I’ll be 42 this year, it’ll be quite a while before I retire. But sometimes the topic of where to retire comes up in conversations when I’m with older friends, or among my peers who are in the military & will retire after they fulfill their 20 years of active duty service. Most of the Filipinos I talk to say that they’d retire in the US, not in the Philippines. I ask them why, considering that because of the favorable exchange rate, they could retire comfortably in the Philippines. We have some common answers, which I’ll elaborate on below.

Now before I go further, let me say that the US is not perfect, no country is. But in spite of its flaws, I’d rather live here. I cannot speak for my friends, but here are the reasons why I no longer want to live in the Philippines & prefer instead to live & retire here in the USA:

Bangko ng bayan – If you retire in the Philippines, some of your relatives, friends, even neighbors will come and ‘borrow’ or ask money from you. There’s always some sort of medical emergency going on or a child who needs tuition money. They will approach you too if they need money for a birthday party, baptism, wedding or burial. If you say no, ikaw pang masama. And don’t expect them to repay you if you do lend money.

Security issues – I think no matter how simply you live, word will get around that you’re receiving some sort of retirement income from the US or abroad. You could become an easy target of ‘akyat-bahay’ gangs or kidnappings, either by strangers or by disgruntled people you didn’t lend money to.

No 911 or emergency services – unlike here in the US where you can call 911 & an ambulance will be there in a few minutes, in the Philippines, no such emergency service exists. Even if there were, with the traffic in large metropolitan areas like Manila, by the time the ambulance does reach you & transport you to the hospital, you’d probably be dead or close to death by then. And if you don’t have any health insurance, I doubt you’ll be taken care of.

Corruption – things happen faster if you bribe people. I clearly remember hearing that it takes years for people to get a phone line, but the process could be speeded up if you knew someone at the phone company. Those who have drivers licenses, what’s the percentage that they actually took both a written & practical driving test? At almost every contact I had with the government, things were slow & people would ‘offer’ to speed things up for me if I paid a little extra, which I refused.

Pollution – during my last year in the Philippines, I would get a sore throat every 6 weeks or so from the dirty air I was exposed to while riding tricycles & jeepneys. It was so bad that I had barely any voice left, and my voice was needed because I constantly spoke with people at work. Except for the tourist spots & business districts, most areas you went there was trash on the streets. It’s a common sight for people to just throw candy wrappers anywhere, further clogging the drains which contributes to the floods whenever it rains in Manila There are no trash cans or dumpsters to speak of. Some men will urinate at the nearest wall instead of looking for a public restroom. Signs like “bawal umihi dito” and “bawal magtapon ng basura dito” are ignored.

Traffic – what would normally take 15-20 minutes to navigate will take an hour or more because of the traffic. I do not want to deal with that. I remember when I was still working in the Philippines, I had co-workers who would leave home at 5:30 or 6 am & get to work just in time at 7:30 or 8:00 am. And rules of the road? I am embarrassed to say we have some of the most undisciplined drivers I’ve ever seen.

The laws are less female friendly

  • In the Philippines, if you have a child and your husband or boyfriend ran off with someone else or simply abandoned you & your child, sorry ka na lang. Here in the States, even if you’re not married to the guy, there are laws in place. He is legally, not to mention morally, obligated to support his child. You can take him to court for child support & since everything here in the US is connected to one’s social security number, if he’s working, he can be tracked down & his wages will be garnished (automatically deducted) from his paycheck & sent to you. If he stops working, once he does find work again, he now owes you back payments & he will legally have to pay that on top of whatever court ordered child support in place.
  • I don’t know how seriously domestic violence is treated in the Philippines, but here, if a guy merely pushes you, or even talks to you in a threatening or demeaning manner, you can call 911 on him for domestic abuse or violence. It will go on his record, & he could get into serious trouble especially if he’s in the US military.

I have many fond memories of the Philippines. I have many friends there that I keep in touch with via email, fb or skype, & I can see them when I visit. It is where I was born, & where I lived from the ages of 9-28. The Philippines will always be a nice place to visit, but it’s not where I want to live anymore. And unless a lot of things change for the better, I have no intentions of going back there to live .

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by Den Dominguez