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Would I Have Still Moved to the Philippines?

Would I Have Still Moved to the Philippines?

After the publication of my latest post, “Living in the Philippines 6 Yr. Review,” one of my faithful readers asked me the following questions and wondered, knowing what I know now, what would I have done or not done:

  1. Would you still have moved to the Philippines or would you have stayed in the USA?
  2. What would you have done the same the last six years living in the Philippines?
  3. What would you have done differently the last six years living in the Philippines?Philippine flag ceremony in Guimaras

Great questions, and frankly, some I should have thought of. Sometimes the wheel’s spinning, but the hamster’s dead.  But regardless, let me try to address those questions.

1.Would you still have moved to the Philippines or would you have stayed in the USA?

Yes, absolutely, I would still have moved. Though I was ready to move after only one month. Two factors:  The devastating heat and humidity and the straight-out lack of privacy nearly induced a complete mental breakdown.

One early morning I made my way into the only CR, Comfort Room, inside the house, inhabited by my asawa, my mother-in-law, twin nieces, a niece and nephew that still live with us, along with their mother, who currently works in Kuwait as a domestic helper. Against my asawa’s advice, we had moved into a home my wife had built while working overseas in Taiwan.

My wife and I were the only residents of our suburban home in Central Illinois. Now I lived in one room of a small three room house with seven other people. And I’m not counting my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their three small children that lived in a nipa hut a few feet from our front door.The Nipa Hut in our front yard. Home to my sister-and-brother-in-law and 3 kids

The Nipa Hut in front of our first home in the Philippines

It was two or three am. I took a scissors and started cutting my hair. I then proceeded to shave my head. I was having a breakdown. I went back to bed, woke up my wife, and showed her what I did as I did not want her waking up to someone she did not recognize.

The next morning I spoke with my asawa. I cannot recall why we decided to stay and stick it out, but we did.  My wife was ready to go back if that’s want I wanted. But I dealt with the heat and humidity as best I could though we had no air conditioning at the time, only an oscillating stand fan that we purchased soon upon our arrival in the Philippines.  It was the rainy season and the humidity was close to 100% every day with high temperatures in the upper 90’s F.

I never liked the stifling heat and humidity of Midwest summers and had now voluntarily moved to a tropical climate where I would have summer-like conditions most of the year.

However, after almost one year in Guimaras, the island province we called home, I again considered a move back to the United States. My wife had lived with me in the United States for nine years but was not a naturalized citizen of the United States, she had a “green card.”Trike drivers lined up at the Old Site in Guimaras

If you know in advance that you will be leaving the U.S. for more than a year, you can  apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a reentry permit. A reentry permit will allow you to stay outside of the U.S. for up to two years. The permit serves as an entry document once you return. You should apply before you leave. We didn’t.

If you fail to get a reentry permit before you leave the States, you must apply at a U.S. consulate abroad for a special immigrant visa as a returning resident. This will require you to demonstrate that you were away from the U.S. longer than a year due to unforeseeable circumstances (e.g., due to illness.) (Source: Immigration.FindLaw.Com)

So I was concerned. Since the U.S. government, which has allowed millions of illegal aliens to cross their borders and support them with our taxpayer dollars, a person with Permanent Resident status such as my wife, who legally entered the United States at LAX after waiting for over nine months for her Spousal Visa to be approved, cannot go back to the States without an extreme amount of hassle and paperwork.  Our government declares that she has “abandoned” the USA.

In fact, due to a lack of an “exit plan,” we didn’t even have enough funds for two tickets back to Central Illinois. An extremely generous couple back home had deposited the necessary monies in our bank account that we needed to come back and we were to pay them back upon our return.

We decided to stick it after all and returned the money. And we haven’t looked back since.New signage in Guimaras

So the long and short of it, is “yes,” after living in the Philippines for six years, if I was able to travel back in time, knowing what I know now, I would still make the same decision. While looters burn their own neighborhoods back in the States and a white racist murders innocent black church-goers attending a Bible Study, the Philippines, despite it’s faults, is looking better every day.

(The answers to Questions #2 and #3 are coming up.)

25 thoughts on “Would I Have Still Moved to the Philippines?

  1. Agreed, agreed and agreed. Having a 3 year old son, I would also shudder at the thought of him attending school in a country that seems to average a school shooting (both large and small) per week.

