Top Ten Tips on Moving to the Philippines

20 Best Places to Live in the Philippines

Opinions? Everyone has one. Here's a list of my "Top Ten Tips" on moving to the Philippines and advice for when you arrive. Feel free to add your own gems of wisdom. It's always helpful to get other points of view because,  despite my asawa's belief  when we first got married that I knew just about everything, she has since found out differently. Here's my list:

  1. PAY OFF ALL YOUR DEBTS BEFORE YOU MOVE.
  2. HAVE A GUARANTEED SOURCE OF LEGAL INCOME.
  3. SHIP WHATEVER YOU CAN BEFOREHAND IN BALIKBAYAN BOXES.
  4. DO NOT LIVE NEAR ANY RELATIVES.
  5. DO NOT GIVE ANY MONEY TO THE FIRST CUTE FILIPINA THAT YOU FALL IN LOVE (OR LUST) WITH.
  6. USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: JEEPNEYS, TRICYCLES, AND PEDICABS.
  7. IF YOU'RE MARRIED TO A FILIPINA, GET A PERMANENT RESIDENT VISA.
  8. PLAN ON YOUR BUDGET BEING BIGGER THAN WHAT YOU ORIGINALLY THOUGHT.
  9. BE PREPARED TO SWEAT PROFUSELY.
  10. GET RID OF YOUR WATCH.

 

1. PAY OFF ALL YOUR DEBTS BEFORE YOU MOVE.

If you're planning to live on a fixed monthly income such as my wife and I do, having no credit card payments to make or other types of extra bills makes living within our budget much easier. It personally doesn't matter to me how you do it, whether it be by planning years ahead of your scheduled move and getting rid of any credit card debt or even filing bankruptcy if you have to.  I would, however, not recommend holding up 7-Eleven stores or banks.

We had a $1,000 a month mortgage payment on our home in Central Illinois but managed to sell it in May 2009 before the housing market crashed. But we offered some big incentives to sweeten the deal: a 32-inch TV we had mounted on our master bedroom wall, and a 60-inch Sony HD TV. We also included a washer, dryer, stainless steel electric stove, stainless steel refrigerator and bought a new dishwasher before we "staged" our home. We were big fans of HGTV and got a lot of great tips by watching their programs. Getting rid of our mortgage payment was one big hurdle that we crossed before moving to the Philippines.

2. HAVE A GUARANTEED SOURCE OF INCOME.

My asawa and I receive a FIXED monthly amount from what is called a T-72 account which was funded by a lump sum payment I received after almost 30 years with AT&T. The amount we receive, less than 1,150 US Dollars a month,  is set for five years. We have less than three years to go on it before I can draw any additional funds without incurring a huge tax bite.

We HOPE to receive my Social Security benefits in about another two years. That will more than double our monthly income, and we'll be living large in the Philippines. We live comfortably now but do not have an extravagant lifestyle by any means.

PLEASE DO NOT ASSUME THAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO MOVE TO THE PHILIPPINES AND FIND A JOB EVEN IF YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC SKILL, SUCH AS A CARPENTER, PLUMBER, ETC.

Our local carpenters make around six US Dollars a DAY. Not hour. A Day. Laborers make even less.

Maybe you plan to open a business. Good luck on getting through the "red tape" and be prepared to make generous donations to everyone down the line on obtaining said permits.

I personally would never have moved to the Philippines without our guaranteed monthly source of income. I'm not that much of a risk taker. While it is not impossible to find a job or open a business, please do not move to the Philippines with unrealistic expectations concerning earning an income here.

 

3. SHIP WHATEVER YOU CAN BEFOREHAND IN   BALIKBAYAN BOXES.

My asawa and I shipped five large boxes from the United States for $100 per container via Forex. The boxes  arrived in good condition and were delivered right to our doorstep at our former home in Guimaras. Only took about one month versus three months for other services that we had previously used.

