So you wanna buy land?

Last year, I wrote about a problem that we have on a small piece of land that Rebecca purchased.

What originally should have been a relatively straightforward property purchase has turned into a real, God-awful mess and has become far more expensive than it is worth. At this point, the only reason that we are continuing on with this is that the land was originally in Rebecca’s family.

So, as I wrote, we went to the Barangay Captain, reached an agreement that everyone signed, and everything should have been resolved, right?

How effective is the Barangay System?
How effective is the Barangay System?

We forgot one thing: There was an election this year, and the Piece of Crap squatter (thief) had until after the election to get her thieving *ss off of my wife’s land. No sympathy from me regarding squatters “rights” or any other such nonsense. She is a thief, plain and simple. She is stealing from my wife. She is stealing from my son. Every time we pay the taxes, for which we are still liable, she continues to steal from us.

A Barangay Captain
A Barangay Captain

Rebecca bought this land in good faith. Rebecca holds clear title. Rebecca has paid her taxes and all back taxes. Rebecca had this thief’s agreement to leave before buying the land. The thief was offered an equivalent piece of barangay land less than 100 meters away, with the barangay paying moving expenses. So why is this thief still able to steal from us?

Simple: She sent one of her children to a free legal services center for the poor and they told her that despite not legally having a leg to stand on, she could drag out any legal proceedings for years, and could probably extort a large amount of money from us (They said get a “substantial” payment from us for her “inconvenience”.)

So, new barangay captain in office, thief will not move. He doesn’t want to get involved. Rebecca heads to the regional trial court in Aparri and files a subpoena to mediation. The subpoena is ignored by the thief. So, we retain an attorney. The court fight will cost 20,000 pesos per appearance, and the attorney believes it will take two years to evict her. If we are successful, and both our attorney and the clerk of the court believe we will be so, the sheriff will evict the thief from Rebecca’s land and I will sit there playing the world’s tiniest violin and crying the world’s tiniest tears in support of the thief as she is physically thrown into the street. Much laughter will ensue and good times will be had by all. The judge has suggested that we file for all damages (Though, I really know that Rebecca will never be able to actually collect anything) and offer the thief half of our attorney’s fee just to make this all go away. We have submitted such a request to an LRB arbitration board in Tuguegarao.

So, a straightforward transaction on a small piece of land (60,000 pesos) has now cost us over 350,000 pesos in expenses, and probably another 300,000 before all is said and done.

I’m writing this article for two reasons.

First, this was a simple, supposedly unencumbered transaction. There really is no such thing in the Philippines. I understand the desire to “buy” land. This was part of Rebecca’s ancestral home. She used her own money. She is a native born Filipino and ran into this problem. What chance in Hell would a foreigner have in such a case? The answer is ZERO. None. NADA. ZIP. Think this can’t happen to you? Think you know how your heirs can inherit? Wanna start a corporation to deal with it? Wanna lease from your spouse?

The answer is that foreigners have no business buying anything here. The law is very clear. You cannot own land here. This statement will fall on deaf ears. People will do what they want. Still think it is straightforward and you “know” how to buy land? How does 18 years in court sound to you?

Eighteen years. That’s a long time to wait for a decision. Last year, a dispute related to the acquisition of land by foreigners was finally settled. In summary, a foreigner bought a piece of property for his live-in girlfriend and transferred the title to her name. They had a falling out, and the foreigner later wanted to use the property to cover a debt incurred from his new girlfriend’s family. How can that be?

In summary, this case dragged through the court system for over 18 years. Eventually, the court ruled that, though the initial transfer of title was invalid, the transfer was not challenged at the time, and, therefore, the title could later be transferred, as long as the new owner was eligible to own land.

Still think you can own land here? Want to take the chance? Can you afford to endure a multi-year court case? This case perfectly illustrates the complexity of real-estate transactions in the Philippines.

For those who are interested in the text of the decision, it appears at the bottom of this article.

Secondly, you will notice that I use the word “thief” and not “squatter”. The person is stealing, plain and simple. She is depriving my wife from using her own property. Why should my wife’s rights as a Filipino citizen be less than those of another Filipino? Is Rebecca morally obligated to allow someone to extort her for money just because they are poor? She is allowing Rebecca to continue to be legally liable for the land. She is taking something that does not belong to her. There is no difference between squatters on Ayala’s land or my wife’s. Squatters are thieves. Bob wrote about this issue and received an inordinate amount of grief. He was perhaps more diplomatic than I am: I’m calling a thief a thief. Period.

Here’s the text of the court decision for the benefit of those who still feel the need to “buy” here:

G.R. No. 159310               February 24, 2009 Petitioner,




What are the rights of an alien (and his successor-in-interest) who acquired real properties in the country as against his former Filipina girlfriend in whose sole name the properties were registered under the Torrens system?

The facts are as follows:

Wilhelm Jambrich, an Austrian, arrived in the Philippines in 1983 after he was assigned by his employer, Simmering-Graz Panker A.G., an Austrian company, to work at a project in Mindoro. In 1984, he transferred to Cebu and worked at the Naga II Project of the National Power Corporation. There, he met respondent Antonietta Opalla-Descallar, a separated mother of two boys who was working as a waitress at St. Moritz Hotel. Jambrich befriended respondent and asked her to tutor him in English. In dire need of additional income to support her children, respondent agreed. The tutorials were held in Antonietta’s residence at a squatters’ area in Gorordo Avenue.

