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Why I won’t live in the Philippines anymore

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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


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  • OFW_Investor

    Bangko ng Bayan – If relatives and friends treat you like a bank , then its prudent to act like a bank .
    Security issues – The Crime rate is grossly overstated for those who dont live here in the Phils, we hear a lot about mass shooting over there. I would feel safer here.
    911 Emergency Services – If living in Manila and Makati, the less fortunate can avail of free medical care, just ask Erap and Binay.
    Our Doctors and Nurses are top notch with medical tourism, a lot of Filam’s are coming here for routine medical operations, dental, etc.
    Pollution – China is worse, cant go out in the streets. Better to stay out of Manila, If you know where your’e going, in the provinces it can offer a lot of nature and beauty, . WOW.
    Less female Friendly – here in the phils we dont need laws for that, our Family Support system is the best. This is in our nature. in the US, FILAM’s import their parents to take care of their children.
    Domestic Violence – there is of course some of that here, but there are a lot of that there too.
    To say that the US is better than the Phils is better for retirement is debatable.

  • Luke Torres

    The Philippines is a veritable cesspool of corruption and poverty. Halos lahat patay gutom at magnanakaw. There are good people but not enough to make your stay worthwhile.

  • onepost

    I find the article unrealistic since there are places in the USA that have the same problems. I have lived in the USA for over 45 YEARS. now happily retired in the Philippines. Nursing home in USA? NO THANKS…

  • Laurie Askey

    This is my take on Phils:

    Like anywhere in the world there are positives and negatives attached
    to wherever you live. I’ve been in this country now since early
    December 2014 where some have described it as ‘The land of broken
    dreams’.

    The people are very friendly and love to chat
    to us ‘foreigners’ (which is what Westerners are referred to) and enjoy
    helping us whenever they can. Their philosophy seems in many ways is to
    live from day to day without concern for the future. But the longer you
    live here the more you begin to understand the camouflaged pretence
    behind all this bonhomie. Basically it all boils down to the most common
    of all denominators – money. We have it and they don’t. So basically
    they are after it and depending on how nicely they have been raised
    influences how they get it.

    I have heard some horror
    stories about many foreigners who have lost everything. They marry,
    settle down with a Filipino wife who secretly has a Filipino lover or
    husband and before they know it the law which is heavily swayed on the
    side of the Filipinos gives all the foreigner’s assets to the wife. I
    have heard these tales so many times I have come to believe them. Not
    only that, for these are the luckier ones, some foreigners have become
    victims to more psychopathic locals. I have been reliably told of an
    Englishman who drank with Filipino men for seven long years every
    evening, buying all the drinks, when one night they killed him for a few
    pesos. The moral of the story is you can’t trust them however friendly
    they appear to be.

    Then there is the noise. This is
    largely due to Filipino men enjoying watching and betting on two animals
    fighting to the death. So they breed roosters and fighting dogs. In the
    UK roosters annoying crow at 5am and then stop. Here they crow all day
    and sometimes during the night. When I arrived in Phils in Lapu Lapu our
    close-by neighbour had eight cockerals who would all crow loudly in
    unison for most of the day and often into the night. There is also the
    barking dog syndrome where the animals are allowed, often encouraged, to
    yap and bark all day. I have learnt Filipinos enjoy loud noise and have
    absolutely no concerns for upsetting neighbours. So apart from the
    cockadoodle-dooing cockerals and barking dogs there is the blaring
    repetitive music emanating from huge speakers into the early hours. Some
    of my Filipino friends often appear tired when I see them due to lack
    of sleep from other selfish locals. But Filipinos are very tolerant of
    their inconsiderate countrymen although far less so of foreigners.

    I
    have discovered another Filipino trait of which my upbringing
    disapproves of and that is whatever you give it isn’t really
    appreciated, it’s expected. I recently spent about thirteen thousand
    pesos on taking my girlfriend to her niece’s wedding in the province
    (the birth place) and many of her relatives on a day trip but got no
    acknowledgement of gratitude. Amazingly there is no actual Filipino
    expression for ‘thank you’ and the word they rarely use, salamat, actually originates from Arabia.

