Helping those you select

On a post I recently made about “Going Home” one of our frequent visitors, Peter, asked what you should do in a certain situation. He told how he had offered financial assistance to a cousin of his wife so that she could take a trip to another spot in the Philippines. Soon, many other cousins came out of the woodwork and were looking for their assistance too! Unfortunately, this is all too familiar in the Philippines. I have come up with a solution that works for me, maybe it will work for you too. We’ll look at that shortly.

Let me first give you a little history. Feyma’s immediate family has always been good about not asking for money, and I can’t complain about that. Funny thing is that the people who ask for money and such are distant relatives, people that Feyma barely knows! Shortly after we were married, nearly 18 years ago, we received a letter in the mail (we were living in the USA at this time). It was from the wife of a somewhat distant cousin of Feyma’s. She went on and on telling us how bad things were for them and how much they needed money from us. Well, at the time we were not too stable financially, and we just threw the letter away. These were people that we didn’t really know anyway.

After moving to the Philippines, the floodgates opened with more and more people looking for assistance. In addition to family there are always friends, acquaintances and even people we have never seen before looking for a handout. When you first come here, if you are like most, you are a little too free with your money. Every guy begging on the street can spot a foreigner coming, and the ones who are new to being here are a particular easy catch. As time passes, though, you quickly learn that you simply can’t help everybody who needs it. Heck, you can’t even help every person who asks! If I gave money to every person with their hand out, I wouldn’t be able to feed my own kids! So, it simply has to stop, or at least be given wisely.

I choose to give wisely (at least I hope it is wise – sometimes I am proven wrong). In general, my decision has been that I try to help the next younger generation of my wife’s family. My nieces and nephews are the people I choose to help. I have been burned on this a couple of times, but I have also developed what I consider as some great relationships with my nieces and nephews through this means of helping. Another thing, I rarely just give people cash. My intention and goal is to help get these younger people in the family a decent education, and also help them learn how to make money. It is my belief that they actually learn more by living with me and working in my business than they do at school anyway. I know how to make money, and by passing this along to my nieces and nephews it is my goal to help lift my wife’s family from poverty in this current generation.

Lets look at a current example that I am just getting started on. I have a niece who just recently graduated from high school last year. Before she completed High School, I was thinking about this girl and how I could help her. This is a girl that I really like, she has been kind to me, and is willing to talk with me and engage in a conversation. Because of her friendliness to me, I wanted to assist her. In the past, I have sent several people to school, but I’ve also been burned on that, so I wanted to take a little different approach this time around. In December 2006 (maybe before that, I don’t recall) I contacted this girl and told her that I had a proposal for her. I offered her a job with my company, one in which she could learn how to do business the way I do, and hopefully one day she can go out on her own with her own business. I told her that she could live with us here in Davao, we would feed her, give her all of her needs, etc, but not pay her a salary. Instead, for each year that she worked for me, I would send her to college for one year at the college of her choice here in Davao. Now, to clarify, she can not go to college while she is working, but if she works for one year, after that year I will pay all of her college expenses for one year. If she works four years, she has a full ride through college, on me. See, I want her to work for 4 years, because if she does she will have a great education in street smarts and business smarts, then can add 4 years in college and get her book smarts there. After 8 years she will know more about business than if she had gone for an MBA, in my opinion.

Now, let’s look at what I’ve done for others in the past. There have been several nieces and nephews that I have put through college, or at least have started in college. However, in several instances they have messed up after only one or two years and were not able to complete their schooling, at least not through my generosity. I feel that by simply “giving” it to them, they didn’t appreciate it. They felt that it was “coming to them”. And, when they did things that they should not have done, I cut off my generosity to them, and they were on their own. Of course, they got warnings and such, but they ignored it to the point where they lost their free ride. I have learned that it is better to make them earn it, as I am doing with my niece now, and then I feel they will appreciate it more and strive to do their best.

