Reality Check: the Philippines – a tropical paradise for the retiree?

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Tropical Paradise?

This is addressed to those who have not been to the Philippines but are looking for an affordable tropical retirement location. It is not applicable to those who want to vacation at one of the many beautiful Philippine resorts for a few days or weeks.

The Philippines is not a budget version of Hawaii or Key West or Mallorca. It is an impoverished developing nation with about the same land area as the State of Arizona, but with more than 90 million residents. In cities, poverty, pollution and environmental degradation are everywhere. Open sewers and the smell of sewerage are frequent companions. Trash is strewn everywhere. There are hardly any parks. Power blackouts are frequent. The creatures of the land and sea have mostly been devoured by a hungry population. Vehicles belch black diesel fumes along main roads. Mangy dogs wander the streets. The raucous beat of karaoke shatters the night and ever-present roosters wake you at four in the morning. You’ll need walls and bars on the windows of your house to prevent break-ins.

If you’re careful, decent routine medical and dental care can be found in the larger cities, but questionable care is a real possibility. Dengue fever, malaria and other tropical diseases are risks as are hepatitis and tuberculosis. If you can’t pay up front for medical care, you will not receive any. Emergency medicine usually involves taking a taxi to the nearest hospital.

It can be inexpensive to live in the Philippines, but the biggest savings come when you can adapt to living more like Filipinos; buying chicken and pork rather than Australian steaks, skipping Cheerios and other imported products, eating eggplant and other fruits and vegetables that grow in the Philippines rather than imported broccoli and apples, using a fan rather than air conditioning, riding the jeepney rather than maintaining an SUV. Those who insist on trying to live a Western lifestyle, may not find the savings so great, especially when you consider you must pay all health care expenses.

Some rural places in the Philippines can be quite inexpensive and really are paradisaical, but you’ll be hours or days from medical care, Internet, books and so forth. Shopping will be restricted to fish, local vegetables and a few canned goods. If you’re healthy and self-sufficent and your material needs are simple, this might well be your paradise.  We have found a good compromise, living 20km outside of a city in a quiet rural place, but with relatively easy access to the city.

For my wife and me the Philippines is a paradise, but it’s the people who make it so. Filipinos, especially in the provinces, treat foreigners with great kindness and respect. In turn, I respect them for who they are and the way they live their lives. Every day I see them face their often very difficult lives with inspiring dignity and good humor. They are truly a special people and I feel privileged to live among them.

Comments (42) Write a comment

  1. i found a visa card that does not charge currency exchange fees for each transaction an used it in PI and other places.
    its a bank of america visa
    bank of america is not good for customer service but that card is worth a lot and i pay online bill pay
    always used cc to pay for most everything except water and electricity
    plus the points accumulate using it that way too, i just pay it off every month

    Reply

  2. amazing i didn’t see what u r describing in my 2 years in Mindanao.
    Dogs were well cared for even in very poor areas. they were collared and chained , washed frequently.
    i didnt see trash all over except near the warf, although i know it is there.
    few very few OPEN manholes.
    I could relate to the discription but not in PI but rather in a small south american country where i lived 12 years. trash dirt dogs open manholes,
    NOT PI

    Reply

  3. bob, i am very glad i found this sight, very very good imformation. my wife here in us. (penna.) want to come over there soon. she is a filipino , and from manila area. my question is, i have a small 16 foot travel trailer. my idea is ship it over to her daughter whom is over there, find a spot to keep it til i find a lot to buy, set it up and stay in it til we build something. its only me and here. i am on disabilty etting 1350.00 per month. and have some but very little extra cash. may be able to scratch up 25,000 us . what do you think i can do, and what do you think of this idea. we dont want to live in any city. but outside. we both know how to live off land, and do with very little. any idea,s or help or how i can get this over there whould be helpful. maybe i could hire you to help me, and keep my trailer there a bit for a while for $$$$$ per month.
    Jeff

    Reply

    • Jeff,

      Sorry to disappoint, but shipping a travel trailer to the Philippines is impractical. First, there is the cost of shipping, second is that you will have to pay customs duty which might be 100% of the value. Sell the trailer there and build a simple house in the Philippines. Your $1,350 per month should allow you to have a very decent life. Tell your wife that my wife Carol is a Tagalog. Maybe they would like to communicate?

