A Year In The Philippines

As of February sixth, I’ve been in the Philippines for a year. I don’t think I’ve ever been more alive than I have in the last year. Its been a year of learning but I’ve only just begun to learn. I have a long way to go. I can’t help but reflect over the last year. There have been far more high points than low points.

There are things I miss from The States but that is not what I think of as home any more. My home is in the Philippines, I just have strong ties to the US. I miss real milk. :) Maybe there’s some here but its so expensive I don’t bother. I miss pizza, but I’m better off without it. Oh I eat them but there’s no 18 inch Milano’s Pizza that I use to order back in Memphis. I miss my gun but I don’t miss the crime that caused me to need it. Living in Memphis, it should have been a requirement, not just permitted.

A Year in the Philippines

A Year in the Philippines

I’ve become more use to the heat than I ever thought possible. Though I’m thinking of moving to Valencia as the temps are cooler there and its still in the visayas. I’m very use to the cost of living here, don’t know how if I could go back to the prices in the states.

I don’t miss going to the doctor every two months. I don’t think I really needed to go that often but the doctors in the US have to practice to prevent lawsuits. Perhaps the care was to a higher standard, but I doubt it was that much higher.

I love the beaches, pump boats and the sea. The crystal clear waters one can find just a few kilometers (maybe less than one) offshore. So clear the water appears shallow because you can see the bottom but its just that clear.

Getting my visa extended every two months is a pain in the butt and I even use an agent to do it. Being out in the province though, its a three hour trip to get to the agent, and that’s just one-way.

One of the coolest things that ever happened to me was having a monkey as a pet. One of the saddest was finding him dead, probably murdered by one of the kids that play around my home. He enriched my life while he was here. I hope to get another but I’m fearful of adding to capture of wild monkeys to make that happen. I’d love to rescue one but not take it from the wild. Too often the mother is killed to take the young monkeys. That happens in Indonesia and Thailand, I don’t know if that is where they come from here as well.

The best thing about the Philippines is the people. The best thing about the people is the Filipina. The one I’m with treats me better than I’ve been treated before. She doesn’t want the helpers to do things for me. She wants to do it herself even though we pay someone else to do it!  The people are amazingly happy and friendly.  I think the little old lady that I met on the streets of Cebu City exemplifies that and at the same time shows the beauty of  Filipina come in many different forms.

Older FilipinaAfter confirming with my girlfriend that it would be acceptable for me to give this woman mano po,  (a sign of respect) I performed the short ritual where you take your elders hand and raise the back of it to  your forehead.

My learning is bound to slow but it hasn’t stopped. I’ve just acquired three bonsai trees and there’s an older Filipino just up the road that is happy to teach me and wants me to join the Bonsai group here in Cebu. I’m looking forward to replacing my aging camera but first I have to pay for some of the other things I have bought on credit. I learned not to borrow in the Philippines and to make sure 5% interest is not really 60% interest (5*12). I’m looking forward to exploring more of the islands, I might even stick my small toe in Mindanao. :) What I want to do more than anything is scuba dive. I hope I can get to the point where I can do that. I hope my health will not prevent it. I want to see the Thresher sharks off of Malapascua but I don’t want to run into any great whites. There are great whites in the waters of the Philippines but from what I can determine, shark attack in the Philippines is extremely rare.

Things got bad for me in the States. I had a choice to take a chance and go on an exploration or what would have probably been a miserable existence in the US. Wow Philippines, did I make the right choice.

Post Author: Rusty Ferguson (42 Posts)

Rusty Ferguson is an American Expat living in Bogo, Cebu.


  1. Martin says

    Hi Rusty!

    Happy Anniversary! I’m really glad you can reflect on the past year and conclude it was a positive one. I think going through this exercise is something everyone who moves here should do on an annual basis. It is easy to get into a rut. Sometimes taking a step back helps us focus in on what is really important and whether living in the Philippines is really right for each of us.

    I hope 2009 is every bit as positive for you as 2008 was!

