I’m an American expat from Central Illinois who retired from telecommunications giant AT&T after nearly 30 years. I’ve been married to a lovely Filipina for over 20 years ago. We sold our home in Central Illinois in less than 30 days and moved to the Philippines in 2009. My wife spent nine years with me in the States before my retirement. We’ve been living in “paradise” ever since. Consequently, I pose the following question “Should YOU Move to the Philippines?”
The Philippines is No Paradise
Furthermore, I put parentheses around “paradise” for a reason. Coming to this archipelago of 7, 500 islands on vacation for a couple of weeks is vastly different from the reality of actually living here. Ask any expat that’s been here for some time. Anyone that tells you that living in the PHL is a bed of roses is drunk, high on shabu (meth) or living in an alternate universe.
I could probably sell a lot more copies of my breakthrough e-Book, “The Philippines Expat Advisor,” if I tried to promote a sanitized, glorified vision of life here. I refuse to do that.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Furthermore, it’s not my job to act as the Philippine Tourism Department. Some of my expat friends have called me a “straight shooter.” I’ll give you the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Therefore, “Should YOU move to the Philippines?” Of course, I can’t tell you “yes” or “no” since I don’t know your particular set of circumstances. Nevertheless, let me give you the major reason why I personally believe moving to and living in the Philippines is a good idea.
Why Should You Move to the Philippines?
Cost of living is cheaper in the Philippines. At the time this post was updated, the Philippine Peso to US Dollar exchange rate was hovering around 50.89 pesos to one US dollar. One online publication rated the PHL as “Number One” in their cost of living category several few years ago. Your dollar can stretch farther here.
However, please don’t move to this archipelago without a fixed source of monthly income and expect to find a job here. Do yourself a favor. Stay put. With over ten million Filipinos having to work abroad to support their families, what chance do you think you will have in finding a job, no matter the specialized skill you might possess?
What’s a reasonable monthly budget that you could live on in the Philippines? Some estimates range from 1,000 to 1,500 USD. We live in Guimaras, a small island province in the Western Visayas region. A single guy living in the province could be OK on the lower end of this estimate. Living in a big metropolis like Manila, might run you as high as 1,500 US dollars or more.
It’s All About Your Lifestyle
First of all, one of the key factors in determining your monthly expenditures, along with location, is your particular lifestyle. If you expect to live a Western lifestyle in the Philippines, your best bet is to stay home.
Therefore, if you want Western accommodations and plan to have all the benefits that you had at home, it’s going to cost you. Is it possible? Yes, nevertheless be prepared to spend more for that way of life.
I would recommend, even though the cost of living is generally cheaper in the Philippines, to have a savings/IRA account in addition to your guaranteed monthly source of income. Though many expats living in the Philippines rely solely on their Social Security pension, a nest egg of some sort would be helpful. Above all, it doesn’t hurt to have a back-up plan.
Are You Willing to Embrace Change?
If you can adapt and be willing to change, have adequate financial resources, such as a pension, I would highly recommend moving to the Philippines and at least check it out.
If you’re interested in living a more stress-free life and living far more cheaply than you could in the States, than the Philippines might just be for you.
Nuggets from the Old Geezer
As regular readers of this website know, I’m an old geezer. I’ve been around the block a time or two and will be 70 years old in two years or so. Now because I’m a senior citizen who’s in his twilight years, don’t think I’m full of wisdom. I’m not.
However, let me pass along this to any future expats out there: “If you can’t learn to adapt, you probably won’t make it in the Philippines.
Now I’m probably the last person that you should listen to when it comes to preaching change. I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, years ago. My self-imposed rigid schedule and neurotic ways seemed uncontrollable.
I had my routine and hated it when anything disrupted it. My whole world would seemingly spiral out of control.
Moving to the Philippines, however, has made it necessary to adapt. While I try to roll with the punches, it’s not always easy to do.
What problems could you expect if you plan to spend your Golden Years in the PH?
First of all, please do not repeat the actions of a 23-year-old spoiled brat from China. After throwing her “taho” soya drink on a policeman at the MRT, she was arrested last year for assault along with other charges.
Pissed Off with Authority Figures?
The so-called “fashion student” posted a 12,000 peso bail, 240 US dollars, but was quickly swept away to the Bureau of Immigration jail where she awaited deportation proceedings.
Because showing contempt towards officials is a direct insult to the Philippines itself, it’s never wise to disrespect any authority figures in the Philippines.
