The Philippines as a Retirement Destination
The advice I give you here is based on my personal experience living in the Philippines.
IT'S A MAN'S PARADISE
For English-speaking European and American men, living in the Philippines would probably be a good choice, especially if you had a Filipina partner. However, the Philippines is probably not a good destination for an expatriate western woman, unless she is a Filipina by birth. Western women are is a rarity in the Philippines, and probably for good reason. Most married expatriate men seem to wind up in a temporary or permanent relationship with their maid, and the American or European wife eventually goes home. It is really hard for an older American woman to compete with these often very pretty, often very young, and often very aggressive, Filipina girls. There is little chance they will be discrete, and a great chance they will deliberately confront the expatriate wife to try to force her out of the picture.
Their motive is seldom that the expatriate is so handsome or suave, but rather that when compared to her ability to hook up with a Filipino man with a decent income, the expatriate is a relative millionaire. Only twenty thousand US dollars or so makes a million Philippine pesos. So even a low-income American retiree is considered wealthy in the Philippines, where an average middle-class income may be only $100 dollars a month.
There are a great number of natural phenomena in the Philippines, however access and amenities surrounding these natural attractions tend to be poorly developed or non-existent. In fact. without a local guide, you are unlikely to find them on your own. There used to be several good travel guides which described the better known attractions. However, lately it seems that there are no travel guides for the Philippines in the bookstores -- probably because the US State Department warns against traveling anywhere in the Philippines - a situation that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
I don’t cover any natural attractions here. If you can get hold of one of the older travel guides for the Philippines, I'll assure you that change comes slowly in the Philippines, except for more and poorer people. If you can find one of the old travel guides, they contain a lot of good sightseeing information. But be forewarned, traveling in the Philippines is risky. If you do decide to travel, keep a low profile, and try to blend in. That's a mighty tall order for a westerner -- you likely won't be able to blend in.
The Philippines has a substantial Muslim population embedded in and around its majority Christian inhabitants. The islands are in a constant low-level state of smoldering insurrection. You should read the US State departments bulletins concerning security in the areas you may be considering. The Communist Party, and its armed wing, the NPA, are active throughout the islands, including the main island of Luzon, where Manila is located. While the various NPA groups generally don't bother foreign tourists, occasionally they do.
Kidnap and robbery gangs exist almost everywhere. Kidnapping and ransom are common occurrences. The US Embassy reports two American children were kidnapped in Tagum City on the southern island of Mindanao in 2007. But don't think you or your family are any safer in Manila or on the island of Luzon.
Moslem extremist groups inhabit the southern islands, including Mindanao, including the dreaded Abu Sayef. They often travel to the more northern islands in search of victims. They frequently behead uncooperative captives and those whose relatives don’t pay the ransom.
Consider well that the Philippines consist of 7000+ islands in various stages of political turmoil. While armed guards are all over the place – in schools, banks, shopping centers and businesses, they are generally not off the beaten path at the natural wonders you likely want to visit. Free-roaming tourists, intent on camping-out and roaming the countryside, is, in my opinion, not a good idea anytime..
As a tourist, you are not allowed to work. Generally, you will find that Filipino salaries are so low compared to western countries that you will not be able to sustain yourself on what you might earn in the Philippines. Most of the western expats living in the Philippines live off a retirement annuity of some sort. If you have an advanced degree and have taught at the university level, you might be able to get a position as a teacher, instructor, or professor – these positions don’t pay very well, but one could get by.
If you are married to a Filipina, or in a committed long-term relationship, you might be able to set up a small business in the name of your Filipino partner, and do well. I know of several such successful business arrangements, including hotels, restaurants, cafes, beauty shops, stores, etc. If you have a permanent resident permit, you can also work, or set up a business. However, be warned on investing - most Filipinos cannot be trusted with investment money. I know several expats who entrusted their retirement savings to smooth-talking Filipinos, only to have them abscond with the funds.
Most of the large cities, such as Manila, Davao City, and Cebu, have luxury or upscale housing subdivisions that are walled and gated, with armed guards at the gates and patrolling. Most large cities have golf courses, bowling alleys, deep-sea fishing, first-rate shopping centers, etc. The major financial attraction for most foreign retirees is that it usually much easier to live on a small retirement annuity in the Philippines. Your US dollars will go further in the Philippines than in almost any other country in the world. Housing and household help is also very cheap. And, most Filipinos speak English. The closer one gets to Manila, however, the higher prices go. It is best to go to the far-flung provinces, like Davao City.
Of course, the Philippines major attraction usually is a pretty, young Filipina lady to keep you company. Retirees can find just about any age from 18 years old upward. It is fairly common, and fairly well accepted for these younger ladies to live with and marry older, more well-heeled gentlemen.
The larger communities generally have hundreds, if not thousands of expat retirees – so you will be able to pick and choose your friends and acquaintances. Good medical, dental and hospital facilities exist in the larger communities, but may be woefully lacking in the smaller communities.
