Our retirement in the Philippines…

My wife and I have chosen the Philippines as our retirement home and lived here full time since 2006.  Our future in Iloilo was sealed when bought a property and built a house outside of Iloilo City, in the small seaside town of Tigbauan, about one-half hour west of the city proper. Iloilo City continues to be our main center for shopping, medical care, dining and other urban amenities and necessities. We’ve posted an extensive account of our house building experiences.

Iloilo City Riverside Esplanade

Iloilo City Riverside Esplanade

We are pleased with Iloilo. The wonderful people are its treasure. Routine Medical care is available and educational opportunities are extensive. Thousands of doctors, nurses and seamen are trained in Iloilo every year. There are decent restaurants, and you can find and buy most of what you need at the markets, numerous malls or the downtown commercial area.

While we love living in the Philippines, we try to present a balanced view of the pluses and minuses of living in the Philippines.  Be sure to read our short essay: “Reality Check: the Philippines – a tropical paradise for the retiree?


Beach on nearby Guimaras Island

Philippine Retirement Visas.  The Philippine government offers some the easiest and least expensive options for foreign retirees. Philippine Retirement Visas

You can explore further using the topics list on the right side of every page. Comments, criticisms and additional information are very welcome. Address to hammerslag@gmail.com

You should be aware that the new Philippine government is undertaking a anti-drug and anti-crime campaign which has resulted in thousands of extra-judicial police and vigilante killings. This campaign is unlikely to affect most foreigners, but martial law has also been mentioned as a possibility. There is an anti-American attitude on the part of the government, but we don’t see any increased anti-American behavior from ordinary Filipinos.   In short, the political situation remains somewhat volatile for the immediate future.  We suggest that you think carefully before making illiquid investments in the Philippines.

ADDITIONAL READING.  Here are a few of our favorite links to sites about the Philippines.

There are several Yahoo Groups concerning the Philippines for expats. These two have been around for years and have hundreds of members who will help answer your questions. Just keep in mind that (as with all things online) that some who respond to your questions are genuine experts and some are not.  Usually an incorrect or incomplete answer will cause more expert group members to correct misinformation You have to join these groups using a Yahoo membership.

Mag-Anak is one of the oldest and most reliable groups. It has more than 3,000 members, many of whom are very knowledgeable.  U.S. Immigration issues are foremost on Mag-Anak. While it can address just about any Philippine-related question, its specialty is helping members seeking to bring a Filipina girlfriend, fiancé, or wife to the United States.

Living in the Philippines is a huge Yahoo on-line group with over 18,000 members.  The group discusses just about anything having any connection to the Philippines.  Early on, the moderation of this group tended to screen out posts which focused on problems with life in the Philippines.  While still prim and proper, the moderation seems less restrictive now.  It’s a useful group to anyone living in or considering life in the Philippines.

PhilFAQS  This site, run by our friends Dave and Mita Starr are just full of useful information.  Go to the home page http://philfaqs.com/ and you will be able to view the list of available articles. You may also sign up for his email newsletter which will bring Dave’s posts to your mailbox.

Live in the Philippines (“The Web Magazine for Expats in the Philippines and Those Who Want to Be”), This site is run by Bob Martin who has been an expat blogger for many years.  You do not have to log in to view the site but you will have to register for the very valuable forums. http://liveinthephilippines.com

Your Life in the Philippines lots of worthwhile content in this in-depth site. http://yourlifeinthephilippines.com/

Dumaguete on Negros Island, is a lovely small city and very popular with expatriates. It is also blessed with this excellent website full of good information, not only about Dumaguete, but also about Philippine life in general.  The forum is especially good. http://www.dumagueteinfo.com/

Dining in Iloilo. Iloilo City is fortunate (no surprise, Ilonggos love to eat!)  to have a great blog just about Iloilo dining. http://flavoursofiloilo.blogspot.com/ and a Facebook page

Cebu City is one of the most popular vacation and retirement locations in the Philippines. Cebu City has many of the advantages of a big city, but is not quite as intimidating as Manila. Its forum is very active and of interest to anyone considering the Philippines. http://www.livingincebuforums.com/ipb/page/portal.html

Finding a wife.  Foreigners come to the Philippines for many reasons, but one is dating and marriage. Here is an essay which is very enthusiastic about Filipinas as wives, but also realistic and moral. http://lifebeyondthesea.com/so-whats-the-big-deal-about-filipinas/

If you are a history buff, you’ll love this site which documents the Philippine American War, America’s first colonial adventure which snuffed out the emerging Philippine Republic.  There are hundreds of fascinating historic photos. http://philippineamericanwar.webs.com/




Comments (25)

  1. I was born in Bacolod City and grow up in Iloilo City. I’m 36 years old now and Its my pride and honor to live in the city that molds me. Mr. Bob, I appreciate
    your site and I attest that you wrote it from your heart… It brings smile to my face and it humbles me. I always wish goodness to Iloilo City. God bless Iloilo City and to you Mr. Bob and Ms. Carol.