    • Unfortunately, that’s true, RoxasRon. Back in the old days when I attended school when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we settled our grudges on the playground with a fist fight. It’s a whole different world today.

  2. Another good article Dave. The fact that you would repeat the difficult initial adjustment period all over again should encourage more expats to move to the Philippines.

  3. Hi Dave , been here for over 7 years love it here yes there were times when I thought
    Go back to the UK and start again back in the rat race but that’s passed now, I would have done the same past 7 years building our house and apartments which we have here,
    By the way I could not afford a house this big in England I could only dream about that in
    England, here I’ve got a better standard of living what I would have done differently is take
    More responsibility get more active sometimes I’m too laid back, but now I wake up most
    Mornings smiling I’m going nowhere Dave I’m staying here in the Philippines,
    Derek in pasig

    • Glad you stuck it out, too, Derek. I have no desire to go back to the rat race, life is too comfortable here with a lot less stress, especially once the new house is finished.

      And, as noted in a previous post, there is no way we could have built our new home for the same amount of money we have spent here, as you noted. It may be not be paradise in the PH but’s it will do quite well for now.

  4. Great article Dave. You and all the other expats give us wanna be expats some extremely useful information. I feel your pain about the USA immigration policies. After going through the K1 visa process, conditional two year green card, and then permanent 10 year green card, it makes no sense that the government considers the sainted patient wife as having abandoned the USA, especially given how we treat illegals now. I get really
    upset always hearing about a “pathway to citizenship” or “having to live in the shadows” for people living here illegally. You and I both know the thousands of dollars and reams of paperwork just to get our wives here through the front door and for them to remain. Don’t get me wrong, it was money well spent, but it should be required for all immigrants. I’ve started my wife studying for her US citizenship and once that’s accomplished, we’ll have her reacquire her Philippine citizenship and she can come and go as she pleases.

    Your perseverance through those first few difficult months and years has started to pay off very well for you. A dream home for you, new wheels, and Lolo’s new nipa hut. Although I only get to spend a couple of months a year in the Phils, I’m hoping to make a permanent move in a couple years. Your articles, of this I have no doubt, will make the transition much easier.

    Steve

    P.S. Got a big chuckle out of the “Mr. & Mrs. Hyde” syndrome in your last article. I’ve learned to let my wife deal with lines while I go sit on my butt somewhere until summoned.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Steve. My wife had to get fingerprinted and obtain security checks from three different countries (Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan, where she had worked) as part of the paperwork process to get her to the States. In the meantime, our government welcomes all illegals with open arms. Doesn’t make any sense to me.

      My wife was going to apply for citizenship. When I sent the check for the initial fees to Immigration, the fees had increased and my initial check was returned. I was pissed and knew we were going to move to the Philippines so we didn’t pursue her citizenship after that. In retrospect, I probably would have had her follow through on the citizenship and acquire dual citizenship once we moved to the Philippines.

      It’s been a long wait, but yes, the end, thankfully, is in sight. Glad you liked the “Mr. & Mrs. Hyde” reference. Take care.

      • Dave, since your wife is not an American citizen and is living outside the USA, how you researched if that will affect her ability to collect your Social Security if you pass away before her? Or if she is eligible for her own Social Security?

        • Hi, Lance, I researched that some time ago. Melinda is eligible for Social Security once I kick off since the requirement for a foreign spouse is to spend at least five years in the States. She lived there for nine years with me and has her own social security number.

            • It is mine, Owen, she will collect on survivor benefits. My wife worked and has a SS account but did not work enough quarters to qualify for Social Security on her own. She could start collecting benefits at age 60.

  5. Interesting article as usual, Dave. I kinda have a feeling, that if I had moved there under the same kind of conditions that I have read about, that you mover there under, I have a feeling I would have returned to the US, I dont think I could have stayed there under all those handicaps, myself,,,shows how spoiled a life I have lived I guess.

    The hot and humid conditions without the ability to get cool at times during the day, I think that alone would have done me in. I have never lived in a crowded house either, not to mention living with with someone like your Lolo, currently 2 of us live in an almost 10,000sf house, so I also think to live the way you did may have also done me in, with that many other people and all the noise.

    When we are able to move there though, we wont need to be living with any of her family, we will hopefully just find a house to rent in the beginning and then once sure we want to stay, look into building a modest house, nothing remotely close to the one we currently have here, I have kinda regretted building it in the first place, and at that time it was just me only. The size of the house also is making it hard to sell now that its on the market, so no telling how long that may take.