In retrospect, I would have shipped at least five more boxes. I left so many tools behind from my garage, my wife left a lot of shoes and other articles of clothing, and I would have shipped more electronics, like a television. Electronics are more expensive in the Philippines than in the States. Ship what you can. Yes, the dollar is worth more than the Philippine peso, but your initial expenditures once you move to the Philippines may surprise you.

 

4. DO NOT LIVE NEAR ANY RELATIVES.

DO NOT LIVE NEAR YOUR WIFE'S RELATIVES. DO NOT LIVE NEAR YOUR FILIPINA GIRLFRIEND'S RELATIVES. 

I simply cannot emphasize this enough. Unless you want to become a personal ATM, please, if you do not follow any of these tips, for your own sake, please listen to this one. You will be subject to visits from your asawa's relatives in which they want to "borrow" money. My own wife has "loaned" thousands (US dollars, and not just pesos) to relatives to never see one peso of it repaid. She did it while working as an Overseas Filipino Worker before we were married and has done it since our move to the Philippines in July 2009.

While there are some expats who get along great with their wife's relatives and have NEVER been asked for a "loan," it has been my personal experience,  and the experience of other expats from all over this world that I have spoken to, that too many people think we are all "rich foreigners" and expect us to give them money. Some of your wife's relatives will not not be happy until you are as completely broke as they are. Take my word for it. My asawa and I both know from personal experience.

Once that money is stopped, you are accused of treating people "like dogs" and having "abandoned"  them. Call us selfish, but for the first time in almost 12 years, all of our income is just going to ourselves.What a radical concept. Yes, there are some expats that do not have the "relative problem." The vast majority of foreigners I have spoken to or corresponded with have this issue.

5. DO NOT GIVE ANY MONEY TO THE FIRST CUTE FILIPINA THAT YOU FALL IN LOVE (OR LUST) WITH.

Maybe you THINK you have just met your future spouse. Or longtime girlfriend. Yeah, you just got landed at NAIA in Manila, had some down time in your hotel, and head out to the nearest SM Mall to check things out. You're amazed to see all these cute, young Filipinas smiling at you. The sales girls, all with perfect makeup and perfect shapes, enthusiastically greet you as you walk by. You might have been a nerd or some average "Joe" back in the States, but you're getting a lot of attention from the ladies.  More than you ever got before in your whole life.

Cool those jets, buddy boy. Brother, I hate to tell you this but when they see you, what some (not all) of these Pretty Pinays see is a way out of their miserable poverty and a means to help their family escape it. Family is NUMBER ONE in the Philippines, and some of these ladies will do almost anything to help Nanay, Tatay and their siblings. Even if it means hooking up and marrying some old geezer 40 years or older than they are. Don't be deceived thinking you are God's gift to women in the Philippines and that you're some stud. You're not (unless your as good looking as that Lance the Canadian.)

But IF you want to part with your hard-earned cash and fall for the first cute girl that gives you some attention, than don't say you weren't warned. I've talked to many expats that live here that have experienced what I have just told you. Bluntly speaking, be careful what "head" you think with.  Are there honest, hardworking Filipinas that just don't want your money? Sure, I married one and so have a lot of my readers. Just be forewarned.

Let's tackle the next five tips on the next post as this one is running long. Please leave a comment if you like. Make your own contribution to my list, and realize, these tips are my own personal opinion. Everyone has their outlook and  unique experiences.

Want more detailed tips on moving to the Philippines? Check out my eBook, "The Philippines: A Guide to Moving & Living in Paradise!" and look for the discount code in my ad and save five bucks.

