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Should You Consider Living in the Philippines?

Many of our members write to us asking our opinion of living in the Philippines.  Since we did live there, we do have some experiences to share and some suggestions to offer.
As you should know from reading our past advice articles in our blog, common sense and visa issues both require a couple to spend time together in person.  Because the Philippines does not require a complicated visa for most people, it is usually the best place to meet first.  And the Philippines is definitely a great place to visit.  Many of our members also consider living in the Philippines.
We met in the Philippines, and we lived there in the Visaya region near Cebu for about a year together.  We considered staying longer.  But based on our own experience and what we learned from others, we decided to process the visa to live in the USA. After processing the visa, we have now been living here in Hawaii, USA for almost two years.
There are hundreds of thousands of foreign men who live for a few years or more in the Philippines.  There are even a few foreign women who live in the Philippines.  However, in our experience the foreigners remain permanently outsiders, legally and culturally.  In part it is an isolation imposed by the Filipino culture and laws, and in part it is a self-imposed isolation from the rest of the Philippines.
Foreigners in the Philippines do not experience the same protection and rights (legally or practically) as Filipinos, in their country.  From the laws about land ownership (foreigners are prohibited from land ownership and ownership of controlling interests in most businesses) to police service, the foreigner in the Philippines is not entitled to the rights or protection he often expects for himself.  Additionally, the hardships of life in the Philippines (high crime, unreliable utilities, needy families) force most foreigners to set create their own boundaries and infrastructure.
Here in Hawaii, when we go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, to transfer a car title, we pay 5 dollars, and within 5 minutes we have a new title in our name.  In the Philippines, this would take either days at the corresponding offices (if not months), or employing a “fixer” who would do some combination of waiting and bribing in order to process the paperwork.  The same story applies to land ownership and processing of other papers, many of which will be required for a marriage license and passport application.  Of course these issues are not unique to the Philippines.  Living in Central America, Africa, or many other places in Asia would generally be similar, based on our research.
Another consideration we had in mind was whether to have children born and raised in the Philippines.  We heard too many stories of doctors who routinely pushed high percentages of expectant mothers into the operating room for caesareans if they believed the mother had the funds to pay for this more expensive form of birth, regardless as to whether there was any indication that a normal birth would have complications.
So, these issues, and the isolation they require in order for a foreigner to maintain sanity living long-term in the Philippines, are significant.  They must be weighed against the benefits of living in the Philippines: warm weather; inexpensive rent, public transportation, dental work, and food; a sense of popularity; a good chance to meet a sincere Christian Filipina; beautiful islands and beaches; delicious and abundance mango, coconut, and other fruits.
In summary, our recommendation is that it is nice to visit the Philippines, and can also be a pleasant place to rent a small apartment for several months or perhaps up to a year if your schedule allows.  It gives an opportunity to get to know a Filipina and to be married and to be together for some time in her place.  However, we do not recommend putting the cart before the horse and committing yourself to living permanently in the Philippines before living there for six months or more on an experimental basis.  And in most cases, we believe most foreigners and their wives will ultimately be happier back in their own countries.
If you would like to research more on this topic, there are dozens of other web sites and groups on the topic of foreigners living in the Philippines.  We do warn you to be careful, because many of them are closely censored by their website owners who seek to present their own specific idea of what the Philippines is.  Actually we did also start a forum about living in the Philippines which you are welcome to review, and if you wish, to join.  We started it a few years ago when we still lived in the Philippines, and it has not been very active since we left there.
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  1. Foreigners married to Filipinas can be happy and contented living in the Phils.
    1. Be sure to live there for a trial period of one year. If you own a house in your own country, don’t sell before you’ve determined life in the Phils is for you.
    2. If your Filipina doesn’t already have a suitable home for you to live in, it’s wise to rent a home in the Phils for the first few years you’re married. That will give you time to determine that the marriage is going to last. You don’t want to pay for an expensive home and property right away, which by Phils law will have to be in her name, then have her throw you out or sell the home behind your back.
    3. When it comes to determining where you want to live in the Phils, do all the advance research you can. Wikipedia has many good articles on the various islands, provinces, cities and municipalities (towns).
    4. If you become interested in a specific area, you need to find out if it’s prone to typhoons, earthquakes, excessive annual rainfall, mudslides etc. Some areas even have active volcanoes.
    5. The Phils government uses a classification system for its cities and municipalities, that rates them by average annual income of their residents. For example, a 1st Class City will have a higher income level than a 4th Class City. As a GENERAL rule, you’ll probably find more nice places to live in the higher income cities/towns, but there are good places to live in some of the lower income classification areas.
    6. Avoid living in Metro Manila/National Capital Region if at all possible. Overpopulation, high crime, pollution, serious traffic congestion, crowded public transportation etc. await you there. It has some nice tourist spots to visit, but living there is not advised.
    7. Get actively involved with a church. Do mission work also, if that’s your calling.
    8. Learn to speak the main language or dialect used in the area you choose to live in, whether it be Tagalog, Cebuano etc. Many Filipinos will be impressed by your willingness to learn their language, even if you’re not fluent, and this will help you achieve greater social acceptance sooner.

