From the Central Illinois redneck author of "The Rooster Crows at 4am!," "Lizard Poop!," and "The Philippines Expat Advisor"
Top Ten Tips on Moving to 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:
- PAY OFF ALL YOUR DEBTS BEFORE YOU MOVE.
- HAVE A GUARANTEED SOURCE OF LEGAL INCOME.
- SHIP WHATEVER YOU CAN BEFOREHAND IN BALIKBAYAN BOXES.
- DO NOT LIVE NEAR ANY RELATIVES.
- DO NOT GIVE ANY MONEY TO THE FIRST CUTE FILIPINA THAT YOU FALL IN LOVE (OR LUST) WITH.
- USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: JEEPNEYS, TRICYCLES, AND PEDICABS.
- IF YOU'RE MARRIED TO A FILIPINA, GET A PERMANENT RESIDENT VISA.
- PLAN ON YOUR BUDGET BEING BIGGER THAN WHAT YOU ORIGINALLY THOUGHT.
- BE PREPARED TO SWEAT PROFUSELY.
- 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.