How do I choose those that I will help? Well, I choose the ones that I like, and have impressed me in some way. There are plenty who are too shy and won’t talk to me. I generally don’t give them help. I like to help those who are able to muster the courage to talk with me and be a friend to me. Those are the ones who will be successful in life anyway, and a helping hand from me will assist them in achieving that success. Somebody who is so shy that they run off to avoid me will probably not do well in business anyway. Besides, why should I help somebody who is not even willing to be my friend?

Now, the next question, which Peter already posed in his comment. What about the other family who keeps asking. You helped others in the family, and soon lots of family is expecting assistance. What do you do? For me, I have come to the point where it is pretty simple. I say no. Another commenter, Julius, has said it is a good idea to not let people know that you have money. I agree with Julius. However, I am in a position where I can not easily hide the fact that I have money. I have a very large house, which is also where I operate my business. I need a place this size to handle the family and business combination, so I can’t change it. I have several of my nieces and nephews staying with me and working for me. They can see what I have, and the word gets around. So, the family knows that I have money. The thing is, though, that if you can just say NO, in no uncertain terms, after a while people get the message and they stop asking. Word gets around too, and soon the whole family understands that I am not the person to go to if they need something. Maybe some people don’t like me because of it. If that’s the case, it’s fine by me. I do my best to help, but the thing is – I choose who I am going to help. I don’t let people dictate it to me.

You know, something has come out of this whole ritual that is kind of interesting. I did cut off help going to my wife’s sisters and brothers, and I do feel that they did not like me for it. They never did, and still don’t talk to me very much. However, I am helping their kids grow into successful people who can pay their own way. And, I am starting to see that my brothers and sisters-in-law are coming to understand and appreciate what I am doing. There are some who still rarely talk to me, but that’s OK by me. I can live with it. But, the thing that is very rewarding to me is that I am seeing a love and trust develop between me and the nieces and nephews that I have helped. Even some nieces who have messed up their assistance from me have told their brothers and sisters to be good and don’t make the mistake that they did. I find it rewarding, and I am happy to see the development in these girls.

I have one niece in particular who has been living with us and working for us for about 4 years now. She has come to the point where she has told me that she feels that I am the father that she never had, and she appreciates me for it. Yes, in many ways it has been tough love for some of these kids, but when I hear something like that from one of them, it’s very rewarding to me.

This has worked for me, your mileage may vary, of course!

Post Author: MindanaoBob (1353 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.

49 Ways to Make a Living without a Job


  1. says

    Excellent advice, Bob. I too would simply say "no" if asked by a relative I don't trust. If I am looked as the bad guy, it really isn't my fault and frankly don't care. Some people need to look in the mirror and see where the problem really lies.

    But I respect your ideas on helping the kids who deserve it. Maybe someday I could be fortunate enough to help too.

  2. says

    Thanks, Macky. I am certain that when the day comes, you will assist many in their quest to improve their lives. And, it doesn't have to be financial either, just teaching them the things that you have learned in your life can be a huge contribution to helping people succeed!

  3. says

    Hi Bob, yes I have read the advice, its good, I suppose its like "Give a man a fish and he will eat that day, give him a fishing rod and he will suport his family for a week, excellent Bob as always, but sadly, you will not also be liked by many, I expected that is how it would go.

  4. Gary says

    Good advice Bob. I am planning on making the move to the Philippines shortly, albeit on a part-time basis and I have been concerned about how to deal with this situation. I know that, as a foreigner, I will be viewed as having money and I fully expect a stream of friends, friends of friends, and distant cousins traipsing to our door asking for help. I have already told my fiancee that I would only help her immediate family and that I would help her siblings to finish school and go to college so they will have a better chance for a future. Your post makes it easier for me to stick to those intentions.

    As for my plans, I am an accountant and I recently installed software on my computer at work. When I was in the Philippines over the past three weeks, I tested it out and it worked great. I was able to get most of my work done while sitting in an air conditioned internet cafe and sipping on a coke light.
    My initial plan is to live there for two months and come back to the States for two and so on. If things go well, I will gradually increase my time in the Philippines before I return to the States. As you mentioned in another post, don’t burn your bridges. I won’t sell my home here until I know for sure that I can live full time there. Initially I will rent a home or apartment with a goal of building a home sometime. My fiancee’s uncle showed me some great beachfront property in Samar two weeks ago for 500P per square meter only. That is too good of a deal to pass up so I will be buying the land during my next trip.