    Comment by Randy — May 4, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

  2. As touched on in my previous comment, very important things to consider when deciding where you want to live in the Phils, are weather and natural calamities.
    Of the three principal geographic divisions in the Phils — Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao — Luzon is the one that sits squarely in the typhoon belt. Luzon is typically battered by numerous typhoons during the annual typhoon season. Visayas also falls victim to typhoons, but not as frequently as Luzon, and Luzon is more adversely affected by the destructive winds. The island of Samar in Eastern Visayas acts as a buffer zone that frequently protects the rest of Visayas from the brunt of some typhoons. However, massive flooding caused by enormous amounts of rain associated with the typhoons, is a major problem in parts of both regions. Mudslides often follow the heavy rains in some areas. When choosing a home or other dwelling to live in, you must insist on straightforward answers from the seller/agent, to questions regarding flooding and other natural calamities. If your Filipina is not familiar with the area, have her chat with some of the locals, to determine if there are problems you need to know about. Research the area on the internet, but don’t rely entirely on the info found there.
    Mindanao is least affected by typhoons, but seasonal heavy rains, flooding and mudslides can still be a problem in some areas there. Earthquakes are also a reoccurring problem that must be inquired about when deciding where to live.

    Comment by Randy — May 14, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

  3. H you do a good job in here and most you say is correct. My compliments dear fellow. I live in the Philippines for about 28 years and speak some dialects (more or less :) :) ) Yes it is true, the Philippines is a nice looking country but not a good country for “americano’s” or foreigners. Your money is welcome but you are not. Yes it sounds hard but the truth is not always sweet and gentle. I see thousands “longnoses” facing many troubles here and indeed 100dreds loose their houses and everything in it.

    Comment by Rev. EF — July 22, 2011 @ 1:11 pm

  4. If u marry in phillipines how long does it take to go through Australian imagration to bring her back yours sincerely jeff

    Comment by jeffrey — October 4, 2011 @ 2:59 am

  5. Hi Jeffrey, We have heard that it is typically three to nine months.

    Comment by Christian Filipina — October 4, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  6. Thank you for the message of Philippines.I’m
    Puerto Rican/American.Philippina women I’ve
    met here in Alaska seem much like my hispanic
    culture.I’m called by our Lord.Im praying for
    discernment as to finding His choice of wife
    for me.Ministry is life.He either says yes,no,wait.I plan to move to Cebu in 3 months.And this site is the most peaceful.
    I’ll sing up on the 1st of Dec.Ricky

    Comment by Ricky Triplett-Enrique — November 22, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

  7. Good to read these blogs. After reading the truth of the Philippines, I never want to go there. I’ve written to many Philippines, and none of them tell it like it is.

    Comment by Hank Roedell — May 25, 2012 @ 4:19 am

  8. I agree that there are disadvantages with foreigners living in the Phils, but I think there are advantages also. One advantage is that most Filipinos look up to foreigners. Even if you’re a loser in your country, you’d be treated like a king in the Phils. Even if you’re dumb, Filipinos would still see you as smart(especially if your language is english. speaking in english has become an indicator in the Phils that you’re educated, even if you’re not).
    Another thing is that, cost of living in the Phils is really low. If you’re poor in your country, you’d be a middle class here, if you’re a middle class you’d be rich here. Foreigners in the Phils always get special treatment

    Comment by Lola Rono — July 21, 2012 @ 6:23 am

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