You should try living in the Philippines on a temporary basis before you commit to it permanently. Try several locations before you settle on one. In my opinion, Davao City is one of the better places to settle. Sure, it is on Mindanao, but the “Dirty Harry” style city mayor keeps the place relatively peaceful (unless you are a drug dealer or criminal). Davao City has almost everything that Manila has – without the horrendous traffic jams, the high crime, the hustlers, the high costs of housing, and the pollution.
If you are planning a long-term stay in the Philippines, you might want to consider obtaining a resident visa. There are generally four legal ways to stay long term, and some illegal ways:
1) Just extend your tourist visa every two months. There is a fee to do this, maybe $30 to $40 every extension, but it is easy to do at any immigration office. There is a maximum of one year that a single entry tourist visa can be extended, after which you must exit the country. But you could just fly to Hong Kong, return the next day, and start all over again. If you plan to be traveling in and out of the Philippines frequently, then this is a perfectly satisfactory method. It is also a good excuse to go shopping in Hong Kong once a year, or return to the home country to visit and renew yourself..
2) If you are in the US already married to a Filipina citizen, and you know you are going to reside long term in the Philippines, you can secure a permanent resident visa from the Philippine Embassy or Consulate in the US before immigrating to the Philippines. The fee is around US$500. If you are not going to be traveling in and out of the Philippines every year, then a permanent resident visa is a good choice.
The drawback to a permanent resident visa is that every time you leave the country, you must secure an exit visa, which will cost you $30 or 40 dollars. You will be given a re-entry permit which allows you to return to the Philippines and take up residency again. However, the maximum time you can be continuously out of the country is six months. If you exceed the six months limit, you'll have to reapply all over again for a new resident visa.
3) If you are in the Philippines, and married to a Filipina, you can apply for a permanent resident visa near the end of the one-year limit on your tourist visa extensions. The disadvantage of doing this in the Philippines (versus doing it at a Philippine embassy or consular office) is that you will very likely run into deliberate delays from Philippine officials wanting a bribe to process your request. This happened to me, but instead of paying a bribe, I wrote the president of the Philippines and complained about it. I got my resident visa a few weeks later - without paying a bribe. In my opinion, this is the most difficult method, and still has the disadvantage that an exit visa is required to leave the country.
4) There is another type of visa - one not issued by the immigration office, but by the Philippine Investment Authority. Its advantage is that you are free to come and go as you please without any need to ever extend your visa or get an exit visa. There is no time limit on your stays in or out of country. In addition you will be allowed a much more generous import of personal goods, including a vehicle, without paying import duties. The disadvantage is that you must invest a minimum of $75,000 in selected Philippine financial institutions. This visa in contingent on your investment - meaning if you withdraw the investment, the special visa expires.
5) One "illegal" way is simply to overstay your visa. When you finally do leave, there will be a big fine imposed. It is cheaper by far to go through a formal visa extension.
6) There are a few people I have met who seemed very evasive about their travel or residency arrangements. They may have either long overstayed their visa, or their passport has expired, or their passport was revoked. If your passport expired, you can get it renewed at your embassy in Manila. But if it was revoked, then you may not want to show your face at the embassy, as they might just hold you for extradition. If you want to hide out in a foreign country, such as the Philippines, then you should know that immigration authorities will have a record of your entry, and no record of your exist, for any Interpol inquiries. .
Passports can be revoked in the US at the request of any law enforcement agency or court. Once this is done, you will be treated as criminal if you are apprehended, even if you have committed no crime. If you choose to hide out in the Philippines, then you are totally at the mercy of the Philippine authorities, if they find out about you. However, in the seven years that I resided in the Philippines, I have never been asked for any papers, except by hotels. So you will have to stay out of hotels (at least the good ones), and perhaps reside in the far flung provinces, perhaps even in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, where they really don't care what the central government does or wants.
COST OF LIVING
Despite the many negatives of living in a third-world country, there is one tremendous advantageous – the overall cost of living is much cheaper in the Philippines than in the US or EU. Except for Manila, the cost of living is amazingly cheap. A very nice luxury house in the provinces might rent for $250 to a $1,000 a month (depending on location, the foreign currency exchange rate, and your negotiating skill.) The cost of an office visit to a quality medical doctor might run $5 or $6. The cost of electrical supply, running 4 or 5 window air conditioners, might run $150. The cost of potable water might run $15 a month. The cost of bottled cooking gas might run $15 a month. The cost of bottled drinking water (the 5-gallon bottle) might run $5 to $20 a month. In some locations the tap water is safe to drink, but in most places it is inconsistent. The cost of private schooling (including college) for your dependents might run $40 per student per month.