  2. says

    Hi Rusty. I also have a problem with the heat & is an issue that it might interfear with my plans of living in the Philippines. My plan is getting close,like 6 more monthes & I am going to give it a try. The only cooler place that I know of in the Philippines is Baguio City & tagy tay (spelling). You mentioned Valancia. Is that cooler, & where is it? I am still looking for a place that suits my clothes. Not too hot, Not too cold. What have you found for ideal temperature? Guy

  3. says

    Hi Rusty, From the sounds of it, I think you made the right choice. It’s quite a life-style change. I’ve done it once moving from Canada to Austria and enjoying it, and hopefully can do the same in the Philippines.

    By the way, can you explain about this “agent” you have for doing your papers every two months. I take it you have to pay him to represent you?

  4. Ed Griffin says

    Hi Rusty! Nice post, today. I forget which hand of the elder you place on the back of your forehead. My last gf there, I would take her hand and raise it to the back of my forehead. It was always fun, just hope I didn’t offend any lookers on.

    Congrats on your one year’s anniversary in the Philippines. For the moment I can only envy you. As Jackie Gleason used to say, “one of these days,” one of these days.”

    I’m sure that the suceeding years there will be even more enjoyable than this first one.

  5. says

    hi rusty,

    Happy anniversary! you made your 1st year living in the philippines, what strikes me the most is when you said

    “learned not to borrow in the Philippines and to make sure 5% interest is not really 60% interest (5*12).”

    People don’t realize that living in the philippines is not about the beauty of it, but how easy to live your life without thinking any credit payments, I just spoke with my cousin a few days ago, he’s been in the states for over a year now, he told me that life in the states is more of “work” just to survive. he’s been complaining about his bills every month, it came to a point he losses his job during winter for 2 months and his heating was turned off, I can only imagine his situation, no job, no heating, no gas, life must be terrible for him during those time.

  6. Richard says

    Happy Anniversary Rusty – sounds like you have it going on and have settled in nicely. Scuba should be easy for you and should not be demanding on your health. The world below is awesome and so peaceful. Forget the sharks. You are too big for them anyway and they are more afraid of you but are better at bluffing. Have as much fun as you can but take it easy. Dumauete is a great town and Valencia is a very nice easy place to live with those cooler temps yo useek. Also some of the best diving in the country is right down the block. STOP eating pizza. Also remember NO anchovies, sardines, sesame, sprouts and mung beans…..LOL

  7. Steven says

    Happy Anniversary Rusty – sounds like you have it going on and have settled in nicely. Scuba should be easy for you and should not be demanding on your health. The world below is awesome and so peaceful. Forget the sharks. You are too big for them anyway and they are more afraid of you but are better at bluffing. Have as much fun as you can but take it easy. Dumauete is a great town and Valencia is a very nice easy place to live with those cooler temps yo useek. Also some of the best diving in the country is right down the block. STOP eating pizza. Also remember NO anchovies, sardines, sesame, sprouts and mung beans…..LOL

  8. says

    hi rusty –great post–one of the best i have seen–i love the phills also–i am in usa for now but will return sometime this summer i hope never to leave again –i call digos city home –come on over to mindanao –it is a safe place and very beautiful

  9. reden says

    Hi i’m Filipino thank to stay in our country and I’m very that you have to renew your visa so often. Don’t they do permanent residence visas in the Philippines?

  10. Allan Kelly says

    Congradulations Rusty.
    You are living the dream. As for missing things from the U.S., imagine the things from the Philippines you would miss living back in the States. You definately made the right choice. I dream of when I can go back to the Philippines. It is such a great place!

  11. Aldel says

    Rusty, glad that things are working out for you. You are right about the friendliness of the ordinary people there. Just polish up your singing and dancing skills and you’ll be alright. Now don’t get me started about those folks in power, but that’s another topic.

  12. says

    Glad to see that you’re doing well in the Philippines. I see you have a realistic attitude about how to get along and this will serve you well.

    I also scuba dive and maybe when I get there we can do an easy dive or two together. You’ll love scuba diving and it’s so cool to be under the water. I want to dive on Samal at Paradise Island Resort. That would be a nice easy, fun dive.

  13. says

    Oh my, I’m way behind. One of my PC’s is down and I’ve been checking email online and my mail box filled up and started rejecting emails so I didn’t know I had all these replies. Well now… Time to get started…. Sorry for the late replies!

