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I decided to retire to the Philippines because of my love for the culture, I had been married about 28 years when we made the decision. Many come to the Philippines because of cheap living, the culture or the women. I chose the first two.
The culture is supportive and loving. The cost of living is also fairly low. We get along well on about $675 per month. There are certainly disadvantages in living in the tropics about half way around the world. This morning I was up at 2 AM making a phone call to the USA. I had gotten a jury summons. My daughter had also gotten one about a month ago. Being a student at Chico, CA., she had not answered the summons. The was a request out for her to appear before a Judge and explain the matter. I therefore took my summons seriously. I had left a message last Friday, (their time, Sat AM my time). I got through this morning and took care of my business to my satisfaction. But, I was up at 2 AM to do this business, something I would not have done in the USA. Memory still serves me well as I have only been retired for a few years and living on and off in the Philippines since 10/03. Many move lock, stock and barrel, but mama and I have decided to stay here part of the year and to stay in Houston for part of the year. We have two grown children, both in college and we enjoy both of their company. We also have a house full of memories and a city where we built a business into a successful operation with a minimal cash investment and a maximum of sweat equity.
When we are in the islands, we call Marinduque home. We are on an island, about 1000 meters from the provincial capital and about 500 meters from the provincial hospital. We are fortunate that we can take a boat to a shopping center in about 1 1/2 to 4 hours. On our section of paradise we have about 218,000 other souls and six towns.
We have an active volcano on the only mountain in the province. We have mostly two lane paved roads circumnavigating the island, a total drive of about 4 to 4 1/2 hours around the whole island.
I am not out to offend anyone, as our viewpoints all differ. The Philippines is not for everyone. Had I really thought of retirement, I would have or should have perhaps gone to Baguio or Cayagan De Oro. I would have avoided the crowds at both Cebu and Manila, as I am a small town type of guy. I like my peace and quiet here, or peace and noise most of the time, the rooster crows as I pound the keyboard.
Anyway, I also like cooler weather, as I could find in Baguio or CDO. I do not like storms, and have spent many hours waiting for a storm to pass in Baguio. As a young man I had a girl friend from Baguio. I knew with college ahead of me, I was not ready to settle down, one wise choice I did make in my life.
Now, having been in and out of the Philippines for over half my life, I have fallen in love with the culture and the people. I landed in 1970 and I am 57, someone else can do the math. I like many men, came to the islands with a sea bag and little else.
Here I was, no mama, no papa and no brothers or sister, all alone in this country with just that sea bag. I made friend quickly and the people grew on me. When it came time to leave to go to college, I cried. You would have thought I had lost a favorite dog. I left in the typhoons that rocked the islands with such force in August, 1972. I was leaving for a new life as a college boy, single, with a sea bag and a house full of furniture, and a dream... to be a naval officer.
Anyway, I visited the islands during Christmas Vacation twice. The third time I decided not to visit, but my plans were put asunder as I had met a Filipina Nurse while in college. We were married just before I graduated, and while I was far from being commissioned. I was finally commissioned and sent to Officer Indoc School and on to Portsmouth, then to Corpus Christi and then, mama and I went back to the Philippines. When we left for Subic, my second time, we had a two year old daughter and dreams of another. Our world was ours to hold and grasp, we enjoyed life so much.
We lived well, and we found that we lived better in the islands than in the USA. We had a ration card of course, but we spent money like it was water, buying as we pleased and still had no credit cards and still managed to save a fair amount of dollars and pesos. Our cars were paid for, and we bought two new ones before we left the islands. I too would rather live well, live better, better than I could or would in the USA, and still have a good lifestyle and a good life. I may die poorer here, but I would have lived better. I too will not be leaving much behind, but my life will be ending with my death. My bills are all paid, my home has a small mortgage and I have more than enough life insurance to cover that mortgage. We have decided to life as best we can now, and to leave our children, debt free and with good educations. I think we are staying on that course and it seems to be working.
The peso is gaining against the almighty dollar, but it is gaining against the euro, pound and Canadian and Assie Dollars too. We smile and still think of the high costs in the USA as we buy potatoes and corn, beets and tomatoes and what ever else we need for the table. We cook well and last night I made tortillas on our small kitchen grill. We loaded the tortillas with fresh guacamole, made fresh from fruit and vegetables right in our own kitchen. In the USA I would have bought both and put them together at home, or eaten them in a local restaurant.
Here we find we must be more resourceful. We are and we have learned to love it. Anyway, I had thought the pesos gain would be temporary, but that has not proven to be the case. I now wonder how much worse it will get as the dollar slowly hovers around $1=PHP51.
