The boarder’s basic checklist for surviving in Metro Manila

Not all houses are created equal, and this is especially noticeable if you live in a developing country. Although organizational tips from Pinterest will give you lists of things you will need as a college student or a young professional who is boarding – aka living in someone else’s house ala shabby chic – these are not applicable in Metro Manila. Very few lists are applicable in this city, because here we are proud of our ability to adapt to any crazy situation, most of which we never expected in the first place.

In any case, here is a list of items that will serve you well if you are only starting out in the Philippine capital. Note: This list is only applicable if you are living like most of the people in this city, and not living comfortably in high-rise condominiums or air conditioned dormitories.

1. Mug with cover
Whether you like it or not, there will be mice, cockroaches, and other little unmentionables twittering about in your room at night. To avoid leptospirosis, make sure your mug is covered all the time. You may use tumblers instead, but those develop a strange smell after a while. If you’re a sucker for cute items, Japan Home has a wide and affordable selection of mugs with covers. Note: Do not leave utensils out in the open, especially at night.
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2. A small or medium-sized bowl, with at least one pair of utensils
There will be times when you will not want to go out because it is a crazy world out there. For moments like these, you will need to survive in your room with only instant noodles and oatmeal. Instant noodles are infinitely less expensive than cup noodles, so you may want to stock up on these. Just don’t eat too much of these too often because the MSG will kill you.
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3. Airtight food container
In connection with 2, you will need food for moments when you either: a) have no money to eat out, even if it’s just in the karinderia nearby; or, b) do not want to go out because it’s either hellish-hot or Signal #5. Make sure your food container is airtight in lieu of the little creatures discussed in item 1. It would be wise to stock up on the following: instant noodles, oatmeal, energy drinks in sachets, coffee, bread. Other people stock up on canned goods.
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4. Dishwashing paste
This is for all your utensils and plates. Although it’s said to be less hygienic than dishwashing liquid in bottles, dishwashing paste has the advantage of coming in those flat containers that also store sponges inside.
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5. Water heater
This is for food and drinks that need hot water, e.g. noodles, oatmeal, coffee, etc. It would be wise to invest in a good brand, because a reliable water heater can be your best friend during typhoons or all-nighters. A water heater that is too large or too small is wasteful. Buy one that is good for 1L.
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6. Electric fan
Shabby chic knows no air conditioning. If you’ve lived long enough in the Philippines, you will understand why this is necessary. Summers can be hell on earth – this is not an exaggeration. You can also use this to ward off mosquitoes at night.
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7. Candle
Your boarding house may suffer blackouts. Use a candle for emergency situations such as this.

Life hack: Candle wax is also useful for scraping burnt material off flat irons. Let the wax drip over the part of the iron that has burnt material. Once the wax dries, scrape the wax off with something like a knife or a pair of scissors.
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8. Emergency light or study lamp
We say this again, because it is important: Your boarding house may suffer blackouts. If you’re willing to invest in an emergency light or a study lamp, it will come in handy during your most desperate moments.

Life hack: This is also useful for luring gamo-gamo away when they crowd your room before it rains. Hang the light over a pail half-filled with water and watch the gamo-gamo fly towards the light and drown in the pail. Once the gamo-gamo have all drowned, turn the light off and flush the water in the pail. This is very useful in the summer, during those strange nights when it rains despite the heat.
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9. Hangers
If you’re living in a house without space for you to hang your clothes in, expect to hang them in strategic areas around your room. If you’re sleeping in the bottom bunk of a double deck, the metal bars supporting the top bunk will serve as good makeshift poles for hangers. Do not invest in expensive hangers. There is no point. Also, buy at least two hangers with clips for your underclothes.
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10. A laundry bag
There are a lot of laundry shops in Metro Manila. PhP20/kilo is not a bad deal, although for a rush (overnight) job of laundry and press PhP24/kilo is acceptable. You will need a laundry bag that can store around 2 to 4 kilos of laundry. Note: Some laundry shops require a minimum laundry load, because anything under that will be wasteful to their business in terms of water, detergent, and fabric conditioner. The common minimum is 2 kilos.
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11. A broom with a dustpan
Make sure your broom is sturdy. Try not to buy brooms that are too big, because in small spaces they will not be of much help. Instead, make sure that your broom can deal with the hard-to-reach corners of your room.
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12. A pail and a basin
This is for your laundry. For your light laundry such as undergarments and sensitive shirts, you will probably only need 1 pail and 1 basin. A 2nd pail or basin is optional.
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13. Detergent
Invest in good detergent because it can help you maximize your time. As much as possible, don’t settle for cheap brands that don’t provide good quality. You will end up wasting your time scrubbing stains fruitlessly when, if you had used a stronger detergent, you could have gotten rid of stains more effortlessly. By the way, Ariel and Breeze work. Soak your clothes overnight if they’re particularly stained.
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14. Shower caddy and toiletries
The ideal shower caddy should not be longer than 10 inches. Get one with a good handle and lots of holes – under and at the sides. Ideas for things to put in your shower caddy include: shampoo, conditioner, soap bar, etc. Remember: Sachets are not good for the environment. In the long-run, it’s also more cost-effective to buy bigger shampoo and conditioner bottles.
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15. 2 towels
Avoid white towels. Avoid bulky towels.
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16. 2 sets of bed sheets
Avoid white bed sheets. Avoid bulky bed sheets. Get bed sheets in cotton. Don’t forget to match your bed with the size of the bed sheets. Most probably you will need single-sized ones.
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17. Trash can
You can’t throw your trash every day. Make sure your trash can is capable of storing the volume of trash that is proportional to your motivation to keep your room clean. Don’t buy an expensive metallic trash – it will rust, and a plastic one is perfectly serviceable anyway. Don’t get a trash can with a cover. Believe me, your trash will still overflow. Get small black biodegradable trash bags to cover your trash can with for easier cleaning, or you can opt to reuse plastic grocery bags instead.
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18. Bug spray
This is a must if you’re sensitive to the little insects that fly around in your room to add drama to your life.
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19. Extension cord: at least three sockets
When maximized, an extension cord with three sockets can be used comfortably by two people. This cord will most likely be used to power the ff: electric fan, laptop, mobile phone. If you have a roommate, you might want to consider sharing an extension cord, because octopus connections are fire hazards. Note: You will not need a high-tech extension cord with switches and the works.
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20. Scissors
I can’t tell exactly what it’s for, but you’re definitely going to need this. Buy a medium-sized one that is easy enough to store, but not small enough to break apart when you’re, say, scraping burnt cloth off a flat iron.
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I hope these tips help you!

Photo (c) Google images.

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