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Moving to the Philippines, Part 1

Moving to the PhilippinesWe’re  moving to the Philippines. My wife Menchu and I have  put a tentative date on the calendar, subject to certain other things happening in good time. But like they say on the Internet: stuff just got serious.

Of course, there will be questions. You can’t tell people that you’re leaving your home country without raising their curiosity. Let me try to answer the questions here.

Why?

That’s a perfectly legitimate question and probably the hardest one to answer. Hard not because an answer is difficult to come up with but hard because there are so many ways to answer.

There are a number of reasons why we’re moving to the Philippines. Menchu is from there. The weather is great. Our savings and retirement money will go farther there than in the U.S. No one is getting younger and the best time to enjoy things is while you still can. The food is delicious. See what I mean? The answers are many!

Economics

Since financial costs are at the heart of living anywhere, let’s start here.

Put bluntly, if Menchu and I were to stay in the U.S. as we grew older, we would have to keep working until we died. Neither of us has enough money saved to retire on and everyone knows that, in spite of the intentions of those who first formed the fund, Social Security payments to retirees are a mean and meager joke. The first harsh reality is that if we stayed here, life would eventually suck and suck bad.

So the bottom-line reason we’re moving to the Philippines is to stretch our savings and retirement monies. Stretching your money like this does not come without a few caveats.

Gauging the economics of moving to the Philippines requires much more than just looking at the exchange rate, seeing that $1 = P44 and deciding to move. The central question to the costs involved in moving to the Philippines is: how do you want to live?

Food is generally less expensive in the Philippines. But its expense hinges on what your diet will be. I’ve been eating Filipino-syle  food (including rice with nearly every meal) since Menchu came to the U.S. in 2010. I find almost everything Menchu has made for me to be completely yummy. I even like the common Filipino condiments (called sawsawan in Filipino): bagoong (fried shrimp paste), calamansi (Philippine lemon), and sukang pinakurat (spiced vinegar). I enjoy a wide variety of the fruits found in Davao including the famous durian, lanzones, papaya, mangosteen, marang, and more. I like the local vegetables, too.

If we ate like Americans and had a diet heavy in processed foods, packaged foods, beef and frequent visits to restaurants, not only would it be a dumb thing to do in a land of so many wonderful foods, but it would be much more expensive.

Costs for housing again pivot on how you plan to live. Menchu and I have a 760 square meter lot on which we plan to build a modest 3 bedroom, two bath house at about 2,000 square feet (185 sq. meters) . That will run us around $50,000. We’ll have enough space to keep some animals and have a nice garden and some fruit trees.

If we planned on having an American-style dream home in an exclusive gated community (which, to me, would be like cutting ourselves off from the country we moved to), we would be spending a whole bunch more money.

Contrary to common thinking, tech is not less expensive in the Philippines even with its close proximity to China. I priced a 40-inch flat-screen TV at SM Mall at $800 back in February, about what you’d pay here if you didn’t shop hard. Laptops are about the same or more expensive in the Philippines. Upgrade parts for desktops or laptops like memory and hard disks can be surprisingly expensive.

Transportation locally is cheap. A pedicab ride of several blocks is P6, about $0.14. Average taxi rides can be anywhere from P60 ($1.50)  to P300 ($7.00) and up (excluding tip). We may own a car there but that can be expensive and I’m pretty sure I’d want a driver who is used to the rather wide-open traffic law interpretations encountered in the Philippines.

Basically, on the economic front, Menchu and I plan to be moving to the Philippines and living well yet simply. We’ve never lived in the typical big American house, driven the big American SUV and we don’t have the typical American 2.5 children to keep in jeans and sneakers. Neither of us have much need for luxury but you may be very different from us. For us, we believe we’ll be fine.

Climate

Weather, climate, has as much to do with your happiness and quality of life as just about any other thing in your life. Seattle has been pretty good to me and while I make a good wage, I’ve endured fifteen years now of living with gray skies and cold rain for nine months out of the year. Most of my workday is spent outside on the waterfront in Seattle both working and shuttling between properties. For nine months of the year I’m cold and usually wet. I’ve had it, both physically and mentally.

Menchu is a Filipina from the Philippines. Bless her heart. She’s cold 12 months out of the year.

The weather in Davao, where we will be, is like summer weather in Miami, Florida in the U.S., with hot, humid days in the 80’s and 90’s and cooler nights in the 70’s that very often yield rain. Davao doesn’t experience a pronounced dry season/wet season swing like most of the rest of the country does and it’s south of the “cyclone belt” or the normal track of tropical cyclones.

I don’t mind the heat but I will need some air conditioning, especially in the beginning, just to cool me down until I get used to it.

Air conditioning in the Philippines is usually limited to a few rooms in the home, rather than the American-style whole-house cooling. Electricity is expensive in the Philippines (although not more so than some parts of the U.S.)  and average Filipinos confine “aircon” to the places where the most comfort is required such as bedrooms for sleeping.

I love a good thunderstorm and an honest, hard rain is relaxing to me (the drip and drizzle of Seattle, on the other hand, is an annoyance).

While Davao isn’t “beachy” like Miami or some other cities in the Philippines (the photo above is one of my own, taken on Boracay Island in the west-central Philippines), resorts and beaches aren’t far away.

End of Part 1

I’m running long here so let’s pick up the rest of my reasoning on the why of moving to the Philippines in another post. What do you think so far? You who have made the move, you native Filipinos and those still thinking about moving to the Philippines, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

 

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