We remember the days of the 56 to one and only frown. Travel and living have become more expensive. We have also found our cake to be less well iced. One of the reasons we enjoy the Philippines is because of cheap costs. Our costs are not as cheap as in times gone past, but we remain hopeful. We feel that the peso will level out against the dollar and then when folks find our how it is over valued, the peso will slip. The new VAT, (value added tax), has also increased costs through out the islands and added to the costs of things we buy fairly often.
We found that a tax added in a few times has increased our costs when we finally do buy a product. We have then found out the lower exchange rate has made our monthly budget swell. We now spend more for food, alcohol, and fuel. Our costs for labor and cable, and DSL and phone has not raised, but we do pay more for building materials and have slowed down on our building projects.
Anyway, bottom line, our cake has less icing, but it is still sweet. We still live far cheaper here than we would in the USA or perhaps in Central America.
I am concerned for the future, but realize that I will still have a far cheaper cost of living, over all, dollar for dollar and peso for peso her in these islands than in the USA. Houston has above average wages and below average costs of living, so even with that as a guide, I feel I do better here in the islands.
Where in the past I may have gone about adopting a poor niece or nephew, now I just try to provide a few extra pesos for their well being instead of trying to assume total charge of their well being. I now realize that I am too old, far too old, to begin a new family. But this has also lead to a more mature understanding of when and how my life is moving along.
Here I can afford more than what I currently have. I could afford more servants and houseboys, and more gardeners and the like, but I do not need them. I could have a bigger house with more cars and a pool a spa and more furniture and the like, but that would lead me to amore complicated life. I will face the cross roads soon of selling my house in Houston and living a more permanent lifestyle in a more permanent place, but right now I let things roll. I have now realized I do not want to operate a business here in the islands. I am comfortable with my situation of being a retired Naval Officer and a retired businessman. I hope my business remains sold and in the hands of the young man that bought me our in 8/03. He, like many in the business world, is having a tough row to hoe. But, as I get older, I no longer try to second guess myself. I could have done this and done that.... However, I did do this and became a business man, sold the business and decided to retire on the income and also use my Military pension to finance my retirement. Now as my military income slows up, and is depleted with inflation and on months when my civilian income does not arrive, I wonder, pray and hope.
Here we do think of our lifestyle and realize that we need to compare it to that of the USA. In America our health care is better, quicker and closer. Roads are better and transportation easier. But... our cost of living here is less than half of what it is in America. We spend just $39 a year on taxes for our land and home, here. In the City of Houston, we spend about $350 a month. We pay income taxes but otherwise there are no state taxes to pay.
We have no taxes to pay in the Philippine on our income. For that we are thankful. Food that we like and eat a lot of in the USA cost more here, such as cheese, wine, chocolate, prepared foods, and the like. Meat is cheaper, but not near the quality as what we got in Texas. Vegetables are far cheaper, but we have learned to put up with several small tomatoes in a bit instead of one large one. Lettuce here is adequate but appealing, and that is when you can get it. Bacon is about as good, but no cheaper.
I have my medications sent in ahead for at least 6 months at a time. We have learned not to purchase them here in the islands. We get a three month supply there for between $3 and $9. Here we pay about $4 per day for the pills if we do not take enough with us and need to get a small supplemental supply before we return home.
We have learned to plan ahead and be grateful that USFHP will provide a supply 6 months at a time. And if we are sick over here we see a local MD for short needs, but not for long term care, which we choose to obtain in Houston. I pray I never need to use the local hospitals. In the USA I can use a hospital for a fraction of what it would cost here. I would try for Subic or Clark or another domestic location if the need arose, but my health has actually improved and I have lost weight here. For that I am grateful.
Cars, jeeps, pickup and motorcycles are more expensive than in America. Insurance is far less expensive. Roads, as I mentioned are far less and far less quality. But, here, I enjoy the rural travel. In Texas, I stay home more... more of a homebody. I get fat... and not as happy as in the islands. I do not have to drive in Manila or the other big cities..,. I do travel the roads and byways far less traveled here and smile as I remember the traffic the last time I was in Manila.
Internet costs are double what they are at home. But, so far the net has not caught on and it is about the same speed as at home. Many complain at the speed here, in Manila DSL was slow, it creeps but here it is pretty good. Phone here is fine, not that we have a VOIP line, our ability to talk to the kids has improved and our life is much more comfortable and lovable/livable. Television is another animal all together. We have about 40 to 50 channels at any one time.
I love 'Law and Order' and have seen the one showing at least 5 times. Nothing seems to be new. Much is in English, but much more is being replaced by Tagalog all the time. Brownouts become less and less as we continue to stay here, but we also have more brownouts than we did in America. I always remember the old saying that "you get what you pay for". Here I pay about $5 compared to $ 120 we paid in the USA, $70 or so for TV and some for other things. Also we pay far less for current but we use far less too. We hang our clothes out here and use a drier in the USA, at least the family does, I still line dry mine during the warmer and drier days.