However, take note of an earlier post where I exercised a high degree of stupidity and don’t repeat such absurdity yourself.
Consequently, if you have problems with authority figures or showing respect to them, you probably will encounter problems in the Philippines. (Alternatively, anywhere else for that matter.)
Don’t be a “Weed Warrior” in the Philippines
Furthermore, if you think you can retire to the Philippines and continue smoking weed like you might have back in the States (or whatever your home country), it’s not legal to smoke or sell marijuana in the Philippines.
Personally, I’ve never even smoked a cigarette let alone a joint, but you need to understand that recreational use of marijuana is not tolerated in the Philippines.
Therefore, if you’re a pothead and plan to pursue your habit in the Philippines, you probably should stay put. Arrested or dead. Two possible outcomes if you continue your habit here.
graphic courtesy of pixabay
Frankly, if you’re a total moron and think you can use or sell meth, shabu, in the Philippines, you could join the thousands of other shabu dealers and users already killed in the archipelago.
Barking Dogs and Loud Music
You probably will encounter a bevy of barking dogs and loud music if you retire to the Philippines. While there is a 10:00 pm ban on playing loud music in our province of Guimaras, don’t expect that to apply to barangay fiestas.
Consequently, you’ll also certainly experience the joy of neighbors who have dogs that bark all night. While we do have eight canines of our own, I don’t tolerate any excessive barking in the evening.
In contrast, if our Belgian Shepard starts barking, I take immediate notice. Unlike our other mutts, “Killer,” barks with a purpose.
“Killer” at our pool
If he perceives a threat, I pay attention. He’s a wonderful attack dog. “Killer” wouldn’t hesitate to maul any intruder that dares to enter our property.
Retirement Problems for Foreigners in the Philippines
Trike drivers and jeepney operators could also pose some problems for a foreigner. That’s especially true if that expat operates their own private vehicle. Many of our local tricycle and jeepney drivers have little regard, or knowledge, of the Rules of the Road.
They stop where they want and when they want most times without any warning. Hence, be forewarned, road signs and lane markings on the highways are merely “suggestions”to many people driving here. Exercise a high degree of caution if you plan to navigate your own vehicle on any streets in the Philippines.
If you can’t adapt to dogs that bark all night, fiestas that blare their music until 3 am and crank it up again an hour later, you’re going to have problems. Moreover, if you can’t get used to guys urinating on public streets in broad daylight and having people stare at you as if you’re some alien from outer space, you’re going to have a problem.
If you don’t like people calling you “Hey, Joe!” you’re going to have some issues It doesn’t matter if you’re from the States or not. That said if you can persevere and are open to change, you, too, can realize the “American Dream” in the Philippines.
Living the “American Dream in the Philippines”
James Truslow Adams, in his book “The Epic of America,” written in 1931, stated that the American dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
The American Dream is grounded in the Declaration of Independence that proclaims, “All men are created equal” with the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The meaning of the “American Dream” has changed over time and now includes such fundamental elements as home ownership and upward mobility.
My Filipina wife and have lived a comfortable lifestyle these past several years but in no means a decadent, opulent one. It has been difficult at times. My wife cares for her father who lives in a nipa hut right behind us. He has Alzheimer’s. Our niece Shaina lives with us. We’ve had various nieces and nephews living with over the years.
Paying Your Dues
Our new home is not due to some “overnight success” or a “silver spoon” born in my month. I know what living “poor” is. My dear Mom used iron-on patches to fix holes in my jeans. It wasn’t fashionable to wear ragged denim pants in the Fifties and early Sixties. I put cardboard inside the bottom of my shoes to cover the holes in my shoes. It helped keep the rain out when I walked to school with my two brothers. Mom and Dad couldn’t afford new shoes. Sometimes our only meal of the day were two slices of white bread with butter.
I owe my success to Jesus, my loving wife, and 30 years at the same company in America. I’ve paid my dues. So has my wife, even more so.
I will not tell you that I spent all 30 years at my job at Ma Bell doing backbreaking work. I didn’t. I spent most of my time on my butt in front of a computer. My last few years at the telecommunications giants were extremely boring and when I was offered the chance to retire at age 57, I seized that opportunity.
We could have built a simple nipa hut and been content with that but I felt my wife deserved her “dream home.” She has worked hard every day of her life since she started working on the family rice farm at the age of seven. I’m retired. My loving, hardworking spouse, however, is busy every day.
