Living in the Philippines

philippines-living-001Living in the Philippines

Here are some observations about living in the Philippines.

philippines-living-002Living in the Philippines can be a joy but you also get a fair amount of aggravation.

I am not an expert on the situation but here are a few of my personal observations good and bad.

1) Traveling in the Philippines is not really that cheap because the cost of accommodation is relatively expensive, (compared with Indonesia, for example, where it is not unusual to get a pretty good place for less than 10 USD per nite).

philippines-pi-002.jpg Filipinos put a big emphasis on class and prefer a room with no windows that has air conditioning and cable tv. 20 USD is a good starting point for accommodation in the Philippines

In Indonesia the rooms are often planned so there is a shaded veranda and windows so fresh air can cool the room. A rack for drying clothes is almost always present outside the door.

In the Philippines there is rarely a rack, so it is a real nuisance to wash your clothes. There is staff that can wash them but it seems to take them several days to get the job done.

Catbalogan fish market – interesting youtube video of my local fish market

philippines-pi-005.jpg 2) Living in the Philippines - If you are staying in one place and have time to look around you can often find a comfortable place to rent by the month for 100 to 200 USD a month. That can be a fully furnished place with cable TV.

Internet is spotty but if you have a land line and don’t mind a lower speed connection it is not expensive. Cebu and Dumaguette have modern technology and other cities are catching up quickly.

If you are happy with a place in the outback on a remote island there are probably nipa huts available for 10 USD a month or less but there will be no comforts and life will be quite hard.

Hinabangan Samar – youtube video of a small town in Samar

fish-market-015.jpg 3) Food is a big topic in the Philippines. Usually food stands specialize in pork gristle on a stick and just don’t do anything for me even though I try to be a good sport.

The key to actually living in the Philippines is to cook for yourself. The seafood is really fresh. Filipinos tend to deep fry fish in the morning and let it sit around till noon and then eat it soggy and cold.

This may be a learned habit because most people have no ref (refrigerator) and this keeps the fish from spoiling.

I try to buy seafood early in the morning and cook it around 10 am.

Passing under the Mactan Bridge – youtube video

philippines-pi-001.jpgKalamansi, garlic, onions, and other good stuff is widely available to spice things up. Lapu lapu cost around 50 pesos a piece and are exceptionally delicious.

When I am on the east coast of Samar I try to get some blue marlin or some yellow fin tuna. For me the only to eat yellow fin is raw in the form of sushi. Most Filipinos find this to be disgusting.

buying shoes in Samar – shoe store in Catbalogan – interesting video

gen_san_129.jpgGeneral Santos in Mindanao is perhaps the yellow fin tuna capitol of the world and tuna jaws are a local delicacy. They are incredibly delicious.

Waray Utang – goofy video about credit

donsol-storm-006.jpg Beautiful jumbo shrimp are around 200 pesos a kilo in most coastal fish markets. There are so many lovely recipes to cook them, just experiment.

philippines-005.jpgIt will be hard to screw up a fresh shrimp. (Just don’t over cook them or they get too tough).

philippines-opt-004.jpg Lechon manok and baboy (bbq chicken and fish) are often sold at road side stands and are quite good.

A whole chicken goes for around 150 pesos and porkĀ  starts at 240 pesos a kilo. (prices variable)

A pig can be had for around 3,000 to 5,000 pesos. Depends on size.

Mc Donalds in Tacloban – youtube video taken from McDonalds

philippines-pal-002.jpg Beef is rarely offered but caribao finds it’s way onto the menu on occasion. I prefer not to eat caribou because the poor animal worked so hard it’s whole life – just to land up on a dinner plate at so roadside diner.

philippines-opt-002.jpgCamote, casava, bananas, tomatoes, pineapples (in season), santol (local bitter fruit), papayays, jack fruits and all sorts of other local vegetables and fruits are available at the markets. Oranges (ponkan) and apples from China flood the streets in season.