    Thanks Martin. Yeah the rut is easy to do, best way I know to break free would be to have more money and explore the Philippines. So much I have not done yet.

    Guy, I have not been to Valencia yet but I may go next month. It is near Dumaguete it is in the Visayans, I think in Negro Occidental. Hard to keep those all straight though. I would defiantly Google it. Sounds awesome. I met the mayors daughter online, dang it she’s only 19 and will not flirt. LOL Probably just as well, last thing I want to do is hack off a mayor. :) Their web site actually caters to expats, waterfalls, and it is suppose to be about 5C cooler.

    Take it easy at first Guy. The first two weeks I hibernated under an AC then gradually got out more. I started walking, 15 minutes at first, going slow. Then up to three miles per day going fast. I’ve slacked off a bit now and have had the AC down lower than I should so I turned into mush at a store called Prince Warehouse (no AC) but was okay when I went back outside to stand. Sounds like aircon at home is a must for you. Valencia is close enough to go to Cebu City without too much hassle. You could fly if money isn’t a big concern, about $100 or take a boat which will be cheap.

    Baguio looks good too but I’m told it is polluted now. I have not verified that. If I move, it will probably be a year from now, kids can’t transfer during the school year. At least that’s what I’ve been told by their mom..

    Bogo City is nice but we have to make 120Km trip to Cebu City at least once per month. My GF usually does it alone, hard on me and when I go, too much money gets spent. :) Not even a movie house here but it is nice none the less. We may end up staying here for a long time.

  14. says

    John, most people use a travel agent, as do I. I pay P500 for the service. It is a good idea that you talk to expats in your area and get a recommendation from someone that uses one. If in Cebu City, I would use TravelWays.

    It is better if I don’t have to sit in lines all day and then talk to a BI officer. Though sometimes I hear one can sometimes shrink the lines for a fee. Just because I’ve been told that, doesn’t make it true. :) I’d rather just pay the P500. Price can be as much as P1000.

  15. says

    Ed, there’s a certain hand? LOL I’m so dyslexic I’ll never remember if there is one. YOu did your GF? I kid mine and hold out the back of my hand, she slaps it. LOL Dang waray-waray, they’ll stick a spear or knife in you. :) They are known as the redheads of the Philippines and they have a history of being warriors. In some parts of Leyte they don’t allow waray-waray to carry knifes. They are suppose to be very good with them. There is a type of fighting her in the Ph that involves knifes and sticks. I’ve seen some of the training the army goes through. Those are some tough dudes! They use that fighting style, I forget the name. It is featured on Discovery Channel from time to time.

    Anyway, I didn’t know there was a certain hand. I think I just held out mine and she gave me one. Kids do the same to me. Mano Po is usually something you do for an elder but not couples. I just like to irate my girl. Now I joke with her about calling me master but no way will she give me mano po.

  16. says

    Awww Richard, I actually checked your IP the other day to see if you were my mother. LOL :) I called her and she yelled at me for the cigar. Life without pizza is pointless. I do try to keep it to one a month and I walk about a mile a day. I think that one cigar a week is harder on me. Perhaps I shouldn’t inhale any of it but what’s the freaking point? LOL Smoked one, last Saturday and on my walk the next day, I could really tell the difference. I may cut those out, didn’t like what I was feeling.

    I don’t eat the other stuff, well unless its in the tempura, as I eat that from time to time. Mystery fish is a little scary though.

  17. says

    Dan, its a toss up as to why I came here, well, i think the Filipina edge out money just by a hair. I’m usually low on money by the end of the month, just like the US BUT its getting better every month. Relocating ones life with only the suitcases I brought over is really starting over.

    I’ve gone out to eat here more in a single month than I did back in the states for the last five years. I just wasn’t into paying those kind of prices. That may not include my one or two pizza I had home delivered per month that would cost $30.00 with tip and side orders. Pizza here is closer to $8 and that’s an expensive meal as that doesn’t include the beer. I usually eat out for less than $6.00 including drinks and food for two people!

    I can have a much fuller life here. I can hang out all day long some place for $10 or less. Doing nothing but sitting on the doc of the bay watching time…. :) Go to a resort, stay all day, hope a boat and go island hoping for $20.00 (two people round trip) and that island is a good bit away.

