24-years old Rosette Adel lives with her family in Malabon City, Metro Manila, which is about 24 miles away from Bonifacio Global City. She works as a writer in a mass media company that is located in Infinity Tower at 26th Street near 11th Avenue. Rosette goes to work everyday by taking a shuttle, Hi-ace van, from Malabon to Washington, Makati City, takes a jeep at the Shell Maya Service Center also in Makati City, and then a jeep along Infinity Tower. Including waiting time, the whole trip takes about 1 to 2 hours and costs 96 pesos.
To get home from work, Rosette either takes a jeep to MRT Ayala Station, then a bus taking the North route to Letre, Malabon City, then another jeep, and a tricycle ride. Alternatively, she takes Green Frog’s hybrid bus from Market! Market! to Buendia, Gil Puyat LRT, and then a UV Express from there to Malabon City, and a tricycle ride to home. The whole trip takes 2 to 3 hours and costs another 105 pesos. In other words, every day she spends over 200 pesos and 3 to 5 hours in commuting to and from work.
Commuting to and from BGC
Sadly, Rosette’s experience is not unusual. Studies, formal and informal ones, done on this issue shows that a significant portion of young professionals working in Bonifacio Global City have to spend over three hours commuting every day, and the commuting is not the comfortable type like a single ride in an air-conditioned public transport facility, but often involves several rides and long and stressful waiting time in a polluted environment. See the interview results that we obtained in the boxes below.
Getting in and out of BGC itself only is already a time consuming experience according to those we interviewed. At peak hours, such as at around 5pm, commuters often have to wait over twenty minutes for a BGC bus to take them to the transport terminal either at Market!Market! or Ayala Avenue.
Coping with the commuting problem
One can say that this kind of commuting problem is not unique to people working in BGC but shared by workers anywhere in Metro Manila. However, BGC workers have one solution less than people working elsewhere in Metro Manila. The real estate price in BGC is very high compared to the salaries of the majority of people working there.
The rent of a studio unit of around 30 square meters in BGC is about 28,000 pesos per month, while the salary of a young professional aged below 25 is between 18k to 30k per month, which means that the take home pay is about 16k to 26k. If the young professional is willing to spend half of the take home pay on accommodation and transport, he or she still needs to share the unit with two to three other people to cover the rent. Most young professionals have other obligations and can afford to spend at most only 40% of take home pay on accommodation and transport.
Living on the perimeter of BGC
BGC’s high cost of real estate is related to the provision of public services (security, ground maintenance and traffic management) and common facilities (underground utility cables and pipes) and amenities (some open space and wide sidewalks) in it. Since places outside BGC have lower level of such services and amenities, the price of real estate can be considerably lower.
Young professionals have found homes or weekday accommodation in places near BGC, such as Pembo or Cemembo, which is located east of BGC and C5, West Rembo (north of BGC) or Pitogo (north west of BGC), or, a little further to the south east of BGC, the barangays of Rizal and Ususan (BCDA) in Taguig City. A very nice 56 square meter apartment in Ususan, for example, costs 15,000 pesos per month before utilities and association dues, and involves a commute time of 20 minutes in the morning by jeepney to Market!Market! for 8 pesos, or by taxi which costs 60 pesos. In the evening, between 5pm and 8pm, the commute time is longer due to the heavy truck traffic along C5. It takes about 50 minutes to go from Market!Market! to BCDA, Taguig City.
Some developers have noticed this gap in housing prices between BGC and its immediate neighborhood, and have built some condominium buildings nearby, such as Cypress Towers Condominium and DMCI Homes Acacia Estate in barangay Ususan, Taguig City. Another condo development on the eastern side of C5, but closer to BGC than the ones in Ususan, is Ridgewood Towers located across McKinley Hill. However, the rent level of these condominiums is still too high for the young professionals.
Micro units for young professionals
The need for affordable housing for young professional has caught not only the attention of big developers, but also small businesses such as budget hotels in the area.
We visited three of them to show you a snapshot of what is available to young professionals working in BGC who are fed up with commuting to and from BGC.
Our Awesome Hostel, ABBA Building 3, Kalayaan Avenue Extension
Family room at Awesome Hostel. Featured photo shows a regular dormitory.
The hostel is located on the top floors of a relatively new 6-storey building along Kalayaan Avenue Extension. It provides two types of accommodation: dormitories with bunk beds and private rooms. The air-conditioned dormitories house 4 to 12 people and costs 600 to 800 pesos per night per person, inclusive of electricity and water.
