It’s been over six years ago when I retired from almost 30 years of service with the telecommunications giant, AT&T. If not for the generous wages and retirement package I received from Ma Bell, I would not have been able to write this post: “Living in the Philippines 6 Yr. Review.” Despite the boring, mind-numbing last three years at the telephone giant, where I sat in a cubicle “working” in the billing department, I stuck it out and paid my dues and retired with full benefits. For that, I will always be grateful to the telephone giant.
Cabaling Beach in Guimaras
Of course, without my lovely asawa of over 15 years, The Sainted Patient Wife, I certainly wouldn’t be living in “paradise” either writing this article. My wife gave up a good life in the United States where she lived with me for nine years before stating “I’ll go where you go” when I asked her if she would want to return the Philippines and live out our retirement years in her homeland.
The Kano and my lovely asawa
But aside from my spouse and AT&T, I received a ton of useful information from Al Gore’s World Wide Web, especially from Don Herrington’s Living in the Philippines Community Forum. Don’s helpful site is the original, the first Philippines Expat site on the Net, since 1989. Without the information I received from Don’s website and other research, hours upon hours, our move to the Philippines would have been much more difficult.
A lot has happened these past six years. Some of you might recall those early years, back when I started my first blog, “The Rooster Crows at 4 am.” The first five years in this archipelago were a struggle at times. We lived on a fixed income and were supported by our retirement account which deposited a fixed amount into our account every month. Those funds amounted to less than around 1,100 U.S. dollars a month.
Now, if you were a single guy in the Philippines and don’t have a girlfriend with demanding relatives, you could live comfortably on that amount of money, especially if you lived in the province as we do.
But I’ve talked to one single expat from the States who couldn’t make it on 1,200 USD a month. Why? He had a high-maintenance girlfriend with a child. Rest assured, I was quite naive when we first moved to the PH and even touted that a person could live on 500 USD a month, 22,500 pesos. After six years of actually living here, I no longer preach that. While not impossible, one would have to adopt an almost completely “native” lifestyle which would probably not offer many, if any, amenities or luxuries.
So even if you have a guaranteed monthly source of income, such as a Social Security Pension, you could still piss away your money quite easily. Rest assured, that when the majority of relatives approach you for a “loan” it is likely that you will never see that money again and might as well wave “good-bye” to it. My own wife was a “loan shark” in the Philippines and helped out relatives and friends, but not anymore.
I wrote about my likes and dislikes after one year of living in the Philippines and listed my desire for change, the friendly people, the availability of fresh food, the cheaper cost of living and the availability of inexpensive transportation as my favorite things.
But since buying our own vehicle this year, driving around and dodging trike and jeepney drivers who stop in the middle of the road without warning and dart in and out of traffic like demons possessed, I cannot list transportation as one of my favorite things, at least not on our island province of Guimaras.
Trike driver photo courtesy of The Tom Cat
However, we still use cheap public transportation when we travel to nearby Panay Island and shop in Iloilo City. It costs 800 pesos, 17.75 USD to take a round trip on the RORO, Roll-On, Roll-Off Ferry. We can travel anywhere in Iloilo City Proper on a jeepney for seven pesos, 16¢. It makes economic sense for us to not take the truck over and saves me an enormous amount of stress. Unlike faithful readers like Scott H, I cannot adopt the “combat style” of driving required here.
My dislikes after Year One? Living with my mother-in-law, the heat and humidity, lack of privacy, rude Filipinos that butt in line, clothes that don’t fit me, no frickin’ toilet paper in the Comfort Rooms, beggars, sales clerks at the Ace Hardware at SM City in Iloilo that will follow you everywhere, high cost of electronics, no British sitcoms and brownouts.
My mother-in-law is now living in Manila. The heat and humidity don’t bother me quite as much. Our new home, which we will soon move into, will afford me more privacy and will keep my father-in-law, Lolo, afflicted with dementia, in a nipa hut far from our master bedroom where I won’t have to listen to his incessant gibberish which goes on all hours of the night.
My mother-in-law, The Giant Lizard Killer
Lolo has been with us for close to two years now and I will treasure the upcoming peace and quiet when I have my first morning cup of coffee at our new abode. My mother-in-law wants to return to Guimaras but I can assure you there is absolutely no way she will be staying at our new home, not even in her estranged husband’s, Lolo’s nipa hut. The Chicago Cubs have a better chance of winning a World Series than my mother-in-law’s chances of moving in with us.