  2. I used to be in and out of Clark up till Mt Pinatubu blew. I had a sweet, shy, beautiful girl I would spend all my time with when I flew into Clark. I wanted to be with her forever and give her everything and even a future after I died as a lot older than her. But after 26 years in the Air Force for 26 years retired and put in 22 years in Civil Service. But while I was trying to make a future for her others scared her and she go married to an Australian so am unsure what to do in the future of my life. She was my goddess, my angel, my love and my future. I do still plan on retiring in Angeles City but not what I had planned. I still have contact with her sister and daughter.

  3. Hi Bob,
    Being born in the Philippines I really enjoyed your website. I left in 1964 and I am amazed on the progress. My grandfather Charles F. Kocher went to the PI during the Spanish American War and stayed in Iloilo, married my grandmother Maximina Fuentes and had 7 children. My grandfather is interred in the Philippine American Cemetery in about 1931. I would really liked to have a photo of his grave for our genealogical records. We do not have any relatives left in the PI and would like to know it is possible for you to take a photo of his grave (crypt) and email it to me. Our families will really appreciate it. Please let me know. Liz Fisher, Goldthwaite, TX.

  4. Hi,
    first of all, I’m a Filipino and found this not just very informative but an interesting read. I’ve always been curious why there are foreigners who choose to live in a third world country when they’re better off in their homeland(at least that’s what I think). I also wanted to see my country from a different point of view because I am starting to not like what the Philippines and its people has become. I am proud to be a Filipino but not proud about the negative traits we have that seem to become prominent in the past couple of years, overshadowing the nice things we’re known for (hospitality, etc). I am glad to hear that you’re happy living here and can still see glimpses of the good things this country still has to offer and hoping that you’d still see more of it.

    Sigh! If only it is possible for this country to rid itself of the disease of corruption, which is not just causing the need for its people to resort to bad habits but it has also actually “infected” them so that it’s become second nature for them to lie, cheat, laze around, etc. I’m looking forward to a time that the Philippines would become a paradise.

    P.S. I bumped into this site after Googling “Safest City in the Philippines,” (which everyone thinks–I do too–is Davao City) and found your “Crime against foreigners” entry.
    Also, “Mag-anak” actually means “relatives,” family is “pamilya.” 😀

    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments. I am not unaware of the negatives in the Philippines. I think of my life here as floating on the surface of a pond. I know there are many dark evils in the deep, so I just try to stay on the surface and enjoy the sunshine and hope that none of the creatures below will bother with me. I stay home at night, am not involved in any business, I don’t loan money, don’t have girlfriends, don’t go to bars, try not to piss anyone off and stay away from politics. I try to be blissfully ignorant as I can. I try to enjoy the local color, warm climate, modest cost of living, our lovely neighborhood and especially the smiles, undeserved respect and friendliness I receive whenever I am out and about.

      This might be shallow, and even insensitive given all the problems here, but it’s my way of trying to avoid the pitfalls of life here as a foreigner.

      Thanks also for correcting me about mag-anak. I revised the post.

      Best regards,


    • Well have been in the military and been in numerous countries. It is not only the Philippines that has gone downhill. The world is changing for the worst and the US is among the bad. the world is not like it used to be. I am getting ready to retire in the Philippines. I used to fly into Clark Air Base all the time when in the Air Force and loved it. I just got divorced and plan on at least starting out settle in Angeles City.