    The money goes so much further but there are light bills and rent here too and I’m retired from the US Federal Government, if they stop paying, well, its all over anyway. :) The money just goes so much further. Try to hire a all around, that is nanny and maid and helper for $30.00 a month in the US. We have two.

    People often buy cars and scooters on credit, I need a car but that’s going to have to wait. If I buy a scooter, it will be for cash. Lot of expats getting hurt on scooters here. LOTS of them some seriously.

  18. says

    James, thanks! There are places in Mindanao I’d love to visit. Some i wouldn’t visit and some I would. There’s some beautiful places around Zamboanga, not going there, well unless I have too and I might have too. Filipino tell me its too risky to take the slow boat to Malaysia there and I’d love to do that.

  19. says

    Richard and Steven (strange you both posted the same thing LOL) I saw they have good diving there, Ado Island? Northern Cebu has some of the best any where in the world too. People come from all over to see the Thresher shark. I’ve only seen them on TV and now I understand why they do it. There is a place near here that is called a cleaning station. Fish actually come to it to get cleaned by other fish and they don’t eat the prey fish they normally would in the area. There are some rays and lot so sea snake, deadly if your dumb enough to force one to bite you. Just leave it alone and it wont bite. Very shy.

    Blood pressure not an issue? Mine is very controlled though. Glad to hear that it probably will not be a problem.

    Bogo city plans to develop a diving area too, when it gets its city classification back. It may be on hold for now.

  20. says

    Reden they do have resident visa but I don’t meet the requirements which is primarily getting married. Right now I have a strong fear of that due to two disasters. My agent told me that I can get one by working here. Does that mean I can get a business license and that would be my work? i think there are minimum capital or employees hired requirements. Probably a marriage in my future, don’t know when. Have the perfect girl but I just have this way of turning them into monsters. Oh I blame me, but whatever the blame it doesn’t matter, the end is always nasty. :)

  21. says

    Allen, I want to go back to the states for four to six weeks and part of it is I want to see what I miss! I need to ship some things back over here, would be easier if I was there to get it done. I looked at flights the other day. Flights to Ca. are around $550 right now at the lower end of the price range and that was round trip! I paid three times that, one way! Then I could take South West Air to my final destination for about another $300. Since I can go to Thailand for about $400, including hotels, its more likely that I will do that this time. I should be in much better financial shape at the end of my second 16 months. I could get back to the states if I had too, I just don’t have too. I may go to Thailand and stay in the freaking air port for two nights. naw that sounds awful hard on my old broken down body. Hey do they have Pizza Hut in Bangkok? LOL I bet Hong Kong does. Hotels seem to be higher prices there.

  22. says

    Aldel, if you’re a foreigner, you probably know the folks in power might throw you out of the country if someone does get you started. something really hard for American’s is checking that rebellious attitude and freedom of speech at the exit door of the USA. :)

    Most of what one thinks of the Philippines or any other place on earth is the way one chooses to feel about it. Its all about attitude. :)

    Hopefully things will continue to be good for me. This woman of mine though, she makes it mighty easy to put up with any discomforts.

  23. says

    Kevin thanks! I don’t know where that is but if I can get there, I’ll surely take you up on the offer. Right now, I’m in save mode and not doing a lot of exploring.

    I live near San Remigio Beach Club and they have diving classes, starting in the pool. Hopefully I will have at least started that. When are you coming?

  24. says


    I won’t be back to the Philippines till next year. We’re starting to build our house there next month, and when it’s done, we’ll be coming to live for good. We will live in Digos, Mindanao and Samal is an island right off of Davao, about an hour away from Digos. So you have some time to get certified. Get in the pool and get wet, it’s a lot of fun.

    I was at a big scuba convention this past weekend and there were many vendors there selling all kinds of new and used equipment. When I come to the Philippines I want to bring some scuba gear so I can get my brother-in-law certified so I have someone to dive with. Maybe you’ll be certified too and we’ll all go diving. I’d like to come up to Cebu sometime.

    Last summer I was at Moalboal, on the west coast of Cebu and did some snorkling and the water was very clear and warm. Boy I miss the warm water.

