Today, I will be interviewing Michael Harman. I have not met Michael in person, but we have been friends on Facebook, and I follow some of his other online activities. In recent months, I have seen that Michael has been thinking about moving elsewhere – perhaps back to the States, or to a different country. I hope Michael decides to stay in the Philippines! I have always seen Michael as a positive person, and the Philippines needs more expats with a positive attitude like that!
What is your name, and can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Michael Harman, I am originally from Alexandria, Virginia where I grew up and attended grade school through High School. I joined the Air Force while living in Virginia and spent the next 20 years as a photographer in the United States Air Force.
Thank you for your service to our country, Michael.
I never returned to Virginia and ended up in Fort Worth Texas where my x-Wife had relatives. I retired from the air force in November of 1987 and promptly attended a trade school where I learned how to program in various computer programming languages, I also attended The University of Texas at Arlington for a Web Site Developer certificate program, a 44 credit hour program which I completed by attending day and night classes. I went on to work with the IBM AS/400 Mid Range Business Systems at a company in North Dallas as a system programmer and was loaned out as a consultant under IBM to do their AS/400 system upgrades all over the Dallas Texas area. After this I worked as a AS/400 Computer Room Manager in three different company in Arlington and Fort Worth Texas until I was laid off in 2003 when the company I worked for at the time nearly went out of business. By then I was 59 years old and was unable to find work, so decided to retire early. In February of 2004 my x-wife died leaving me quite alone. I ended up meeting my current wife of nine years online and came to the Philippines in April of 2004.
You moved into the right field after your Air Force career. Computers certainly got hot around that time!
So sorry to hear that your wife passed away.
How long have you lived in the Philippines?
I have lived in the Philippines a total of five years, two from 2004 until 2006, then My wife and I spent 4 years in Texas. I was too old to find work and Marianne at the time had no trade either so we struggled to make ends meet and decided to return to the Philippines in February of 2010 and have been here ever since going on three years and four months.
I know that I have seen you mention online about considering a move elsewhere. I hope that wherever you end up, employment, or being able to make a living works out for you.
What do you like or dislike about living in the Philippines?
Well to me the Philippines is a paradise, and I like it’s beautiful tropical palm tree lined beaches which are among the most beautiful in the world. I also like the fact that living expenses for the most part are a lot cheaper than living in the United States for many things except of course electricity and homes, which are fairly high and in some cases on par with current US prices. I really like this one; there are only a few storms that roll through here not like living in fear in Fort Worth Texas which was part of tornado alley, we had plenty of scary nights there when the storms came through and the power went out sirens blaring, and we wondered if there was a tornado heading right for us, no fun, we had way too many of those nights there. Here most of the Typhoons miss us completely due to prevailing winds that carry them up over Luzon. I like the cheap yet adequate apartment and home rentals here that can be had for $150 to $200 and up. And I especially like how easy it is to own your own condo or home if you are married to a Filipina. Owning homes and condos is one of the things I am involved in here in a big way and have received training from the developers recently in Cebu City.
I hope that you are doing well with the house/condo business. You are right about the storms… here in Davao where I live, we don’t get typhoons, and I am thankful for that! I used to live in Louisiana at a time in my life, and I understand how it feels to get hit by a hurricane!
What made you decide to move to the Philippines?
The main reason I cam here was an earlier experience while in the Air Force, I passed through Angeles City in the mid 1980s and enjoyed it so much I always wanted to return and spend more time here. I finally got my chance when my x-wife died in January of 2004, that marriage was plagued with problems and almost constant arguments.
Did you encounter anything unexpected when you moved here? What was your biggest surprise?
The biggest surprise to me was realizing I was in a third world country, driving scared the heck out of me and back then many of the back roads were only dirt roads so it seemed dirty to me typical of third world nations. However over the years things in many areas have improved. When I got here in April of 2004 I lived in Bogo in northern Cebu, and it had many bumpy dirt roads, some of them have been paved over the years yet many remain dirt and gravel roads even today.
I was up in Bogo in 2009. Nice place, but I prefer to live in a larger city where there is good Internet and other conveniences!
Where do you live in the Philippines?
Currently I live just about right next to Mactan International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City, maybe 5 minutes from there, the location anyone moving to Cebu City must enter. As a result and from my own website Retiring Philippines I often go pick up the expats retiring in the Cebu area. Currently I have three coming in the next couple of months and more coming up to eight years from now. I have helped about 50 or so retire here and have many that are still here today. Its an ongoing thing with me here and I enjoy doing it free of charge. I own a large SUV so room is not a problem. I also take people around in my SUV to look at Condos and homes also free of charge, it’s something I enjoy doing and I meet and make lots of friends that way.
That’s great, congratulations on making a difference – both a difference for the Philippines and for those who have benefited from your assistance! It is a good feeling to help people.
Are you happy there?
Yes I am very happy living here although once we buy our new home (still looking), I will be a lot happier. We plan to buy in the Cebu City or Talisay area which is about 20 minutes south of Cebu City. Talisay is where I played in Richard’s band a professional guitarist that played wit BB-King and Percy Sledge “When a Man Loves a Woman”.
I often see you post on Facebook about the band, pictures of you playing and such.
Do you have any regrets that you can share with us?
No not really, everything is cool here now that I learned to drive like the Filipinos here do. It no longer scares me, I amused to it now and can drive in rush hour Cebu City traffic with confidence.
Like you, I found that after a little practice it is not too difficult to drive here. I just don’t know if I’d ever be able to drive back in the States again! 😉
Is there anything else you want to tell us about your move to the Philippines?
Only that i recommend it for any adventure loving retiree, as long as you are healthy, like me no major medical problems. Ad Hospitals are different here yet they do have PhilHealth and other health insurances here. If you ever need to be taken to the hospital always ask them to take you to Chong Hua Hospital in Cebu City a modern and relatively inexpensive hospital.
Michael, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. It’s always interesting and entertaining to learn about people, and I enjoyed hearing about you and your life in the Philippines!