I lived like a king, with my wife and two daughters, two maids, an abandoned child, and my wife’s sister, for about $1,500 a month. I have European friends who live on even less. If you are really broke, and can handle a bamboo hut, you might get by on only a few hundred dollars a month. Public transportation is very cheap, maybe ten US cents for a motorized trikad or jeepy – depending on how far you are going. If you have a car, gasoline might be $2.50 a gallon, but every where you might have to drive is not far away. My wife and I typically spent $10 a week for gasoline.
Medical insurance might be available for $2 a month to $10 a month (foreigner can’t get it, but your Filipina wife can include you in her family coverage.) My wife delivered our daughter cesarean and was in the best hospital in town for three days – the total bill was only about $1,500. While legally you need a prescription for most medicines, few pharmacies enforce it, and you can refill without one at most drugstore. Once you decide to permanently reside in the Philippines, you might want to consider dropping your US or EU health insurance, unless your premiums are extremely low, as it is probably much cheaper to self-insure in the Philippines.
You should be aware that bringing US dollars or euros into the Philippines is relatively easy, but converting back to US dollars or euros might be difficult at times when dollars are in short supply. It may be better to open a US dollar account in a local bank and only exchange them for pesos as you need them. Opening a bank account in the Philippines with only a tourist visa is not easy, but it can be done. There is no prohibition to it, but banks don’t like to open short term accounts. Retirees with a permanent resident visa can easily open a bank account. Some banks will make large cash advances on your US credit card or debit card. If you find a bank that will do this, taking cash advances on a debit card is relatively inexpensive, and only takes a few minutes.
There is some kind of public transportation to anywhere, be it airplane, boat, bus, jeepy, taxi, van, car, motorcycle, motorized tricycle, pedal trike, or bicycle. .
Frequent (but not necessarily daily) airline service exists between the major cities. The international ports of entry are at Manila (Luzon), Cebu (Visyas), and Davao City (Mindanao). For International service from the US, I recommend Philippine Airlines over any US carrier. Your choice of domestic flight service, in order of classiness, are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines, Asia Fantasy, and many charter aircraft services. The International Airport in Manila is a modern air terminal, but it is restricted to use by Philippine Airlines only. All other airlines use the old domestic terminal in Manila, which is like stepping back in time 50 to 75 years – which may be quite interesting to some travelers. Davao City has a new, modern air passenger terminal, which all airlines use.
Inter-island ferries are cheap, but slow. Sometimes the older ferries sink in the ocean, occasionally catch fire, rarely bombed by insurgents, and occasionally boarded by pirates and kidnappers. Nevertheless, everyone should take a ferry ride at least once, as it offers a unique view of the island chain. You can get a large, private suite, with a TV and VCR, and your own private balcony for a relatively cheap price on the better ferry companies. Or you can experience the thrill of the African Queen – ala Humphrey Bogart and Kathryn Hepburn if you are more adventurous. You might want to bring a good book, because it can also be very boring – and maybe a small, portal life raft in case the ferry sinks.
Intra-island bus service is extensive and very cheap. Air-conditioned buses are available for slightly higher fees and better drivers. Many bus drivers tend to be overly macho in seeing how fast they can negotiate the curves of a road before turning over. Occasionally, a bus will wind up in 100 foot deep ravine, which is a good reason to buy or rent your own vehicle.
There are taxis in the major cities, and in the smaller towns there are motorized tricycles. Everywhere there is the ubiquitous jeepy – the mainstay of public transportation. If you are a permanent or long-term resident you might want to own a car, SUV or crew-cab pickup truck. The roads are slow, with lots of portions under repair or badly deteriorated, which is a good reason to choose a heavy-duty four-wheel-drive vehicle. Traffic on the streets, roadways and highways consists of trucks, buses, automobiles, bicycles, motorcycles, motorized as well as pedal-powered tricycles, pedestrians, and the occasional carabao (water buffalo, to westerners). Because of this, it is unwise to drive at high speeds.
Driver discipline is poor, and few follow the rules of the road according to western standards. Whoever gets to an obstacle in the road first will take the right-of-way around it, even if it is in your lane. Buses, jeepies, and taxis stop in the middle of the road to take on and discharge passengers, often blocking the road in both directions. Vehicles that breakdown on the road will be parked right where they breakdown – in the middle of the road. It is not wise to drive at night because of these conditions. If you accept this, and don’t try to wear out your horn changing it (which is quite impossible) then you might enjoy driving. Otherwise, your better off hiring a driver for maybe $20 to $100 a month full time, depending on where you are.
The Philippine Islands are all volcanic in origin, with rugged terrain, frequent landsides, curvy roads, frequent bridge washouts from heavy rains, and the occasional earthquake. The roads tend to be narrow, winding, in disrepair, with lots of steep ascents and descents. Occasionally, there are spectacular views, some with adequate pull-offs to allow a safe stop for taking photos. Gasoline and diesel fuel are readily available. First-class fueling stations exist throughout the country in all major communities and major roads. But on smaller communities and minor roads there may not be any. If you are going off the beaten path, carry extra fuel and water.
