Summary: Expats seem to unanimously agree that the best thing about living in the Philippines is the Filipino people. The cost of living is another thing to love. Expats share their tips and experiences living in The Philippines.
How The Filipino People
“The best thing about the Philippines is the people. I have never encountered a more optimistic group in all my life. They help one another when they are in trouble. Families are close. For the most part, the people are not driven by what brands they wear or type of car they drive (though sadly there are signs that this is starting to slowly change in the metro areas),” said one expat living in Alabang.
“The Filipinos are such a happy, family-oriented culture and I cannot believe how friendly our neighbors are. I have never experienced anything like this friendship in my 80 years living in USA. Americans are too busy and self-centered to even notice a newcomer until they really get to know him,”
” I learned in quick order that Philippinos are the nicest, most caring, gentlest people in the world. They are not what movies, books and the news would have you believe. The relationships I built will last a lifetime. I feel that I am part of a large family in the Philippines,” said another expat.
Philippines Culture Shock
“They will openly comment on your appearance in ways that Americans won’t. (Wow, you’re fat! You’re SO tall! Your feet are HUGE!) This will sometimes be accompanied with pokes or pinches. This is all observational.
Nothing mean is meant by it, despite how we’ve been conditioned to hear it. As a parent, the other thing that has been very hard to get used to is that women I’ve never seen before will touch my children. There is still a belief here among some that what a mother sees or touches while she’s pregnant will affect the looks of her unborn child. The Philippines is a country that, right or wrong, aesthetically prizes light skin and European noses, so it’s not uncommon for young women to come up to my children when we are out and about and just start stroking their cheeks.
Sometimes you also come across older ladies who just like to stroke and pet cute little kids, no matter what their race, and feel free to do so. My kids are used to it now, but I still have to control the urge to tell these women to step back and keep their hands to themselves. Nothing untoward is meant by it, and it’s actually a complement; they are saying they think my kids are cute. So, thanks for that? I just bite my tongue and move us along as soon as we can,” said one expat.
“I am a student of European languages but Tagalog is so different in structure and vocabulary that I have given up trying to learn it. However, much of Tagalog is from the Spanish which I know and so many, many English words and whole phrases are thrown into conversations that I can usually grasp what the subject is at least. Also filipinos are emotive and watching them while they talk helps too,” said one retiree in Manila.
“In the Philippines, English is one of the official languages. The other is Tagalog (sometimes referred to as Filipino). There are also many regional dialects. It’s well worth learning a little Tagalog not that it’s necessary to use it all day every day, but, as always, it’s polite to your hosts,” advised one expat.
“My husband speaks Tagalog fluently. When I’m in the city, almost everyone is able to speak English well enough for us to understand each other. I’ve picked up about 100 words of Tagalog, but I’m really bad with languages and I only regularly hear it spoken once a week, so my progress has been slow. We’ve been here three years, and just committed to 5 more, so I’m biting the bullet and taking formal lessons in Tagalog in the new year,” explained another expat.
Foreigners Cannot Own Land in The Philippines
“Be advised that foreigners are not allowed to own property in the Philippines. You can buy a condo, but someone else owns the land and you are at their mercy in that type of sale. If one of you are Philippino then you can buy a place in the Philippino name,” advised one expat.
” I had a Filipina wife so we purchased our home about 10 years ago. Homes were extremely inexpensive back then due to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. I bought everything for under $30,000 US and spent maybe $5000 more on improving the bathrooms and kitchen. Additionally I bought a few window type air conditioners as it does get rather hot there. One thing to be aware of, electricty is not cheap there and running a single air conditiong unit can increase your electric bill by $100. My wife died a few years later and I now own the property myself. Be aware, that is the only way a “foreigner” can actually own land in the Philippines,” explained another expat.
“For about $800 a year I send my daughter to a very good private school there and after her first year she spoke and could read and write English almost as good as I. I was truly amazed at how well she was educated. Six years old and she could read almost anything. Her writing lags behind her reading somewhat but she certainly can read quickly and her pronunciation is excellent. It’s mostly at university level where the schools tend to fall off,” commented one expat living in Angeles City.
Expats have reviewed numerous schools in The Philippines including International School Manila, British School Manila, Leaders Christian International School in Makati and others.
A Sad Aspect of Life in The Philippines
One expat living in Angeles City advised, “I would tell a person considering a move to the Philippines and up to Clark to pay close attention during the look-see trip. If you are going to be assigned to this area, go out on Field’s Avenue and experience the life there. It is not something that everyone can come to terms with. Seeing young girls clad in a string bikini with a number tag pinned to her bikini bottom can be a horrifying experience.
