districts in the west. A little more than a third of Mandaluyong is composed of residential zones, the most prominent and exclusive of these is Wack-Wack Village, the residential homes of the Wack-Wack Golf and Country Club. There are a lot of condominiums and townhouses to choose from as well, such as Gateway Garden Heights, Gateway Garden Ridge, One Gateway Place, Soho Central, and St. Francis Tower. The most well-known hospital in Mandaluyong is the Dr. Victor R. Potenciano Medical Center along EDSA. And of course, it is also home to the Philippine’s only psychiatric hospital, the National Center for Mental Health, hence the perennial joke that if you’re a little crazy, you’re probably from Mandaluyong. quezon City Population: 2,173,831 Why it’s great: plenty of residential areas, good schools, access to hospitals, lots entertainment centers Quezon City is the largest city in Metro Manila in terms of population and area, taking up a quarter, and also the biggest city in Luzon. The good thing about a city this big is that there is just more of everything. Those who plan to live here can choose from numerous subdivisions, condominiums, apartments, townhouses, and single-detached houses in either the southern portion of the city, covering Diliman, Commonwealth, the Project areas, Cubao, Kamias-Kamuning, New Manila, San Francisco del Monte, and Sta. Mesa Heights, or the northern half, comprising of Novaliches and contains the areas of Fairview and Lagro. Finding work among close to 57,000 business establishments shouldn’t be hard. Quezon City joined the ranks of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taipei as one of the “Top 10 Asian Cities of the Future,” ranking seventh among more than 200 Asian cities, based on a survey commissioned by the London Financial Times through AsiaBiz Strategy. Residents love the fact that QC is home to schools and universities, such as the University of the Philippines-Diliwww.moneysense.com.ph Photo credit: Premium Fantasy plying the needs of Metro Manila and other regions. As one of the six provinces of the socalled W Corridor (these key municipalities, when plotted on the map, form the shape of the letter W), it plays a key role in the industrial corridor as host to the Clark Special Economic Zone and five other industrial estates. It also has attracted numerous manufacturing companies such as Universal Robina Corporation, Zuellig Pharma Corporation, Nestle Philippines, Mondragon Industries, Asia Brewery, and Del Monte Corporation, as well as bottling companies like San Miguel Corporation, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, and Cosmos. San Fernando is strategically located at the heart of Central Luzon. One has to pass through the city to be able to go to any provinces from all directions. Thus, it has established its role as the regional growth center. The combination of agriculture, industrial, and manufacturing capabilities makes San Fernando a triple threat. The city is also home to numerous small businesses and cottage Photo credit: Quezon City government man, Ateneo de Manila University, St. Paul University, Miriam College, St. Theresa’s College, and a host of others. And there’s obviously no shortage of health care facilities. In fact, with 20, the city has the most number of hospi- Top 20 Cities Can’t find your city? Here is the complete list of the top 20: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Bacolod Makati Davao Marikina Iloilo Las Piñas Pasig San Fernando Mandaluyong Quezon City 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. Manila Batangas Cagayan de Oro Muntinlupa Angeles Baguio Lipa Calamba General Santos Cebu The Methodology To compile the list, we relied on two existing surveys – the Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR) published by the Human Development Network (HDN) in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Philippine Cities Competitiveness Ranking Project (PCCRP) of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center. We figured – why reinvent the wheel? These two organizations have done the nitty-gritty work, far beyond the capability of this magazine. What we’ve done is to shortlist and then rank cities using their results. First, we got the top 30 provinces including Metro Manila based on the 2003 Human Development Index (HDI) of the PHDR. HDI is a summary measure of human development, combining longevity (life expectancy), knowledge (enrollment and high school ratios and functional literacy rate), and standard of living (real income per capita). This measure alone takes into account the most basic factors in choosing which places provide the best environment and opportunities for health, education, and income. But PHDR is down to the provincial level only. So from the 30 provinces, we identified the cities and municipalities classified by the National Statistics Office (NSO) as 1st class income class, ending up with 219 places. Well, we slightly cheated a bit and included a few exceptions, i.e. those that belong to the 2005 PCCRP. It’s at this point where we shifted gears and considered only those included in the AIM study of the most competitive cities. This study is particularly interesting because it used seven key drivers of competitiveness – cost of doing business, dynamism of local economy, linkages and accessibility, infrastructure, human resources, responsiveness of LGUs, and quality of life. These are basically more than what we needed to make a good basis for the list. www.moneysense.com.ph www.moneysense.com.ph tals in the country. Some of the notable ones are St. Luke’s Medical Center, UERM Memorial Medical Centre, Dr. Jesus C. Delgado Memorial Hospital, FEU-NRMF Hospital, Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Lung Center of the Philippines, and Philippine Orthopedic Hospital. The city is also a favorite nightspot in the metro. The Timog and Tomas Morato areas, Quezon Avenue, West Avenue, and Libis are major centers of leisure and entertainment. And it is definitely a shopping hub with 17 malls. The SM Group alone has four, including one of the biggest worldwide – SM City-North EDSA. Robinsons and Ever have two each. The Araneta Center, long known for Ali Mall and Farmers Plaza, is undergoing a major facelift, starting with the chic Gateway Mall. Ayala Land, on the other hand, recently opened Trinoma, which has prompted the national government to develop the area as QC’s new 250-hectare central business district. True, the PCCRP, while expanding in coverage, is still incomplete. Nevertheless, it made it a lot easier to shortlist among the 219 cities and municipalities. OK, the PCCRP included only cities, but it makes sense that cities, especially provincial capitals, have the most to offer in terms of those drivers of competitiveness. From the 65 cities covered by the PCCRP, we included only those that were also in the shortlist of 219 cities and municipalities, with a couple of exceptions (primarily because they were too high on the PCCRP ranking to be ignored). The PCRRP already ranked the cities under three classifications based on population size -- metro, mid-sized, and small. However, we didn’t care as much for some of the seven criteria. We cared only about three – dynamism of local economy (which indicates income opportunities), infrastructure (which relates to availability of modern conveniences), and quality of life (which refers to a clean, safe place to raise a family). As defined by the PCRRP, dynamism of the local economy indicates the capability of the city to attract and foster inward investments. It includes the measurement of the number of household income, local inflation rate, percentage of top 200 corporations, population versus fast food chain locators, market size, consumer price index, vibrancy of tourism sector, expectation in business revenue, business access to financing, and conduciveness of regulatory environment to business. Infrastructure adequacy and quality indicate that the city has sufficient physical, technological, and knowledge support services that are required in transacting business such as road infrastructure, telecommunications, production factors, and transport systems. This criterion includes the number of banks, road density, vehicle density, number of Internet service providers, well-managed road network and traffic, road clearance during peak hours, reliability of electric power services, abundance of water supply, easy connection of telephone lines from other service providers, adequate cellular phone signals, reliability of Internet service providers, and adequate garbage management. Quality of Life determines the quality of environment and life in the city is based on the incidence of theft per 100,000 population, incidence of murder per 100,000 population, hospital beds per 100,000 population, life expectancy at birth, cleanliness of roads and public open spaces, adequacy of rest and recreational facilities, and conduciveness of the security environment to businesses. Just these three criteria already pack a lot of data to provide sufficient basis for ranking our list. We picked the top 20 based on their average ranking using those three criteria and ranked them accordingly. We lopped up the bottom half to come up with our final ranking of the “Best Places to Live.” MoneySense March - April 2008 57 57