      • As a former military person myself, just as a reference, and having been to Angeles City, I can not understand why anyone would live in Angeles City. The place is an open sewer, full of sexpats, Korean Mafia, various expat criminals from numerous countries, above average chance (even for the PI) of being roped into some scheme by touts or free lance hookers, the local police are well known for their ****** and the costs of living there is expensive in comparison to similar sized towns elsewhere. The only way to clean the place up is for expats to leave enmass but on second thought, I don’t want them and their ways to move near me, so I have no solution. You can see this effect in Subic Bay, since many former Angeleano’s expats have moved there and now I hear complaints about how the quality of life there is in a downward spiral also,rising costs and increasing crimes and ripoffs. If all you want to do is drink and chase tail, okay. If you want to build a decent life look elsewhere. JMHO I used to read henerythehorse’s blog for years but you can see that even with his cherrie outlook of hope that things will get better, for the last 18 months you can hear his increasing concern for the decline of the area, if you read between the lines. I would never,ever recommend to someone to live there and no I have never had any personal problem there myself so I am not swinging a personal grudge or axe. I am moving to Dumaguete in Sept 2014 as a base to explore from till I find my new home. As in all case’s, building a life for yourself is up to you. Do not depend on others or a certain location to provide you with a ready made life. Know what you want and go for it. Look inside yourself for happiness and then invite others to share in it. I wish you the best of luck Dave and hope you will find happiness in the PI.

  5. Good morning Bob and Carol,
    Your site is really very helpful to all the expats who comes here…comments and the advice of others also helps. I just want to say this, to all foreigners who want to build their dream house here in the Philippines, please be careful with the kind of contractors you are dealing with, it’s the truth here that whenever Filipinos see foreigners, they see you as a very rich person. And that is so unfair for the Filipinos to think that way. Before you make a deal with the contractor, first know the background and don’t just rely on somebody who recommends a firm to you. Get as many references as you can. You are going to use your hard earned money to build the house and so make sure your money is spent wisely. I recommend to always read “my Philippine life.com” don’t be a victim of cheaters, liars.. Thank you Bob and Carol,

    • Their are cheaters in all parts of the world. The biggest challenge of the Philippines is prosecuting, and sentencing of criminals. The poor always gets the heat. Almost like in the USA, do you know the majority of people in jail are poor and the minorities. In the Philippines the poor has the same predicament. The rich and powerful most of the time gets away.
      There are so many +’s living in the USA and the Philippines.

    • Iam engaged to a beautiful woman in Davao whom iv known for two years and had four long holidays with her. We love each other very much and at first i was sure that i would eventually go there to live and take care of her for the rest of my life however im having doubts now as to whether i can live with the humidity and the danger of infection which i believe comes from open grey water drains, Iv had a fever on one visit and iv had Dengui. Idid attend a [Chinese] hospital which was spotless for blood tests for seven days paying just a small charge each visit so im not so concerned about health service.The humidity ,will i adapt to it ? i hope so because i could live there very comfortable on my pension.I will make my decision on my next visit later this year

  6. Good morning Bob (and Asawa).

    My (Ilongga) Asawa and Mom are currently in Oton visiting with Family… been there for two weeks already… have another 3 weeks to go (before they head back to Orlando, Florida area). They’re looking for a place to buy a life jacket/vest so they may take Mom on a boat (we want to buy our own)… any suggestions where they may find life jackets/vests for sale?

    I’ve been reading your site for several years… enjoy your stories and information you’ve shared over the years.

    They went to the Dinagyang Festival on Sunday and they’ve taking Mom fishing almost everyday at a pond somewhere there in Oton (and catching fish). My Asawa and I were there in Oton in 2010 to take care of a Family members passing, so I didn’t have time to reach out at that time. Maybe one of these days I’ll get back there for enjoyment.

    Later. / Ray

    • Ray,

      I would start with the Gaisano Mall in Oton. If they don’t have them you could check out the stores in SM City. On Iznart Street in Iloilo City there are some fisherman supply stores. I think I saw life jackets there. The shops, as I recall it. are on the east side of Iznart between the monument and the public market.

      Carol and I lived in Lake Mary for awhile before we came to the Philippines.

      Bob and Carol

  7. hi bob and carol,-30/1/2014
    thank you for your great information to expats wishing to live in the philippines.i am an australian citizen on my second visit to the philippines haveing been to tacloban just before the typhoon visiting a lady i had met through my laptop. i have since returned to the philippines on 31/12/13 and wish to apply for a visa to stay permenantly as we wish to marry in the next two weeks.I have a pension of $700Aus per fortnight, and we wish to settle on a small block of land in tacloban owned by her family (1 hectare) I am asking for your advice on the following matters. As we wish to marry in the next two weeks. What sort of visa should i apply for,if we lease 3 hectare of lands,(hoping to grow vanilla bean,cocoa trees,and cinnamon trees)will i have still deposit $US 10.000.00 into a bank. Do we have to have a license to do this farming. What other requirements do you know that i may have to fullfill.

    Thanking you kindly John


    • Hi John,

      Just enter on a tourist visa. You’ll have to go to an immigration office and renew it for an additional 59 day and then renew every 59 days. This will give you lots of time to refine your plans regarding visas. If you do marry a Philippine citizen you will be eligible to apply for a 13a permanent residence visa.