Air pollution from motor vehicles is very bad in the Philippines. The government has instituted mandatory emissions testing, which in the long run may help. But in the short run, such inspections just mean another bribe to pay for most Filipino drivers. Riding a motorcycle on the roads and highways, otherwise a pleasant experience, is too often negated by frequent clouds of black diesel smoke and gray oil smoke from oil-burning gasoline engines from the frequent bus and truck traffic, and poorly maintained cars. When it rains, the air pollution is cleaned for a brief time. When it is dry, dust from the road traffic adds to the pollution problem. Noise from un-muffled engines is amplified and resonates through the city streets between concrete walls and fences.
Most of the Philippines has four overlapping weather seasons – wet and wetter, and hot and hotter. Westerners won’t find much to distinguish between them. The big island of Luzon in the north gets twenty-plus typhoons a year, while Mindanao in the south gets none, or only the fringe rains along the eastern coast. The Visayan Islands only get occasional typhoons. If you plan to travel by motorcycle, bicycle, or hike a lot, carry your lightweight rain gear – you will likely have frequent need of it.
When bad weather strikes, it can be devastating to travel plans, as local rains may trigger landslides on the highways, and wash out bridges and culverts. Not much, if any notice of these events are available in advance or during the event.
When it is cloudy, the temperature is pleasant and generally humid. But that tropical sun can be brutal, so a head topping is recommended, though few people use them.
My experience with air conditioning in the tropics is that it traps you – it causes one to feel the outside temperature to be blazing hot, when in fact, it is quite pleasant with just a little breeze. A good ceiling fan or floor fan is better, health-wise, and much cheaper on electrical bills. All one really needs is a little breeze, and the tropics will feel balmy and pleasant. If you have dry skin problems, then eschew air conditioning for electric fans – your skin will be so much more pliant if it can sweat a little. Also, a shower after an afternoon sweating in the sun feels so much more refreshing.
They say the tropical rainforests have great potential for cures to the parasitic diseases that befall mankind. That may be true, but most of those parasitic diseases originated there too. The Philippines have little rain forest left. The entire nation has almost been denuded of trees. But all of the diseases endemic to tropical lands are still there. Mosquitoes carry dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever, and other illnesses. So it is wise to carry and use a good insect repellant everywhere. Screen your windows, and doors, and make sure you openings are well sealed. Use a mosquito net at night.
The negatives aspects of living in the Philippines are that community infrastructure is generally not up to western standards, except in the premier subdivisions. As in almost all of Asia, and some of Europe, there are no sewage treatment facilities. Sewage collects in open ditches, and often on the streets, and generally ferments there. Frequent rains keep the sewage from becoming too concentrated. Surprisingly, the odor is not as bad as you might think, though certainly noticeable to westerners.
Potable tap water is available in most locations, but not all, and is often interrupted with low or no pressure. Water mains and distribution lines are not well protected and incur frequent breaks. It is better to drink bottled water than to trust the tap water.
Power is frequently interrupted with what we call blackouts, but Filipinos call brownouts. Electrical power may vary from island to island, and even from province to province. In some areas, electrical power is 220 volt, single phase, and you cannot get 120 volt from it except by using a transformer. In other places, including where I lived in Davao City, electricity is 220 volt, two-phase, and you can get 120 volt service from it by using one hot feed and ground.
If you have 110 volt appliances you are bringing to the Philippines, you can use them but you will have to make one of two adaptations:
1) use a 220 to 110 volt transformer (readily available in the Philippines), or
2) If you have 220 volt two-phase, you can create a 110 volt house circuit (uses only one of the two feed wires, and ground.)
How to tell what type power you have.
The best way is to measure the potential (voltage) between the feed wire(s) coming into the house, and ground. By ground, I literally mean the earth you stand on. A good ground can be made by driving a steel or copper pipe into the ground at least 18 inches.
Single-phase 220 volt. If you have two feed wires coming into the house, measure each separately to ground. If one feed wire measures 220 volts to ground, the other should measure zero to ground. It is also possible to have only one feed wire, with ground serving as the return. You must use a transformer to get 110 volts out of this type electric service.
Two phase 110 volts. You will have two feed wires coming into the house. Each feed wire will measure 110 volts to ground. Across the two feed wires, the voltage will measure 220 volts. You can use a 220 volt to 110 volt transformer on this type electric service. And you can also wire your home for 110 volt service by using only one feed and ground in an outlet.
The rest of this discussion is devoted to two-phase 220 volt service.
Philippine two-phase 220 volt electric power is the same as the US – that is, it uses two 110 volt (120 volts in the US) wires feeding a house. Each of the two feed wires is 110 volts, but out of phase with each other. This out-of-phase condition means that when one wire is +110 volts, the other wire is -110 volts. This out-of-phase condition causes the voltage across both feed wires to be 220 volts (240 volts in the US). Voltage from one feed wire (either feed wire) to ground is 110 volts (120 volts in the US.)