      Good luck,

      Bob and Carol

      Reply

  4. Great blog!,I am from Montreal, and have recently married in the RP. I have been living here for 4 months now. I lived in Mindanao for a month near Ozamis, and 3 months in Panglao Bohol. I really enjoyed living in Bohol, but it is a bit more expensive than Mindanao. I will visit Bacolod, Dumaguette, Iloilo, and Puerto princessa on my next trip back in 6 months or so. So far Bohol is the area I like the most, bust it is becoming to expensive with the construction of the international airport. Most land is about 1500php + per square meter. I am sure I can find better deals in areas that are less touristy! I am 50 years old, and want to retire here, and start a small B&B or something to keep busy while I am raising our son. I have been told by many foreigners living here for a while, that doing business here is a mistake. Too many problems with red tape, employees, and handouts, just to name a few. But I cant see myself living here without something to do. I have also found some amazing products that I would like to export, but I am having difficulties in contacting them, and following up on business. They seam to want to do business on their terms, when they feel like It. Sometimes it takes up to 3 weeks to get a reply from a simple question, and sometimes I have to call several times, because they never return calls……. very frustrating. I am use to doing business in North America, so I am not sure I will be able to adjust to this nonchalance attitude that seams to be present everywhere….. I really love the fresh food available in the markets, the smiles of the people yelling HEY JOE at me, the kids running after me and laughing, and of course the fact that I can sell my snow shovel if I am able to adjust to this life style, and choose to live here. For now I will return to Canada, and apply for my wife’s spousals visa so that my family and our son can live there if they choose to. I have a suggestion for you Bob, start a page on traveling within the Philippines on board of Cebu Pacific, Pal etc… on how to get the best prices for tickets, how to save when you have extra weight in your luggage, pre-checking in, safety issues, ferries etc…..

    Cheers!

    Reply

  5. Hi Bob,

    I was just reading your blog, and I am glad I did. I am a filipina and I’m a widower for 7 years now. I have 5 children ages from 19,18,15,13,and 10. 4 girls and the youngest is a boy. I been living in Wisconsin for 23 years now and my children are born here in the U.S. I was born in Negros Occidental Bacolod City but I also lived in Iloilo for 5 years when I was teenager. I really loved Panay and would love to go back and live there with my children maybe next year. My children are not too excited going but for the certain amount of money that I’m getting a month for survival benefits will be enough for us to live a comfortable life there. Of course I know that it would be hard for the kids to adjust for awhile but I am hoping that they will like it there eventually. As the kids turn 18 the money gets less and less, so I was thinking if we live there, I can save some money and have a little business over there so that when the kids all turn 18 I have enough money to live on and take care of them. I do not like winter and where I am, we only have 3 months of summer. I missed Philippines so much and I know that it’s not all peaches and cream but I agree with you about the attitude of most people over there, how they always looked happy and you always see a big smile on their faces even they are poor and their very polite and respectful to others, specially to elderly people. I am planning to live in the gated subdivision with 24 hours security and send the kids to a private school. I do worry about the children’s safety over there but at the same time I think it would be good for them to experience some other culture. Please share your thoughts in regards to my idea or plans living in Iloilo Philippines, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you!

    Leny

    Reply

    • Hi Leny,

      Wow, you really have your hands full! I too was a widower, left with two boys. eight and five years old, a more than full-time job and a 150 acre farm — so I can really sympathize. Yes, it would be a very difficult transition for the kids, in so many ways — perhaps not necessarily bad for them as long as you can afford good private schools for them. At least one private school is English only. There are also the Chinese primary and secondary schools which are inexpensive and demanding. Language has been a big problem for the Tagalog-speaking nieces we brought to Iloilo to go to school.

      Could you teach your kids Hiligaynon and/or Tagalog before you come. That would help them get started.

      We sent a niece to Central Philippines University, one of the best colleges. Including room and board, the cost was more than $1,000 per semester. CPU does have K-12 education as well. One tremendous advantage your kids will have is the ability to get an affordable degree in the Philippines and return to the US as citizens to work. I have tried to interest my adult kids getting a Philippine education in nursing or physical therapy and similar occupations and then returning to the U.S. to work.

      I would not worry about safety so much if you live in Iloilo City.

      Good luck.

