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Folks speak of living overseas. We have visited many countries and found living overseas to be wonderful. We currently live in the Philippine Islands and have done so, off and on, since I retired.
Many folks view the Philippines as a place to find a nice wife, but it seems to get little other billing. How wrong the media can be not to promote this tropical paradise for retirement. Let me tell you my story.
My wife and I were married during an ice storm in the USA. We went on honeymoon in Niagara Falls, and a year later, went on a second honeymoon in the Philippine Islands. The Philippines has close ties to the USA, being a former colony of the United States. It has about 80 million people in the Philippines and another 4 million or so scattered all over the world, including all 50 states, all the territories and many countries in Central and South America and in Western Europe. My wife was given a small parcel of land by her father. This is common in the Philippines. The land amounted to about 1.3 hectares or about 3.2 acres, about half is flat and usable and about half is on a steep incline and used for coconut and other fruit trees.
Now, folks will tell me "but your wife was a Filipina" when I talk about retiring in the Philippines. But here is the good part. Maids are about 30 to 35 dollars a month, houseboys in the same range. Drivers are a little more, about 40 dollars a month. A gardener, 6 days a week will run about 35 to 40 dollars a month. Skilled carpenters and brick masons are about 5 to 6 dollars a day. Carpenter's helpers are about $1.25 to $1.50 a day. Visas can be obtained for an unlimited multiple entry stay with relative ease from the Philippine Consulates in New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. The cost for a visa is about $150 and the visa takes about a day to obtain, once your required papers are submitted and in order. The process can be done by mail, but it is better to conduct this business in person if possible.
Now lets assume you are both Americans, and of an age in your mid 50's. You head to the Philippines after searching advice and information from many of the web sites on the internet, and there are plenty of them. Yahoo has over 70 groups or sites and many of these are very large. Several deal with getting visas and other deal with living, retiring and doing business in the Philippines. The Philippines is a chain of islands in the Pacific that is south of Japan and east of China. There are 7,107 to be exact, but the 11 largest are those having over 90 percent of the population. There are many languages in this island country, but English is spoken by a majority of the population, north to south. Signs are in English and even small children are taught the language in elementary school. Other neighboring countries are Thailand and Malaysia. Travel in and out of the Philippines is easy and relatively cheap.
Now let us further assume you would like to live in an area that is clean, and has most of the western conveniences. A house can be rented by any one, citizens or non-Filipinos for a fraction of what you would pay in the USA. My wife and I built a small three bedroom home, with large verandas and two baths, along with an indoor kitchens, and outside dirty kitchen, an outside laundry area and a dining and living room for just under $5000, (yes that is not a misprint, it is five thousand US dollars). We had an elderly cousin bring in cement, gravel and sand. Water was hooked up and blocks were made by a small press. Day after day a laborer made blocks over a few months. The blocks were stacked and saved for building our house. Fill was brought in to cover and raise the level of the rice field we owned. As the walls went up, all of hollow block and cement, we added electricity so the craftsman could cut tiles and do other things by electricity instead of doing everything by hand.
After 10 months our little house was ready for occupancy. We had two to three workers over three months and sent money for our housing project about every month. As other craftsman were needed, electricians and plumbers for example, they were hired on a daily basis. After moving into our house and living in it a while, we decided to made additions and to decorate it, just as one would do in the US or anywhere else. Here, wherewithal for decorating is very accessible along with cheap seamstresses and tailors for working fabric into curtains, quilts, bed spreads and pillow cases. Painters work for $2 a day. The average wage is about 5000 to 8000 Philippine Pesos a month, or about $92 to $150 a month. Maids and gardeners and other unskilled folks make much less, making from $30 to $50 a month. You will have a line waiting at your gate if the neighbors find out that you are seeking to employ someone for a day or on a more permanent basis.
It is true that a foreigner can not own land in the Philippine Islands, but they can own condos. Another option is to make a long term lease with a land owner. These leases can be from 25 to 50 years and can be renewed. Putting $5000 to $10,000 into a home is not so bad, when you are leasing the land that the home sits on. Many Americans and Canadians, and also many Europeans live in the Philippines year around, and many more part of the year. If you add those married to current or former Filipino Citizens, the numbers swell beyond imagination.
The currency is stable. The Philippine Peso trades against the dollar at between 54 to 56 to one. The prices in US dollars remain relatively stable. Poverty does abound in the Philippines and many of the countries citizens make less than two dollars a day, some survive on less than a dollar a day.