Jambrich and respondent fell in love and decided to live together in a rented house in Hernan Cortes, Mandaue City. Later, they transferred to their own house and lots at Agro-Macro Subdivision, Cabancalan, Mandaue City. In the Contracts to Sell dated November 18, 19851 and March 10, 19862 covering the properties, Jambrich and respondent were referred to as the buyers. A Deed of Absolute Sale dated November 16, 19873 was likewise issued in their favor. However, when the Deed of Absolute Sale was presented for registration before the Register of Deeds, registration was refused on the ground that Jambrich was an alien and could not acquire alienable lands of the public domain. Consequently, Jambrich’s name was erased from the document. But it could be noted that his signature remained on the left hand margin of page 1, beside respondent’s signature as buyer on page 3, and at the bottom of page 4 which is the last page. Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) Nos. 24790, 24791 and 24792 over the properties were issued in respondent’s name alone.

Jambrich also formally adopted respondent’s two sons in Sp. Proc. No. 39-MAN,4 and per Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City dated May 5, 1988.5

However, the idyll lasted only until April 1991. By then, respondent found a new boyfriend while Jambrich began to live with another woman in Danao City. Jambrich supported respondent’s sons for only two months after the break up.

Jambrich met petitioner Camilo F. Borromeo sometime in 1986. Petitioner was engaged in the real estate business. He also built and repaired speedboats as a hobby. In 1989, Jambrich purchased an engine and some accessories for his boat from petitioner, for which he became indebted to the latter for about P150,000.00. To pay for his debt, he sold his rights and interests in the Agro-Macro properties to petitioner for P250,000, as evidenced by a “Deed of Absolute Sale/Assignment.”6 On July 26, 1991, when petitioner sought to register the deed of assignment, he discovered that titles to the three lots have been transferred in the name of respondent, and that the subject property has already been mortgaged.

On August 2, 1991, petitioner filed a complaint against respondent for recovery of real property before the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City. Petitioner alleged that the Contracts to Sell dated November 18, 1985 and March 10, 1986 and the Deed of Absolute Sale dated November 16, 1987 over the properties which identified both Jambrich and respondent as buyers do not reflect the true agreement of the parties since respondent did not pay a single centavo of the purchase price and was not in fact a buyer; that it was Jambrich alone who paid for the properties using his exclusive funds; that Jambrich was the real and absolute owner of the properties; and, that petitioner acquired absolute ownership by virtue of the Deed of Absolute Sale/Assignment dated July 11, 1991 which Jambrich executed in his favor.

In her Answer, respondent belied the allegation that she did not pay a single centavo of the purchase price. On the contrary, she claimed that she “solely and exclusively used her own personal funds to defray and pay for the purchase price of the subject lots in question,” and that Jambrich, being an alien, was prohibited to acquire or own real property in the Philippines.

At the trial, respondent presented evidence showing her alleged financial capacity to buy the disputed property with money from a supposed copra business. Petitioner, in turn, presented Jambrich as his witness and documentary evidence showing the substantial salaries which Jambrich received while still employed by the Austrian company, Simmering-Graz Panker A.G.

In its decision, the court a quo found—

Evidence on hand clearly show that at the time of the purchase and acquisition of [the] properties under litigation that Wilhelm Jambrich was still working and earning much. This fact of Jambrich earning much is not only supported by documentary evidence but also by the admission made by the defendant Antoniet[t]a Opalla. So that, Jambrich’s financial capacity to acquire and purchase the properties . . . is not disputed.7

x x x

On the other hand, evidence . . . clearly show that before defendant met Jambrich sometime in the latter part of 1984, she was only working as a waitress at the St. Moritz Hotel with an income of P1,000.00 a month and was . . . renting and living only in . . . [a] room at . . . [a] squatter area at Gorordo Ave., Cebu City; that Jambrich took pity of her and the situation of her children that he offered her a better life which she readily accepted. In fact, this miserable financial situation of hers and her two children . . . are all stated and reflected in the Child Study Report dated April 20, 1983 (Exhs. “G” and “G-1″) which facts she supplied to the Social Worker who prepared the same when she was personally interviewed by her in connection with the adoption of her two children by Wilhelm Jambrich. So that, if such facts were not true because these are now denied by her . . . and if it was also true that during this time she was already earning as much as P8,000.00 to P9,000.00 as profit per month from her copra business, it would be highly unbelievable and impossible for her to be living only in such a miserable condition since it is the observation of this Court that she is not only an extravagant but also an expensive person and not thrifty as she wanted to impress this Court in order to have a big saving as clearly shown by her actuation when she was already cohabiting and living with Jambrich that according to her . . . the allowance given . . . by him in the amount of $500.00 a month is not enough to maintain the education and maintenance of her children.8