Fried bananas are a favorite.

philippines-opt-001.jpgIf you live in a cosmopolitan area like Manila, Cebu, Dumaguete, Angeles there will be no problems finding international foods at the local malls. (Robinson, Ayala, SM Malls and local food outlets) The costs of living in the Philippines will increase dramatically if you depend heavily on imported goods.

_images_pics_oct2007_kaluis_img_0841 Ka Luis Restaurant in Puerto Princessa, Palawan.

dutchpickles 5 star rating goes to this great little place

philippines-opt-006.jpgThere are exotic treats like the famous “balut” (duck embryo still in shell) but it is more of a novelty for most westerners than a staple food item. They aren’t too bad but I never did acquire a taste for these feathered critters.

Here are some bbq chicken heads.

Crown Regency Tower changing color – half minute video

philippines-opt-005.jpgFast food joints like Jolibees and KFC abound but I have a hard time getting used to spaghetti with sugar sauce. Most of the bread from the bakeries has a lot of sugar too.

In any of the big malls there is usually a large food court with offerings ranging from pizza to adobo.

cebu-streets-029.jpgPotatoes are not a common food here but you can find them in the markets and make baked or mashed potatoes at home.

A good rule of thumb is that the further you get from the main expat enclaves, the more difficult it will be to get western food. The flip side to that is you can come up with some great stuff with local foods.

tugboats – video of the tugboats working the waterfront in Cebu

philippines-007.jpg 4) Using local transport is economical but inefficient. It is fun to ride the jeepneys and tricycles at first but after a few months or years you will find that it limits your lifestyle too much.

Often they do not run after 5 pm in the provinces and leave very early in the mornings only.

The view from the top of the jeepney on the road from Banaue to Sagada is memorable. You get above the tree line as you pass over the mountain.

If you are on holiday using public transport is a big part of the adventure.

philippines-pi-004.jpgIf you are living in a rural area waiting for jeepneys will consume too much of your time and the uniqueness will wear off rather soon. A simple trip to pick up a pvc connection could take a whole day.

Getting vehicles registered takes a long time (up to a year) so be prepared for that hassle if you opt to buy your own ride. A short cut is to buy a used vehicle that already has been registered.

There are occasional road blocks where registrations and drivers licenses are checked.

philippines-mi-001.jpgTechnically, insurance is mandatory. Philippine drivers licenses are easy to get if you have an existing one from your home country.

It takes a while to get used to the driving style here so move slowly ’till you get the hang of it.

img_6159.jpgThe Philippines is an country comprised of 7000 plus islands, at least according to the tourist brochures.

This means that you will probably use the ferry system. In most cases they are great but there was a major ferry disaster this year when the Princess of the Stars capsized during a typhoon resulting in a loss of around 800 people.

Lite Shipping – Cebu to Ormoc ferry – video taken on the ferry

philippines-robl-004.jpgI love traveling by ship. On overnight trips you can save a nights lodging.

philippines-pal-001.jpgI enjoy exploring the interior of Samar using local craft too. This is the Blanco Oro river in central Samar.

capul-samar-035.jpg 5) Building a house in the Philippines – So far I have not had the inclination to go this route. Many expats here build great places on the beach and it looks sweet but I am uneasy with the Philippine law that does not allow you to own the land.

You must provide the money and someone else has to have their name put on the title. It just seems too risky to me.

The house in this picture is on Capul Island of the North end of Samar, another beautiful area.

philippines-mi-005.jpgAnother issue is the capital gains tax. It you buy a piece of property for 25,000 USD and put 175,000 into it and sell it for 200,000 a few years later, you will be required to pay a tax on a capital gain of 175,000.

This is obviously not a capital gain but you might be forced to ante up anyway.

This place is on the west coast of Cebu between Moalboal and Bato.

philippines-mi-014Everything is kind of flaky here because there is a lot of fraud in the land office as well. There is a good chance that the original piece of property does not even belong to the seller you paid for it.

