Mike Mikesell – the tragic Philippine journey of an amazing American

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“An American psychologist was found dead under his car parked on the MacArthur Highway in Barangay Pio Cruzcosa, Calumpit, Bulacan early yesterday morning.  Police said Mike Mikesell, president of the Rotary Club of Barasoain,Malolos and former consultant at the Tanglaw Pag-asa (Bulacan Center for Youth Offenders), had a gunshot wound in the head.”  Did Mikesell commit suicide or was he murdered?  Here is the story.  You’ll have to draw your own conclusions.”

These are some of Mikesell’s on-line posts, as chronological as we can make them, of this  American, who came to live in the Philippines, who engaged himself in the culture and in extraordinary good works, who became disillusioned and finally was killed or committed suicide.  We’re not sure what moral or lesson can be drawn, but there’s much food for thought for expats and aspiring Philippine expats.  As is typical in such cases, there is minimal followup.  The stories flash in the headlines and then are forgotten.  As far as we know, there was never a credible explanation of  Mikesell’s death. Sometimes it seems that the authorities, Philippine and U.S., feel that foreigners who come to the Philippines to live know in advance that it can be a dangerous place and that we should not be surprised if something bad happens.  It’s just the way things are.


“Very nice job, Tom. To reinforce some of Tom’s post I will add a couple of sentences on my own satisfaction with life in RP. Finding a happy location to live in was true for us… moved a few times, finally buying, building and matching our desires with our income.

Though there are 3 expats in our city of 51 barangays, we seldom see each other (except at joint Rotary Club meetings), and I have more to say to my barkada (close group of Filipino men my age who have taken me in lock-stock and barrel). I sit with them 2 or 3 nights a week and drink beer and eat pulutan. I work at a university with one, play tennis with another, take small trips with 2 others, and so on. I never had this level of social interaction in the US, preferring pretty much to stay apart. These guys are always sort of around and while not bothering, or pestering me, they make it very easy to do things with them that I enjoy. They often do things that incorporate my wife and kids.

I am mostly stared at, called Joe, and my presence sometimes stimulates laughter and a clerk scurrying away to call for another clerk to wait on me. Though I have learned to speak Tagalog in a primitive fashion, those listening always expect me to speak English and there is always that communication dance until we settle. While some Filipinos are fluent in English, most in my experience are marginally able to communicate in English, and a lot cannot). My Rotary Club is made up of doctors and attorneys and the like, and they insist that I speak Tagalog because its hard work for them to translate constantly.

This list, remote when I choose it to be, serves my need for expat communication. Strange huh? Oddly, it fills my need when I read and write things back and forth with members. While I have never met Don H. personally, I feel I am a friend. We sometimes communicate by text or voice. Others on the list I know as “friends”, though they aren’t what you would think of in the US as friends. With a few others I sometimes sense animosity or adversity. On a few occasions I have been in Angeles but never try to talk with any of the expats or visitors I run across.

Just my thoughts,
Mike M.”


“Hi Chris,
I am the project director of a program that brings education (1st to 10th grade), counseling (drug, offender, victim), skills training (electronic, well drilling, etc), and spiritual- read character development, to approximately 500 prisoners at the Bulacan Provincial Jail. Its not a prison until they have been convicted which takes up to 5 or 6 years, and then they go to one of the 7 prisons in the Philippines- from here they go to Muntinlupa. My “salary” goes to the prison. There are a total of 2,2500 prisoners here. I also direct Tanglaw Pag-asa (hope and peace), the juvenile rehab center for 75 youth in slam for index crimes.

Visiting daily 1 – 5. The are dependent on family/visitors for everything (medication, shampoo, clothes, etc), except an insufficient amount of food daily. Now we are not allowing money in because of extortion. I am trying to establish a bank against administrative opposition.

Many if not most prisoners are indigent-usually meaning squatters. Their children, spouses, can’t afford transportation so they never receive visitors. Many families disintegrate during the 5 year incarceration period. I have recently arranged with a Rotary Club in San Jose del Monte to bring 50 visitors twice a month. My club will pay one trip per month (about 1,600 with food thrown in).

There are many groups waiting for counseling. I do 10 sessions per groups- in part for the therapy and in larger part for the opportunity for prisoners to talk to someone.

If you want to know about hell, visit one. If you are in Bulacan, drop in and I’ll give you the tour.

Thanks for asking, Mike M.”


“Its how we live, its what we do and we are not likely to change. Its also known and talked about by everyone and everyone throws up their hands. This level of pessimism is like fresh salt, spicy or painful.

For me, the most difficult part of finding solace in living in the Philippines has been fitting into the culture. The hugely numerically dominant lower classes beg, borrow, and steal what I have and throw their offal in any water source. We cherish their white toothed smiles though many if not most have rotting teeth and no health insurance. The overflow of their offspring roam the streets of every municipality, unclaimed.

The extremely thin middle classes hang onto their legacy of property and practice their barkadas day and night, clinging to one another while drinking 5 beers each night and eating pulutan. They have insurance, make heartless use of the lower class in their employment, and enjoy their status. Their smiles conceal what they are thinking. They claim they want to change the status of the lower classes but cling tightly to everything they own- except for when it comes to the barcadas. They are pessimistic about the government.

The extremely wealthy overlords- it is said that 250 families own 95% of the Philippines- rule with impunity. They seldom have to rethink anything they wish to do because they are in charge. They control government, economy, crime and social progress.”

“To oversimplify about myself, I was raised in a lower class environment, and like many, many Americans crawled into and was accepted by the huge middle class. Poor people brushing elbows with well-to-do people and no one the wiser. I didn’t hobnob with the Rockefeller, Kennedy and Bush families, but except as a child, never knew hunger. We all had/have money sufficient to keep us content.