This being the case, it is highly improbable and impossible that she could acquire the properties under litigation or could contribute any amount for their acquisition which according to her is worth more than P700,000.00 when while she was working as [a] waitress at St. Moritz Hotel earning P1,000.00 a month as salary and tips of more or less P2,000.00 she could not even provide [for] the daily needs of her family so much so that it is safe to conclude that she was really in financial distress when she met and accepted the offer of Jambrich to come and live with him because that was a big financial opportunity for her and her children who were already abandoned by her husband.9

x x x

The only probable and possible reason why her name appeared and was included in [the contracts to sell dated November 18, 1985 and March 10, 1986 and finally, the deed of absolute sale dated November 16, 1987] as buyer is because as observed by the Court, she being a scheming and exploitive woman, she has taken advantage of the goodness of Jambrich who at that time was still bewitched by her beauty, sweetness, and good attitude shown by her to him since he could still very well provide for everything she needs, he being earning (sic) much yet at that time. In fact, as observed by this Court, the acquisition of these properties under litigation was at the time when their relationship was still going smoothly and harmoniously.10 [Emphasis supplied.]

The dispositive portion of the Decision states:

WHEREFORE, . . . Decision is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant Antoniet[t]a Opalla by:

1) Declaring plaintiff as the owner in fee simple over the residential house of strong materials and three parcels of land designated as Lot Nos. 1, 3 and 5 which are covered by TCT Nos. 24790, 24791 and 24792 issued by the Register of Deeds of Mandaue City;

2) Declaring as null and void TCT Nos. 24790, 24791 and 24792 issued in the name of defendant Antoniet[t]a Descallar by the Register of Deeds of Mandaue City;

3) Ordering the Register of Deeds of Mandaue City to cancel TCT Nos. 24790, 24791 and 24792 in the name of defendant Antoniet[t]a Descallar and to issue new ones in the name of plaintiff Camilo F. Borromeo;

4) Declaring the contracts now marked as Exhibits “I,” “K” and “L” as avoided insofar as they appear to convey rights and interests over the properties in question to the defendant Antoniet[t]a Descallar;

5) Ordering the defendant to pay plaintiff attorney’s fees in the amount of P25,000.00 and litigation expenses in the amount of P10,000.00; and,

6) To pay the costs.11

Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals. In a Decision dated April 10, 2002,12 the appellate court reversed the decision of the trial court. In ruling for the respondent, the Court of Appeals held:

We disagree with the lower court’s conclusion. The circumstances involved in the case cited by the lower court and similar cases decided on by the Supreme Court which upheld the validity of the title of the subsequent Filipino purchasers are absent in the case at bar. It should be noted that in said cases, the title to the subject property has been issued in the name of the alien transferee (Godinez et al., vs. Fong Pak Luen et al., 120 SCRA 223 citing Krivenko vs. Register of Deeds of Manila, 79 Phils. 461; United Church Board for World Ministries vs. Sebastian, 159 SCRA 446, citing the case of Sarsosa Vda. De Barsobia vs. Cuenco, 113 SCRA 547; Tejido vs. Zamacoma, 138 SCRA 78). In the case at bar, the title of the subject property is not in the name of Jambrich but in the name of defendant-appellant. Thus, Jambrich could not have transferred a property he has no title thereto.13

Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied.

Hence, this petition for review.

Petitioner assigns the following errors:




First, who purchased the subject properties?

The evidence clearly shows, as pointed out by the trial court, who between respondent and Jambrich possesses the financial capacity to acquire the properties in dispute. At the time of the acquisition of the properties in 1985 to 1986, Jambrich was gainfully employed at Simmering-Graz Panker A.G., an Austrian company. He was earning an estimated monthly salary of P50,000.00. Then, Jambrich was assigned to Syria for almost one year where his monthly salary was approximately P90,000.00.

On the other hand, respondent was employed as a waitress from 1984 to 1985 with a monthly salary of not more than P1,000.00. In 1986, when the parcels of land were acquired, she was unemployed, as admitted by her during the pre-trial conference. Her allegations of income from a copra business were unsubstantiated. The supposed copra business was actually the business of her mother and their family, with ten siblings. She has no license to sell copra, and had not filed any income tax return. All the motorized bancas of her mother were lost to fire, and the last one left standing was already scrap. Further, the Child Study Report15 submitted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the adoption proceedings of respondent’s two sons by Jambrich disclosed that:

Antonietta tried all types of job to support the children until she was accepted as a waitress at St. Moritz Restaurant in 1984. At first she had no problem with money because most of the customers of St. Moritz are (sic) foreigners and they gave good tips but towards the end of 1984 there were no more foreigners coming because of the situation in the Philippines at that time. Her financial problem started then. She was even renting a small room in a squatters area in Gorordo Ave., Cebu City. It was during her time of great financial distress that she met Wilhelm Jambrich who later offered her a decent place for herself and her children.16

The DSWD Home Study Report17 further disclosed that:

[Jambrich] was then at the Restaurant of St. Moritz when he saw Antonietta Descallar, one of the waitresses of the said Restaurants. He made friends with the girl and asked her to tutor him in [the] English language. Antonietta accepted the offer because she was in need of additional income to support [her] 2 young children who were abandoned by their father. Their session was agreed to be scheduled every afternoon at the residence of Antonietta in the squatters area in Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City. The Austrian was observing the situation of the family particularly the children who were malnourished. After a few months sessions, Mr. Jambrich offered to transfer the family into a decent place. He told Antonietta that the place is not good for the children. Antonietta who was miserable and financially distressed at that time accepted the offer for the sake of the children.18

Further, the following additional pieces of evidence point to Jambrich as the source of fund used to purchase the three parcels of land, and to construct the house thereon:

(1) Respondent Descallar herself affirmed under oath, during her re-direct examination and during the proceedings for the adoption of her minor children, that Jambrich was the owner of the properties in question, but that his name was deleted in the Deed of Absolute Sale because of legal constraints. Nonetheless, his signature remained in the deed of sale, where he signed as buyer.