Food is very cheap and usually fresh. Vegetables of all types come from the cooler areas of the country such as the mountains of Baguio. Beef, pork, goat and chicken grace the tables of Filipinos on a regular basis. Fish and seafood is very popular with local folks and it is also fresh and wholesome. Bread and dairy products are cheap and pastries are baked and delivered by small peddle powered tricycles every morning. A dozens small rolls called Pan De Sal can be delivered to you gate for 18 cents or less, and they are still warm. These many vendors also are willing to sell cookies, cakes, rolls and other bakery items. There are also meat, vegetable and fish vendors that service folks at home on a door to door basis. Small towns and barrio areas have rustic open markets where one can buy a whole meal for about 40 cents or less. Meat such as beef and pork is about a dollar a pound and you can buy as much or as little as you would like. Chicken, duck, quail and guinea hens are sold buy the kilo. Turkeys are also available, as are geese. If one wants for a more cosmopolitan life, the cities are apt to be for you. Houses rent cheap, but not as cheap as in the more rural areas. Supermarkets look much like they would in the USA, except for smaller aisles and often more selections of Asian foods that of western foods. Foods from America and Europe are readily available in most groceries in the Philippines and the prices are not much more than you would pay in the USA.
A typical budget would look something like this... Maid 2000 a month, gardener, 2000 a month, food for three 15,000, DSL 1995 telephone 580, fuel to cook 580, electric power (220 instead of 110) 4000, cable TV, (45 channels with 27 in English), 250. Add gas for your car, 2000, water 250, donations and other small items would be small, let’s allow 1000. Clothing is cheap and tailored to your personal request; entertainment is plentiful and very cheap. A small bottle of rum is 30 cents, a bottle of beer is 18 cents. Cigarettes are also cheap, about 40 cents or less a pack. Our basic expenses each month are less than $670.00 and we spend freely, not needing to watch a strict budget.
Add to the $670 about $180 or so for rent and you can see that retiring in the tropical island paradise is a 'can do' for under $1000 US dollars every month.
I am asked the down side of paradise. There is a down side. The Philippines is about 10 or so times zones from the USA. This make it difficult to do business with Americans during daylight hours. We get up early or go stay up late to phone home. One will find great to acceptable medical care in the large cities but health care in rural areas can be primitive at best. Violent crime is rare but petty thievery is not unheard of. Leave a radio or walkman on your veranda and it may walk. That is life in a third world country. Maids and houseboys assure your safety when you are not at home. They can often save their salary by buying items at lover prices than you could obtain, being a foreigner. Power brownouts are common in some areas and less common in others. Water often is provided only at certain times of the day. We get water from 4:30 AM to 8 PM every day. We do have water and phone service even without power being available, but DSL departs as the kilowatts are not there to support the service. We rarely have problems with power, DSL or phone, but the Philippines is a Third World Country. Problems can and do exist. The Philippines is indeed a tropical paradise, but there are occasionally problems, even in paradise.
People seem to be everywhere. They are very friendly and eager to have an American or European as a neighbor. The average neighbor will assist you in finding a relative that will help you assimilate to this island culture. I have lived in the islands as both a single man as a married man, and now as an old married man,
Good luck to those of you with a since of adventure. [JJ]
More on Places to Live in the Philippines, in the Countryside, Rural Areas.
Most anyone can live a fairly decent life here on 1000USD/month. You can increase that amount accordingly for every western amenities you think you can't live without here. This is a third world country and, if you want to live the life of a westerner, then you will easily spend your income monthly. Kureyente (electric) being, probably, the most expensive utility here, your use of a/c will increase that quite a bit. Electric fans are more common. In the province, you'll be a lucky man to have hot water so, get used to cold baths and showers or pay a little more for "hot-and-cold". Your wife may take some time in getting used to only one faucet in the kitchen sink. Of course most people with money will have hot water heaters, not the big tanks, but the attachments to the showers and other faucets where you feel you need hot water. But most Filipino laugh at the idea of showering in hot water. "What for, to boil your self?" Hehehe they will giggle. Foreigners who us the faucets temperature water for more than a few time also don't have a problem with it. Bathtubs are rare except for the nicer hotels and some of the more expensive houses in the city, also a little absurd to the average Filipino. To them it is like "Washing in your own dirt."
Most of your list of amenities you are looking for, seems to indicate that you wish to retain a lot of your western life style so, maybe the provinces, country side, won't be to your liking.
A 'cr' is comfort room you can guess what that is. A 'dirty kitchen', at least where I am, is a cooking area outside the house. Usually a raised , wood frame with a dirt filled box (dirty kitchen) for cooking on an open fire. Some are a cement platform witha dirt filled area for cooking. Most modern houses in the city don't have these anymore.
African American Racism in the Philippines?
In some parts of this country, depending on your color, no one will even notice your color, you'll just be another 'foreigner' in the crowd. Racial tension, Racism in the Philippines, far as I can see, doesn't exist here anywhere near what I've seen in the United States (I'm from NC).
Frank in Pagadian
(Edited and added to by Don Herrington May 24, 2009)