      Bob

      Reply

    • Hello, I and my wife and two kids are living in the Philippines. We have been living here for four years. I would give the experience mixed reviews. There are many problems the kids will have to overcome with language being a big one. My kids are having a very hard time with fillipino. They speak only english. Also finding a decent school that you can afford will be another issue. The public schools are getting worse each year with severe overcrowding and little disicipline. The cost of moving and establishing a ressidence will be more expensive then you think, and the living cost with kids and schooling will be greater than the $2k mentioned here. I would rethink my dream until the last kid is out of high school before moving. Pleaase contact me if you have any questions.

      Reply

      • Thomas,

        Thanks for your excellent post. I remember all the posts a few years ago about “living like a king” on $1,000 per month. While one can live on a $1,000 per month, it’s going to be a modest life. That is not to say the $1,000 a month life in the Philippines is an unhappy one. It can be great as long as your expectations, material needs and health are commensurate with living on that amount. A good percentage of the joy of living in the Philippines is available to anyone on any budget, but money problems can certainly make that joy hard to sustain.

        Our own experience is that if you have a wife and kids and want a house rather than a small apartment, $2,000 is, as you say, more realistic. Further, our perception is that the situation is going to get worse for the expat due to and unfavorable exchange rate and a higher rate of inflation in the Philippines compared to the developed world.

        Bob and Carol

        Reply

  6. Very interesting blog. First off, I am Filipino, born and living in Manila. I found your post balanced and neither negative nor positive, as I said balanced. What I found interesting is how you took time to write about the Philippines and your not Filipino. Your insight are accurate about the current state in this country, or what I perceive it as well. Thank you.

    Reply

  7. hello Bob,
    I like to add some info that the seafood sold in iloilo city is fresh catch from the waters of the municipality of Carles, Estancia had only two Islands
    fronting Carles sea and Carles Famous Islands including Sicogon Island ( the Boracay of the 80s) Gigantes Island and naburot and many more.

    Reply

  8. Thnanks for all the helpful hints. My intentions are to move to the IloiloCity area andsttle down with my soon to be Filipino wife. As with many people today my resorces are a ltiilt slim I should arrive with around 80k in my pocket and social security of about 1800.00 us a month to love on. Can I make it?

    Reply

    • Tom,

      You should be fine with $1,800per month. Just keep in mind that inflation here is about 5%. Your SS COLAs probably will be less so inflation may gradually reduce your real income. Help to your wife’s family and your medical expenses are main variables. Try to hold on to a large cash buffer to deal with major medical expenses. If you can’t pay you will not get treatment.

      Best wishes,

      Bob and Carol

      Reply

  9. Hi! This is such a refreshing, entertaining and insightful blog. I’ve been reading for the last 45 minutes and can’t help but comment. My partner is an Australian author who also blogs about the Philippines. We hope to meet you one day 🙂 We might have a very interesting conversation!

    Lei

    Reply

    • Lei,

      Thanks very much for your kind words. It certainly would be great if we could meet and exchange notes some day.

      Regards,

      Bob

      Reply

  10. Hi Bob,

    I’ve been on Panay now since 2001 every year. In total 32 weeks and I find all my personal expiriences on this threat. It’s true, if you are looking for a “fullservice” Residence, the Phil’s are the wrong place. But if you like a little bit adventure and you like the kind of people there and the weather and if you have no problems with the little everyday trouble, its the right place to stay. By the way, since last year I have a small bamboo-hut in Prarara Sur just 100 m to the beach. 😀
    In July I’ll be there again.

    cheese-man

    Reply

  11. Hi Bob,

    Found a link to your blog from the Living in the Philippines forum and I must say it will be a goto site for me. My wife (of 27 years) and I are nearing the completion of our home in a little fishing village just 15 klicks outside of Calybayog City, Samar. I have three years of living there under my belt and pretty much know what I am in for (I’m actually worried more for the asawa’s re-acculturation than about myself) and is the very reason we choose the location we did. Calbayog City (city of waterfalls) has just about everything one could want with an aggressive and progressive approach to their future with many new construction projects in the works. I personally do’t mind the noise, pollution, diesel fumes, and all that as long as it’s at my discretion, and when I return to the house, I will have the peace and quiet (coded Philippine oxymoron) that I desire in our little village. I just finished another blogger’s two-part take on building in the Philippines as he has nothing good to say about owning or building your own home here, especially building by remote control. We has accomplished this very satisfactorily and will be visiting next month to coordinate the finishing touches on the house. We have not encountered any of the pitfalls he described as imminently certain! With the right homework, the right people and your own due diligence, it can be done. Now I would agree, if you are needing something totally western in design, then you should be here to oversee all phases of construction. We look forward to our visit to Samar next month, and to our permanent retirement by the end of the year or the apocalypse, which ever comes first.