In the US, each 110 volt feed wire is used separately to make the 110 volt outlets in your house. Your110 volt electrical wall receptacle just uses one feed wire, and the other wire from the receptacle goes to earth. Each feed wire makes its own circuit of outlets, with an equal number of outlets on each feed to balance the load on the generator For 220 volt equipment, such as electric clothes dryers, electric stoves, and central air conditioners, both feed wires are used in the circuit. Circuit breaker panels in the US have a large ground (or neutral) bus specifically for attaching neutral and ground wires. In US building codes, the neutral wire and the ground wire may be different wires, but they both go to earth.
The earth is used a conduit back to the generator, which is also grounded to the earth. US building codes designate the ‘ground’ wire as that wire fastened to the casing or shell of an appliance to carry away electrical potential inadvertently leaking to the casing or shell. Thus “ground wire” is a safety feature that prevents accidental electrocution.
US codes designate the ‘neutral’ wire as that wire connected to the load of the appliance. The neutral wire completes the electrical circuit from the generator -- power goes from the generator to the feed wire, to the appliance load (a motor or a heater element), to the neutral wire, to earth, and back to the generator.
In US building codes, the neutral wire must usually be separate from the ground wire. However, if metal conduit is used in the electrical distribution system, then a separate ground wire isn’t really necessary, and the metal conduit can be used for the safety ground.
In the Philippines, metal conduit is seldom (if ever) used, and plastic conduit is the rule. An exception may occur for the feed wires going from the outside electrical meter to the circuit breaker panel inside the house. Neutral or ground wires are not typically installed in houses, and the circuit breaker panel does not have a neutral (ground) bus pre-installed. But you can install a neutral or ground bus. If you plan to use the circuit breaker panel box as ground, check first to see if it is actually ground to earth. If you are building a new house, you can pre-install the neutral and ground wires.
Most Filipino homes do not have the third wire (neutral) to earth installed, and thus only have 220 volt service available to all the electrical outlets. If you are building your own home, or renting and want to have 110 volt power available, all you have to do is install the third wire to earth, which should be firmly attached to a copper rod driven at least 18” into the ground. In such case, you should divide half the 110 volt load between the plus 110 volt wire, and the other half to the minus 110 volt wire to balance the load on the generator.
Electrical frequencies may vary between 50 Hz and 60 Hz, so only buy electronic equipment that says 50/60 Hz. The Philippines ludicrously uses the US standard 110 volt two-blade electrical receptacle for 220 volt power outlets. That makes it all too easy to plug a 110 volt appliance into 220 volts and fry the appliance. If you are building your own house in the Philippines to use both 220 volt and 110 volt appliances, install the European standard round-pin receptacle for 220 volt outlets, and use the US standard two-blade receptacle only for 110 volt outlets. Then you won’t make any mistakes, nor will your household staff (notoriously uneducated).
Filipinos are heavy users of bottled gas for cooking. Bottled gas comes in butane tanks, and is not piped from a central location to houses. Bottled gas is widely available throughout the islands.
The elite Filipino and the better hotels deal with these infrastructure shortcomings by installing a potable water reservoir on the roof, a pump and backflow valve to keep the pressure up, a septic system to treat the waste, and an emergency generator for power interruptions. The wise expat resident or immigrant will do likewise – for ‘tis better to light a candle, or start the generator, than to curse the darkness.
One might swear the Philippine government is run by monkeys. Inefficiency, corruption and nepotism are widespread and rampant. The worst aspect of Philippine government ineptitude and corruption is that the typical government employee in general does not see their actions as anything wrong. Police or officials caught in wrong-doing or soliciting bribes are not fired – just moved to another province. Government employees don’t get their positions based on merit, as in the US. They are appointed on the basis of who they know. Some say the Philippines is run by a dozen or so Filipino families, who enjoy luxury and wealth, with little distribution of the wealth to the common masses. Rules are made for everyone else, but not for them. And key government positions go only to the ruling families.
The best part of the government is that it can usually be ignored. It is best to let your Filipina partner run interference for you whenever possible, as you are bound to get frustrated and upset by the inefficiency and delay in service. Tourist generally have little interface or interference from the government. Overstaying tourists can have their visas extended for up to one year.
The central government of the Philippines is based in Manila, and almost all the national laws passed are modeled on Manila without much consideration as to their need or efficacy in the provinces. Fortunately, most of these Manila-modeled laws are ignored in the provinces. Despite its ineffectiveness at delivering services to the population, the government tries periodically to reform itself – with little success.
The Philippines is more or less a police state, and the government wants to know everything about everyone, domestic or foreign, but in general they do not bother foreigners, unless you make a gross violation.