  25. says

    Yea dude, bring all the extra gear you can. LOL i may need to borrow it. But the four of us sounds great? I intend to get lessons for both myself and my girl.

    Awww, okay I know which Island your speaking of. Looks like a place i could stand to live. Bob just might end up selling me some land, and in Mindanao of all places. LOL

    Land on Bantayan Island is EXPENSIVE but I’d really like to open a resort and disco, I’m a rocking DJ believe it or not. :) i can get them on their feet. :) All long term goals, probably bigger than I can achieve but since I plan to die rich, i’ll get there. :)

    Look forward to it. If you get a chance, send me an email. There is a way here to do it but I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know where it is. LOL

    you can also use the contact me page at http://www.rustyferguson.com

    Chris? you listening, I’d like to have your email too. Maybe i can get it in the backend here. I’m not sure, never tried.

  26. Gary says

    Hi Rusty,,
    You don’t know me but just wanted to welcome you here.. if your still happy after a year here you’ll have no problem. if your ever down Suriga City way stop by and have a coffee or soda or beer or whats that other drink??? Oh Water..

    What airline has roundtrip to the states for $550 ????

  27. says

    I’d be happy to meet you Gary!

    Well, it looks as if the $550 tickets are no more. :(

    I found them just a few days ago but must have been a promotion.

    I found it from a link on my site which can be found here:

    Immigration Requirements I’m an affiliate so in the interst of full disclosure I’ll make $5 bucks if you book a flight. :) But I featured it because of the prices. I hate to see they are gone. I hope their rate of $220 to Thailand is not also gone. Probably not but I’m going to check that next. Keep a watch maybe they’ll be back..

    They were only to the West Coast. I had planned to go there and then head to my final destination via Southwest Airlines for $300 RT. Now that option is gone because the tickets to Ca are at close to $1000 now. That’s still cheap compared to when I came here. I paid that for one way a year ago.

  28. Mike K. says


    It has been a while since I was able to write. Anyway, I am at home until later this week. Things here have been a bit crazy and I haven’t had time to get online or even sit and relax. Anyway, I should be home again in a few months. I will keep you informed. You are always welcome to visit. We have a spare room that is not attached to the house you can stay in or get yourself a hotel. This also goes out to the remander of the LiP community as well. Just let us know when you would like to pay this great island a visit and we will be glad to show you around a bit.

  29. says

    LOL Ii was yanking your chain.

    That’s cheaper than what I’ve found in Cebu City so far. Cheapest I’ve found at a place I’m willing to stay is P900 or maybe it was P999, don’t remember.

  30. DAVID says

    I,m thinking about retiring in tabaco city were my girl friend is from ,ilived there before for 3 years but ran low on money and had to come back to the states The only problem I had while living there was that the famliy depened on me too much for cash so I had too come back. Im 56 now and want to retire in 6 years i will only have about 800.00 amo us and anouther 100.00 from my work Im hoping it will be enouhe Im looking for a small pice of land near legaspi city or tobacco city, I would also concider laguna city near manila I know I have to sell everything here when I leave probly the hardest thing to part with will be my guns any body know anything about a foreaner owing fire arms

  31. says

    Hey Mike K.

    There are some places I would visit in Mindanao. I’m willing to fly into Davao as soon as I have a couple of hundred I don’t need. :)

    Thanks for the offer of a room, that rocks!

    What is the price for a decent but not too fancy Pension house in Davao? I would think less than P750 since Mindanao is so cheap. :) P500?

    I would love to see Davao but its not in my immediate future.

  32. says

    Hi Rusty – Mindanao is generally cheap, but Davao is the exception. The cheapest place I know of where you can stay is P800/night. I’d be happy to put you up here, but I don’t have an extra room!

  33. Jim Easley says

    Bob,,,what is this “BOND” I hear about that you need a few thousand in the bank to move to the Phillipines,,,,,?? Is that really required ??

  34. says

    Hi Jim – If you are trying to get some kind of resident visa, then yes, you must have adequate funds to show that you will not be a burden to the State here. For an SRRV (Special Retiree’s Resident Visa) you must post between $10,000 and $50,000 depending on your age and other factors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *