Philippine properties: Worth investing in? PLUS! Win a trip for 2 to Manila!

Foreign Property Investment Special: The Philippines Edition

WIN! “6-star treatment” 3D/2N trip to Manila for 2! (For the first 2 pairs of lucky investors only)

Nope, this is not Singapore or Hong Kong's skyline. Welcome to the glitzy side of Manila!
Nope, this is not Singapore or Hong Kong’s skyline. Welcome to the glitzy side of Manila

Avid readers of my property column in Home & Decor magazine will know that I do a series on foreign property investment every year. Why? Because of the high demand.

In recent years, thanks to the ever tightening regulations imposed by the Singapore government that make it tougher to invest in multiple properties here, I’ve noticed a growing trend of Singaporeans investing overseas in destinations ranging from our closest neighbour Malaysia to traditional favourites like Australia and the UK, and up-and-coming hotspots like the Philippines.

While researching on Manila for my July 2014 column in Home & Decor, I was surprised at how it has clawed its way up the world stage of property investment. So many articles about rich asians now buying properties in Manila, like this one. Click to read.

manila property news
One of the many news reports I researched while writing my July 2014 property column in Home & Decor mag.

Check out Manila’s street cred with the property movers and shakers:

  • Manila ranks #4 in a survey conducted with international real estate professionals on different cities’ investment prospects by the Urban Land Institute (ULI; a nonprofit research and education organization) and global consultancy firm PwC), behind Tokyo, Shanghai and Jakarta, respectively. Singapore was listed No 7 and Sydney, No 5.


  • In another study on ‘Emerging Cities Outlook’, Chicago-based global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney predicted that in the next decade or two, Manila and Jakarta will overtake today’s global cities like New York, London and Paris and attract more business from global companies.

When did Manila become the next big thing? Suddenly, I noticed noticing mentions of Manila everywhere. Condo launches at hotels, an uber hip “Manila: The Night is Restless, The Day is Scornful” art exhibition featuring hot Filipino artists that I was invited to (currently showing at Arndt Singapore art gallery at Gillman Barracks till 7 September), friends around me who have invested in Manila properties……

Colourful but blush-worthy art.
We spent many fun minutes examining this cute ‘car’ powered by a wheelchair!

Uber hip artwork at the 'Manila' exhibition, now showing at Arndt Singapore gallery, Gillman Barracks
Uber hip artwork at the ‘Maynila’ exhibition, now showing at Arndt Singapore gallery, Gillman Barracks


My Home & Decor editor’s friend invested in an apartment, leasing it out for several years before selling it for a tidy profit. An old friend’s mum, who made a pile from her private apartment’s en-bloc sale, bought a condo unit for EACH (!) of her four kids, including my lucky friend. The whole family plans to retire in style there, attracted by the low standard of living and “Orchard Road-like” amenities in their upmarket project. Another Singporean friend jumped in early in the game and bought a luxury apartment several years ago for just S$200,000. He, too, intends to hold on to his property and retire there someday.

Most impressively, my veteran investor friend, Bobby Kok, reveals that he has been buying and flipping high-end properties in the Philippines, making a pretty peso along the way. Bobby, an executive director of SLP Scotia who has been marketing foreign properties for years, regularly contributes his expert views in Home & Decor.

He confirms my suspicion: an increasing number of Singaporeans and Singapore-based expats are indeed putting their money on the Philippines. “Singaporean investors are very savvy and they know where to look for the next best investment. And the Philippines has become one of the hottest destinations for real estate investments due to its low prices and high returns,” observes Bobby.

Low prices and high returns? Now THAT got my attention. Like most Singaporeans, my $$ is sitting in the bank making such meagre interest, I’m better off tucking it under my pillow. The maximum interest most of us get is 4% in our CPF’s Special and Medisave account. Bobby’s clients are getting 8% to 10% rental yield in Manila. “Buyers also like the high and steady capital appreciation which has been growing steadily at 10% per annum over the past the years,” says Bobby, who still holds some units which he intends to sell at a higher profit later or to keep for rental yield.

I started researching seriously, with half a mind to invest in a unit too. So far, what caught my eye most is Proscenium at Rockwell.

Nope, this is not Singapore's Marina Bay -- it's the swanky new Proscenium condo and office block at Manila's Makati City.
Proscenium, which boasts sleek glass and metal buildings that remind us of The Sail at Marina Bay and Reflections at Keppel Bay, enjoys a nice river view in the central business district of Makati City. The swanky new project has 4 residential towers, an office block, a performing arts theatre and a new mall with fine dining options.


This high-end project at swanky Makati City is part of the Rockwell Center, a 15.5 hectare master planned community developed and managed by Rockwell Land Corporation. A big name in the Philippine real estate industry owned by the uber rich Lopez family, who also owned the former power plant located here which has since shifted to less prime land to make way for Rockwell Center.

“City Within A City”

Located in the heart of Makati City (their Central Business District), Rockwell City, known to locals as “a city within a city”, is a mixed use development of swanky condominium blocks, offices and a high-end shopping mall called Power Plant Mall (it was built on a former power plant site owned by the Lopez family).

Power Plant Mall and all its shopping beckons
Power Plant Mall and all its shopping beckons!