The current president, Gloria Macagapal Arroyo, has decided that perhaps some Filipina girls are being exploited as they try to escape the crushing poverty and lack of opportunity by marrying foreigners. So now, all Filipino females intending to emigrate from the Philippines have to attend a mandatory counseling session and register with the government before they can get a passport or leave the country – even in my case where my wife and I have been married for six years (as of this writing.)
The problem with this so-called “counseling” is that there are millions of women (and men) wanting to emigrate (read, escape), but the government only offers a few opportunities to get “counseled.” So the poor would-be emigrant has to travel to Manila or Cebu, wait 12 to 18 hours in line for a chance to be “counseled” by someone who has never left the country, and hang around another two or three days while the government stamps their passport. Of course, the elite families don’t have to follow these rules. Almost all government services, from obtaining a birth certificate, drivers license, marriage license, “family counseling,” etc., entail hours of waiting in line, and, in the case of a Filipino drivers license, months to receive the document. It is no wonder that the general public is so willing to pay a bribe to expedite these “services.”
Filipinas working abroad as prostitutes generally exploit themselves, and get there using a tourist visa, which aren’t subject to the counseling requirement. Ordinary Filipinos can’t travel to Europe or the US without obtaining a hard-to-get visa, but they can travel easily to ASEAN countries without a visa. (ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.)
Few individuals pay their income taxes. Government mortgage loans are seldom repaid. Protectionist laws serve the ruling families‘ business interests. Prices for imported goods generally carry 100% import duty. The ordinary craftsman cannot afford to buy equipment and tools because of the high import duty. Smuggling is rampant, especially in the southern islands.
Little wonder that portions of the population are in constant revolution.
Filipinos are conditioned to taking care of large, extended families. One patron may be responsible for the welfare of 20 to 40 persons in the extended family. Nevertheless, abandoned children are numerous, widespread, and generally disenfranchised by rigid government policies.
Filipina women are generally highly regarded for their beauty, loyalty, and homemaking skills. The can make excellent wives and companions. Filipino men, on the other hand, have a reputation as philanderers, though most are faithful husbands and caring providers for their family.
Filipino society is very tolerant of foreigners dating Filipina women – in fact, many Filipino families think that mixed American-Filipino children are the most beautiful, and encourage their daughters to seek contact – as long as the suitor is white, that is.
While there are occasionally black, Afro-type husbands and lovers, generally Filipinos are prejudiced against such relations, and they are rather rare. If you are black, you generally will have less choice – unless you are, or seem, very rich. Complain all you want – that’s the way it is. But keep trying, for sooner or later you will meet someone accepting and to your liking. You just have to try harder.
You should keep in the back of your mind that a primary motive (not necessarily the only one) for a girl to seek a foreigner as a mate is that foreigners, especially American, Australian, European, and Japanese men, are considered as far more financially responsible and secure than the Filipino male choices around them. The girl you choose may be expecting you to not only be generous with her, but to be generous to her family also.
There are rich, high-society Filipino girls and families, but they generally move in a different circle, and you are not likely to meet them in your international quest for true love, unless you are also rich and move in that same circle.
Before the Internet, the easiest (and in my opinion – the best) way to meet eligible Filipina women was through an agency like Cherry Blossoms. These agencies accept photos and bio-data from interested females for free, publish that info (sans contact info) in magazines and on the internet, and sell physical addresses, email addresses, and other contact information to males. In my opinion, Cherry Blossoms (www.blossoms.com) was the premier contact agency, and attracted a better class of girls than did other sites, many of which are just recycling old Cherry Blossoms girls.
The way these agencies work is that you look through the agency pictures on their web site, or subscribe to their magazine or internet service. There may be several thousand girls listed. Pick out the ones you might like, buy their contact info, and contact them. You can sort them between height, weight, age, religion, and how long they have been active. Though many may have internet e-mail addresses, they may not be readily accessible to the girl, or the e-mail address may be through a friend, and message turn-around time may not be immediate - even days in coming. Exchanging letters may take a month or so. Many of the girls will be living in remote areas, where mail delivery is slow. Many will not be able to afford postage, so if you can, buy Filipino stamps for her, or, even better – provide a self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope (Filipino stamp, not a US stamp). You can also provide an international postage coupon, but many girls will not be close to a post office that will accept them.
The prettier girls will get hundreds of letters, and the beautiful ones may get thousands. Your chances of getting noticed in such cases are small, but perseverance may pay off for you. These prettier girls command more attention, and they can afford to be choosy, limiting their interests to men more in their age bracket, better looking, and more obviously well-heeled. Most of them will pass off their excess mail to their girl friends and acquaintances. Don’t be upset or angry – some of those girls not otherwise known to you may be just what you were looking for.