Meat and seafood is cheaper, but wine and cheese are much more expensive. Steak tastes great, but it it is much tougher than the tender beef I miss in Texas. Carrots taste different, and lettuce doesn't head up as much, but I have never been a big fan of hearts of lettuce salad anyways.
Tomatoes are smaller. Potatoes are just as good, but beans are a little tougher. Beats are tougher too. Olive oil is expensive but other oil is cheaper and spices are plentiful but with a higher cost than back home. I have learned to grow some of my own and to try to grow more of my own.
Entertainment is a fraction of what it was at home. Drinking a few with the boys is a cheap a fare. Beer and rhum are cheap as dirt itself. Eating in a local turo turo is also cheap. I drop in a local eatery after a full meal less than I used to leave as a tip. Seeing a movie is also cheap, renting a video is dirt cheap and the movies are fairly up to date. DVD's often are out when the movie is running, I am not sure if the copies are authorized or not, but the copies are good, and enjoyable. We lend them to friends after we have viewed them a time or two. We often have friends in for the evening a watch a movie or see a DVD. Life here is slow, simple and more loving.
Mama is a shopper, so living without malls on this island is far cheaper than in America. If we lived on the mainland and in a large city, I may not be so smug. Here we take the kids to the beach at the drop of a hat. We do not think twice to share our bounty with our less fortunate nieces and nephews. How to beat the summer heat, take a dip in the cool ocean. A pool would be a waste here, as we use the ocean so much. We had a pool and spa in California and it cost us a kings ransom each month in just chlorine. Been there and done that.... and we use the 12 months pool in the summer. Here we use the ocean even in the winter. We enjoy the restaurants in the malls when we are in town, but we find the local eateries to be more than kind to my waistline. Here I can avoid the junk food and the fast food, that adds to my battle of the bulge.
In America, mama brings it home by the bucket, bag and box. We do not have the public swimming pools, libraries are other public services here that we have in the USA. I miss a walk around the park and around the neighborhood. I miss the local libraries. Here more of my work is done on the computer, in the USA I read 3 to 5 books a week. Here I am more active, and my health has actually improved. I have lost about 20 pounds over the last 6 weeks. Here we can use a white beach and have a nice cubo for just about $2 for the day. That beach will rival anything in the USA, and is just about as close as Galveston. I save a lot and share the bounty with the grand kids and bring joy into their lives. Amusement parks are all but none existent in this area. In Manila they are present but on a much smaller scale. I miss Astroworld, but that was closing anyway. I miss major league baseball, football and basketball. Being a Rocket Fan, I miss seeing Yao Ming in person, live and not on the small screen. Also, in the USA I was given a pair of large screen TV's. Here I make do with one 22 inch TV and a VCR and DVD player. We have one were mama and I each had one in the USA. I enjoy the few museums that I have visited here, but nothing compares to the Fine Arts and other Museums in Houston or other cities.
Again, some of what I miss of the American Culture. We also miss bowling alleys and mama misses the skating rinks. I miss neither of the latter and do not miss the noise either.
I saw my niece graduate kindergarten today. I question how well the kids are being educated. But, my niece was not first, second or third either, she was an average but well adjusted and happy child. She showed me off as did her older sister as it I were Paul Newman. I speak English with the Apo and try to learn Tagalog/Taglish from the adults. I let the Apo play on the computer and introduce them to educational games, and discourage games with other motives. Yahoo has so many free games, as does AOL. I long to travel more, and stay here longer, but the lure of America calls me back once a year, sometimes more often. As the VAT increases a few points, I wonder about the frog in the cool water being heated and cooked... the frog will not jump until after it it too hot to move and by then he is cooked. Our income tax rates have done that to us. Perhaps the VAT is the way to go, especially in an economy where cash is king and checks are unheard of. We almost never use a credit care here in the Philippines and almost never in Marinduque.
Traffic and air pollution do seem to increase here in Marinduque. We are now hearing about the VAT here too, we heard about it even more in Manila and CDO. Food prices are also going up, and car fuel and cooking fuel increase every time I replace a tank of fuel or change a tank of bottled gas. But the same thing has gone on and is going on in Houston. We may be getting more traffic and pollution, but we are still slower and cleaner than Manila and the mainland.