This place is on the east coast of Cebu

Rent is reasonable. I choose to rent. It is in the land lord’s interest to keep you healthy and happy.

philippines-mi-011.jpgIf you did choose to build, Dauin near Dumaguete on the island of Negros is very beautiful.

The island of Cebu is experiencing a boom on the coast south of Car Car down to Oslob as well.

philippines-mi-003.jpgIf you are a player and have spare cash, why not go ahead and build a place. Labor is cheap but things are not as inexpensive compared to the US as one would think.

Just don’t be too surprised if things get squirrely. One guy I met came home to find out that his wife had sold his resort to a Chinese group. He might get it back, but it’s been in court over 5 years already.

philippines-mi-004.jpgKeep in mind that I am not a real estate lawyer and regulations are changing all the time. Get a good lawyer if you go this route.

philippines-misc-007.jpgI was down at theĀ  immigration bld in Mandaue Cebu today and a guy there mentioned that the laws have changed and you can now get land in your name as long as you have a residency permit.

He did say that his house was in his wife’s name however. I have not yet met a foreigner that has the house in their own name yet.

philippines-mv-002.jpg Rent is reasonable. I choose to rent. It is in the land lord’s interest to keep you healthy and happy.

A place like this is Banawa, Cebu City in a gated community goes for 12,000 pesos per month.

2 Bed, 2 Bath

Pardon the mess – it’s moving day!

cebu-streets-028.jpg 6) Visa and residency permits – This is a rather tangled web of getting extensions and paying fees. The cost of visas in the Philippines has risen dramatically this past year.

Tourist visas are issued upon arrival at no cost for 29 days. They are extendable monthly or bi-monthly depending on a complicated system that I am not going to get into.

Balikbayan (arriving with spouse at the airport) are free for 12 months. Residency permits are available as well.

Philippine Government Immigration Link

philippines-mv-005.jpgA general rule of thumb is that you will have to make a visa run once every 12 months and immigration will be able to work out the rest for you.

I am guessing that the costs average out to about 75 USD per extension but it seems to be changing all the time.

The Philippines is considered to be a visitor friendly country but it will cost you!

philippines-kid-005.jpg 7) Security – Everyone has their own comfort level. Some like to live in gated communities with guards. They give me the creeps but lifestyle is a personal choice.

The general consensus is that things that are left lying around will come up missing.

The louvered windows, that are commonly used here, are easy to remove and become access ports if you don’t have bars over the windows.

whale-sharks-047.jpg8) Making Friends – Making friends is rather easy in the Philippines but use a degree of caution about who you choose to get close to.

This advice goes for both foreigners and locals. There is a substantial representation of crackpots here and it is not a bad idea to move slowly.

philippines-misc-043.jpgIt is not a bad idea to choose your Filipino friends with caution too because there could be a hidden agenda. All foreigners are perceived to be rich and many do fall for the numerous scams that are ever present in the Philippines.

philippines-misc-010.jpgFor those that live a wild lifestyle there is added risk because you are playing with other players and stuff is more likely to happen. People on that road usually know what can happen, so good luck to them!

One thing I would like to mention – It is a good idea not to make enemies unless it is absolutely necessary because a Filipino will often carry a grudge and strike back when you are vulnerable. They have long memories and are not prone to forgive.

philippines-misc-011.jpgEven if you know someone is trying to screw you it’s best to just smile and avoid confrontation. Good humor and self confidence can ward off most aggression.

I had a friend that was out of the country when a group broke into his house and attempted some sort of ransom situation with his Filipina wife and 3 kids.

philippines-misc-034.jpgHe was very poor by western standards and his wife explained that she only had 6000 pesos. They begrudgingly accepted that money and agreed to leave on the condition that she first cook them a nice meal.