The air-conditioned private rooms cost 2,000 pesos per person per night (all in), and include a TV, microwave oven and refrigerator.
The hostel currently has an equal mix of tourists and BGC workers. It is more costly than other housing that cater to workers, but it gives the residents more freedom, such as cooking is allowed. It has a gorgeous rooftop with hangout area, TV, barbecue area, and a great view of BGC.
Lakbayan Hotel, Kalayaan Avenue extension
The hotel is located in two renovated houses. Despite their age, the buildings look inviting because they are now painted with vibrant colors and decorated inside with modern style. It has a dormitory for ladies and a separate dormitory for gentlemen, as well as a small number of private rooms. In the ladies dormitories there are 24 bunk beds, and the cost per person per night is P149 with free coffee and bread in the morning. The ladies share the use of 6 showers and 4 toilets.
A private room can accommodate up to two persons for 1,199 pesos per night inclusive of water and electricity. Monthly rate is 17,000 pesos.
Currently, tenants in the hotel are an even mix of tourists and people working in BGC.
Just beds, Kalayaan Avenue
Justbeds has clean rooms and spacious shared bathroom and shower facilities
This new hotel which opened in April 2014 occupies the whole of a 7-storey building, so security for the tenants is quite good. In addition, each tenant will be given a RFID tag to access the elevator as well as his or her room. It has a floor designated for ladies, and another floor for gentlemen.
On each floor, there are about 10 to 16 small rooms. Each room is about 7 to 8 square meters and the tenant will share shower rooms and toilets with other tenants. These common facilities, however, are of a very decent design and size, unlike usual dormitory shared facilities. There are 7 spacious shower rooms and 7 toilets on each floor. For a fan cooled room, the rent is 4,500 pesos per month, while it is 5,000 for an air-conditioned room. The rent includes water but electricity is billed by individual meters.
The hotel also has private rooms for 10,000 to 12,000 pesos per month, exclusive of power and water, but includes LED TV and own comfort room. The size is about 15 square meters.
Purpose-built for young professionals
While the budget hotels cater to both tourists and people working in BGC, the micro condos built by this developer are designed specifically for young professionals working in BGC. Philippines Urban Living Solutions Incorporated is the parent company of My Town Property Management (MTPM), and the latter has built two micro condos near BGC for young professionals and is constructing three more for completion in the near future.
MTPM’s business process is to buy old or empty properties, then build and lease in central business districts to young professionals. MTPM undertook a lot of research before finalizing the design of their micro condos, so as to make sure that the micro condos contain features that are important to young professionals and have a price structure that suits a range of budgets. They interviewed over 800 business process outsourcing agents working in BGC to find out what their target customers wanted.
What they found was that, there was no single model that all young professionals want. Their prospective clients have a range of budgets and preferences. Most young professionals prefer to have their own comfort room, but many can do without club facilities such as swimming pool and gym. As a result, they provide three types of accommodation, and offer additional amenities at extra costs.
All their rooms are about 10 square meters in floor area, and each has its own comfort room and a microwave oven. One type of accommodation puts four bunk beds in one room, and the rent of each bed is 3,500 pesos per month before water and electricity. For a two-bunk bed room, each person will pay 6,000 pesos. For a room with just one queen size bed, a person occupying all of it will pay 10,000 pesos per month. They do not allow cooking in the room, or overnight stay by visitors.
Each floor has a spacious common area for tenants to lounge around and meet friends. There will also be some games tables. All buildings have CCTV cameras, security guards, free WiFi in common areas and proximity cards for access by tenants. MTPM charges around 350 per room per month for management fees.
Gym and swimming pool are available in some of their buildings and tenants can use them at extra cost.
MTPM currently plans to expand their business to become a property management company as well. They are looking for property owners of properties in or around BGC who would like to lease out their units to My Town for management.
Young professionals in McKinley Hill
A dormitory-type accommodation in McKinley Hill, Woodridge Serviced Apartments is also the official housing facility of a nearby vocational training school, Enderun Colleges. Each room costs P17,600 per month exclusive of VAT and utilities and requires a one year contract. It has rooms with 4 bunk beds for sharing also. Based on the rent of P17,600 per room, each person sharing a 4-bed room will have to pay P4,400. 2 months deposit and 2 month advances are required.
