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All About the Philippines
Many foreigners consider the Philippines as a destination for retirement or escape. According to the 2010 Census, 30,000 Americans live there, 29000 Chinese, 12000 Japanese, 9000 Indians, and 5000 Canadians. All total, including all foreigners, there are 177,000. About 31% lived in the Manila or Greater Manila area. In all total, the Philippines has 92 million and there are more females than males by about 5%. The median age is 24 yrs. old and 41% are school age. About 7% are age 60 or more. About 20% of the population completed High School, while 10% had college degrees and of those, 56% were women to 44% of men. Lastly, about 1.5 million Philippine citizens work abroad in other countries for way better wages.
The most favorite spots for foreigners according to the census were: Region 7- Central Visayas (Cebu area) with 11,000 expats, Region 4A-Calabarzon with 15,000, Region 3- Central Luzon with 16,000, and NCR with Manila and its suburbs with 55,000. If you are Muslim, then 39,000 occupy much of the eastern and northern part of Mindanao, while only 5000 foreigners live in Davao in southern Mindanao.
That are the numbers for this English speaking foreign land. The Philippines was a country occupied and influenced by so many cultures, but primarily, Spanish and American. In that sense, it is very similar to Puerto Rico, many consider it the 51st State of the USA. Wherever you go, the two languages spoken are either Tagalog or English. If you are talking to someone less than 40 yrs., odds are they speak English, for it has been required in their education system and considered to be the main language for international business. In fact, the signage in all towns and cities is in English, in that sense, you might think you are in the USA or California (with its many Spanish names for cities and roads). People from California will have no problem here.
But, the Philippines is more of a 2nd World country. Some claim it is a 3rd World country, but overall it is in between. Cities like Manila, Cebu, Davao are their biggest and are diverse as any in a 1st World country like the USA or Tokyo. They offer just about anything you need and like other cities, have traffic congestion, slums, nice areas, malls etc. Now, going to the rural area is where the 2nd or 3rd world comes in. So, you exchange beauty in nature for a lack of necessities and convenience that any city offers. It is no different if you live in the wide open spaces of Wyoming or Nevada.
In the 1st World country, you have superior services and infrastructure all around and you have wide variety in all things and prices. In the Philippines, not so much, even in big cities. For instance, a simple thing like tap water. The quality varies so much that it is best to drink only bottled, boiled, or, purified even if you are in a hotel or restaurant. Your international credit card may or may not work at an ATM, and this society is basically one of cash when conducting transaction. The other thing is that food is taxed by 10-12% of the total. As far as salaries that locals earn, it is a Third World. A really good paying job in a city might be 20,000 peso or only $1000 a month (exchange rate is usually 44-45 peso = $1 USD). Consider that to a Philippino that works abroad in USA, Canada, UAE, making 60,000 peso. You can see why so many work abroad in business and medical fields. A 1200 ft. small house will cost $86,000 in Cebu. Since rents are cheap 2000-3000 peso, it is a could option while checking things out.
Many retire here because the cost of living is cheaper and it is overall but it depends on your lifestyle. But most Americans could have a nice place and amenities like in the USA for just $1500 a month. You can get by on $1000 or live like a movie star for $3000. Many find that owning a motorbike is better than a car for various reasons, gas is around 45 peso a liter (a quart), so between $2-2.50 a gallon).
Life in the Philippines is simply one of less variety in most things Westerners want. This is truer as you move to rural areas where stores are limited. As a foreigner, you do not get preference in the job market unless your skills take you there and finding a job is not easy.
The Philippines greatest assets are its people and natural beauty. They are the friendliest to all and especially to foreigners. They see one and some will converse with you. Just beware their motives may be because they think you are rich. That is okay, but there are plenty who are just curious about where come from. The Filipina women are the best in the world if you find yourself in love with one and it is mutual. Just beware there are many scammers there for one thing- money, and they are very good pretenders. But, it is like that in many parts of the world. The Filipina is a most loyal, sincere, loving mate, if you are lucky to find one. They have some beautiful and cute women there and their custom respects older men. You will see frequently, a 25 yr. old Filipina with a 50-60 yr. old foreigner. In other countries it is looked upon as odd, not in the Philippines. If you search online, you could find one!
The culture is all about family even after the adult kids are gone. They still feel obligated to send money or care for their parents. You will find the staple dish in all meals is rice. Rice and meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, veggies to a lesser extent. Typical meals range from just 200-1000 pesos. There are lots of American franchises in the city, should you crave it. The supermarkets are similar to those in the USA, they offer a wide variety, at least the large ones do.
The Philippines beauty is tropical. All year, the low temp might be 60F, the high, 90F. But, the mean low temp is 70F. The dry period is usually from November thru March, when the least rain falls, but from April through October rain can occur daily, like Florida.
The Philippines offers such a variety of natural resources that even the locals seldom get to explore their own country. Many visitors are natives taking a vacation from Manila or wherever to see remote parts. Places like Cebu offer incredible variety just 2-3 hours from a city of several million. Tourist favorites are usually Tumalog Falls, Dalaquete Beach, Oslob whale experience, Osema Peak Hike (3000 ft), Kawasna Falls, Aquinid Falls, Bojo River canoeing, snorkeling off Mactan (next to Cebu City) and its beautiful beaches. Bantayan Island offers incredible cheap beach resorts just 4-5 hours from it also.
The Achilles Heel for the country is that there are so many islands it is difficult to get to them without hopping Cebu Pacific airlines and maybe taking a ferry. Take El Nido on Palawan where Puerto Princesa City is. El Nido is the “place” to go for many. Its beaches are breathtaking. But getting there is an effort of endurance: from Cebu City flying to Puerto Princessa ($80), once there, the bus or van ride to El Nido is another 5 hours (no air service). However, simply staying in Puerto Princessa and touring Honda Bay (which has awesome beach islands also) may be a better decision. But, the truth is, all of the islands that make up this country have beauty like the famous Boracay, El Nido, or Mactan. You just gave to find it locally.
Mindanao is one of the biggest islands and most southern. This island and Cebu seldom see typhoons ripping through as the other islands tend to buffer them. But Mindanao in the east and north are known as Muslim enclaves and radical groups than dislike foreigners. So, the US Embassy warns Americans that if they go there, go with locals, not by themselves. There have been some kidnappings in remote areas. Many foreigners tend to stay only a few days in those areas. Unlike in all other parts of the country where there is no risk to foreigners, it is confined to this island.
Flying there from the USA is one of endurance. From the west coast, it is at least a 12-13 hr flight and you will have jet lag as you gain one day with a 15 hour difference. So, when you land, you might need to sleep. As you search for a flight, you will see many insane flights of 25-30 hrs. Some fly to Japan or China first and then Manila! Why not just stop at Manila and then go to east further? Some layovers are 5-7 hours.
Whether you live there or not, or thinking about it, you must take the plunge and actually go there to experience it.