    Reply

  12. Hi Bob,
    The road to retirement seems still long, but 672 days may not be that far away, when I consider what everything needs to be done. Settle the final drawings and eventually ask for utilities and construction permits. We opened saving accounts that the bank can issue us cheks when the time comes. I will have my retirement + SS + pension deposited in the U.S. bank. I read some of your responses on banking, but they were a while ago. We have a good established account with the Citi, but my main banking is through credit union that doesn’t charge monthly account fees. I believe that Citi will be good for using the CC, but all other services, such other accounts and checks will go through credit union. As far as getting any mail, would you recommend getting a service that is offered by several forwarding companies. Not cheap, but some CC companies want to have U.S. address. Any comment or suggestion will be appreciated.
    In last 10 years I have been in RP many times, and can’t wait to get there permanently. All, so called privilages and “good life” in the U.S. can stay behind me. Interesting how a lot of things do not matter at certain point of the life.
    Regards,
    Jan

    Reply

    • Jan,

      The credit union should be fine. Citibank does have a basic checking account with no fees as long as you keep a balance of $1,500 or direct deposit and pay at least one bill through it. I stick with Citi because they don’t fumble the ball with international banking such as wire transfers. I cancelled my Citi credit card and never use my debit card because Citi’s international transaction fees are horrible. If was starting over, I’d try CapitalOne for all my banking. Their Visa card has the lowest international transaction fees available.

      For mail forwarding, we use usabox.com. We’ve used them for years without problems.

      Happy retirement!

      Bob and Carol

      Reply

  13. nice blog and very true. Ive been living here for about 7 years, since i was 20. Im from the uk.

    My conclusion about the Philippines is (and its just my personal opinion) its like marmite, you either love it or you hate it. If your coming here to live a paradise lifestyle, beach shorts, shirt, sunglasses, sunshine, palm trees, cheap food, beer and cocktails, and crystal clear water then i would say DEFINATELY, go for it! Philippines is perfect for that. I lived in boracay for 4-5 years and loved everyday of it, never doubted or had second thoughts about living in the Philippines, infact everyday i woke up with a smile on my face thinking wot a lucky barstad i am. BUT, when i moved away the beach 2 years ago (to manila) things quickly changed. Manila has some very cool spots, its an awesome city with alot of interesting stuff going on, but its also dirty, heavily polluted, disgusting in some parts, alot of beggars, traffic, corruption, living in Manila can be hell. On the flipside, i spend alot of nights eating in fine dining restaurants (because its so cheap) for a few bucks, so life is pretty good in some ways, i also spend alot of time at the driving range, malls, cinemas, bars, something i would not be able to do back in the UK on my income. All these things cost peanuts here and there are alot of VERY nice spots in Manila too, nicer than anything ive seen in england.

    However life in england (or your own country) is much easier to be honest, dealing with business, gov, bank issues. As a foreigner in the Philippines you will see RED TAPE Everywhere!!!! forget mortgages, loans, gov assistance, health care, you wont get any of that here easily. My dad is about to retire here in 3-4 years time and i cant decide if i will tell him go for it! OR dont even think about it. My dad is 60 so im worried at his age its harder to adapt to the inconveniences of life here.

    Im also undecided about the people here. something i always tell friends is that for example, the women here, are the most beautiful and also the worst looking women ive ever seen. The kindest and most evil. The guys, some are the coolest guys ive ever met anywhere in the world and ive made a few filipino friends, while others are the most awful, evil people ive ever met. I guess thats the philippines, just wildly diverse. Its amazing, its awful! Its beautiful, its disgusting!! Ive never worked out why every time im about to land in the Philippines i feel so happy, content and at home, but for some reason i do?

    Reply

    • Kris,

      Absolutely great post! Thank you. We live in a beautiful, quiet corner in the provinces, but I also like Manila — but I grow sick of it after a week or so and yearn for the provinces. With lots of Iloilo to Manila flights and inexpensive Manila hotels and dining, it’s pretty easy and affordable to spend time both in Manila and the provinces. Increasingly we see Manila as the place for medical care, dining and buying all the things we can’t find in the provinces. We already have our shopping list for our next trip!