Here, I am welcomed with open arms into the middle classes, but as a generality find it cloistering, sadly hypocritical and disingenuous. They seem to tolerate my pitiful philanthropy, commenting that they are blessed to have me here- but, they don’t want to join me in trying to fix things. I search among them unsuccessfully for a confidante. I relish my daily reading of the comments of people on this list- my contact with reality. I seem to be stuck in paradise to sort of coin a phrase. I don’t really want to spend my remaining years consuming 5 beers a night and eating goat entrails.

But, that’s who we are and what we do. Take it or leave it.

Mike M.”


“I am lonely here, made more so by an increasing recognition of how deeply alien I am. I have long tired of the nightly drinking and eating with the barcada. I see more deeply into the Austroasian mind as time passes.”


News Report

American found dead By: Emil G. Gamos & Erick Silverio MALOLOS City —An American psychologist was found dead under his car parked on the MacArthur Highway in Barangay Pio Cruzcosa, Calumpit, Bulacan early yesterday morning.

Police said Mike Mikesell, president of the Rotary Club of Barasoain,
Malolos and former consultant at the Tanglaw Pag-asa (Bulacan Center for Youth Offenders), had a gunshot wound in the head.

The victim was found by village watchmen under his silver XLT Ford Ranger with a .25 handgun at 3:50 a.m., police said.

Police said a handwritten note with a message “Pls. contact Fe Mikesell” was found on the car windshield. Fe Mikesell turned out to be the victim’s Filipino wife.

Acting Bulacan police director Senior Supt. Allen Bantolo said he is still awaiting the results of the forensic investigation of the SOCO on the incident.

“Sa initial report, it appears na mukhang me element ng suicide dahil sa nakitang handwritten note at baril sa tabi ng bangkay ng biktima,” Bantolo said.

Bantolo directed the Provincial Police investigation branch to conduct a thorough probe of the incident.

Mikesell supported the giving of free services to juvenile delinquents detained at Tanglaw Pag-asa. He is also very active helping the local government in its youth and health programs.


Hello everyone. I’m a long-time friend of Mike Mikesell, and I’ve been a member of this group as long as he had, although I never posted a message. I’m also married to a filipina, and I was the one to introduce the Philippines to Mike.

I want to clear up some confusion about his passing and to recognize his contributions to the Philippines.

I’ve been quite active to trying to ensure a complete investigation happens, and that is the case. The police are extensively conducting this, and the Am. Embassy is watching all of this too.

If you knew Mike well, you would know he would never take his own life, and just last week I had been helping him line up a boat that he had planned to live on with his family. They recently visited a marina to look at one. He was also investigating a business idea I sent him.

It’s now become known Mike had recently taken out a restraining order on someone. He also had received death threats. Mike was found under his truck shot with his gun he carried in the truck. His hands were scraped. He was dirty, indicating he put up a fight.

I can only conclude something went sour with someone or with multiple people who decided to do this. It may have been Mike was going to protect himself with the gun, and they got it away from him.

You may be aware Mike was a psychologist (we went to the same grad school and were in the same psychology program), and Mike volunteered his time as a professor at the Univ. of Bulacan, a prison, an orphanage, a juvenile detention center, and a women’s insane asylum. I visited all these facilities with him last year, and the people there (both staff and patients/prisoners) loved him. Mike was also the president of the local Rotary. Mike brought programs to these facilities that had never been seen in the Phils . He moved people out of cages were they had been locked away for years. He brought hope to others who could not get the ear of anyone to listen to their plight. He helped people develop skills that would keep them out of these facilities in the future. Mike loved helping others caught up in these facilities/situations, and he was driven to do whatever he could.

Mike’s wife, Fe, is barely coping, as you can imagine. I’m sure at some point she will be viewing these postings. Any other positive comments, memories, you may want to relate to her, I’m sure she will appreciate.

These years in the Philippines for Mike have been the best for him. I’m sure that he has no regrets in coming here. He sometimes pushed things to their limits, but that only enhanced the wild ride of his life that simply added to his enjoyment. Goodbye Mike.

and finally,

I too feel a huge loss for Mike and now understand why Mike posted to this site concerning Life Getting To Him Here

I seriously doubt that Mike committed suicide but was set up for a contract killing,he may have underestimated the danger he was in. It is very easy to have a misunderstanding with a Filipino and be in grave danger.

We westerners commonly think that any altercations can be resolved by the courts and we rely on the Police to intervene in any disputes, however the mind set in this country leans more to revenge then settling disputes in court. The going rate for a contract killing is less then 300 USD thank God that the killers did not go after Mikes family as well

One of my best friends returned to America because of a land dispute between his wife’s family he nor his wife were involved The dispute was over fish pond ownership her father killed his cousin in a heated argument with a bolo and was also shot in the leg during the argument self defense but the cousins family put out a contract on my friends family

After this my friend started getting death threats on his life as well as his sons and his wife’s , so after 5 years of living here happly they decided to move back to the USA

My friend was a retired police officer from Detroit City and had seen his share of problems and had the recommendations on the wall to prove it but he realized that the threat to his family was real and it was impossible to insure his families safety.

As for Mike carrying a gun I’m sure the out come would have been the same with or with out the gun the only difference the gun could have made was if Mike had used it instead of carrying it he should never have let them get close enough to take it away from him

Just my opinion after 7 years of living here

Tom, Roxas City

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  1. Pingback: Mike Mikesell – An Amazing American Who Committed Suicide Or Was Murdered In The Philippines « Expat In Davao

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