(2) The money used to pay the subject parcels of land in installments was in postdated checks issued by Jambrich. Respondent has never opened any account with any bank. Receipts of the installment payments were also in the name of Jambrich and respondent.

(3) In 1986-1987, respondent lived in Syria with Jambrich and her two children for ten months, where she was completely under the support of Jambrich.

(4) Jambrich executed a Last Will and Testament, where he, as owner, bequeathed the subject properties to respondent.

Thus, Jambrich has all authority to transfer all his rights, interests and participation over the subject properties to petitioner by virtue of the Deed of Assignment he executed on July 11, 1991.

Well-settled is the rule that this Court is not a trier of facts. The findings of fact of the trial court are accorded great weight and respect, if not finality by this Court, subject to a number of exceptions. In the instant case, we find no reason to disturb the factual findings of the trial court. Even the appellate court did not controvert the factual findings of the trial court. They differed only in their conclusions of law.

Further, the fact that the disputed properties were acquired during the couple’s cohabitation also does not help respondent. The rule that co-ownership applies to a man and a woman living exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage, but are otherwise capacitated to marry each other, does not apply.19 In the instant case, respondent was still legally married to another when she and Jambrich lived together. In such an adulterous relationship, no co-ownership exists between the parties. It is necessary for each of the partners to prove his or her actual contribution to the acquisition of property in order to be able to lay claim to any portion of it. Presumptions of co-ownership and equal contribution do not apply.20

Second, we dispose of the issue of registration of the properties in the name of respondent alone. Having found that the true buyer of the disputed house and lots was the Austrian Wilhelm Jambrich, what now is the effect of registration of the properties in the name of respondent?

It is settled that registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership.21 It is only a means of confirming the fact of its existence with notice to the world at large.22 Certificates of title are not a source of right. The mere possession of a title does not make one the true owner of the property. Thus, the mere fact that respondent has the titles of the disputed properties in her name does not necessarily, conclusively and absolutely make her the owner. The rule on indefeasibility of title likewise does not apply to respondent. A certificate of title implies that the title is quiet,23 and that it is perfect, absolute and indefeasible.24 However, there are well-defined exceptions to this rule, as when the transferee is not a holder in good faith and did not acquire the subject properties for a valuable consideration.25 This is the situation in the instant case. Respondent did not contribute a single centavo in the acquisition of the properties. She had no income of her own at that time, nor did she have any savings. She and her two sons were then fully supported by Jambrich.

Respondent argued that aliens are prohibited from acquiring private land. This is embodied in Section 7, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution,26 which is basically a reproduction of Section 5, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution,27 and Section 14, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution.28 The capacity to acquire private land is dependent on the capacity “to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.” Private land may be transferred only to individuals or entities “qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.” Only Filipino citizens or corporations at least 60% of the capital of which is owned by Filipinos are qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. Thus, as the rule now stands, the fundamental law explicitly prohibits non-Filipinos from acquiring or holding title to private lands, except only by way of legal succession or if the acquisition was made by a former natural-born citizen.29

Therefore, in the instant case, the transfer of land from Agro-Macro Development Corporation to Jambrich, who is an Austrian, would have been declared invalid if challenged, had not Jambrich conveyed the properties to petitioner who is a Filipino citizen. In United Church Board for World Ministries v. Sebastian,30 the Court reiterated the consistent ruling in a number of cases31 that if land is invalidly transferred to an alien who subsequently becomes a Filipino citizen or transfers it to a Filipino, the flaw in the original transaction is considered cured and the title of the transferee is rendered valid. Applying United Church Board for World Ministries, the trial court ruled in favor of petitioner, viz.:

[W]hile the acquisition and the purchase of (sic) Wilhelm Jambrich of the properties under litigation [were] void ab initio since [they were] contrary to the Constitution of the Philippines, he being a foreigner, yet, the acquisition of these properties by plaintiff who is a Filipino citizen from him, has cured the flaw in the original transaction and the title of the transferee is valid.

The trial court upheld the sale by Jambrich in favor of petitioner and ordered the cancellation of the TCTs in the name of respondent. It declared petitioner as owner in fee simple of the residential house of strong materials and three parcels of land designated as Lot Nos. 1, 3 and 5, and ordered the Register of Deeds of Mandaue City to issue new certificates of title in his name. The trial court likewise ordered respondent to pay petitioner P25,000 as attorney’s fees and P10,000 as litigation expenses, as well as the costs of suit.

We affirm the Regional Trial Court.