      Thanks again for your post and best wishes,

      Bob and Carol

      Reply

  14. Hi Bob & Carol,
    Dan here, on Negros (about 60 kM S of Bacolod). Just found your site and really appreciate the resources presented! My wife, of 8 years is native Negrense, but lived in Oregon for 20+ years prior to moving “home”. We’ve lived here nearly 2 years now. It was my idea to move here, not exactly her idea of retirement. I tried to do the research, made several trips here (4-6 weeks each), talked with others that made the transition, but it obviously wasn’t enough to truly absorb the reality of actually living here. With my naivety waning I now believe I understand the basis of my wife’s apprehension. She had completely assimilated to US culture (in a small coastal community) and was happy living there. Bringing her and our 10-year-old daughter here has been nothing short of an adventure: extremely rewarding at times but often very frustrating.

    In an effort o appease my wife & daughter, we did build a small (1,800 sq ft) western style house. That endeavor caused a great amount of stress, as we had to instruct ALL involved, from the engineer to the laborers, on how to perform their tasks. All “engineers” that we spoke with were completely clueless on construction methods outside of the “basic”, including normal home amenities. The plumber had never heard of a hot water system or “venting”, and was lost on mixing type valves, solar water heaters, and a pressurized supply. The electrician new nothing of phase-to-phase 240/120v systems, generator auto transfer switches, or circuit load calculations. Fortunately, we have built a few houses in the US (as a “paper contractor”) so with great patience, we were able to get beyond the absence of skill and especially lack of common sense (constantly “babysitting” at all phases of project) and turned out a very nice product. Pros: We made many friends – officials, tradesmen, laborers, suppliers. We are still contacted by them for “advice”. We just had a wonderful Christmas party for all involved. Also, even though much went into this project, it was still 40% less than the cost to build in Oregon. Cons: No Home Depot or Lowes – materials were procured from dozens of suppliers. It took an inordinate amount of time (and fuel) to network and locate these businesses. Citi Hardware is a good Philippine effort but far from adequate. Several fixtures and appliances had to be imported from the US.

    Similar frustrations are also experienced in interacting with nearly all government and business entities. Incredibly inefficient and lacking in common sense. We must constantly educate those representing these entities. Example: go to a “hardware store” and ask for six 1 ½” 8 x 32 machine screws! We’ve ran into many problems with the school system and Dept of Ed. Until very recently (next year) the schools have only 10 grade levels – turning out children instead of young adults. We will be forced to take our daughter back to the US to attend high school or she will be greatly handicapped when engaging the SAT. Now, what about the complete disregard of traffic rules AND enforcement (i.e. “No tricycles or trisikads allowed on National Highways”)? I cannot stress enough the value of reading your suggested book “In Our Image – America’s Empire in the Philippines”. It fully explains why the RP is so extremely dysfunctional today. The blame lies solely upon mismanagement by the US.

    Honestly, I didn’t begin this writing with intent to rail against the RP. I still feel this is a wonderful place to retire. And you CAN live a fairly western lifestyle on a low budget, but it does take time to “learn the system”. For example, we have over 400 TV channels & DVR from Comcast in Oregon through “Slingbox” (16 hours difference of course) – forget local satellite, the Rose Bowl is coming up! Go Ducks!! “Bob’s” in Bacolod has real micro-brewed beer. S&R in Cebu is just like walking out of the RP and into the US. But most importantly, as espoused by many others contributing to your “Comments”, the Philippine people are incredibly gracious and genuinely good at heart. They sincerely mean well!

    We’ll be leaving in 3 years, but will return permanently to our home here 4 years later, after we see our daughter through high school in Oregon. Merry Christmas ! ! !

    Reply

    • Dan,

      Many thanks for your excellent comments. My theory is that it’s possible to float on the surface of Philippine life, enjoying the smiles and sunshine while knowing that there’s lots of dark, dangerous and unpleasant currents below. However, when you build a house you are really forced to confront stuff you can normally avoid. Now that your house is done (as is ours) maybe you can just enjoy the good parts of life here — and there are many!

      Best wishes with your plans and for the holiday season.

      Bob and Carol

      Reply

  15. I’m really glad to see that someone told it like it is. I love living here in the Philippines, but it’s definitely not a “pristine paradise”, without a few caveats.

