A vibrant melting pot of cultures and creativity 

At BORN, we’re partial to cities that are melting pots. That’s why we’re headquartered in New York and have offices in places such as London and Singapore. It’s also why we’re delighted to announce BORN’s expansion in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region to the Philippines, with a new office in the country’s capital.

To be more specific, Metro Manila. Metropolitan Manila comprises 16 cities including the city of Manila, Quezon City, Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, San Juan, Taguig, and Valenzuela, as well as the municipality of Pateros.

You can tell from that salad of names that this was and is a melting pot of cultures – in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a city that is more of a melting pot in Asia than Manila. Filipinos trace ancestry to seafarers who came on boats from Taiwan and intermingled with the indigenous people. Centuries of colonization by Spain and nearly five decades by the United States before independence in 1946 has left it a vibrant, forward-looking mix of people and the only Catholic majority country in Asia. The historic, walled city of Intramuros (‘inside the walls’) is the heart of old Manila, but the rest of the capital region abounds in a mix of colonial-era architecture rubbing shoulders with modern steel-and-glass buildings.

BORN’s office is located in District III of Quezon City – or QC, referred to in local parlance as Kyusi – the most populous city in the country with a population of nearly three million. The city of Manila itself was the world’s most densely populated city at 73,920 people per square kilometer1, twice that of New York City. The Philippines has a very young population too, with a median age of 25.7 years2. The US, by comparison, has a median age of 37.8 years. 12% of the country’s 109 million people live in the capital region.

Quezon City is named after the country’s second President, Manuel Luis Quezon. He decided that the country needed a new capital since Manila was getting crowded, and it’s position on the bay made it more vulnerable to attack. 25,000 hectares of barangays (wards) bordering Manila’s northeastern side were turned into a city by decree in 1948, and QC is now the largest city in Metro Manila in terms of land area.

Like many multinationals, BORN is setting up shop in the Philippines to take advantage of its creative and tech talent as well an English-speaking population. Quezon City is in fact home to two of the top universities in the Philippines, the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman and the private Ateneo de Manila, both of which situated are situated near the new offices.

While most of the past presidents of the Philippines have come from either of these universities, the Ateneo is also alma mater to artists, writers and businessmen such as actress and Broadway star Lea Salonga and Andrés Soriano. Soriano founded Philippines Airlines and is best known for growing the original San Miguel Brewery into the San Miguel corporation, which today is the largest employer in the Philippines, and whose flagship San Miguel beer is one of the world’s best-selling beers.

Also known as the City of the Stars, QC is also home to the culture, media and entertainment industries, not to mention sports. The Araneta coliseum – belonging to the Araneta group, founded by real estate magnate Jorge Leon Araneta, also a UP alumnus – in Cubao is known around the world for the ’Thrilla in Manila’, the famed boxing match between Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier that took place in 1975. In more recent times, however, Filipinos were more likely to have been following homegrown boxing star Manny Pacquiao.

As the commercial heart of QC, Cubao is also where Tony Tan Caktiong founded the first Jollibee outlet in 1978. Jollibee now has over 1200 outlets around the world serving its signature Chickenjoy, Yumburger and spaghetti, and is one of the Asian fast food brands that truly has global name recognition.

We at BORN are also rejoicing together with Manileños about Maria Ressa becoming the first Nobel Laureate from the Philippines. Ressa – an alumnus of UP Diliman – is the founder and CEO of the independent online news site Rappler, based in nearby Pasig.

The full range of Filipino ingenuity is evident in the helpful and friendly Manileño’s main modes of transportation. You can’t miss the jeepney, the brightly-colored crosses between a jeep and a bus, in which passengers sit cheek by jowl. Else, they can hop onto a motorized tricycle or a pedicab driven by pedal power, or even a habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) on their way to get their favorite dessert halo-halo – yes, syllable repeating is a thing in Tagalog that it shares with the Malay family of languages. The city is pushing though for e-vehicles in a bid to reduce congestion and pollution.

The Philippines has always had its fair share of innovators, ranging from paediatrician Fe del Mundo who invented a bamboo incubator for premature babies, nurse Maria Orosa who came up banana ketchup as well as a low cost nutritional drink made from soybeans called Soyalac, to scientists Dr Abelardo Aguilar who sent soil samples from his backyard that resulted in the isolation of the antibiotic erythromycin, and Ramon Barba who synthesized a chemical spray called Etherel that took away the seasonal aspect of mango flowering and enabled the country to grow into a mango production powerhouse. There is even a Filipino connection to PC development: Dado Banatao developed the first single chip 16-bit microprocessor-based calculator in the 1970s. In 1981, he created the world’s first system logic chip sets that allowed the integration of all a computer’s essential data processing features onto a small package, as well as the first Windows Graphics accelerator chips for PCs3.

These days, the Philippines has a burgeoning tech and startup scene centered around the QBO Innovation Hub in Makati City. Founders are coming up with new ideas every day to cater to the needs of a local population slated to hit 145 million in 2050, a massive diaspora and one of the most internet literate and social-media savvy people in the world.

Contact the BORN Manila office here.

Footnotes

  1. Metro Manila population density reaches 21,765 persons per square kilometer, 14 July 2021, https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/07/14/metro-manila-population-density-reaches-21765-persons-per-square-kilometer/
  2. Median age of the population in the Philippines 2015, https://www.statista.com/statistics/578796/average-age-of-the-population-in-philippines/
  3. 5 Remarkable Things Invented By Filipinos, Flip Science, 26 June 2018, https://www.flipscience.ph/technology/5-filipino-inventions/