The rationale behind the Court’s ruling in United Church Board for World Ministries, as reiterated in subsequent cases,32 is this – since the ban on aliens is intended to preserve the nation’s land for future generations of Filipinos, that aim is achieved by making lawful the acquisition of real estate by aliens who became Filipino citizens by naturalization or those transfers made by aliens to Filipino citizens. As the property in dispute is already in the hands of a qualified person, a Filipino citizen, there would be no more public policy to be protected. The objective of the constitutional provision to keep our lands in Filipino hands has been achieved.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in C.A. G.R. CV No. 42929 dated April 10, 2002 and its Resolution dated July 8, 2003 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City in Civil Case No. MAN-1148 is REINSTATED.


Chief Justice


Associate Justice

Post Author: JohnM (207 Posts)

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.

CurvePress Suite of WordPress Services


  1. Cy says

    As much as I would like to see the Philippines rise as a nation to achieve first world status, I do not believe it will happen until they take a long, hard look at their property rights laws. Foreign investment is common to all first world nations. Preventing foreign investment by law is certain to result in a continuation of the status quo. And how many first world nations have you heard of lately that have had to deal with squatter issues?

      • jonathan says

        Yep, I think our history has a great part in shaping that law due to colonization of the major superpowers (Spain, USA, Japan and for a shortwhile by the Dutch and Britain). During Carlos P. Garcia’s administration in the 1950’s, the Filipino First Policy was born. It is a policy where Filipinos should be first before anyone else which heavily favors Filipino businessmen above foreign investors (economically-wise).

        Nice and very informative article John! I really enjoy and learn a lot from your articles.

        • says

          Jonathan: Thank you. Given that history, I don’t see the laws changing in my lifetime, or, most likely, my son’s. A far better option is simply drawing up a long-term lease if you need land. Even if foreign purchases someday become legal, the murky titles, squatting issues, and complexity of land ownership laws makes this a real investment minefield.

          • jonathan says

            I agree and it’s the sad truth John. My coutnry, the PH/PHIL/RP/PI has to work triple time in oder to be competetive globally. We’re asking for foreign investments to come in with promises that everything has changed and the PH/PHIL/RP/PI is ready for the world….empty promises maybe? I hope not. We need another revolution (lol).

  2. Dan says

    I would not ever want to buy any land in the Phillipines John even if I was married to a Fillipina, and of course I know that my money would be paying for land for her, never me .The more I read this LIP..I do not even think I would want to live there, not because I do not think the place is pretty…my main reason more and more is the corruption and the laws they have there..they stink for even the native Phillipino and of course a foreigner does not really have any rights at all…..I thought some of our laws here sucked and were a slow grind, but from the sounds of it..the Phillipines wins hands down on that one…..a great post John and hope the problem gets resolved some day there…

    • says

      Dan: I actually had nothing to do with the transaction. I didn’t even pay for the land (Rebecca used her savings). I get angry because I don’t like seeing her get so upset. As I wrote above, it isn’t really even about the money, but more that someone is stealing from my wife.

      • Clay says

        Could it be that you have failed to make the traditional donation to the new Barangay Captain and or Mayor and so they are showing no interest in getting involved ? In the past I have found that a nice donation (or promise of) to the right person / persons can really get the old wheels moving at warp speed.

  3. Mars Z. says

    John, I feel for you. Listen, it just does not happen to Ex-Pats. We had a family rice fields that suddenly was titled by somebody by just showing tax receipt! And this person is a relative-distant.

    Hope you have an early resolution in your favor.


    • says

      Mars: That was my point… If it happens to Filipinos, an expat has no chance. I’m certain that it will be resolved in Rebecca’s favor eventually, but we are in for a long, hard fight.

  4. peterjoy says

    good posting JohnM

    as i am just buying a home there in the Philippines my self but i am not paying for it my self lol the paymens come out off my lovely wife pay she get every mouth itis not a big place just a little little place just right for us about 3 hours out off manila city down south mate and it was not hard to get as joy is still living there too i know a lot have tryed but there wife is not livng there and are living with them over seas and thay canot get land or a home……..peter martin tassie

    • says

      Peter: You recognize, though, that she is owning the land, however. That is a big difference from a lot of the stuff I see expats writing on the various boards and so on.

  5. Holger says

    Hi John.
    I know what you are going through. My wife has only one brother. Her mother lives in Italy. Her Dad lives nearby a village in the Philippines. As you know. Family is family. Her sister in-law wished to come to Canada. OK. I am not a Monster. She lived 21 month in our house. She did not pay $1 to our living. My wifes brother wished to work in Abu Dhabi. His wish was granted too. Still today we have to wait for ONE normal Thank You! Than in May 2007, short after her breast-cancer OP, I thought it is time she is going home to visit the family in the Philippines. After couple days, she phoned me to tell me her brothers best idea. Building a house in the Philippines, so she could visit all her friends, classmates and, and and….

    The idea was born…
    January 2008. Again to the airport. This time with me, to check what was going on with that “super” idea of her brother. We arrived there. My brother in-law was suddenly back in Abu Dhabi. Mhmmmm… House architect is a nice guy. A relative around 3 corners as usual and practical in the PI. We got our “Dream home” on the paper. Everything was going super easy. Now we shut get the permits. This time we like to go with the architect to the City Hall. Before we got to the permit department, something said in my head:”Lets check the ownership of my wifes property……

    Aehmmmmm…. On ALL family properties is my wifes brothers name! His parents are still alive. His sister is still alive. Also on properties from a sister of Audrey’s mother, (an Auntie living in San Diego) his name is on the properties. And we know that only, because I did it the “Filipino-way” payed the guy in the docu-office for a looonger lunch break, so we could get some copies and got a closer look. The architect said we could sue him. My wife was crying and said she won’t have any trouble with her brother.

