The other day, I got an e-mail from Don. Don lives in Canada, but it seems that he is considering making a move to Davao with his family.
Don has a wife and two kids. He asked me why Feyma and I decided to move here, and especially why we decided to raise our kids here in the Philippines.
I have written on this subject matter in the past, but it’s been a long time, so I thought I’d share my e-mail exchange with Don, for the benefit of others who may have such questions on their minds.
Here is what Don wrote:
Can you tell me why you and your wife decided to move to the Philippines and raise your children there ?
Why I ask is because we are thinking of moving with our daughter 4 and 10 to Davao.
Thanks for writing. You have certainly touched on a big question! Actually, I have written about this many times on several of my websites, but it may be hard to search out the exact articles you are looking for.
My wife, Feyma, and I were married in 1990. She arrived in the USA in January of 1991, and we started our life together. Our first child, Chris, was born in December of 1991. Aaron, our second, was born in September of 1996, followed by Jared in March of 2000. We moved to the Philippines in May 2000, Jared was just a few days older than 1 month old when we moved!
Starting sometime around 1996 or so, maybe 1997, I wanted to move to the Philippines. Feyma, on the other hand, was not so keen on the idea. Frankly, she was a bit scared to move back to the Philippines. I think that in her mind, she associated life in the Philippines with being poor, as that was her experience in her 22 years of life in the Philippines. I, on the other hand, was tired of life in the States. Though I was only 38 when we moved, I had a few health issues, and a job that was tough on those health issues. Also, I felt like I was on an endless treadmill in the States, and I longed for a bit of originality and adventure in life. Thus, my desire to move to the Philippines.
It took a while for Feyma to come around and agree with me in regards of moving here. I don’t think she was all gung ho like I was to make the move, but more resigned to give it a try since I wanted to do it badly. We made an agreement with each other that we would commit to living in the Philippines for a minimum of five years, no matter what. No matter how bad it turned out to be, we had to stick it out for five years, to give ourselves plenty of time to make the adjustment. As it turned out, that decision/commitment was the most important thing we did.
You specifically asked about our kids, and how they fit into our decision to move. Actually, our oldest son, Chris, was one of the key factors in our moving.
Chris was 8 years old when we moved. Chris is a special kid, and has special medical issues. His specific problem is that he is mentally retarded, although he is pretty highly functioning for a person with his challenges. Having a kid like Chris, while a blessing, is also very challenging for parents. It requires constant work and attention. Frankly, it is like you need a whole team of parents to give the child the type of attention that he needs. In the USA, we simply did not have an adequate support network to care for Chris. My extended family is small. I have my mother and a brother. Both lived within 30 minutes from us there in the USA, but they are both busy and have their own things to take care of. You know how it is in the west… everybody is busy. My mom would help out a bit with Chris, but it was not enough, to be honest. I am not criticizing my Mom, but rather just stating the facts. I don’t blame her for that, she has her own challenges to take care of in life.
Living in the Philippines is different though. You have a much stronger extended family network to help care for somebody like our son. My wife’s siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces and such were all willing, and happy to help with Chris. In fact, in the USA, Chris was sort of an “outsider” because he is different. Here in the Philippines, Chris is just part of the family. It is a much different dynamic, and exactly what we needed.
Of course our other children were a consideration as well. I mean, even if making a move would be good for Chris, you would not want to short change your other children. However, after some reflection and research, we came to the conclusion that we would not be short changing our kids at all by moving to the Philippines. In fact, we feel that living here gives our kids additional opportunities. The kids are exposed to additional cultures, different ways of looking at things, learn additional languages and such, things that they would not have gotten in the States. They are being raised in a more “family culture” compared to what US culture has evolved to. They are getting a good education at a world class private school that is still relatively inexpensive (although quite expensive by Philippine standards). I don’t really see much, if any, downside to them living here, and there are plenty of upsides to them, especially Chris.
At this point, we have been living in the Philippines for 12 years (today is our 12 year anniversary of living here!). Chris is 20 years old, Aaron is 15 and Jared is 12. Over the time that we have lived here we have also adopted and accepted two girls into our family, Jean is 15 and Nicole is 8, they both fit into the family very well, and are nice compliments to the family. They are also loved and accepted by the boys.
In your e-mail, Don, you said that your kids are 4 and 10. I think that now is your opportunity to make the move. I would not advise waiting too much longer, because your 10 year old daughter will have a hard time making the move if you wait more than about 2 more years. I think, though, that making such a move at 10 years old is no problem. Yeah, she will have to adjust, and she may complain a bit about it (or she may not), but she can make the adjustment. If you were to wait until she is a teen, say 13 or 14, I think that making such a move would be a big challenge.
Remember, earlier I said that making that “5 year” commitment turned out to be a very important thing, probably the most important that we did? You see, when we first moved here, Feyma and I both had times when we were ready to chuck it and move back. Especially Feyma, she had a very hard time adjusting. But, we had made the commitment, and were both willing to stand by the commitment we made. Truth is, it did take 5 years before we were really both very happy living here. Were we fully adjusted by 5 years? No way, we’ve been here 12 years and we still make adjustments! We will probably still be adjusting to life in the Philippines for the rest of our lives, but we do love it, though.
Good luck to you, Don. I hope that whatever decision you reach turns out as good for you as it did for us.