Is living outside the city, in the Philippine provinces for you? Here’s a few things to consider. Certainly there are so many beautiful rural areas in the Philippines. I think of the lush, unspoiled area around Lucban, Quezon Province, I think of the spectacular rural landscapes and beaches of Bohol. Closer at hand for us, are the mountains and unspoiled beaches of Antique Province on Panay Island. When the foreigner sees that fantastic ocean front is so affordable, that the promise of living the beach-front dream is so easily obtainable in these eye-catching rural places.
But, before you leap, consider why such undeveloped rural and beach properties are so undeveloped and so inexpensive. For the Filipino there is no work. Whenever one (Pinoy or foreigner) needs decent medical or dental care, whenever you want the most rudimentary imported groceries, whenever you want to dine out, whenever you want a shopping mall, whenever you need a hardware store, you may have to drive hours over provincial roads. Not once, but each and every time you need to see the doctor or dentist, for every shopping trip. Emergency medical care in the Philippines is poor in the cities. Outside the cities there is none. There may be no Internet access, no Goggle and easy access to the world wide web’s rich resources for you or your kids, no Skype to keep up access to your family at home, no email and no blog. For all practical purposes there will be no police protection. If you have kids, the public schools for your kids may not what you have in mind. There will be no private school alternatives. You will be tremendously exotic to your neighbors, some of whom may never have seen a white foreigner before. It’s likely that there will be no English speakers to chat with.
Even more fundamentally, are you suited to such a rural life? Can you entertain yourself for day or weeks without a trip to the mall, a meal out at a restaurant and so forth. Not everyone is. Don’t get me wrong, living such a life in the rural Philippines can be richly rewarding, but we contend that it’s a rare foreigner who could really be happy without the conveniences and necessities mentioned above. Consider too that your circumstances change with age. You may be fit as a fiddle when you build your provincial dream home, but in a decade, or even a moment, proximity to decent medical care may be essential.
Just try to be sure of what you are doing before building your dream house in the provinces. There may be a good market for second hand houses in the cities because there are affluent Filipinos, businessmen, professionals, etc., but in the provinces there are few that can afford your “KanoKastle” as my friend Dave Starr (see his excellent site PhilFAQS) calls them. Take a look at THIS HOUSE FOR SALE in Bogo City, a nice small town at the north end of Cebu island, about 100KM north of Cebu City. We’ve been to Bogo and thought it an attractive place. The owner builder, Charles Harman was new to the Philippines. He bought two lots and built a house in 2004. He says he went all out for this house. spending around $80,000 in total. Mr. Harmon and his family now live in Cebu City and are trying to sell their former dream home eight years later for $65,000. This is a very common scenario. While we have never seen Mr. Harmon’s house, such second hand houses are usually well built and can be real bargains.
We point out that had Mr. Harmon built a house in Cebu City in 2004, it probably would be worth considerably more than it cost then. That’s because Cebu City is booming and there are many who can afford multi-million peso homes. This is true for ourselves as well. There’s a good market for homes in Iloilo City’s upscale subdivisions, but few buyers for homes such as our which are beyond easy commuting distance from the city.
Here in Iloilo as elsewhere, land prices seem to be directly related to distance from the city. In Iloilo City (depending on location) land is about 5,000 pesos per square meter. In Oton, ten kilometers out of the city, land is about 2,500 pesos per square meter, in Tigbauan, twenty-five kilometers out of the city, we paid 1,200 per square meter. Tigbauan is a far commute to the city. Continue further out, you’ll find beautiful small towns such as Miagao, and the prices continue to drop.
My wife and I ruled out places we really liked for some these considerations. We ended up buying property in small town, twenty-five kilometers from Iloilo City. The town is a very attractive rural place, quiet and beautiful, rice fields, carabaos ploughing, with the mountains of nearby Antique Province as the backdrop, a 250 year old Spanish church and good beaches. We feel it’s a good compromise for us. We like small town, rural life. We’ll get that but we’ll also get reasonable access to the necessities and amenities of the city.
The New York Times has an article on this same topic. It reports on a couple who retired in a scenic rural location in Montana but are considering the need to move to be closer to medical care. See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/business/retirementspecial/balancing-country-homes-against-hospital-proximity.html?src=recg