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21 Comments on Top Ten Tips on Moving to the Philippines

  1. Tom Ramberg // 12/11/2011 at 9:25 am //

    As usual Dave is pretty much spot on with his experiences and observations. I had a few variations with some of his experiences. I shipped many tools via Balikbayan boxes and to my dismay they must have sprouted legs and walked away within the first two months.Fortunately only the shiny ones have that capability. My twenty five year old vise grips chose to stay home. I have found the key for holding tools is to spray paint them so they are both ugly and easily identifyable.
    I am not sure that I would recommend shipping electronics because you cannot rely on them arriving in good condition and eventually you will experience what is known as “The Dave Syndrome ” where someone plugs it in to the wrong voltage.
    I live near family members but do not and will not allow any to live with us. I established that I am a selfish A-hole from the beginning so we have had no problems. It also helped that my wife worked hard while in the US so she knows that there are no dollar trees free for the picking. Money earned through hard work is held dear while money just received as a gift is easily squandered. {welfare mentality}
    I agree with the no sending money rule. I have seen some guys that have met their future partners in a bar and they set up an allowance thinking that the girl will wait for them and no longer work in the bar. The thing that they don’t realize is that there is a saying “Once a Bargirl always a Bargirl”
    The last one reminds me of a quote from a jockey that was hitting on a tall sultry blonde. He said ” I am taller when standing on my wallet” Just last night I had many Filipino friends here and we were talking about how many foriegners fabricate their wealth and importance. One gentleman has a neice that has fallen victim to this. She is now in New York working two jobs while her wealthy and important husband is jobless. I am predicting the two year green card marriage on this one. I always tell the gwapa girls that I am not pogey or gwapo: I am just white and panget. Now if I had a fat wallet to stand on…………

    • Thanks for your input, Tom, it’s greatly appreciated. You have a good point about the tools. I only have an extremely limited tool collection that I purchased from a local Ace Hardware, but my brother-in-law in Guimaras was very good about returning them. My wife purchased an electric drill for said brother-in-law, a hard worker and great handyman, to use but since has taken them to our new home because we needed some holes to hang some new curtain rods, and there is no way I could get those screws into the concrete walls without the drill. I sorely do miss my 19.2 Rechargeable Craftsmen from Sears.

      While, one has to be extremely careful about using electronics that are shipped from the States. Our old Panasonic I fried that was shipped to the Philippines years before we moved here only had a 110V setting, but it is my impression that many appliances now are universal, that is, can be switched to 110 or 220 Voltage. We use an voltage regulator that costs about 40 bucks here to run my old computer we shipped over, but still would try to thoroughly check out what kind of prices you can expect to pay in the Philippines. Just don’t try to plug a 110V appliance into a 220V outlet like I did. Will start that baby smoking every time. :-)

      And how true your last paragraph is. I have met some foreigners that greatly exaggerate their wealth and importance, indeed, and think they know absolutely everything about living in the Philippines. They are the same people that undoubtedly did the same back in the States. They are the people that Paul from Iloilo and I avoid like the plague. By the way, Tom, I do remember you stating that the ladies where whistling at you when you wore your Easter suit (not birthday suit.) Of course there are some good-looking kanos like you out there that don’t need that “fat wallet.”

    • I would have to disagree with Tom about Bargirl always Bargirl. I am married to one and have been for 43yrs. Before internet was only way for most filipina’s to meet foreigner was to work in bars. I know many who have married and worked out fine. I also know many who did not meet in bar and marriage did not work out. Should not spoil the barrel because of a few bad apples.

      • Glad to hear things worked out for you, George. I would say that 43 years of marriage is quite an accomplishment.

  2. Murray // 12/11/2011 at 4:11 pm //

    Hi Dave, Hi Paul
    Number 4 on the list.
    You guys know I wanted to move to Iloilo, nice place, nice people, and a long way away from Irish’s relatives. Irish won’t move, and I won’t live in Manila anymore. I’m currently in NZ trying to decide what I am going to do. I’m going back to the Philippines to give Ivan a great Christmas, and I think that will be the end of my involvement. I’m absolutely gutted and it’s all because of Irish’s useless, parasitic family. Have a good Christmas everyone. Really hope to see you again sometime.