    Thanks for this website. I have been reading lots of back posts and you offer lots of great advice to people like me who are not sure what to expect or how to handle things like banking.

  5. says

    Hi Peter – Think about this… in your question on the other post you said that people were coming asking for help that you didn't even know. If you didn't know them, that meant that you had not talked to them before or interacted with them in any way. Since they are unknown to you – there is no reason to even care what they think! As in my example in this post, the people who didn't like me for not helping them were already not liking me, or not friendly to me. Also, some of those very people, after maybe 5 years are now starting to see what I am doing, and coming to appreciate it. After all, in general it is the kids of these very people who I am helping! So, indirectly it will help them too! 😯

  6. says

    Hi Gary – happy that I've been able to help you with your intended move! If you need any specific advice, feel free to contact me at any time!

    By the way, on the Go2MyPC software…. if you can get out of paying for that and cancel your subscription, I know of another package that is open source – it's free! And, it does the exact same job as Go2MyPC. Let me know if you want the info!

  7. Gary says

    Hi Bob. Yes, I can get out of the agreement with gotomypc as I only signed up for a month by month agreement while I tested it. I would certainly appreciate the information on another package.

    I will certainly take you up on your kind offer to contact you for specific advice. Do you prefer those kinds of questions be addressed to you via your email address listed here?

  8. says

    Hi Gary – The program that I have used pretty extensively is called TightVNC. it is an open source software that is virtually identical in features to Go2MyPC. Their website is: and you can download the software there. Try it out, I am sure that you will find it useful, I know I have.

    Yes, just click on the link at the top of this site to e-mail with any questions you may have. From time to time, if you ask me something that I feel is really relevant, I will make a post out of my answer and put it on this blog, if you don't mind my doing so.

  9. Joe says

    Bob, I've been reading your column for awhile now. Although I still have many, many, many more working years before I can comfortably retire, I find this blog very interesting. I'm a full blooded Filipino and I plan to retire in the PI when that day comes (subject to my Filipino wife's approval). We really don't have many close and even distant relatives there. I can't even think of anyone in my side of the family as most of them are here in the US already. My wife may be has a couple of relative that I know of. With all that money we will be receiving for retirement, your idea of providing kids there education (in your case your relatives) is a good one.

    I know what it is like growing up to constantly hear your parents decide which spending in the budget to cut down to afford our education. I can't forget my father sacrificing his health insurance coverage so we can buy materials for school. What you are doing is what I plan to do when I retire, helping random kids get some decent education. I'll probably do that full time since I can't see myself sitting at home all day when I retire. I'd like to get very involved to a point were I will occassionally visit there school to check there progress.

    Thanks for sharing your all you experiences living in the PI!!

  10. says

    Hi Joe – Helping others is very rewarding, as I am sure you already know. I am sure that you will enjoy doing it. I also believe that the amount that you give to help others will come back to you ten fold in the future! I hope it works that way for you, as I know it has for me.

  11. alan says

    found a way to deal with the homeless kids who hang out at ilustre bothering a foreigner. You know the way they have a gambling thing involving throwing coins out into the street. well, one day as i was walking, and a peso coin came rolling by…. i picked it up and put it in my pocket. Little kid immediately comes running up and claims it's his. But I didn't relent. I was worried for awhile that I would get onto a death-squad list, but by now, the kid smiles at me. These street kids respect a tough mentality. PS. They also know that if they touch my body, I will put them into a pain-restraint-hold and throw them into the street. They DO recognize people. I will give food sometimes to the truly disabled ones. I don't really good about myself about doing that…. just encourages them to congregate at the place.

    • Filipina wife says

      Getting physical with kids, in a country where you do not hold citizenship is a rather idiotic idea. Instead, wisdom is that you do what other Filipino middle class working class people do, ignore and walk on with your daily life. Wether Peso coins roll by or heads roll by, walk on and look after your own life.

      A lot of the poverty is also a consequence of migrating from country side into city areas, where the economic and social structures are different. In reality the Filipinos of pre-spaniard times had a far better dignified life than what you find now. There was no such thing as”poor” in the past. Poor and rich are all measured from the sense of currency and material holdings in today’s society. Reality is, there is richness in every Filipino, if they know where to find it. As Jesus said, the poor you will have with you always. Sometimes the best compassion that can be shown, is being gentle with the unfortunate ones and not interfering in their natural process of life.

  12. says

    Alan – I understand not wanting to help the kids who are constantly pestering for money and such, but your tactic is kind of cruel, don't you think? I mean, that P1 coin meant a lot more for the kid that it did for you. If the kid touched you, you would put him in a pain-restraint-hold? That's a bit too much.

  13. Ben says

    I lived in Mindanao for 8 months in 1996… saw a lot, but never needed to put anyone in a pain restraint hold… and I've had guns pointed at me. Relax and enjoy

  14. says

    Hi Ben – I don't think this has much to do with the topic of the post, but that's OK. Too bad about having guns pointed at you. I've traveled Mindanao far and wide, and have never had that experience. I hope I never do!

    Take care.

  15. Tony says

    Thanks for the info on family support, I also am tired of request that seem to be increasing with every breath I take, we already have a house in Cavite that any and all of my wifes' family uses. We pay all bills and yet I feel they don't understand how tight money is even though we still live in States right now. I feel like I have changed my in-laws perception of me by starting to say no, but after reading your blog I feel better, as you say in your writing, " they should look in the mirror ". Thanks again Bob, p.s. tell Feyma I also have no problem supporting wifes parents as we should, but the rest, case by case I guess. Take care Friends.

  16. says

    Hi Tony – Good luck with your project of teaching them how to understand the word "no." It is not an easy venture. But, you only have to do it for so long, and finally they will indeed understand and they will stop asking. I found that when I did that, it caused some hard feelings, but in the end it made my relationship better with much of my wife's family, because it was more than just a financial relationship.

    I hope it works out for you, as it did for me!

  17. Clay says

    This topic is interesting. The first 2-3 years after we got married, I had the hardest time getting my wife to understand that we absolutely could not send all of our money to the Philippines. We just could not help every person that came out of the wood works asking for money. I have been lucky in that my inlaws are very interprising people and have been very succesful in their business ventures so there has been little need over the years to ask us for money. Dont get me wrong, I,m not completely cold hearted. We have sent money to my wifes parents a few times over the years to help with new business equipment or capital for a new venture but so far all was spent wisely and returned great profits for them. We also sent money when they were building a new house because we knew they could use the help. Another thing we have done is to pay for the telephone in there home so that we can all keep in touch more easely. I dont mind helping out the immediate family but I cant support everyone need for cash. We did finance a school trip for a cousin who was in collage and we sent money for a little neighbor girl who had been shot by accident and needed an operation………………. As for every one else ……… jeez they all seem to be cousins when it comes to wanting money …… Haha its hard for me as well as the wife because we are both soft hearted but the buck has to stop some where and for me, it stops with the immediate family unless it has something to do with education and or is an emergancy situation that I can verify.

  18. Wayne says

    Great topic and some very constructive advice, I'm so glad I found this site! I was, until recently, engaged to a Filipina from Nawaan for 16 months. From the very first visit to meet her parents they were asking me for help. After I gave an electric guitar and amplifier to her father for his church, the requests, and amounts requested, increased.

    It's a topic that I think bears more discussion, I think, especially for westerners new to the culture.

    Sage advice :mrgreen:

  19. says

    Hi Wayne – Thanks for visiting! I'm also glad that you found my site!

    Sorry that you had the requests for money. Generally speaking, if you get that it is a good sign that you should consider looking for somebody else. Most Filipinos are proud people who do not beg you for money. Even those who need the assistance don't generally tell you.