A plain girl may get only a few letters. Many girls never get a single letter. If you are not having any luck with the classier-looking, try the plainer girls. Very often they may just not be photogenic, and they may turn out much prettier in person, and generally are more receptive to someone not so young and/or not so handsome, or not so rich. Filipino society is very tolerant of May-December relationships, and they are rather common. In my case my wife is 30 years younger than I am, and quite pretty. But then, I am especially handsome and virile – a legend in my own mind. Seriously, though, take stock of yourself and try to be realistic.
Many of the photos of the girls posted on the internet or in the magazine may be from a few years ago, and not reflective of how the girl looks now. Hopefully, in your correspondences, both of you are exchanging more recent photos. Every letter exchange should include new and recent photos. Speaking of photos, it is all too common for westerners to ask for nude photos from the girls. Filipinos are conservative, and the better-class girls will refuse this, and you risk losing all further correspondence with them. If you are so set on such voyeurism, you may be more successful with a girl working in a cabaret, who is more free with her favors – or they are available for purchase.
Sooner or later a face-to-face visit is appropriate for you and her to see each other in reality. One or both of you may be disappointed in the reality of a face-to-face. If so, no sense in continuing the relationship. But generally, you should now be looking past the physical appearance into the character and temperament, which are far more important in sustaining a relationship.
Many of the girls you visit in person may hop right into bed with you from the get-go. If she is so easy with you, probably she will be so with every suitor. You might want to keep looking if you are contemplating marriage, and fidelity is important to you. The more faithful will want your commitment to marriage, and maybe even marriage first. While you may be disappointed and unsatisfied sexually for the moment, such reticence on her part is a good sign for a more enduring relationship or marriage.
Many girls in the Philippines tend to be on the short side, and may exaggerate their height. There are, however, tall girls. Generally, it starts to look odd if the man is more than 12” taller than his girlfriend or wife. In the US, the average male is 5’-10”, and the average female is 5’-4”. Still, if she is the one that pleases you, don’t worry about it. It occurs frequent enough to be common.
A girl from prominent or conservative family may not be permitted to be alone with you. Everywhere you two go may be chaperoned until you are married. Generally such girls are virgins, but not always. If you have to have a virgin, make sure that you state so in your very first letter. And that you yourself are virgin, or not promiscuous. Accept it as a gift to you, not as a right. Most of the girls you write will tell you right away if they are virgins – but they won’t tell you if they are not – you’ll have to establish a rapport and trust first. But if it might be an issue after marriage, as it is in some cultures, then you had better ask before you marry.
Some girls will not deal with a divorced man, or one with children, so be honest about it up front if you are divorced or have children living with you.
Many girls will have a child or two already. There is no divorce in the Philippines, and annulments takes a long time and lots of money. If a girl has been married, and you contemplate immigration to your home country, then she might have to obtain a divorce in another country in order to get a visa. My experience with the US embassy is that they tend to accept whatever divorce documents are presented, as long as it appears legitimate on the face. Many of these girls merely had a live-in relationship that didn’t work out, or a promise of marriage that didn’t occur, got pregnant, and now are considered unmarriageable in their hometowns. They can still make excellent wives. But you had better spend some time with her and her children to make sure that you can tolerate raising her children too. I recommend in these cases that you enter into a trial live-in arrangement to see if it will work out – for at least one year, if you have the resources and she is willing.
I am talking about US divorces here. There are no divorces in the Philippines. If you take a girl back to the US, you stand a good chance of being divorced a few years later. Oh, if she has been married to you less than two years, she can’t divorce you for the first two or three years in the US, or she risks being deported. But be aware – the US legal system is geared to encourage divorces, and you – the male – are the target. Well not you in particular, but your assets.
Divorce is so easy to get in the US, and in fact too many states seem to encourage it. After all, lawyers make divorce laws, and they make them with their fees and future business in mind. You, as a male, will not be able to prevent a divorce, and very likely will be saddled with all the costs of the divorce, be ordered to pay her alimony, and child support, have your parental rights terminated, and remain financially crippled the rest of your life, unable to ever recover and try it again. The court will very likely order that your wages or retirement annuity be garnished and paid to a state agency. In the increasing likelihood that you fall into arrears, the court may order your savings accounts seized, and your property seized and sold. The divorce risk for a male in the US is very high – because it is the male that generally has the assets her lawyer is salivating over.
Most couples in our situation (international relationships) don’t have sufficient time to date and get to know each other. We too often get married – then we have our courtship. In my case, my wife and I got married in the Philippines after one year of writing letters to each other. Then we got to really know each other – the first six months were just quarrel after quarrel. Then we started adjusting to each other, and in another year or so she was my best friend.
The point is this – the first few months of a marriage are very stressful on both parties, especially if one or both of you have children from prior relationships. It is at this time that a break up is most likely – or that downstream resentments start to be collected. In the Philippines, her family, and the whole Philippine society and legal system is there to help both of you and encourage her to stick it out. But in the US, all your friends, and anyone she may contact in the US, will likely encourage her to separate and divorce you.