    Hopefully, we will all learn from our mistakes since we are supposed to be getting smarter as we age, but then I may be the exception to that one.

    • Thanks, Bill S. The heat and humidity were definitely difficult for me to adjust too, plus the fact we moved right in the middle of the rainy season (which I have adjusted to now.) You have quite a large home! Hope you can sell it and make your move to the Philippines soon.

      Our new home, though not nearly as large as yours, will give me even more privacy as I’m accustomed to having my own space and my wife and the rest of the family here respects that. Renting a place when you first arrive here and not living with the relatives is an excellent plan. I’m sure things will work out for you. Soon you’ll be drinking a frosty bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen before you know it.

  6. Dave,
    When I first moved I expected to have to adjust. The heat doesn’t bother me as much as it does Anne. I’m kind of used to it from living in Florida. What gave me a wake up call was waking up one morning and the house had 3 feet of water in it. Than I thought whathave I gotten in to. Made it past that have adjusted alright since. I don’t know if I would have stayed if I was in your initial situation. It’s a testament to you that you were able to get through the rough period. We are just going to rent for now because we don’t know yet if we may be living here full time or part time somewhere else, but not necessarily the US. With all the crazy things going on in the US, South China Sea and everywhere, the world is a crazy place.

    • We’re fortunate that we don’t have a flooding problem here in Guimaras, Papa Duck, though flooding was an issue back in our old subdivision in Iloilo. I would have never made it without Melinda’s help and patience. She’s the glue that holds everyone together here and is a hard worker, as your own asawa is. It take time to adjust. I would advise any future expats to tough it out and give the Philippines a chance. You’d be surprised what you can adjust to.

  7. It is a point of contention for me, CJ, and thanks for weighing in. All of us that have legally brought our spouses over from the Philippines know how much paperwork, blood, sweat and tears is required. But still the U.S. government continues to encourage illegals to come in to the States by the millions where many of them will live on the government dole supported by the taxpayers (of which, I still am.)

    Good luck on your future move, CJ. I think it’s a wise decision.

  8. Hi Dave. Great great article! I honestly had no idea you struggled the way you did the first year. Congratulations on sticking it out.

    Please indulge me here…as I think I have something important most foreigners that want to move to the Philippines should think about.

    The Philippines FOR SURE has a lot of warts…a lot! But it also has a lot of amazingly positive things going for it. The problem with so many foreigners moving to the Philippines is they think they are going to live THEIR American life (or wherever they are from) in the Philippines. It is not going to happen no matter how much money they have.

    They are still going to be in a different country with different attitudes and a different culture.

    I was really lucky…after my first trip in January of 2008 I knew I loved the Philippines, but I had no desire at that time to actually move there. It was only after I was home for about two weeks that I realized how much I loved it there. On my second trip is when I decided I really wanted to the Philippines.

    And that decision came in a small town called Sindangan Mindanao. We were at my gf’s house…outside in a nipa hut…singing, and drinking. I remember the feeling of peace and just total relaxation that took over me. Since that day my love of the Philippines has grown every single day.

    But…you have to embrace the culture…or at least not fight it. I see so many foreigners, especially Americans as I am, that seem to think they are going to change the Philippines and live their American life there. It is not going to happen.

    The sooner you realize you are not going to change the way things are done in the Philippines and you embrace the craziness, the beauty, the amazing people, lack of privacy…the sooner you will really begin to enjoy the Philippines.

    So I applaud you for making it through the rough times. Too many foreigners spend their time bitching and moaning groaning instead of making it work and then enjoy what seems to be a helluva good life you now have.

    And finally…the heat and humidity. I adjusted well although it still gets to me at times. But how the hell you did it without any air con is stunning to me. I could not have done that. LOL.

    And the issue with no privacy. That is actually a tough one for me. If you live with the family or really really close to them…there will be no privacy unless you really lay the law down or move a ways away.

    But no foreigner should try to take their wife away from the family. Just figure out a way to make it work and set the guidelines. I know many foreigners that refuse to even deal with the family. That is really sad.

    • Hi, Todd, great insight, thanks. Well, yeah, it was a struggle those first few years. And to be honest, without help from you and other readers out there, we would have had an even tougher time of it. I thought we would be OK living on the fixed income we had the first five years but the income from this website and the aforementioned aid from readers helped out a lot.