Strange stuff happens here and it makes can make a difference how you handle it.

philippines-misc-015.jpgdp philosophy - Get yourself in a situation that no one benefits if something bad happens to you. This is kind of a modified rotary theme. Everyone wants to keep you healthy because it is also in their best interest.

philippines-misc-012.jpgA Scandinavian was recently murdered here but it came out that he became a big money lender using the borrowers land as collateral. He, his wife, kids and dog were murdered and the house burnt to the ground. Seems a lot of debts were forgiven that day.

philippines-misc-006.jpgAnother westerner that always wore a big diamond pinky ring was recently murdered in Lapu Lapu. Go figure?

If you want trouble you can find it.

to be continued – readers comments welcome!

Living in the Philippines

Sep 16, 2008

18 responses to “Living in the Philippines”

  1. I intend to move to Negros next year Feb —- any info on cost, life style, rented house would be much appreciated

  2. Hello Collin,

    I really enjoyed your observations. For the last twenty years, I have travelled from one end to the other of Cebu Island. Your perception is right on.

  3. colin,

    “one thing i wld like 2 mention-it is a good idea not to make enemies unless it is absolutely necessary because a filipino will carry a grudge and strike back when you are vulnerable. They have long memories and not prone to forgive.” PHIIPPINE POLITICS REVOLVE SO MUCH AROUND THAT ISSUE…..

    been to many countries in europe including your country, and if i may say, never liked the attitudes of europeans. They always think that they are far greater and better than most of us asians, where in fact we’re all just the same, it is just a matter of perception. Was so eager to come back to the Philippines… no wonder you are here too.

  4. colin,
    you are absolutely right laws in philippines like most of other countries change all the time definitely if you are a foreigners or so called “strangers”i am living outside philippines for more than 4 yrs now and i never felt safer than the time i was in my homeland…its so strange to hear that living abroad is much convenient in terms of security and also medical insurances…too much stuffs to tackle down in living in the philippines not only the cost of living,,,also laws,security and political corruption..
    PITY its the only word i can see my beautiful and rich country people have to dream a much better life..

  5. hey dp,
    hear what u saying about the sushi with tuna. i had it in Tacloban at a small place off the main highway.i think its called The Brod Pitt. ahahah Great sushi with lashing of wasabi ofcoarse. cy

  6. Very interesting reading here! Is there anyone here that would know of a house or apartment for rent? Will be in Leyte about Dec. 1st till the middle of April 2010. My wife is from Baybay & her family resides in Abuyog. Would like to find some place between the two,if possible.Any advice would be very helpful! Salamat! Joe

  7. Hi DP,Thanks for the info.! I’ve stayed in BayBay for 4 months,two years ago in an apartment(large room).It was O.K.,but way over priced! My wife’s family is in Abuyog & needs to be close to them. I really don’t like it,as they ALL (large family)think we are rich! They constantly put a lot of pressure on her for money! I personally would’nt mind being on the outskirts of Ormoc. Last time there I had a lot of Dental work done by a very fine Dentist,Dr. Mike Tan. Any info. about an apartment there would be great! Salamat,Joe. Leaving here Thanksgiving Day! Nov,26,2009.

  8. Thanks,DP! Will be in touch in early December. Happy travels! Joe

  9. Hi DP,We found a place here in BayBay. Thank you very much for your assistance! You do a great service & insight here on your blog! Hope to meet you sometime. I’ll be going to Ormoc this month for dental work. The least I can do is buy you a few beers! Contact Info.? Happy Holidays to you & your’s!! Joe

  10. I inherited a house in Negros Oriental. 20minutes south of Dumaguete near Dauin in Zamboanguita. It is beside the Tennis Courts. The house color is bright pink. On Del Pilar Street. $300/month US. Contact Claire Chiu. She has a store on the main road in Zamboanguita.

  11. hi love your site so much to read and take in. i want to come to RP to see if want to retire there. if i went from Manila south to Cebu and maybe more, were would u stop along the way? for spots to live? thx again Bill

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