Sure the gap between rich and poor countries is narrowing. As we become a global economy, the USA will no longer eat as well and as cheap and the poorer countries will eat better and more cheaply. Sure the gap is narrowing, and it will continue to narrow. As we move along in this century, we will face new challenges to new and to old problems. For me, I hope to ride the wave out as long as possible before hitting the dry ground and being carried off in a satin suit with a steel overcoat. I hope plenty will attend my humble funeral and most will say there goes a good man. I hope I will be remembered for my kindness and generosity, and not for my rudeness and greed. Everyday prices good up. We will continue to see this trend. I am now learning to eat local food and not rely on South America to provide me fresh fruit and vegetables when it is our winter season in America. I am learning to make my own pan cake syrup and not rely on syrup that is manufactured half way around the world and shipped in by the case. I eat local honey and smile as I remember honey that is shipped in from Europe and South America. Try to go a day without using something made in China.... I tell you it is a global economy and getting more so by the day. In the Philippines I feed that I have a much bigger control of my life and I can eat healthier food and have a better choice of healthier food and have a reason to skip all the fast food and junk food. Believe me, my waist line shows it too.
Here we have corruption, but I deal with it, slow and patiently. I give what I can to charity and will soon be giving the local hospital a few boxes of much needed medical supplies. We gave a few boxes of supplies to the local town. other than the hospital, and met the mayor, had coffee and had our picture taken. And me, in shorts and slippers as usual, thinking I would just be dropping the things off and heading on my way. I should know Filipinos by now, but sometimes I forget. I have noticed that several local lots now have a house going up. The population is going up. The market is more crowded. Areas outside the market place are now more busy and more business is going on near my house than in the past. This can be good, or bad, but I am trying to think positive and think that more people will mean more services. I have seen several new floors in the local hospital, one new green tile floor in the Charity section of the Pediatric unit of the local Hospital. The OR got a new floor earlier. Phone service is better and more reliable.
Power outages are less frequent. We have terrible roads, but some areas are getting paved that were just dirt a few years ago. The interior is becoming less rural, even in Marinduque. Building are still abandoned and still left unfinished. I still see lots of houses that are not finished over the bare hollow blocks that are held together with the smallest amt of cement possible... but it is only a few months ago that I finally glazed my bare brick on my back side of the house with cement.... and after almost three years. After a while you do not see the eyesores and the sores are not as sore as they are when you first arrive. Here, public building are better maintained than in the past. Food is still more salty and has more sugar than its cousin in America. We also eat more rice here too, but so do our neighbors, where are neighbors in America eat tacos, beans, pasta and meat. I live in a very mixed neighborhood, and I am the longest resident on my street. Here a man can still provide for his family by hard work and a small business, one often costing under $100 to start. Here, a women in need will set at a table with a pot of rice soap and a few bowls and sell the contents to gain the money needed to feed her family. A man will follow a carabao around and around a field to till it and plant rice to feed his brood.
Men still gather to drink away the evening and women still gather to circulate the community news. Neighbors know each other, and they know your children too, and your grand children, and those that come and go from your abode. I have learned to provide some of my own services such as garbage collection. I have learned to not use so much current and to tolerate outages of power and phone better. I have learned to give a coin or two to those in need and to avoid confrontation and problems when possible.
Here I have avoided the local court system, but I have not backed down when needing help settling a dispute with a poor business person providing hazardous services in the barangay, checking weekly and being patient until my case was heard and won to my satisfaction. I have learned to recognize half assed workmanship and to not accept it, I have kindly and gently pressed for and gotten a quality job, and hopefully done so with out creating more enemies than necessary. I have spent my time in court, published my ads in the papers to adopt a son and fought for his visa at the American Embassy. I did that when I was a younger and more skillful man.... and I am glad I did. That boy has provided me trials, but now is one of the big joys of my life. I spent much of my young life where youth was king, now I hope to spend most of my closing years where old age is respected and admired. That is one of the hidden advantages of the Philippines that few address and speak of.
I will continue to attend mass at or near a church built by the Spaniards, and go to a new monastery on occasion. I will listen to mass in Taglish and follow along with my English Missal. I will also follow with an English Mass on TV when occasion allows. We will look forward to the Holy Week happening for which Marinduque is famous and for which the sleeping islands comes awake for once each year. We will continue to watch progress and try to prolong decline in the infrastructure. We will hope for a small increase in population and a large increase in financial layout. We will expect our $675 a month budget to either swell or be tightened.
We will continue to look forward to government paperwork and to smile as we spend time and not pay out legal. We will smile as the local offices try to drown us in ink, hand them a pen, as we have far more ink than they do. Criticizing a system that the locals have become lax enough to accept will not do one any good. Neither will buying your way around the rules. I set and wait, and eventually things get done, even if imperfectly. These are my thoughts today. Hopefully they make since even if you do not see the post that I am responding too. Hopefully you will see where I am coming from. May you all be blessed and remember that these islands are paradise for me. All my not be right in paradise, but it is still paradise.