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.