Living in the Philippines Today
My take on living in the Philippines, as an American, is that the main difference in the societies and culture are few. The current exchange rate is 44 pesos to $1. This makes for a great deal if you coming from the USA, nearly everything is 50-75% cheaper in the Philippines.The culture is family oriented, more so than in the USA. I mean, if you marry a Filipina, you marry into the family and you might be asked to take care of them also. But if you expect to work there, be prepared for low wages when compared to those in the USA. It is a shock to think a person works six days a week for 8-10 hrs. a day and only takes $500. Of course, this does vary, but overall, do not expect to make the same money you made in the USA. As to the cost of living, of course, this can vary, but the costs for food and gas are not that different that in the States. The main difference is in the rent and utilities, which by US standards, is much lower on average. For instance, in Manila, all utilities run an average of $90\mo. while fast Internet is around $50. A three bedroom apartment hovers around $1000\mo, while a single bedroom is $350. Clothing costs are similar to those in the USA for certain items.
The problem with the Philippines is that many costs are similar to those in the USA, but their wages are far lower. The average person in Manila earns less than $600 a month, this is why there is so much poverty there and why many Filipina women want to marry foreigners to wish to live there. The cost of living may actually be lower in cities outside of Manila, like Cebu City on Cebu island, Angeles City north of Manila, the past home of the USAF Clark AFB.
The Philippines offers Americans an easy way to relocate because everyone there speaks English in some degree, especially the younger generations because English is mandatory in high school. It is used everywhere for businesses, malls, stores, etc., and if the person cannot speak it, there is someone near who can. In fact, looking a map, you will many Spanish names frequently used in California- names likes, Santa Rosa, San Jose, San Diego, Angeles, San Juan and many more! So, communication does not require one in learning a new language.
At first, the prices are a shock until you convert them into dollars. I mean, 4000 pesos sounds like a lot until you do the math and find out it is only $200. After awhile, you quickly learn the prices for similar things in the USA are not that significantly different except in real estate.
Manila is the island's largest city with all of the urban issues anywhere else has. The island's second largest city is Cebu City, on Cebu, which in the far southern part, protected from typhoons, which arrive between June and December, the rainy period. The dry period is January to May. Cebu City is around a million people and a main shipping port with its own international airport. Flying to the islands is 14 hours non-stop from the West Coast and you gain one day. So, if you leave on Thursday, you arrive early Saturday morning. If you fly from Manila, getting to Cebu City costs around $33 and land at their international airport on Mactan Island across from the city. Mactan has all the wonderful beaches and snorkeling sites and mid to high class hotels.
The Philippines is a modern society but it does have its quirks like any culture. As an American, some things take time in getting use to, but it is all made much easier because there is no language problem, say, if you were going to Europe. It feels more like America than not with nuances.
Of course, the weather is a reason many relocate there also. Temps are always between 65-90F all year. The humidity can kill you, just like it can in Florida or Hawaii, but the amazing beaches and snorkeling in the Cebu area is fantastic. The best way to find out is to go there with a target area in mind and explore. There is no other way than to have "boots on the ground" and see for yourself. Plan to spend a week in your chosen area before moving onto another. It's the same whenever you plan to relocate, you have to go and check it out and see if it fits your own lifestyle.
While the best places to live is preference, generally, most foreigners seem to gather in the Makita section of Manila, Angeles city, Olongapo in the Subic Bay area, Ceba City on Cebu, Davao on Mindinora, or Baguio (up in the mountains in northern Philippines nestled in pine trees with much cooler clime). But, there are many lesser places in the rural areas that may attract. But, if you want a similar-like American suburb, leaving on the fringe areas of urban areas works out well. Manila is huge and it is a messy urban area in many places, but the better sections are in the Makita area, which is more away from the core.