Our home in the Philippines, only made possible by living here
Realizing the American Dream in the Philippines. It’s been a long time coming. Living and working in the greatest country in the world laid the foundation. Now I’m living in the Philippines, where I am pursuing my own brand of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in an archipelago of 7,500 islands and doing absolutely nothing. What about you? Should you move to the Philippines?
What to do after Retirement in the Philippines?
Therefore, what if you decide to make the big, life-changing move to the Philippines. What are you going to do? Drink beer? Chase skirts? Start a business? Get a hobby? Travel?
Beer and B.S.
Because beer is so cheap in the Philippines, less than a buck a bottle, some expats prefer to spend their “golden years” quaffing adult beverages. Although, before the “sin tax” you could buy a bottle of booze for half that price or less. Nothing wrong with that, if done in moderation. I don’t imbibe any alcoholic beverages any more. However, having a beer or two with fellow foreigners on your province can be quite a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. It’s also a great way to spread around some B.S.
However, to my knowledge, the Wednesday afternoon group in Guimaras that used to meet doesn’t adjourn anymore. While some expatriates still gather at Olivia’s Kitchen in Guimaras on a Friday night, we don’t get out much anymore.
Some of the old gang hanging out at The Shirven
Sadly, the former Wednesday PM group I used to hoist a pint with lost some members in 2018.
I don’t mind being antisocial. It’s my nature. Similarly, my Filipina wife of over 20 years is OK with it. She doesn’t miss going out on Fridays.
Maybe if you’re a single guy in the Philippines, you want to spend your time chasing after women. Consequently, if you end up dating a woman that is actually married, regardless if she is separated or not, you could still spend several years in jail.
Why? Because adultery is a crime in the Philippines.
Want to know if that “special one” is single or not? Find out by availing of the CENOMAR, a Certificate of No Marriage Record. Above all, here’s another nugget of wisdom:
Never sign anything by neon.
In addition, the classic: “If they ask you for money, run!”
Now that we have beer and chasing womenfolk out of the way, let’s focus on other options for foreigners retiring in the Philippines.
Some expats that live in the Philippines start a business. I started a blog over ten years ago. An online venture requires very little start-up capital and you can set your own hours.
I know of some foreigners who have opened up restaurants or bakeries. I’ve also encountered some who have taught English online or in schools in nearby Iloilo City. Frankly, you don’t have to have a Teacher’s Degree to do so. I was offered a job teaching English to South Koreans years ago at a facility in Iloilo City but turned it down. I’m retired. Hence, I don’t want to work a regular 9-5 job. I’ve already spent 30 years at AT&T back in the States.
Get a hobby
OK, drinking beer and chasing the ladies doesn’t really qualify as a hobby in my books.
My wife gardens. She loves it. My better half has planted bananas, mangoes, cashew trees, papaya, and lemon trees along with a wide range of flowers and plants.
The thing is the tropical climate in the Philippines opens you up to more ways to spend your time outdoors than winters back in the Midwest did. I never considered shoveling snow back in Central Illinois a hobby.
Chances are, you could probably continue that favorite hobby you had back home and continue with it in the Philippines. Unless that hobby was selling shabu, meth, however.
Travel the Philippines
My wife and I have spent some time traveling the Philippines. We’ve had some great adventures at places like Boracay, the Underground River in Palawan, and the Chocolate Hills in Bohol.
We’ve gone on shopping expeditions to Cebu City and Manila. You can travel the Philippines on a modest budget and have fun visiting some of the fantastic tourism spots the Philippines has to offer.
Therefore, if you’re considering a move to the Philippines, you’ll have many ways to spend your free time. Pro’s and con’s about living in “paradise?” Here’s a quick review along with extra positives and negatives:
- Affordable Living
- Less Stressful Lifestyle
- More Personal Freedom
- Less “Political Correctness”
- Fewer Drug Dealers
- Everyone knows your name, “Joe”
- Rice shortage (huge negative if you have a Filipina wife & relatives)
- Hair dye shortage (99.99% of older Pinays and Pinoys dye their hair (something my bald head doesn’t need)
- Loud outfits worn by some Filipinas (bright floral tops with pants that make your eyes bleed)
- If your intended occupation is to sell meth (shabu), you’ll probably meet your demise sooner than later
- Everyone know your name, “Joe”