    Us
    Westerners are invariably animal lovers so it was a culture shock for
    me when I came here to see tiny kittens left to die in the sun, stray
    cats everywhere or abandoned dogs scraping for survival with barely any
    fur left on their emaciated bodies. Compassion for animals is not a
    usual Filipino characteristic. So my soft nature came to the fore and I
    always feed any strays with scraps in the hope they’ll survive at least
    another day. Where I now live is in Labagon, high up with a view of a
    deep valley and mountains as a backdrop. A mother cat and her three
    kittens have adopted me because I give them rice mixed with leftovers or
    sardines. When I awake every morning they are waiting for me to open my
    front door, their small whinges demanding breakfast. A tin of sardines
    is cheaper here than a tin of cat food in the UK and yet the locals
    wouldn’t dream of providing this food source to stray felines. One of
    the kittens, a jet black runt of the litter, now reminds me of a
    miniature panther. It has a defective ear and was close to dying when I
    first moved in but is now a healthy fit young cat able to fend for
    itself like the others.

    Although I have been driving
    for over forty years I would not consider driving in the Philippines for
    one second. Motoring here is a hit and miss affair and I am amazed I
    don’t see more accidents than I do. There is no such thing as those
    silly speed limits we have back home and the roads are inundated with
    speeding motorcycles all intent on arriving at their destinations in the
    quickest time possible. Rules of the road and courtesy are non-existent
    here especially for pedestrians and I am always relieved when I am able
    to cross the road in one piece without losing a limb. The pedestrian
    crossings are completely ignored by all and sundry and you have to wait
    for a gap in the fast-moving traffic to scuttle across to the other
    side. A while back I took an elderly English friend to a medical centre
    for a checkup where we met a young man from Norway who had lost a leg in
    a motorbike accident. It is not unusual for those type of accidents as
    many Filipino motorcyclists have had no proper training and drive like
    maniacs sometimes on the pavements.

    In this world of
    small people everything is reduced in size, and the principles of health
    and safety haven’t yet arrived in this part of Asia. So unless I use
    taxis, which is only for luggage journeys, I use jeepnies or
    tricycles.These modes of transport are basically designed for midgets
    and although I am only five feet six inches tall, probably a below
    average UK height, I still have small scars to show where I have banged
    my head on numerous occasions getting in and out of these dangerous
    vehicles.

    It also took me a while to become accustomed
    to the uncivilised habits of Filipino males. Back home teenagers spit
    where they stand at bus stops but here men of all ages loudly hawk and
    spit on the pavements. You often have to run the gauntlet of spittle
    whilst at the same time dodging bikes, motorcycles or vehicles driving
    inches from where you stand due to the sidewalks being part of the road.
    Then there is the urinating. The men will relieve themselves virtually
    anywhere by the side of the road with no attempt at privacy. So too do
    the kids, they will pee in front of you where they stand. And the
    burping of either gender when eating is neither disguised nor attempted
    to be covered up. To watch my girlfriend eat is reminiscent of observing a pig consuming its swill.

    After
    having laid out most of the negative aspects of life in the Philippines
    for foreigners I will tell of the positive points. The cost of living
    is low and the scenery in parts is beautiful. We went with friends on a
    trip to the island of Borhol where the white sand, palm trees and warm
    ocean welcomed us with open arms. And it was quite too, no barking dogs,
    no roosters and no pollution, not like Cebu. I couldn’t live here
    forever.

    South America beckons so I might try there next.

  • maylee reed

    and about relatives, prangkahin mo nalang sila na wala kang ibibigay. You can simply reject them, unless you also keep talking to them. SImple lang don’t lend anybody money and don’t let anyone in your home at mahirap na sila paalisin later. Your problem with relatives is not really a problem di ka nila mapipilit pag ayaw mo. and being abuse by drivers well yea yun I think will not affect you much kasi your a filipino ethnicity, it will be a problem is you are mestisa like me or my friends that are foreign kasi they usually charge us more, and if we dont give tips they usually curse us and give us bad treatment.