The target audience is rich locals — we hear many famous local celebs live here — and a cosmopolitan expat community. Because Rockwell Center is home to many big multi-national corporations like Nestle, there is a huge demand for rental units from the expats working in Manila. Bobby says there’s always a waiting list and rental and capital yield remains high even for Rockwell Center’s earlier projects, which are 15 years old.

The upcoming Proscenium, when fully completed by 2019, will have 4 blocks of luxurious apartments – Kirov, Sakura, Lincoln and Lorraine. I like the ultra modern façade by Carlos Ott, an award-winning Uruguayan-born architect who has designed distinctive buildings from Shanghai to Toronto.

I love lots of space and I’m also attracted to their sprawling landscaping at their outdoor Amenity Deck, with several swimming pools, grand lawn, outdoor court and even a splash pad to a floating river. Indoors facilities include the usual gym, function rooms etc and interestingly, also a library and day care facilities for kids.

Gorgeous sprawling Outdoor Amenities Deck at Proscenium.
Gorgeous sprawling Outdoor Amenities Deck at Proscenium.

Next to these beautiful homes is a brand new, state-of-the-art Proscenium’s Performing Arts Theatre – imagining catching your favourite international act’s concert just minutes away from home. Kinda like our Star Vista? – and a new office block. There’s also another new mall with high-end brands and fine dining restaurants.

I guess in Singapore’s context, this probably feels like living at Orchard Ion but with the Esplanade Theatre at your door step. Nice.

Manila's finest and newest performing arts theatre at the upcoming Proscenium, which also boasts retail spaces and upmarket dining
Manila’s finest and newest performing arts theatre at the upcoming Proscenium, which also boasts retail spaces and upmarket dining

Orchard Road-style luxury at a fraction of the price

I was eyeing a one-bedroom apartment of 59sq m (about 635sq ft) that costs about S$360,000 or an 89sq m (958sq ft) for about S$530,000 at the Lorraine block, which will be linked to Power Plant mall by a bridge. Prices aren’t dirt cheap but are still much lower than a similarly sized apartment in Singapore’s Orchard Road or Marina Bay area, with high-end fittings like rain showers and natural quartz kitchen counter tops. In fact, Singaporeans already pay at least double that just for an entry-level condo in Punggol or Jurong West.

Elegant living and dining room
Elegant living and dining room
Chic kitchen with quality fittings
Chic kitchen with quality fittings
A beautifully appointed bedroom in the new Proscenium residential blocks


So yes, I can see why my friend’s mum feels it’s a good idea to move the whole family over someday — luxury living at a fraction of Singapore’s prices.

It all sounds good but frankly, I doubt I will move to Manila. So, I asked Bobby if it’ll be easy to sell off. He lets on that the current demand for luxury condos is very high from both expats AND locals (all condominium projects in the Philippines must be at least 60% owned by locals — that means Rockwell Center’s condos are majority owned by rich locals), partly due to the low supply. Savvy investors are flipping them within weeks and making a tidy profit.

I was tempted but still hesitant. The day after I said ‘no’ to the one-bedder, another Singaporean investor snapped it up. “If you’d bought it earlier, you could have flipped it and resold it to her the very next day for a profit,” sighed Bobby, who is so bullish about Manila’s prospects, he describes it as the next Singapore.

Living it up in Rockwell Center, like a boss.
Living it up in Rockwell Center, like a boss.

Judging from these photos that Bobby shared with me, oh boy…… he sure is living the good life in Rockwell Center.

Spotted: A loooong trail of fancy cars at Rockwell Center!
Spotted: A loooong trail of fancy cars at Rockwell Center


Smoked Salmon rose. Yums.
A chic cafe I can see myself hanging out in, with a good cup of coffee.

Manila's hip and rich frequent the many restaurants at Rockwell Center's Power Plant Mall.
Manila’s hip and rich frequent the many restaurants at Rockwell Center’s Power Plant Mall.


STELLAR Readers Exclusive!

WIN! “6-star Treatment” 3D/2N trip to Manila!

I’m planning a trip to Manila to check out Rockwell Center first. But YOU may just get your a 3D/2N trip free!Bobby, who is both investing in and marketing Rockwell Center’s new Proscenium apartments, is sponsoring 2 lucky pairs of investors. Just follow this simple guide:

1. Call Bobby Kok, executive director of SLP Scotia, for an appointment to find out more about investment opportunities in Proscenium, Rockwell Center. Tel: +65 9383 0803 or email him at Make sure you tell him you’re a reader of to qualify for this STELLAR Readers Exclusive.

2. Like what you see? The first 2 investors who confirm their purchase of a Proscenium unit will get a 3D/2N trip to Manila for you and a friend! Each prize includes: return airfare for 2 people, airport transfers and 6-star treatment at luxurious accommodations, with breakfast. Beautiful people-watching and bragging rights to feeling like a millionaire are included, free of charge.

Happy investing and may the investment odds be ever in your favour!


* All photos courtesy of Rockwell Center, Bobby Kok and Stella Thng.

* All opinions and trend analysis are copyrights of Stella Thng, using information researched online and provided by Rockwell Centre.




One Comment

  1. Adolphus Lee said:

    Finally I read your article, but I am too much late.
    If there is any such in the future, please mail me too.

    April 22, 2016

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