    • Murray, I’m sincerely sorry that things did not work out. I really hope you decide to move to Iloilo because you’ve made some good friends here, myself and Paul from Iloilo included. Lots of great people here, and my asawa and I absolutely love it here. Take care and have a Merry Christmas. And remember, there’s plenty of room here for one more Kiwi. :-)

  3. PapaDuck // 12/11/2011 at 7:23 pm //

    Dave,

    Lots of good useful info. My G/F will not allow her family to ask for anything. She’s not afraid to them what she thinks and will really get mad at them if need be. I did send flowers to my G/F before actually meeting her, but no money. I probably won’t send any Balikbayan Boxes, will leave clothes and other things at her house when i visit next year. Will bring new TV and new laptop/old laptop with me on plane along with more clothes/important papers when i make the move in 2014. There is nothing else that i have that would be worth taking since i just rent a apartment. I have no debt now and will have no debt when i move. All her immediate family lives in Rizal and Nueva Vizacaya Provinces except her father who will be moving to Nueva Vizcaya next year. All have jobs or other sources of income. Will have to be careful with the”Dave Syndrome”. Actually the tv i bring will be Australian, so shouldn’t have to worry about the voltage. I will have my pension from the Florida Retirement System plus SS later and my G/F has an Internet Cafe. All i have to do is wait now.

    • Papa Duck, what I like about your remark is that you have a plan. You’ve already established some boundaries on dealing with the relatives and that will be EXTREMELY helpful when you get here. Just look at my friend Murray’s previous comment concerning the relatives. It’s a sad reality that some people will bleed you dry. They absolutely feel you should be their own personal “ATM.” It’s good that your G/F’s relatives all have jobs or other sources of income. I’ll think you’ll be just fine.

      Waiting will be the hard part. You’re a prime example of an intelligent future expat to the Philippines. You’re checking out different websites and doing your homework. You’ve got a good plan in place, as I mentioned earlier, with a pension in place and SS kicking in later. You’ve got the “relative” issue all sorted out, and your bringing a laptop and TV, that will not fall victim to the “Dave Syndrome.” Kudos to you!

  4. Hey Dave. Great points. I’d like to add: Don’t forget to travel.

    Travelling within the Philippines can be relatively inexpensive. To beat the boredom, plan weekend getways on monthly trips to visit new places. There is so much of the country to see. I’ve met a lot of expats who have become bored and stuck in the same daily routine. Go travel, start a blog or something else that might appeal to you and keep you engaged.

    • Good one to add, Allen. You’re right. Lots of places to visit. We haven’t begun to scratch the surface. So many beautiful beaches and historic places well within our reach. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do some of those getaways in a couple of months after we have made all of our furniture purchases for our new home. I was stuck in a daily routine back in the States and don’t want to do that in my retirement years in the Philippines. Thanks for the additional point.

    • Allen you just described me. I am in a rut and if it wasn’t for this blog, I’d go crazy. We are a little money strapped right now, due to our own stupidity, but should have things under control soon. Through this blog I have identified several places that I would really like to visit in the Philippines. Using Cebu Pacific Airlines when they have there P1 and P88 sales wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
      Of course us white folks have to be careful where we do go in the Philippines also. People like that Australian dude are getting snatched out of their houses in some places now.

      • Hope the finances improve, John J. It took almost two years but at least I’m earning a little extra monthly income from this website which helps out.

        Now regarding the unfortunate Australian man, Warren Rodwell, married to a Filipina who pleaded with his kidnappers (possibly Abu Sayyaf) to not take her husband, but was taken from his home in Green Meadows, a subdivision in the town of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay Province, Mindanao. Here’s what a report in the ABC News, PM online edition from Australia had to say, you Mindanao guys are going to love this: “The southern island of Mindanao is a notorious danger zone for foreigners and locals.”

        Here’s a line that always prompts a remark to my asawa:
        “Hundreds of US troops have been stationed in the southern Philippines, including Basilan, to train and equip Philippine forces but are prohibited from engaging in local combat.”

        Whenever I read this, I tell my spouse that if the Philippines would just let our Special Forces go in they would have Abu Sayyaf wiped out in less than a week (reports put Abu Sayyaf forces at around 400.) But yes, I know, this is prohibited by the Philippine constitution, but I don’t remember us asking permission of Pakistan to go in and wipe out Bin Laden, either.