  20. Paul says

    Hi Bob,

    Wonderful article and great responses. 😉

    Your mention of having a large house brought to mind your earlier article that promoted the idea of renting before building. Along with taking time to find the "right" place, a home builder can establish his/her "generosity credentials" among family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors and strangers prior to becoming the new folks in the barrio.

    Asawa-ko and I received an increase in requests for help since we began building our retirement house. It took a while to convince those who have watched it being built that it wasn't a "mansion" and it was being financed with debt as well as available cash. All understand. Our earlier efforts to establish "generosity credentials" paid off and helped the general understanding come about a lot quicker.

    So, potential home builders would be wise to wait before building for yet another reason. There's nothing like new construction to bring out some additional hands (requesting work, food, money or what have you)! 😉

  21. says

    Hi Paul – Excellent points you make there! I had never considered that building a new home would bring out additional requests for help, but after thinking it over, I have no doubt that you are correct on that. As you say, if you come here and rent first, you can buy yourself some time to establish your ground rules in the area of offering assistance.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  22. john says

    I must be asked everyday by people i know and people i do not, however I now concentrate o a close circle.
    As Peter said before its no good just given money as it goes and they will be back the next day.
    I am putting two guys through school and offering free accommodation, but for that they have to work too.
    The idea is that they are building up the future for themselves!!

  23. says

    Hi John – Excellent! I agree that instead of just giving a few pesos every time that hand is held out, do something to improve lives long term, like education and such!

  24. AmericanLola says

    Yep, very well said! We also have found that we need to wisely choose who to invest in. We recently told a high school grad (pastor's daughter) that IF she got a job as a helper in a home near where she now lives and helped her family for one year, THEN she could be a working student for me when we come back in a year, and we would pay for her college. I want to see some maturity, I want her to help her family, and I DO NOT want to be her first boss. If she doesn't like the idea, I have no problem with not sending her to school. Sometimes having kids jump though some hoops, like you are doing with having them work before college, is the best thing. It gives them some choices and makes what you eventually give have a lot more value.

  25. says

    Hi AmericanLola – Very true! With my niece who is working for me now, I consider her years of work as more educational in a real sense than what school itself will offer her. I have no doubt about that either. But, with a combination of the two, she will be a well rounded person. And, as you said, having worked and jumped through a few hoops, she will value her education a lot more when that time comes.

  26. Danny says

    Hi Bob,

    That is very admirable of you to take care of family members that way, and is very rewarding in the end. I really like the way you have set the "rules" for that as well. Its kinda of what my Fathers uncle did for him when he was a young man, helped out with his various businesses during school breaks, and learned a trade, farming, mechanics, plumbing etc…and that really helped out in the end, my father is now retired from the US Government and helped keep Air Force One flying for almost 40 years.
    Thanks Bob,

  27. says

    Hi Danny – Thanks much for your thoughts! It sounds like your father was a lucky man, in that he learned a lot from his Uncle and also learned from school as well.

    You are right, it is very rewarding to see the accomplishments of those that you help. You can't help but get the feeling that you have some responsibility for those accomplishments happening, and that is a great feeling!

  28. Neal in RI says


    Off Topic but.

    If you choose to help someone and thew screw you can always use the Ugly American Tactic, walk up to them and put them in a
    "Pain Restraint Hold" 😉

  29. says

    Hi Bob,

    If she really wants the education she'll do it. The experience she'll gain from working in your company is worth ten fold than her first year in college. It's an opportunity for her, experience is the best education.

    I went to an evening school there in Davao City in my school years while working as a maid/yaya to my sister's children to get an education. I wanted it so bad, I did not dare say a word to oppose any of their guidance(?). It eventually paid off, and I'm very, very grateful.

    Your niece is young and she should try to grab as much opportunity presented to better her life for the future instead of expecting a silver platter provided to her.