      You make an extremely valid point. If a person moves to the Philippines expecting to live a Western lifestyle that you experienced in your own country, then you are best to stay put. Save yourself some trouble and don’t move. You will not change anything here. You will be forced to adjust to “Filipino Time” and the other idiosyncrasies of this culture and there is not one damned thing you can do about it.

      I know of some expats that are always complaining about the Philippines: the people, the culture, etc., and I avoid them like a tree hugger at a Lumberjack convention. I have no idea why in the world they remain here and don’t go back to their native country.

      I’m used to having the relatives around now though I admittedly long for the day Lolo will move into his own nipa hut. Everyone gives me my own space and I appreciate that. Take care, Todd, and thanks again for your input.

  9. I think I could have dealt with the heat and humidity which I actually like (the heat anyway) but like you, the privacy would have been tough. That’s something I am spoiled about and don’t want to change. Hell, I have to share my cubicle at work and can’t stand that 🙂

    One well known expat said that he and his wife made a pact that no matter what they would stay for 5 years. That seems like a good idea to me, otherwise it’s too easy to just turn tail after a couple of issues occur.

    • Yep, some people can deal with the heat and humidity better, Dave W. I’ve always been a guy that loves the autumn and winter, neither of which the Philippines has, unless you go to Baguio, I guess.

      Interesting pact. Not a bad idea. It was easy too get discouraged at times but we stuck with it, thankfully.

  10. great article dave and glad you stuck it out. thanks for sharing your experiences for others that plan on moving so hopefully we can learn the good and bad. when me and my asawa decided we will be moving to the philippines after our retirement I told her then we most build are house first. funny thing is I don’t believe my wife could take the stress of building while living there. yes she is Filipina but believe me 30 years and getting us citizenship changes them LOL>>>
    so as you know we built are house with private living quarters for us.
    We do love having her sister and a couple of nieces around. the company is nice and who would have my morning coffee ready if not for my niece … but when we need a little privacy it is always available which is nice.
    heat and humidity will take some time to get used to but then every time I think how bad the heat is I will just tell myself I’m not shoveling snow…
    l would like to put a shout out to todd for his comments he is right we have to adjust to there way we are the visitors will living there.
    and also would like to tell bill 10,000 sq feet wow!!! if I had a house that big I could lose my wife in it at times maybe it could be good until i’m feeling frisky lol …….

    • Thanks, Roger. With 30 years of living in the States. your esteemed asawa will no doubt have to get used to living in the Philippines again. It won’t be easy, I would suspect, but having her relatives around her will help. You’re smart to have your own private quarters. While we have a bigger home but no private quarters as such, aside from our master bedroom and my office, it will afford me more private space. My wife doesn’t mind. She comes from a big family and is used to having a lot of people around.

      I don’t miss shoveling snow or driving on icy Interstate 55 during the winter. And I’m with you, Bill’s house is huge!

  11. I’m happy I can assimilate many of the same feelings about staying in the Phils…moving…staying…leaving, etc. With all the things that tend to make me long for moving back, all I have to do is turn on the news and follow my friends along on facebook to assure me that I made the right decision. When I can sit in the comfort of my aircon’d living room watching TV and eating a great lunch prepared by my aswasa, I long for nothing more. Then there are those days when we get the brownouts unexpectedly, and there is no breeze, and when nobody else but me seems to notice or be affected by it, the thoughts creep back in. As soon as the power comes back, the house cools down, things return to normal. It can be a roller coaster ride some days but it’s my amusement park, so what the hell! As long as the good outweighs the bad and the bad is just temporary, I’m here for the long term. In reference to you getting your own ride…congrats! There is nothing like having our own ambulance service at our age.

    • I know you can relate, Randy. One of biggest beefs about the Philippines is the lack of infrastructure. I had high hopes when our 17 windmills went on line on our tiny island province. Visions of no brown outs danced through my head. But..sigh…the company that owns the windmills, Transasia, is selling 95% of the power from these windmills to nearby island, like Iloilo, which is a short 15-minute pump boat ride from us. Seems like our utility company, Guimelco, which has been ramping up the brown outs lately, doesn’t have an agreement with the other company, as far as I can tell.

      That said, as you noted, the good far outweighs the bad. I wouldn’t trade living in the Philippines for anything. Life is good. 🙂

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