Besides, Lolo used to beat the living crap out of his wife, Lola (Grandma), so I doubt she would want to share a nipa hut with him anyway.
Our 16-year-old helper, Mera, had to do battle with Lolo this morning. He didn’t want to take his morning crap in the CR, Comfort Room, and called for a dead relative to help him as he said he was “suffering here.”
The Healer and Lolo
But some things haven’t changed, like rude Filipinos that “attempt” to butt in line in front of me. The vast majority of Filipinos are friendly and helpful, but some Pinoys and Pinays transform into Mr. Hyde and Mrs. Hyde when they get into any kind of queue.
Clothes that don’t fit? Not a problem. I head over to any SM Department Store and pick up a MaxWear shirt in the 2X size. I’ve seen t-shirts up to 4X sold there. I’ve also recently purchased a few San Miguel t-shirts in Large and X-Large at SM’s Kultura Filipino outlets that actually fit my American-sized frame quite well.
No toilet paper in the Comfort Rooms, Restrooms? Bring your own or ask for extra tissues (don’t call them “napkins” at your local McDonald’s and tell them you’re a messy American.)
Beggars are not much of a problem anymore aside from the occasional panhandler in the Delgado area of Iloilo City. Although begging and the giving of alms is prohibited in Iloilo City, I’ve never seen any evidence of the regulations being enforced, which is quite common in the Philippines. There are many laws in the archipelago which are on the books but are not always enforced, such as the wearing of helmets for motorcyclists.
Annoying clerks at Ace Hardware? The sales associates used to have generate so many pesos per day in sales and if they failed to meet their quota would have to work two hours of unpaid overtime. Whether that procedure is still in practice, I don’t know. We don’t stop at Ace much anymore as the building materials for our new home are being purchased at other building supply outlets in Guimaras and Iloilo City.
The high cost of electronics doesn’t seem to be too much of any issue either. We recently purchased a new 2015 Sony Bravia LED 48″ television for 33,500 pesos, 750 US Dollars, which seemed like a fairly reasonable price to me though Walmart’s online price for a 48″ Sony is 500 bucks. Yeah, that’s 250 more dollars but we got a 10,000 peso discount on our set at Vic’s Imperial so I can’t really complain.
Since I enjoyed watching British sitcoms like “As Time Goes By” on WILL TV 12, one of our local public television stations in Central Illinois, I used to miss my weekly Saturday fix of the UK’s own unique brand of humor. Now I just pull up episodes of my favorites on my Samsung Galaxy Tablet and watch them on YouTube.
And what about those irritating brownouts, power outages? When we lived in Savannah Subdivision in Iloilo a couple of years ago, we had 25-30 outages a month, some of them lasting for up to 12 hours! I used to keep a daily record of brownouts but gave it up when we moved back to Guimaras. I would estimate we have around five outages a month now with the longest one lasting around two hours.
Though our island province does have 27 windmills over in San Lorenzo, it is my understanding that our local utility Guimelco does not have an agreement with Trans Asia, the company that had the wind turbines built.
Our new home in the Philippines is already wired for a generator but at this time we have no immediate plans to purchase one. We’ll see how the situation with the brownouts work out. Of course, if we have outages that occurred last year when the undersea cable from Iloilo to Guimaras was severed by a moronic boat captain, we will be purchasing said generator ASAP. We had brownouts every other day that lasted up to 12 for a period of about two months before the cable was repaired.
Of course, the big news for us is our upcoming move to our new home in Guimaras. We are planning to move into our new digs at the end of this month. While our first five years in “paradise” were difficult at times, my asawa and I have always kept sight of our ultimate goal, to build our new “dream home” in the Philippines. Without her help, I can assure you this project would have never been completed.
“Living in the Philippines 6 Yr. Review.” It’s been an adventure. And while people might think it’s crazy to pull up your roots and move to a foreign county to spend your retirement years, I never admitted to being sane. And I never will.
I sincerely want to thank all of my faithful readers, old and new, many of whom have stuck with throughout the years. Your moral and financial support through the hard times helped us make it through the lean years.