It is best, in my opinion, that you live with the Filipino girl in the Philippines for a few years before deciding to immigrate her to the US. Marry her if you must, but stay in the Philippines for a few years. You then have sufficient time for the relationship to continue past the courtship phase, and fully develop – with sufficient observation to judge as to whether the relationship or marriage is solid enough to survive the change in culture. If you keep your new woman or wife in a separate country initially, and the relation doesn’t work out, she won’t be able to attack your assets. In fact, unless you say so, know one, not even the US government, will ever know about the relationship, or even if you married her or not. Of course, not everyone will have the resources to do this.
Practice asset protection, at least for awhile. If you have financial resources, keep their source and location a secret. If your new wife starts asking about your money, and where it is, that is a bad sign – be wary and evasive. Unless you are very sure of your partner, its best to keep them in the dark about your wealth. If, after a few years, your wife or partner becomes your best friend and confidant, and you have given her opportunity to steal from you, but she has remained loyal and trustworthy, then you can begin to reveal a few assets to her to see how she deals with it. If she continues to prove trustworthy, then perhaps you can reveal a few more.
However, if you want to provide for your wife or partner after your death, she has to know about these provisions in order to pursue them in case you die. Just don’t make it so lucrative as to tempt her to help you on your way to the other side. There are cases in the Philippines where a Filipino wife has been suspected of murdering her expat lover or husband for his money.
Finally, be aware that there are frauds in the system, girls whose only interest is to get you to send money, and guys who are using a girl’s photo and bio data to get you to send him money. It is generally better not to send any money, and to drop such persons off your candidate list.
If you are only interested in sex, and not in relationships, you can find plenty of opportunity in the Philippines. Unlike Thailand, which seems to have an official government policy supporting the sex industry, the Filipino government generally frowns on it. It does try to license and register sex workers, but most girls (and boys) free lance. Few sexually promiscuous people in the Philippines regularly use or require condoms or other protection. The risk of acquiring or transmitting a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV/AIDS, is very high.
Some categories that may apply to you:
If your male seeking male, I can’t help you.
‐ one night stands – Go to any cabaret. The whores are called Guest Relations Officers (GRO’s). Negotiate your price. Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS are almost a certainty.
‐ a few weeks to a few months – Just about any unattached girl you meet in a cabaret or hanging out on a street corner may be willing to shack up with you. Negotiate your price. Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS are common.
You are not likely to meet suitable long-term companions frequenting nightclubs and cabarets. It is best to meet suitable candidates through a reputable agency like Cherry Blossoms. You can sign up with these agencies on the internet. In my opinion, Cherry Blossoms is the premier agency (www.blossoms,com). Take your time in reviewing photos, selecting girls that are attractive to you. Buy their contact info, then write letters to forty or more. Use a standard letter and mail merge at first, then personalize the letters after you get some responses. You don’t know who will respond and who won’t. If you are lucky, you may get back ten or twenty responses out of hundreds of tries, with whom you can further correspond. As you exchange correspondence, talk about your hopes and dreams, your hobbies, your religious belief’s, some politics, what you expect out of a companion or wife and why. Try to see how your different personalities and temperaments shape up to match. Try taking Kersey’s Temperament Sorter with her (go online at www.keirsey.com). Selectively narrow the candidates down to five or less. Then hop a plane and go meet them. Some of them may be willing to enter into a trial relationship with you. The more conservative, and better prospects for a permanent relationship, will require a formal wedding before sex.
Fiancée – to immigrate to US
The US embassy will require a one year minimum correspondence time, plus a meeting face-to-face. You must submit proof of your correspondence and face-to-face meeting. See the Immigration web page on Fiancée visas for more specific detail.
Marriage – to immigrate later to the US
The US embassy will require proof of marriage and cohabitation. See the Immigration web page on spousal visas for more specific detail.
Statutory rape in the Philippines occurs if the girl or boy is twelve years old or younger and carries a death penalty. The age of consent for marriage in the Philippines is 18, but parental permission may still be required up to age 23 or even 26. The laws concerning sex with a girl between 12 and 18 are muddied, and may include prison time. Younger girls, down to 12 are probably available illicitly in the lower economic classes, but as you go below the age of 18, you become more and more susceptible to blackmail, being murdered, and running afoul of the criminal justice system. Filipino jails are severely overcrowded and lacking in even basic human amenities. In the best case scenario, the girl will tell someone, and you will certainly be blackmailed. If you knowingly pursued an underage girl, you deserve any ill fate that befalls you.
If you just have to indulge in child-sex fantasy, find a willing adult who is small and young looking, but over the legal age of consent. The life you save may be your own.
Girls often lie about their ages, try to avoid them, as the legal entanglements might involve jail or prison time and/or heavy fines or bribes, and the probability of being blackmailed is high. . Filipina girls look much younger than they actually are, so you should be able to find someone of legal age and still young-enough looking to please you.