Each room has its own comfort room with shower, and cabinets. There is also common working/dining area and cooking area.
Fort Bonifacio is an attractive place to work in. But external and internal transport infrastructures are not adequate. Poor external transport infrastructure is especially costly, both for the employees and employers, thus diminishes the attractiveness of Fort Bonifacio as business center.
From our research, it can be seen that there are creative solutions to house young professionals in the outskirt of BGC in order to avoid the commuting problem. However, as more and more BPO businesses open in BGC (e.g. Uptown towers, High Street South Corporate Plaza), the supply of affordable housing even in the outskirt of BGC may run out. More concerted efforts by all stakeholders in the continued success of BGC as a premier business center will be required. Employers, for example, are already showing signs of despair. One Japanese employer has already contracted a whole micro condo by MTPM to house his employees, and another one wants to have a retainer arrangement with a budget hotel to accommodate his staff during typhoon season.
If workers cannot get to work in reasonable time and at affordable cost, employers will suffer and they will go somewhere else eventually. It would make good business sense for developers in BGC to invest in means to help workers such as in improving transport connecting BGC to population centers outside, as well as providing affordable housing near BGC. Afterall, they are the ones who are most affected by the change in the value of properties in BGC.
Sure, there will be small developers who will slowly buy up land that has become under-valued (because of the appreciation of land value in BGC) in the perimeter of BGC and build housing for professionals working in BGC. However, the rate of natural gentrification is unlikely to be fast enough to halt the deterioration in commuting experience of workers or the increase in recruitment difficulties of BGC employers. Major developers in BGC should step in in developing the peripheral of BGC if they care about the long term value of BGC.
Addresses of premises covered in the article:
Lakbayan Hotel, Kalayaan Avenue 3434 Limbo St., Makati City Tel. 0926 252 7157 https://www.lakbayanhotels.com/theforttaguig.html
Just Beds, Kalayaan Avenue, Guadalupe Nuevo, Makati, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Just-Beds/ 1389114608022559 Tel. (02) 555 0297
Our Awesome Hostel, 5756 ABBA Building 3, Kalayaan Avenue Extension, Barangay Pinagkaisahan, Fort Bonifacio Tel. (02) 804 2000
My Town Property Management, My Town Manila: Lot 3 Block 15, D.V. Laurilla Street, Barangay Pitogo, Fort Bonifacio Tel. (02) 738-8640
Woodridge Serviced Apartments, Upper McKinley Road corner McKinley Park Road, Taguig City. Contact Person : Mr. JC De Leon 0917-851-4737.
Interview summary of 4 young professionals working in BGC:
Interviewee: Rosette Adel
• 24 years old
• Lives in Malabon, with family, own house. They are 4 in the house. Shares money for groceries in the house.
• Working as a writer at philstar.com, The Infinity Tower, 26th Street for 1 month now
• Commute to work: shuttle from Malabon, then jeep to Shell Maya and jeep to The Infinity Tower; 1–2 hrs; Php 96.00
• Commute from work: (1) jeep to Ayala, then bus to North EDSA, then jeep, and tricycle to house; (2) hybrid bus, shuttle from Buendia to Malabon, and tricycle to house; 2–3 hrs; Php 105
• She spends a total of almost Php 200 a day for her fare
• Considering to work in another city because of the difficulty of commuting
• Traffic is to blame for the long hours of commute
• The longest commute experienced was 3 and a half hours; from work to house
• She won’t consider renting a place here in BGC because of the high prices
• She loves that BGC has so many places to see, but claims that they are a bit difficult to go to. She’s been to SM Aura, Fort Strip
• She has tried riding the BGC Bus West route from her building to Market! Market!
• She suggests more accessible rides in BGC, such as UV Express vans to far-flung places
Interviewee: Charmaine de Lazo
• 23 years old
• Lives in Taytay, Rizal, with family
• Working as an online creative writer at philstar.com, The Infinity Tower, 26th Street, 4 months
• Commute to work: Shuttle (FX/van) from Taytay and jeep in Buting; 1.5–2 hrs
• Commute from work: Shuttle (van) to Rosario in Market Market terminal > shuttle to Tikling/bus straight to their village; 1.5–2 hrs
• Commute is difficult
• Longest commute experience: 2 hours
• She thought of renting here in BGC but when she learned that it's too expensive and cheaper options are only exclusive to ladies or guys, she discarded the idea.