    The story goes on. Her brother would like to come to Canada……
    His wife could not effort to sponsor him and the two Kids, we shout sign a paper so we would sponsor him…. I phoned a friend, a nice old neighbor in the PI to get some info from the Police about him. “That will cost a bit…” I payed. He got in trouble with the Police a couple times…., because he hat a gun… His oldest son got a couple of problems with the school, neighbors, drugs aaaaand the Police…..

    NO – Thank you! was our answer to that…..
    His wife figured out somehow to sponsor the family, so they can have a reunion in Canada. (What ever!) All papers where filled out. Every fee was payed – somehow….
    My brother in-law bought a new ISUZU SUV for around $40,000….(That’s what you do before you come to Canada? – I thought..)
    He started rebuilding there house in the Philippines…..(That’s what you do before you come to Canada? – I thought..)
    Than in the middle of the year, we got the message: “They will be here soon…”
    The old Barangay Kaptain tied….
    My brother in-law is running for…….. (That’s what you do before you come to Canada? – I thought..)
    Now he is Barangay Kaptain…..

    Hey John. What do you think. Could we get an agreement with the Barangay Kaptain about my wife’s lot??? I guess we can all agree: “I don’t think sooooo…!”

    Yes we know that all. That’s why we are looking for a lot far far away from the relatives…..
    Big enough to build a second house for the family who lived there already before us… ;-p

    Best regards

      • Roselyn says

        Holger: Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking story. For Expats, do not purchase any property, unless it is a condo (w/ 60% Filipino ownership) and you are there to occupy it. Do not fall for the pleas of relatives nor assurances. You can become a victim easily. Squatters are a problem for vacant land or unoccupied structure. Squatters could be your own wife’s relatives who you know. Even if you live in the condominium or house that you own, you must pay the real estate taxes yourself (this document is recognized as the “Tax Declaration”) and this document is paid for and obtained through the state office. (If you send someone else and the receipt is in their name, they can apply for a lien or title.) In Cebu, it is obtained and paid for in the Capitol Building. You have to check again through the “Register of Deeds” office in your province (another office) to make sure that no one applied for a title for the same property or applied for a lien. This is done on a yearly basis. If you fail, there goes the litigation process.

        • says

          Roselyn: That is sound advice. I look at it like this: If “we” ever buy I house here, even if I pay for it an my name is on the title as “foreign husband of”, I am, in reality, merely a tenant on any property. Rebecca can kick me off at a whim. Not that I think she would do so, but still, that is the reality.

          • Roselyn says

            Hi John: You are correct. The owner (with the title) to the land can kick you off the property. It is harsh reality indeed.

            • says

              Roselyn: In our compound there is a foreclosure fight that has been going on for over six years. Metrobank foreclosed on a mortgage and, six months from eviction, the “owner” allowed relatives to move in and begin squatting. This will drag on for many more years. My point being that Metrobank is a major corporation with loads of assets, resources, and political pull. If they have trouble with this issue, a foreigner, or even an average Filipino, would have great difficulty.

              However, much of what I wrote will fall on deaf ears. Some people just can’t get the “ownership issue” out of their heads.

              • Roselyn says

                John: I’m glad that you wrote about this. Foreigners just cannot own land period! Large financial institutions have problems with foreclosures as squatters rights will shield the thieves. Foreigners have no rights to ownership of land and will never win in court. I do hope that Expats will listen to you, John. I post here at LIP so that Expats have open eyes when they decide to move or live in the Philippines and think with their brains in full capacity. Renting is an alternative if you love the place or needs a place to reside with affordable rates. Don’t fall for shams, especially when it involves a woman.

    • says

      Holger: What a mess! In our case, the last Barangay captain was a relative. Now, the captain just doesn’t want to get involved. The family dynamics are strange here. Rebecca’s uncle was a congressman for many years… He died last year, and the fight between the children over land is really taking shape. They own about half of the land up there. Rebecca’s dispute is being lost in the shuffle of the big fight.

      • Randy W. says


        Its sad that you have to spend so much money on trying to keep your asawas property, but property that has been in the family for years, you cannot put a price on it. I’m sure lawyers are the big winners in alot of these land disputes. Good Job with the article.

        • says

          Randy: Thank you… As soon as we get her off the land, we are planting hardwood timber, so that 30 years from now, after Juanito inherits, it will be worth far more than the land ever would be (plus, the DENR will give us the mahogany saplings FREE!)

    • Dan says

      I think I would get as far away as a person could from that family or inlaws…sounds like a life full of problems and headaches and lots of the Excedrin headache #450..That is a headache caused by relatives and inlaws and the duration of this headache is for a long,long time, possible for the rest of a person life….

  6. alan cline says

    Good luck on your issue John . My wifes family has had same kinds of problems . Have never understood Philippine laws which allow non owners to occupy some of the countries most valuable land resources ( beach front property for instance ) . Really don’t see how this country can ever climb out of it’s 3rd world status given it’s land laws and other deterrents to investment .