      While I appreciate your enthusiasm for your lady friend and your new life in the Philippines, and that you likely will brush-off any such advice, I suggest that you take things a bit more slowly, with respect to immigration, marriage and financial investments. It takes time to learn about a lady friend and her family and life in the Philippines. That said, we send your best wishes and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.

      Bob and Carol

  8. Hi I really enjoyed reading your other site, the one that had your down stairs apartment. I will be moving there in late February . My future wife is the HR officer for DTI. The building that you are living in was up for rent recently and we had an interest in it. It did not say upstairs of down, but I’m assuming it is the upstairs. If it is still up for rent perhaps you could let me know.
    You did a magnificent job in describing the pros and cons (not many cons) of what it is like in Iloilo. I have spent months in Bacolod City and enjoy it, but there were also a lot of negatives that were not attached to Iloilo. Thanks for all your fabulous advice.

    • Thanks for the very kind words. Actually, we rented the upstairs apartment. The two apartments are more or less identical.

  9. Nice article. Thank You for the kind words about Iloilo City, and Iloilo in general.
    I grew up in the city of Iloilo. Most of the criminals from Iloilo that I knew (they were arrested or salvaged), operated outside of Ilolio. We have a saying in our place, that “if you want to scatter your waste, you are better off doing it outside of your playground or get wasted by the locals.”

    Again, thank you for the kind words. The place where you reside is one of the best towns to live in Iloilo. I have so many friends in that town.


    Rodolfo of Boston, Massachusetts (Expats)

  10. Hi, Bob! My dad has been following your website for years now, and has been inspired by your your writings documenting your retirement journey as he prepares for his. He and my mom are both from Iloilo (and soon to retire from over 30 yrs of US civil service), and he appreciates all that you share for the curious public to read and learn of your experiences. For years, he has talked to me about everything you’ve written from dentists to markets and, most especially, the journey of the building of your home in Tigbauan as we are both architects and thoroughly appreciate the details one takes to document design experience and especially each phase of construction. We are big fans!

    On that note, we happen to be vacationing in the area and were wondering if you’d be so kind to take a moment of your busy schedule so we can meet you and say thank you for inspiring us. As an adult child whose parents plan to retire in the area, your website has contributed to the comfort I have of surrendering my parents back to their hometown. For that and much more, thank you…

    So looking forward to hearing from you,

    • 🙂 I’m certain you have made his day. You sound like the typical Filipina, loving and caring.

  11. Glad to know you are both ok. Martin’s family were very lucky too. God bless!

  12. Bob – hope you and Carol weren’t hit too hard by Typhoon Yolanda. How did the house fare? We’ll be moving in a few years to Bacolod. Will keep all your earthquake/typhoon/flooding tips in mind. Best regards, Angela, Berkeley CA

    • Angela,

      We had lots of wind and rain but no real damage. However many communities further north an Panay Island were really devastated. Thanks for thinking of us. Bob and Carol

  13. Always good reading on your website Bob. I especially enjoy the “building a Philippine house” as I lived through the experience. This category gives many expats thinking about building here in the Philippines a “starting point” and the input/comments you collect reinforce the content. It is, as you know, a stressful time in an expats life dealing with the construction differences from what they are used to in their home country compared to what is before them in building here in the Philippines. We were very fortunate to find an engineer/architect who did a great job for us (www.nebitandassociates.com) and continues to stand behind his work. In my experience, you must have patience, learn as much as you can, and continue an open dialog. We payed particular attention to the workers, showing them a level of respect, often offering some miranda (snacks), and just talking with them. This resulted in them being happy to put in the extra effort for us. There are many different approaches to building in the Philippines. Find out what works best for you and you’ll lesson your stress.

  14. Hi I am an expat from California having lived in New Zealand for the last 20 years. I am hoping to retire to Philippines and have a US benefit and work
    part time as a chiropractor and acupuncturist. I have done this for the last 30
    years. Do you have any advise or recommendations? cheers Thom Zydervelt

    • Hi Thom,

      I have another expat friend who gave up NZ for the Philippines!

      I have no idea what the market is for your services in the Philippines. Possibly it’s good. Just beware of licensing requirements. The Philippines is a place with many regulations but generally lax enforcement. There must be licensing for your occupations and they might be difficult for a foreigner to obtain. This leaves one open to problems if you are perceived as competing with others in your field. I have heard of foreign doctors on volunteer medical missions being unable to do their charity work because they are not licensed in the Philippines.


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