A few days back I got an interesting, heartfelt comment from a long-time reader, Mike, who has contributed often here. I thought I’d kind of “pick it apart” and make some comments. I’m grateful to all my readers and their comments, but I was particular;y struck by this one because it pointed out some issues many of you may have regarding a move that I never had to deal with.
The very first article I read on LIP was yours “Why you can’t live in the Philippines” and I have it saved as on of my favorites. Living in the Philippines is a Quest for me and my wife. As we get closer to that time it seems more and more people keep trying to put road blocks in our way…
This is a phenomenon I was totally blindsided by. I expected, perhaps, some “push back” from a few in my own family who might be unsettled or mystified by my plans to move. But to my surprise, a few people in my wife’s family quite vocally opposed our move. Kind of blew me away.
I also wasn’t aware that total strangers considered it their duty to save me from myself. I vividly recall going into a local utility office for some chore involved with the last part of my move, As I finished filling out some form or another (I fill forms ‘up’ now, we don’t fill them ‘out’ here 😉 ) with one customer service clerk, another clerk, hearing me explain we were moving to the Philippines, snapped her head up from the work that she was doing and snapped out, in a drill sergeant’s voice, “WHY?
That certainly set me back a little. I didn’t like here tone at all, and I was millimeters away (You’re coming to the Philippines, beter lose that American Metric-phobia, the Metric system is widely used here, you know) from barking back a response, like, “Excuse me, I wasn’t talking to you, what business is it of yours”? sort of response.
Instead I turned to her .. she was very young, likely still in high school or not far from it, all pink and innocent looking, and I really wondered what had prompted such a response from such a pretty young thing who normally wouldn’t have ever been concerned with where some sixty-year-old she had never met before chose to live.
I mean, did she have some special knowledge, or perhaps some bad experiences she wanted to caution me about? So I smiled at her to try to ease the tension and asked, “What prompted you to react that way about the Philippines? Have you ever been there”?
“No”, she replied, adding, “But everyone knows what a horrible place that is.”
Choosing not to get into an argument (for once in my life), I just replied, “Well, thanks, but I’m not everyone.” I turned on my heel and left, wondering where on earth she’d gotten that attitude. But I’ve found plenty others quite like her … although none with as penetrating a voice … I hope she joined the military and became a drill sergeant 😉
They try to convince you to stay in the US and just visit the Philippines.
There’s certainly some merit to this suggestion. But it is also like apples and oranges. they’re both round, but aside from that they are completely different.
I know of a number of couples who “go back and forth” frequently, and if this works for you, it certainly works for me. But it requires that you keep a home in the US (obviously), with all the attendant costs and hassles, and also that you keep a home here in the Philippines (which has its own set of issues), or else you have to live in hotels or mooch off family when you come to the Philippines. It’s not at all the same as living in the Philippines. And it will assuredly cost a lot more than making the move.
They bring out the arguments that the life style is not equal to the States and you can’t get the products your use to getting to live a happy life.
Well there are cetain US products that are not in stores here that I sometimes yearn for. So like all worthy debate points, there is truth in this one. But I hardly think it’s as important as some make it out to be.
For example, my wife and I both drink a lot of coffee and we prefer American brands. You won’t find Maxwell House or Folgers on the shelves at Pure Gold or SM Hypermarket. But then again, you will find anything like that at “import stores” like S&R (where we shop once a month or so) or duty-free stores around the Freeports like Clark or Subic. It’s really no big thing.
There are also a number of ways to shop online from the Philippines to the US. Services who will receive your merchandise and re-ship it to you in the Philippines. Does this cost more? Usually, yes. But so what? Overall I am spending so much less per month to live here that the occasional splurge of something I really want doesn’t even count much in the whole game of life here.
We also, as most folks will, have friends or relatives back in the States who we can ask to purchase stuff (or receive purchases and pack them in a Balikbayan box which they’ll send when it fills up. You can pack a lot of items in a BB box … if you put say 100 total items in a box that costs $100 (often much less) door-to-door,what is that, a dollar per item you purchased? Inconsequential.
They claim it’s a dangerous place for foreigners because they view you as rich and steal from you or worse.
There certainly have been foreigners robbed, or shot and robbed here. However, the chances of getting shot in the USA are way, way higher. Recently I started researching for an article about shootings here versus shootings in the USA and I stopped, in shock and disgust. I queried Google asking for USA shootings in the last month and I got back pages and pages and pages. I thought I had done my query wrong, where I customized it to restrict results to the previous month … but no, there just were that many.
There is no comparison between the chance of getting shot or robbed in the US and the chance of getting robbed or shot here, in my view. Statistically you are much, much safer in the Philippines. This aspect deserves its own article or two, but I’ll say this now. There are a lot of things in common with the incidents hat I know of that involve foreigners. No one can guarantee your safety, anywhere, but there are so ‘Red Flag’ behaviors here that are pretty easy to avoid.
One thought of mine that may or may not make sense is, if you live normally in a normally Philippine neighborhood and treat your neighbors as you would anywhere else, you really don’t stand out as much as you think you do. There are a lot of foreigners in the Philippines, and belive me, the average Filipino has a lot more on his mind … raising his children, earning a living, worrying about his own family … than worrying about the fact there is a kano living down the block.
If you are coming here to run the bars and partake heavily of certain “night life’ pleasures, the safety equation changes, significantly. This leads nicely into Mike’s next point:
They claim all kinds of idiotic bull to convince you not to go. Dave the funny thing about their arguments is when I ask the have you ever been there. Some say I’ve been to S.Korea in the Army or we made a port visit while in the Navy, but most have said No never been there.
Isn’t that about the most annoying aspect of most of these “don’t move to the Philippines” sort of discussions? Everyone’s an “expert”. They know ‘all about” living here, because “they heard” this or “they heard” that. Anyone recall the Marvin Gaye classic, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”?
“… People say believe half of what you see, Son, and none of what you hear…”
I wish Marvin were still around, I’d try hard to get him to write a guest post here.
In particular, the stories from the guys you have to take with the largest grains of salt are those from former military folk who were stationed here or made port calls here 40-odd years ago. A lot of things change in 40 years. And even with regard to things that haven’t changed all that much, most of us have outgrown the wild and careless persona we carried with us then. If you were on a ship that pert called in Subic 40 years ago and you have vivid memories of the night scene on Magsaysay Avenue in Olongapo, hey, fine well and good … but that has virtually nothing to do with conservative living in the Philippines today. Once again, apples and oranges.
Anyway, this article has already gone way longer than I wanted it to be. I think I made a few points here, and I certainly invite comments, criticism, opposing views, etc. But please, folks, don’t write back and tell me what “they say”.
There’s no substitute for experience. You can’t learn to ride a bike by reading a book. And you can’t know about living in the Philippines by reading blogs and forums, even this one. There’s only one way to ‘know’ and that is to give it a try.
Plane fare is dirt cheap, compared with the hidden cost of living you life based on what “they say”. Godspeed.