    • says

      Alan: You really hit on the real issue… It is not foreign investment or allowing foreign ownership, but making it stable for Filipinos to invest in their own country.

    • Katrina says

      I think it’s because the government and “nativists” are scared of competition due to insecurity. Some even go to the point to blame the “ethnic Chinese”(who by the way for THEIR information are citizens of the Philippines — most of them, natural born citizens) for their economic woes.

      I think this is the down side of the *false* “Filipino first” policy that dates back to the 50’s or 60’s. The lack of interest on investment from locals are blamed on “foreigners”. If Filipino citizens are not interested in creating jobs, then who will? There are outside investors that are interested but the Philippine keep pushing them away

    • Katrina says

      Speaking of which, I was wondering how on earth do the Koreans were able to set up retail stores in Philippine cities? I studied Business Law in the Philippines and technically it is against the law for non-citizens to operate a retail shop. What is allowed is for corporations/partnerships to be 60% owned by Filipinos yet when you look at the licenses of the “Korean businesses”, they are owned by Koreans. I am not against the Koreans (they’re investments are appreciated), I’m just wondering what the heck is the Philippine government doing…breaking its laws rather than amending it to accommodate them.

      • says

        Katrina: Possibly could be under the table. They could have hidden partners who are Filipino, but the corporation is set up under a Korean sounding business name. It is often difficult to tell.

        I still say that foreign investment is not a cure-all… I have an upcoming article about this in a couple of weeks. There could be more Filipino investment if the financing were available for small business. Until the banks and the government eliminate the barriers, investment, foreign or domestic, will not occur.

        • Katrina says

          That’s one more thing. I’m not sure how loans really go but I heard from a professor that a “feasibility report” and “collateral”(the latter is understandable but I think the former is too much) to be able to get a loan.

          • says

            Katrina: A feasibility report could be as simple as a business plan (The bank wants to know that you will succeed and their investment will be paid back). Business loans are difficult to acquire anywhere, more so here. By having a business plan submitted, it forces the entrepreneur to really think of the potential downsides of business. This is partially why micro finance has been so successful in developing nations… They educate as well as loan. Forcing banks to offer micro lending as a condition of licensure would be a good start.

  7. John says

    Stay as far away from Condos, the so called 60% are OFW’s that eventually run out of money. Our condo has less that 20% paying the monthly fees. It is a complete waste of money owning anything in the PH. I think if we were ever able to sell it would be like winning the lottery.

    • says

      John: I tend to agree with you on that. With condos, even if foreign ownership is allowed, there are other issues. There are hundreds of failed projects in the country. If I ever were to go that route, I think the safest is buying a project by Ayala or one of the big firms, where there is ample financing, the association is correctly developed, and the buildings are generally maintained and managed.

  8. brian says

    Not even my problem but my blood is boiling over it ! What cluster &%#@ !!! How can something so so obviously wrong be purpetuated in a so called Republic? I Myself….would be thinking evils thougths at this point.

    • says

      Brian: My first reaction was to hire a bulldozer with armed security guards and tell the thief “don’t like it? sue us”. The clerk of the court advised against that course of action because it would be likely that she could probably create loads of problems for me with the NBI and BI by claiming that I financed her eviction.

      No, much as it pisses me off, I must remain merely a supportive observer and let the lawyer deal with it.

      • Johnny says

        The way I have heard from numerous sources to rid the squatter/s is to get people from out of town to either force them out or grab them from the house while also setting it on fire. You don’t want anyone to get killed in the process. While this is going on, you need to be out of town for your alibi and records to prove it.
        Another method is to wait for the thief to go to work or just leave the area. Immediately after, you put up some small kind of fence or barricade. When she comes back, she will need to cut the fence, the wire, or go around the barricade. Film it and take pictures cause from that viewpoint, she is now making “unauthorized access” to secured land which you hold the title to. This helps move your case along faster and give you much stronger property rights cause it shows them as a trespasser.
        I’ve had numerous discussions about this with various people. I actually knew a guy so fed up, he had a cage full of gas-soaked rats he set on fire, then quickly released into the squatter village to burn it down. He was so angry to keep paying taxes and they even chased him away with machete’s/ bolo’s when he went to ask for their assistance with the taxes. So that is what happens when the courts move so slow and leave people to figure it out on their own.
        They are a stupid country in many ways, but property rights shows they are just plain dumb/ insane.
        Good luck!

  9. brian says

    ..maybe some haunting recordings played late late at nite eminating from those dark scary woods……something ghostly…..

    • says

      Brian: I was going to ask one of the mangkukulams we met in relation to the Albularyo site to go dance in front of the property and put a curse on the thief for the whole town to see, but I was over-ruled by Mama sally, who became quite upset with me for even thinking such things.

  10. LM says

    Hi John,

    Do you know what the land buying rights are of a Philippines born Filipino who became a naturalised citizen of another country? Would it be the same as a foreigner or a would it more like the Filipinos?

    • says

      LM: I know that when you reacquire citizenship you can own land for your own house, but the amount is less (I believe, off the top of my head, the limit goes from 13 hectares to 1 hectare).