    When i lived in Panama, I remember that all the real estate web sites and tourist sites talked about Panama as though it was also a “Paradise” for retirement. Panama is actually a dirty, dangerous place with generally unfriendly people who don’t like foreigners.

    The Philippines is, in my honest opinion, a far better place to live. Even with the many drawbacks, the people are almost universally friendly and the weather and environment can be very beautiful. As you say, outside the larger cities, anyway.

    Thanks for the article! I’ve bookmarked your site and will be coming back often.

    Reply

  16. Your site is a refreshing change from other blogs where expats ‘living in Cebu’ seem to spend all their time complaining about the Phils.
    I’ve been to Cebu five times since 1992 and have not found anywhere that I feel more relaxed and at ease. My wife is from Mindanao and we’ve been married eighteen years. I’ve also traveled around the country a bit, Baguio, Lake Taal, Cavite. Very beautiful sights, but the people are the best thing there. They are very kind to foreigners as you pointed out. I am eligible to retire in two years (I’ll be 54) and already own some properties in Cebu so I’m planning to do as you did and build a house. Thanks for your site.

    Reply

    • Thanks for the very appreciated feedback. As Milton says in Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place, and in itself
      Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.”

      Reply

  17. Hi there Bob and
    Carol, i just read your article (Reality Check), which i agree with 100%. It is honest, accurate, factual and unbiased. It is, above all, “How it is”.
    The expression, `when in rome——–` comes to my mind. Some romans lead fulfilled, happy, interesting lives: good very fresh local food/wine, friendly neighbors, beautiful surroundings, clean air and equable climate, amongst many other positive attributes. Others, even though wealthy, lived miserable lives, forever in the rat-race of commerce and politics often in the great cities, or cloistered in ornate villas cut off from the real people and their surroundings–much like living in a gated community.
    I live in a nice house, (well, we like it and that`s what really matters) right on the edge of a large and fairly poor Pinatubo resettlement complex. There seem to be millions of kids, polite and very clean, but definitely not suffering from obesity, who, with big smiles, are happy to chat to a total stranger. Many cockerels, yes; about the same number as karaoke machines!!!! There are also ducks and pugos, with their delicious little eggs, very very fresh. And the balut sellers (yuk!), fresh fruit and veg, etc etc etc. all parading past my door every day. In fact, if i wanted to, i need never go beyond my gate in order to purchase all my alimentary needs.
    When i do go out, which is often, i am met with smiling faces, especially from the women: even if i am with my partner. Back in the U.K. i think women have developed an extra gene, which makes them walk along with their necks bent over to face the ground in order never to have to make eye-contact with a stranger. Why?
    I am actually writing this in Cornwall, in England, back on business,sitting looking out through my window over the grey sea, at the grey clouds: it is, of course, raining. I think the temperature today is about 15C, malamig!
    But it is not the weather that makes me homesick for the Philippines, it is the people that live there.

    Reply

  18. Thank you for asking. Sure you can use that “tropical paradise” post. We’d appreciate credit. Best wishes.

    Bob and Carol Hammerslag

    Reply

  19. We’ve lived here in the Philippines for 7 years and experienced homes in Subdivisions and local barangis.
    The contrast is enormous, from one extreme to another. The quietness and respectability of the Subdivision to the noise and low standards of the local environment. I realised that that we could not live amongst the working class people and accept their way of living. My background is middle class and I wrongly thought that living locally would be okay. The upmarket subdivision on the other hand can present a sterile environment and its necessary to make friends or you will be isolated. Many wives of expats are from impoverished backgrounds and making friends with well heeled Filipinos is not easy since they will have staff on the same level and of course not socialise. Choosing a place to live takes some time and I would advise to rent close by for at least a year before making a decision. It is also very easy to design a new home but we tend to do it from our old ways of living and not from living in the Philippines. A period of living in this environment before designing a home is recommended. Easy to buy here but not to sell!!!

    Reply

  20. I lived in the Philippines 27 years ago for a year in Cebu City.
    I married a local girl and brought her back to the US where she has become on of the most well known and popular people in our small town. Recently I went back to the country
    to look for a place to retire. I tried Cagayan de Oro and it reminded me of Cebu City way back when. Has everything you need and a good economy. We will be moving in about 6 months as soon as our house is complete. Everyone I met there was very friendly and helpful and seemed glad we were going to be around in the future. I have been following the local paper on line and crime there is about the same as in our local “big city” which has one third the population. Looking forward to the move, but will have a security fence even in my guard gated secure neighborhood. And my dog.

