Survival in the Philippines is made that much more difficult as a result of the massive population. Dealing with the population can be immensely frustrating. Understanding how to deal with the population will greatly increase your chances of survival here.

Dealing With The Philippines Population

The sheer volume of people in the Philippines greatly impacts the efficiency of the country. It has been estimated that in the greater urban area of Manila alone, there are over 21,000,000 people. This is almost the same as the entire population of Australia! As a result, you will often find long queues just about everywhere – the supermarket, ATMs, shopping malls, restaurants, banks, and of course, traffic lights! Patience is the key!

A good example of this is when you go to a department store to buy a simple item. You end up with about half a dozen people involved in the transaction. You feel like a rock star with your own personal entourage. It is important to note that this isn’t just because you are a foreigner. Even Pinoy customers have the same treatment. Once again, this is purely due to the massive population. With so many people to employ, you will find people performing the most mundane jobs. Most of these jobs don’t even exist in other countries. Dealing with the population can take a bit of getting used to.

You will also find yourself being greeted by just about everyone. Aside from being very friendly, Filipinos are naturally very curious about foreigners. This is even more so in the provincial areas where you really do stand out more. As a foreigner, they almost go out of their way to greet you good morning, or good evening. It can be hard but after a while, you will find yourself having to ignore the greetings. Otherwise, you will feel like you’re greeting every second person. This is another byproduct of having such a large population.

Philippines population music festival

The is obviously from a music festival or event of some sort but this could almost be on any given day in Manila. The greater metro area of Manila has a staggering 21,000,000 people!

The Rich And The Poor

One of the major anomalies in the Philippines is the gap between the rich and the poor – the haves and the have-nots. Like most countries, a minority of the population that is extremely wealthy, and a majority aren’t. It’s the old 80/20 rule. However, when there are 100,000,000 people squeezed into a relatively small area, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is a lot more obvious.

It has been reported that 24% of the entire wealth of the Philippines is controlled by about 50 families. The wealth of these families and the businesses they are involved heavily influence the Philippines GDP. I don’t want to get bogged down with socioeconomic discussion however, it is important to understand that there is a massive gap between the rich and the poor in this country. If you do spend time here either travelling or working, it is important to have an understanding of the basics.

In the Philippines, the Social Security System (SSS) doesn’t allow for unemployment benefits. Most western countries have a social security program in place. This allows unemployed people to claim government benefits under certain terms and conditions. This isn’t so in the Philippines. This means that if someone is disabled (through a non-work related incident or severe birth defect), and can’t get a job, or simply can’t find a job due to lack of education or other reasons, they need to try and earn money somehow. Quite a lot of these people are very innovative and often amuse me with some of the weird and wonderful ideas they dream up to try and earn a dollar.

Beggars On The Street

However, at the end of the day, a lot of them need to resort to begging on the street, drug dealing, theft and prostitution. These are the people that unfortunately will try to take advantage of you, particularly on the street. I personally think it’s a real conundrum. A majority of these people are some of the nicest people you will meet and do what they do out of necessity. They have to earn a living somehow. With no incentives or support from the government, they have no choice but to beg on the street.

Philippines population street beggar

It really pulls at your heartstrings when you see beggars on the street. Most of them are decent people who just happen to have a disability but cannot get government support.

As mentioned, a lot of these people aren’t fortunate enough to have a solid education so aren’t necessarily the sharpest tools in the box. You will come across these people and it’s unfair to expect them to be able to communicate with you on any meaningful sort of level. So it is important that you don’t mistake their friendliness for something else. More often than not, they may be trying to take advantage of you somehow. As mentioned earlier, this will stand out a lot more purely as a result of the massive population and if you are trying to survive here, you need to make adjustments.

For the next survival tip on Communication In The Philippines, please click Survival Tip #5 to read more. If you missed the previous survival tip on Understanding Filipino Culture, click Survival Tip #3 to read more. If you have any comments or experiences you would like to share about the population in the Philippines, please feel free to leave your comments below. I would love to hear from you.

Philippines Fun Fact:

Manila, the capital of the Philippines is considered the world’s most densely populated city in the world. With a population of 1,660,714 and an area of just 24 square miles (38.55 square km), it has a population density of 55,446 people per square mile (43,079 people per square km) – (courtesy of