• She likes BGC because it is a good hangout and business place. The ambiance is “chill” compared with other business districts. But she said that it's not yet that accessible so the commute is really difficult.
• She has experienced going to events in Seda, Shingetsu, and SM Aura cinema
• She spends a total of Php 120 per day for fare
• She has never tried riding the BGC Bus
• She decided to work in BGC because she likes the environment, and she thinks that her job is worth the commute.
• But she is considering to work in another city because of the difficulty in commuting
• For the improvement of commuting and working in BGC, she hopes that there would be more terminals for public transportation and more routes available. And also, she would want the community to not be too upscale so more people can enjoy and even live in BGC
• If she’d rent a place here in BGC, she would be contented with the more basic amenities. Actually, just the necessities like water and electricity. It doesn’t have to have recreational amenities and not too upscale.
• She is comfortable to spend Php 5,000 and below, type of residence is less of a concern. She is more concerned of the price
Interviewee: Marie Angeline Pagulayan
• 23 years old
• Lives in Cainta, Rizal, with mother
• Works as communications officer for General Electric Philippines, 4 months
• Commute to work: jeep to Junction, FX to Kalayaan, then walk to Net Cube Bldg; 1–2.5 hrs
• Commute from work: reverse; 2–3 hrs
• She spends a total of Php 100 a day for her fare
• Longest commute: 3 hrs
• Commute is very difficult because it is draining. The time she spends commuting is very “unproductive.” Instead of just resting or working, she has to wait a long time to get to work or go home.
• She has considered renting a place in BGC, but since it’s just her and her mom living together, she decided against it and stayed with her mom. She is also hesitant because spaces within BGC are costly.
• She thinks that BGC is a lot like Singapore because it is very organized, not as polluted as other parts of Manila, she admires the BGC Bus and its organized system, she praises the discipline of the people and vehicle drivers, and she loves that there are many hangout places and restaurants.
• She tried riding the BGC Bus from Market! Market! to Net Cube. She liked the system of the tap card because it is time efficient. But like the other interviewees, her sentiment is that there are a lot of people.
• She’d want to have more BGC Buses to accommodate more people. But then, she said that it might cause traffic. Or companies might consider offering free shuttle rides.
• She decided to work in BGC because many international and multinational companies are here.
• She has plans to move from Cainta to another city because their place gets easily flooded.
• For now, she thinks that she can still handle her commute, even though it is difficult.
• If she were to rent a place in BGC, she’d prefer that it has tight security, WiFi, inside BGC or outskirts.
• She’s willing to spend Php 10,000 and below if it is worth the investment, all in, and if she has a roommate.
Interviewee: Jenny O. Aguila
• 22 years old
• Lives in San Jose, Batangas, with family
• Rents a room in South Cembo, Makati, with 2 friends and 1 sibling, 15-min walk to work
• Works as admin assistant in the Radiology Department of St. Luke’s Global City for almost 2 years, no savings yet because what she earns is just enough to make ends meet.
• She decided to rent to save money and time. She feels that she’s safer when she’s not commuting and just staying near the workplace.
• The boarding house rate is Php 6,000 divided by 4 = Php 1,500. Plus electricity = Php 1,000 divided by 4 = 250. Water is free.
• Cooking is not allowed in their boarding house because the house is made of light materials. They just buy ready-made food near their boarding house. They also have a rice cooker.
• It’s a compound with a big house divided into 4 rooms with 1 restroom, a small living room, and 1 kitchen each. Maximum of 4 persons in 1 room.
• She was very excited to work here in BGC because it is a whole new environment compared with the one she got used to in the province. She realized that she’d prefer to work in the province because she’s in the comfort of her family and she’d be able to save more.
• Take home salary = Php 15,000. She gives her parents Php 4,000 every month. Rent + food = Php 1,800 + Php 3,000. Fare to Batangas and back to the city for 4 weekends = Php 1,200
• So far, she is enjoying her time here in BGC because there are many places to see, bars, concerts, food festivals, etc. Also, she appreciates the beauty and maintenance of BGC.
• She has experienced riding the BGC Bus and jeepneys during her first day at work and when she had her internship in St. Luke’s.
• She said that the BGC Bus is well-maintained but there are so many people during rush hours.
• She is satisfied of the transportation inside BGC to maintain safety and order.