    Reply

  21. Pingback: Reality Check: the Philippines – a tropical paradise for the retiree? | Philippines or Bust

  22. Hi Bob. i’m happy to read your unbiased description of Philippine (RP) cities with various socio-economic-infrastructure problems. Most cities are getting worse in terms of traffic congestion, thousands of tricycles, jeepneys, taxis, and motorcycles, graft and corruption, etc. So, when my wife and i take to the streets, i tend to say, “Let’s get out and live in a peaceful country.” Yet, you are right. There are also many good reasons why living/retiring here is good. i know of a British couple, 70 yrs, who moved residence from England to Palmas Del Mar Subdivision, Bacolod City. We just have to discern though the hidden character of people. We cannot afford to be too trusting. Bad eggs are so many as there are good ones. God’s gracious providence be with you and Carol always.

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  23. i have been to the philippines 2 times in the past 16 months and will return in this march to get married.i will spend 50 days there and in that time i am supposed to buy a lot,build a small house,get married,buy a new television and bed frame.i will then return here to the u.sa and continue to work at my pathetic $1,200 per month job while paying $600.00 per month in child support.meanwhile my new filipina bride will continue to live in our new home while i send her a cool 5,000 pesos each month so she and her daughter can eat.after approx 12 months have passed i will return there and stay again for another 30-50 days depending on wether or not my job will allow this.i am 54 years old and so 7 years away from s.s.ive been through a divorce so my life savings upon my return from my 50 day stay will be aprox $28,000 usd and shrinking fast.am i setting myself up for certain failure or what???

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  24. Hi i have just read your article and i have found it very comendable , you are right about a philipinos life being hard it is , my wife came from a very poor family but her and her sisters all went through university and two are now teachers there in mindanoe , when i was there i found that although they may hve there own problems far greater than mine they were always polite and courtious , there children even in the back streets there clothes were impecably clean the words insipiring dignity just about some it up, when i married my wife i told her you are never to walk behind me always along side of me and you will always keep your head up you are the equal of anybody else no mattter who they are.
    chris

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  25. Hi Pablo,

    Thanks for your excellent, but pointed comment. Ouch! You know life in the Philippines. Having lived here over three years, I am learning. However, would-be expats DO dream of the Philippines as being a less expensive Hawaii or Tahiti. Let’s face it, it’s not. It may be better than those places for those that can appreciate the genuine virtues of the Philippines, but it can be a disappointment for those who can’t.

    We both love it here and we’re not going home — as you suggest. I feel privileged to live amongst Filipinos. I wrote this post because there was at least one foreigner from the U.K. who came here in large part because of my blog posts which are, in general, very positive. This particular individual (and I am sure there are others) felt mislead by me and by others. After six months, he and his wife went back to the U.K. never wanting to see the Philippines again. This “tropical paradise” post was my effort at “full disclosure”. Maybe you’re right that I went a bit overboard, but other posts make it clear how much we like living here.

    Previously, we lived in Upstate New York, not far from Montreal. I just adore Montreal as my favorite North American City. I took my mother-in-law there and she hated it. It was, in her eyes, big and dirty and noisy and scary. It’s the same with the Philippines. Some will find it to be a paradise. Others can’t imagine living in such a place. Fortunately, I’m the former, but don’t imagine that many don’t agree.