        • We didn’t ask, but this might be considered a little bit different. I don’t know, but I sure wish a resolution happen one way or another. There are many fine places in Southern Mindanao that I’d like to visit, but as long as that high terrorist alert exists, I won’t.
          I’m glad you are making some money on your website. I’ve tried about everything I could think of or what others could think of, short of writing an e-book. I don’t know enough to write and e-book anyway. My AdSense is up to almost … and when it gets to … I can request it. That will be the only money I’ve made on this site. If I was doing it for just the money, I would have quit a few months ago for sure. It’s been 16 months now and still nothing. Maybe someday things will work out.

          • Had to edit some figures in your comment, John. Google policies state that you cannot reveal your earnings. It takes a lot of work to make any money on a website or blog, John. I’m not getting rich, but as long as I’m having fun, I’ll keep going on. I would just advise you search out some different topics on making money online with blogs and see what comes up. I can tell you that I have made some money recently with my “Filipino Cupid” ad, and it’s easy to sign up as an affiliate with them. Good luck. Wouldn’t hurt to give them a try. Here’s a LINK to their affiliate sign-up page.

          • Okay Dave, thanks for covering me on that finance thing. I should have remembered that, but I was frustrated. I might try that Cupid thing. Right now I’d be happy to actually get even a dollar in my hands that came from this site. At least that would be a start.
            Did we ever find out what happen with Tom’s site?
            I was looking over some old e-mails and I figured out that I’m the one that got you and Paul introduced. I communicated with him via e-mail and told him about your site. He must have checked it out and the rest is history.

          • No problem, John. Why not give Filipino Cupid a try? I don’t get a fee for referring you, just trying to see if I can help out a bit. Well, I have the distinct honor of announcing that Mr. Tom Ramberg is going to be doing some guest posts for PhilippinesPlus in the very near future. I’m as happy as a pig in slop to have Tom contribute from time to time. He’s one funny guy.

        • Jonathan // 12/14/2011 at 7:11 pm //

          I agree Dave, wipe out those bandits in stealth mode then give the heads to the AFP. The media and those nationalists (mostly reds) will complain anyways, so let them complain.

  5. Thanks for the info..
    You spoke on alot here and some I know about..
    Finding an income source there is VERY hard unless your greasing palms everywhere. I wanted to try to invest in businesses there but to no avail.. I wanted to come alone and maybe marry eventually but own into some business but the laws leave very little recourse and some unscrupulous people will try to BS you into giving them money for business but if you do the law there is not in your favor..
    Yes, lots of ladies but most just desperate to escape and unfortunately being foriegn has a huge drawback..Most think you are a cash cow to exist on till you become bare bones yourself. Taking a wife or girlfriend for some of her relatives gets seen as a lottery ticket that keeps on paying.lol..

    I will come and enjoy and save till I am good and ready to live on an income.. I am 39 and have to wait till 55.. Dream deferred…

    • Well, Drew, you certainly will be well-prepared once you retire in the Philippines. Sounds like you’ve got a good grasp already on the way things are in the PH. I’m not surprised by your remarks about opening a business here, Monty the “Iceman” did not have to go through any major red tape at the time his story about his ice business in the Philippines was published, but many folks will be glad to “help” you as you personally discovered. It’s a shame and no wonder that the Philippines has been rated as the worst country in Southeast Asia to do business with and one of the worst in the whole world.

      Cash cow, indeed, Drew! All of you expats (and future ones) can you say “MOO?”Some of the ladies will take advantage of that “ATM” they see on your forehead, but there are plenty more that are really interested in meeting a good guy that really loves them. Good luck, you’ve got a few years to go yet, Drew, but hang in there. Thanks for the insightful remark.

  6. Excellent point about the fluctuation in the US Dollar to Philippine Peso, Paul. I bring that up in my next post when I cover point #8 concerning the budget. While all of us American expats are certainly hoping the dollar exchange rate improves, be prepared as Paul has stated, and plan for it

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