I only entered one of those places two times during my 2.5 years in the Philippines. It pains me to know that people have to live like that to put rice on the table. It is their choice though, so I make no judgements. It is just something that makes you scratch your head and wonder what will become of the world in our lifetime?”
“Call centers, English institutes, esp. in Metro Manila, Baguio, and Cebu. There are tons of opportunities available, depending on your expertise. Most people find jobs or work thru making contacts with friends, relatives, co-workers, or (my preference) just approaching people and introducing yourself as wanting to work or do business,” explained one expat working in Manila.
In her article, Retiring and Living in the Philippines for expats, non-expats and returning Filipinos, Pinay Mentor says “There are a lot of wonderful places to retire in the Philippines. It will all depend on your preferences. I personally prefer cooler places like Tagaytay, Laguna, Batangas and Cavite. Although Baguio is the coldest place, it is way too far up to the mountains. Luzon is quite a big place from North to South. I prefer the Southern area because it is cooler and less hit by typhoons with higher elevations.
Visayas is really hot, but surrounded by beaches and less expensive than Metro Manila areas. Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Leyte are some of the favorites. Mindanao is quite a wonderful place as well. There are a lot of what I can call virgin islands here. Never been commercialized. There are 10% muslims in the Philippines and most of them live out here in Mindanao. Davao, Malaybalay, Iligan, Misamis are some of the great ones that I personally been to. They are all wonderful places to visit specially if you love snorkling. DId I forget Palawan? One great place to visit too!”
“I have lived for 25 years in Davao City and I must say it is the best place to retire. The place is accessible to domestic and international routes, with a state of the art international airport. Beach facilities is available in less than an hour, with virgin areas, clean and food that is truly affordable and fresh. The medical facilities and expertise of doctors are at par with that of Manila. All specialities of health are available, as well as good areas of interventions. Cost is definitely much lower than that of Manila.
My recent travel made me aware of high end facilities now present, Malls in Manila are in Davao City, stores in Manila are also there, restaurants are both high end and affordable. With a good local governance, peace and order and cleanliness has been maintained in the place. NOt necessarily spared of crime, it is definitely a safer place than a lot of urban places in the Philippines, thanks to good leadership.
Since Mindanao is a connected place being one island, Davao City is accessible via land transfer s to neighboring places, where tourism is high, nature is awesome, cost is a surprise. Retiring in Davao City Philippines is surely a thing I most recommend,” advised one expat in Davao City.
“My favorite beachy place to go so far that hasn’t been overrun with tourists is Baler, on the Pacific side, about 4-6 hours north of Manila. It is still a small town, but there is a small downtown area, a large wet market, a good amount of public transport, a hospital, etc. There is a bus terminal at the wet market where you can get transport into Manila on some fairly comfortable, air conditioned buses. There is a beachy/bar scene, but it all seemed to be in one area of town. We’re not here as retired people, but if we are still here when we retire, Baler is the sort of place I’d like to land,” said one expat.
“Make sure that you have some savings so that you can live on your own without a job, or without relying on someone for at least a year. A budget of $1000 a month will be a good start, depending on your lifestyle and area where you want to live,” said Pinay Mentor in her article,Retiring and Living in the Philippines for expats, non-expats and returning Filipinos.
“Standard of living in the Philippines depends on the location where you want to stay. If you go to the countryside, $1,000.00 could give you and your wife a comfortable life. Internet, TV all in. Again, you have to find out where you want to stay,” explained another expat.
“For 1200 US a month you can live like a king by local standards. The key is location and your level of comfort. If you need Western comforts (and most expats do) a good place to begin may be Makati, subletting a condo (Filipino owned, never off of another expat due to the income differentials).
An example, I live primarily on Mindanao but sublet an unfurnished studio in one of Makati’s finest buildings (Rada Regency) and pay 210 US a month plus electricity and cable/broadband. If I ate in and lived decently I could live extremely well for 800 US a month including an active social life. If you flock to expat colonies, like subdivisions in and around Angeles, Baguio or Cebu you will pay more, sometimes significantly more,” described another expat.
“Asian hospital has one of the best heart specialists in the country who also goes back and forth to Washington DC where he does heart surgeries. Our Philippine Heart Center is way north in Quezon City and most of the time, people even from all over the Philippines will opt to go there because they have more specialists. Alabang, Muntinlupa CIty where Asian hospital is not too busy compared to places if you go to Makati northbound. Southbound, like Laguna are Cavite are right outside Muntinlupa city and more laid back, secure and both have International schools.
If you prefer cooler climate, go further a little bit towards Tagaytay, they have Tagaytay hospital, about two hours away from Alabang. Next to Metro Manila will be Cebu where they have great hospitals like Cebu Doctors hospital and they have international airport and the island is not that big. You can be in a laid back place which can be 30 minutes away from the city or at least an hour away,” said one expat.
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