My wife and I reside in a small Cebu town. Two homes stand out among my immediate neighbors, ours and a home across the street. They both stand out because they are larger than the other homes, and look more ‘western’. My home would be considered a small ranch by western standards, however, it is larger than the bamboo and wood shacks that make up most of the neighborhood. Our house stands out for one additional reason. The outside is painted hot pink. Originally, our house was painted a soft pink. When it was repainted last year we kinda goofed. We selected the wrong shade of pink paint, and now we are hoping it will fade over time. If we had painted our prior Chicago home this color, I’m sure our neighbors would have laughed their asses off, and then demanded we repaint a different color.
Our neighbor across the street started building about the same time we did roughly 10 years ago. Our home is much smaller and was finished in 6 months. The home across the street still isn’t completed. Rumor has it that it’s owned by a group of Filipino brothers and sisters working overseas in the healthcare industry. That seems to be a common way of thinking among many of the Filipinos we have encountered. They don’t worry about having all the money needed for a project before getting started. There may be sound logic behind this approach, but I suspect it may simply be a lack of patience in first saving the full amount. Another possibility is that they grossly underestimated the funds required to finish the project. I know our home came in way over budget.
If you are considering any type of significant construction in the Philippines, the best advice I can offer is to first determine a realistic total cost, and then set your budget at 50% higher. Even if you go 50% above your cost estimate, whatever you are building should be ridiculously cheaper than anything comparable in a western country, primarily due to the low cost of labor. As I write this, we are employing 6 men to build a large structure behind our house. They work 8 hours a day, and it’s not an easy job. In the U.S., men doing this kind of work would be wearing protective clothing and work boots. The Filipino men we have employed here are typically without gloves or shoes. They are usually barefoot and I don’t know how they manage to avoid hurting themselves. We pay them 15,000 pesos weekly. I know 15,000 sounds like a lot, but if you do the conversion math, that’s 300 U.S. dollars divided among the 6 men per week. Wages like this makes it easy to understand why so many Filipino’s want to work outside of their own country.
There is a small downside to the low cost of labor in the Philippines. Whenever you have a task that needs to be done, you hesitate to do it yourself since it’s so cheap to hire someone. Instead of getting up and grabbing a screwdriver (or hammer) yourself, you continue to vegetate in front of the television. It’s not healthy. The inside of my house needs painting, and I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to be ambitious and do it myself. I could certainly use the exercise. One thing I do know. I’m not painting the inside hot pink.