    Bob

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  26. Hi Bob,
    Nice posting, but a bit coloured. Yes, you could like on an island 48 hours away by boat, no medical care, no power, only satellite phone and no shopping mall. You could indeed also elect to live in a Philippine city, have to cope with the dirty air, congested roads, potential ciminality and all that. But let’s face it, in the city in a western country where I currently live (25 million people), it took me 90 minutes to get to a hospital 3 kilometers away, I have been robbed in a “safe” country and stuck in a European airports for nights. So, why complain when I got sick and it took me 90 minutes to get from my place in Philippines to a hospital 75 kilometers away? Why complain when I don’t have to lock my door in my little place in a small village in Philippines? Like you said, the local population has (almost) fished the sea empty, Very bad boys! But wait a minute… With all our clever Western systems, controls and politicians, we have managed to eat all the cod from the NorthSea, the herring is so rare we pay in gold for it and we are just out of the “Acid Rain” period. So who are we to call the kettle black? I think it is a challenge to use our experience, training and connections to try to get some minor changes done locally in Philippines. And: Like in our home countries, where we are still not listening to the warnings on global warming, we aparently have to learn the hard way. So why would the Filipino people listen to our experience?? So, if they do, we can only congratulate them on their insight and willigness to learn. That makes the place a lot more fun. Even if the improvements are small and far between. It’s more than I have achieved in many other places in this world.
    And buying your stuff at the local market instead of a huge SuperMall? Ofcourse, if you can’t live without McDonalds or your Starbucks, then you should not live in a small town. But if you can manage to enjoy the coffee from your own plantation, fresh fish, a duck from your pond and a good cigar with a glass of Tanduay, why worry about this greasy hamburger?
    However, there is an issue which you need to consider before settling down: When you have finished building your house, when you have build your pool, modelled the garden, what are you going to do? Can you have fun sitting down with the local population and have a laugh about the latest TV series or the village politics? Or do you have to go to the expat community an keep complaining about the bad roads and the latest crime??? If you are not sure what you are going to do, maybe you should consider again if this is the real thing for you… If you cannot handle the local frustrations and keep smiling politely, maybe you better stay in a western country.
    Philippines can be heaven if you know how to appreciate it. It also has proven hell for many who left frustrated (or worse)…. Think well before you decide, and try it out for a while….

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  27. very interesting reading. i am retired and livve for a large part of the year on mindoro island. my bride is from manila, but was born on mindoro, so when we were looking to purchase some land we ended up there. we have a hectare of beachfront and it is truly a paradise. i fully concur with your opinion of provincial folks. they are truly the salt of the earth and i too have absolute respect for their ability and cheerful good nature, even in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. i have made more true friends on the island in one year there than i ever have made in my home country in a lifetime. if you want to retire there, go for it, but treat others with the respect you yourself expect. just don’t act like a smart-arse “wealthy” foreigner and you’ll do o.k. regards, steve.

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  28. I accidentally found your website when I was searching Nogas Island in Antique. Thanks for the great words about Filipinos and for choosing Philippines as your second home. Not to mention that I am originally from Tigbauan.

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  29. hi bob and carol,
    thanks for your informative blog, Im from estancia iloiloand my wife is from igbaras.I love philippines, i always go home every year and do medical mission. my last medical mission was in bayombong nueva viscaya.people there are so nice. im planning to retire in the philippines someday.

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  30. Hello Bob and Carol,
    This is the first time I have read your blog. It is very interesting and informative. I have been doing a lot of research on living in the Philippines. My wife is from Toril, Davao City. I have been there from California 4 times. The longest I have lived there is six weeks continuous. I am looking at a five year plan here in the States before moving to Lubugan, Toril. I love it there. Reminds me a little of my youth in northern Illinois and when we lived in central Louisiana. I will retire in about 4 years and I am giving myself about a year before leaving here.
    In my research I find new things to consider and the ones I am looking at seem to open new questions. Insurance seems to be a big one. Maybe the biggest. I want to build my home to my specifications and that opens up a lot of questions that I am sure I would have here as well. Quality, cost, workmenship….all that stuff. Leaving my family (children, grand children, brother, sisters and my mom if she is still alive by then. She is 83 years young now) is a big concern as well.
    We all know that retirement doesn’t mean sitting, eating and watching TV all the time. That just adds up to death very quickly. Not to mention boredom. So, my wife and I have big dreams of opening a very small Christian school, small bakery and maybe even a small bed and breakfast for visiting foreigners. All on a very small scale. We have one very large lot and a small one near by. My wife has a number of family members that are college educated but as you know there are very few jobs to go around. I would love to employ some of them to make these dreams happen, if not just a way to provide money for family without just giving hand outs.
    I would be very interested to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

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  31. Thanks Kenneth. We have traveled to Estancia a few times to buy fish at the pier and the fish market. Much of the seafood sold in Iloilo City comes from Estancia. I’m intrigued by the beautiful islands you can see from Estancia. Pumpboats leave from Estancia to some of these islands. We hope to visit them sometime.

    We try to be realistic in our comments but our retirement experiences in the Philippines and Iloilo have been great. We don’t see too many “cons”.

    Bob and Carol

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  32. Hi Bob,

    I read your blog with great interest! My wife is from Estancia, Iloilo and also dream about living in the Philippines. However there are many pro and cons to consider and it’s interesting to read about your experiences!

    Reply

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