    You're a kind man, Mr Bob! :smile:

  30. says

    My husband and I are planning on retiring in the next 5 years. That's one of the worries that's been straining my brain. If one my family members will ask money for something. I'm sure my family will hate me everytime I say no when they ask for money especially if it's for medical expenses. For my husband he has no problem saying NO to them. Bob, do you help Feyma's family meembers when one of them is admitted in a hospital for instance? Do you cover their hospital bills and prescrition?

  31. says

    Hi MarcelingWW – Thanks for your comment. Your feelings and mine go hand in hand. I am glad that your experiences worked out wel for you too!

  32. says

    Hi MGM – Sometimes I help them with hospital expenses and such, but not always. It just depends. If they are nice to me, helpful to me, and actually talk with me like I am part of the family, I will tend to assist them. If the person in question, though, has not been nice to me in the past, I tend not to assist them – why should I? Everything is reciprocal.

  33. says

    Hi don – I appreciate your thoughts. It can sound mean, even brutal, but things indeed are reciprocal. Those who act like I am not part of the family, should not expect me to act like I am family to them when they are in need. Sometimes it make me feel bad, and I know that it can be hard on Feyma, especially in the past. These days, though, Feyma has come to feel the same way, so it's easier to accept for her. I hope that MGM can come to understand your feelings, as Feyma has mine.

  34. Phil R. says

    wow I like this one Bob ..hee hee hee ..when i first landed in Cebu there were 5 people wanting to help me with my luggage and they all had a hand on it, so i gave them all 50 pesos eash was only a buck then !!! ..after i met my wife that stoped real quick . She would tip one person and tell the rest i had no money to give them ,and all her relitives asked for money she would tell them .." NO" She worned me in advanced that they would be asking for money . so i left it up to her ..that was one of the best things i did ..So when my wifes brother had a ear infection while he stayed with us ..he watched the house , cook ,clean and wash clothes while we go an do things my wife ask me an i said yes ..I told my wife that if someone helps us we can help them one way or another ..Phil R….

  35. says

    Hi Phil R – Sounds like you have the system down pat! I agree, let your wife decide who deserves the help, at least until the day that you understand enough of what is going on to have some input! 😆

  36. Phil R. says

    hey Bob my wife tells me everything befor she does anything, then i decide what goes .Sometime she doesn't want to tell me cause she is embarrassed but she says to me you are my husband and you need to know everything i do ..I said OK honey ..

  37. says

    Hi Phil R. – I really believe it is a sign of a good relationship when information flows freely like that! Congratulations!

  38. chris says

    Very Good Post. Helping who you choose to help. I get the same thing back home in the states when I go home on vacation cousins and distant cousins and friends of friends and those I never really had never known always saying cous can you give me some change for this or that and I tell them no because I know them and how they are, so they stop asking and really do not come around when I visit. My Great-uncle is the same way so we get along fine with him being ex-military and me still being military we have a common bond of being able to talk about everything from the bible to making money. I plan on living in “RP” in 6 years so this website has giving me alot of advice more then you know. As well as the advice Bob has giving me. My fiance wants to start up her own business when we decide to get married and move there but I already told her that I will not be supporting her family as well as my house, only if it is possibble. The guy that is teaching his niece about life is doing a great job, make me appreciate my mother making me get a summer job and a job doing the school year if i wasn’t doing any type of sports or school functions. She always said that she was teaching me how to make my way in life and not to be depending on other people. I remember when I graduated from high school she said i 18 and a man now nothing comes free so she gave me 3 choices. #1 I can live at home and pay bills, #2 I can go to college and live at home rent free and #3 I can move out and see what the real world was about. The first 2 choices I didn’t agree with because I wasn’t mature enough for college at the time and I had to start paying rent after 18 years of rent free. So I decided it was time for me to make my way in the world. I know the cultures are completely different but I remember 5 years ago when I was 28 my mother told me something that made me realize she raised me to become a man when she told me she was proud of me and that I have done something with life and not become dependent of someone else or the government. So after rambling on and on in short you have to teach children the value of hard work and nothing in life is free.

    A friend a few time zones away

    • says

      Hi chris – when you marry a Filipina, you marry the family. You might think that you are not going to help the family… but you will learn about that after the wedding! 😆

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