      • TWohl says

        LM, sounds like a nightmare. I have no delusions that I will never be able to own property there in the philippines. so far the expats in my wife’s family seem to have things go right. We didn’t want my wife’s family lose there house in davao city becouse they were not able to pay the mortgage for years just some on interest. its been in my wife’s family since 1976 so when we where there in 2008 we transfered the mortgage over to my wife’s name. it cost us about 7,000ph to do the deed of sale and transfer of mortgage from the SSS. they hold the title, we make our monthly payments, we have paid on it for the past 30 months and have about 18 months till tis paid off and the title will be in my wife’s name, we are about to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary end of Jan. My wife always tells me that in buying land, make sure there is a clean title and nobody can lay claim to it and also that there is no squatters on it, she won’t even consider buying a house that is for sale if the other family is still living there, she knows how hard it is to get them removed, My wife’s sister’s husband who is living in the philippines for the past 4 years they bought a lot in bahol and had no problems with the transfer of title and they are now building a home on it. so at least we have had no issuie’s, becouse later we want to buy some farm land. so I would say do some detailed research on the property one wants to buy. I hope things work out for you.

      • mimi_dearest says

        Filipino born citizens who lost their Filipino citizenships when they married and became naturalized citizens of the US can INHERIT property up to 1000 sq meters in the Philippines from their Filipino parents. They cannot, however, own beyond 1,000sqm of property in the Philippines.

        To have the same property rights as a Filipino citizen, the Filipino born citizen who lost his Filipino citizenship must RE-ACQUIRE his lost Filipino citizenship. I had to do this because I inherited more than 1,000 sqm of property from my parents. I am now a dual-citizen and can own as much property in the Philippines as my brothers, who never lost their Filipino citizenship.

  11. Ron LaFleur says

    John how do the Koreans and Chinese and I am sure others buy property there? Sorry that you have to go through this type of hassle. Ron

    • says

      Ron: Most of them are married to Filipinos or they start companies/businesses. Nothing says that the land is not leased. I think that the amount of land that is “owned” by Koreans and Chinese is greatly over-estimated. Again, the constitution and law are quite clear, and there aren’t exceptions for Koreans or other nationalities.

      What always perplexes me is the number of schemes on the Net that are out there… Personally, I don’t see the attraction of taking the risk. As is evident above, this was a straightforard transaction. The court case I cited was in Cebu… Hardly a rural area.

      If you are confident in the strength of your relationship with your spouse, then there is no problem with “buying”… But expats need to get it into their heads that they really don’t “own” anything… Their spouse does. All of the talk about owning the building but not the land, leasing from the spouse, and so on is just bull… But people still argue passionately about it.

      Now, our son is native born here… He can inherit from Rebecca. If I am listed on a title as “foreign husband”, should Rebecca pre-decease me, I can stay on the property and It can’t be sold from under me by her heirs (assuming the docs are filed properly). But, say that happens, and I die. My American brother could not inherit the land from me. I really don’t own anything.

    • Katrina says

      Many Chinese are actually native-born or naturalized citizens like the Sys and Tans…what baffles me is that when I see Korean COUPLES who own RETAIL businesses. I wonder how much are they paying the government to “operate”.

      I’d rather have some laws amended to accommodate interested Korean businessmen than the government bending the law.

      • says

        Katrina: There are investment visas available, along with exemptions based on the amount invested. It is possible that some of the couples started the businesses with excessive capital in the bank.

  12. hudson says

    Hey John,
    I kinda like Brian’s idea of creating a nuisance. How about raising some pigs on Rebecca’s property? Also add a dozen noisy roosters. And because those roosters are afraid of the dark, how about a big CAT generator and some bright lights? After all, it is Rebecca’s property to provide her with a business and livelihood.

    • hudson says

      Wasn’t there an article here last year about Klause I think his name was…Somebody put a fence aroud his property to prevent access to his house

      • says

        Hudson: Correct, and it was a major problem for Klaus… Caused a great deal of stress and he’s still dealing with it. Also note that Klaus lives in Davao… a city. NOT in a rural province. Can happen anywhere in the country.

    • says

      Hudson: We were going to move the pigs up to the fence line, but Rebecca is concerned that the thief would poison them… We have decided to take the high road and do it properly, though Becky’s brothers did decide to use the chainsaw at 0500 a few mornings. Keep in mind that this is a small town… Everyone knows what is going on. Doing it right will see us through in the long term.

  13. says

    I understand your frustration a little bit….just a little bit because I have seen the same thing although I had nothing to do with the land.

    My ex-fiance’s family had rented out a home years and years ago….the father (the owner) moved to America and left his family to tend to the rent and the upkeep of the home. Well the renter just stopped making the rent payments and NOTHING my fiance’s family did could get those people out of the house. It was amazing to see!!! Made me sick.

    They tried everything they could do to get that family to move off that land and nothing worked. Nothing legally worked. Nothing. The people agreed in courts, in every conceivable legal situation and they just ignored everything. They are still on the land and there is NOT one thing my ex-fiance’s family can do. Sickening.

    If I had a wife there I could trust, and there are many that could be trusted, I would not hesitate to buy land there but I would surely do my due diligence and understand what was mentioned earlier….a foreigner will NEVER own that land.

    This is one issue in the Philippines that needs to be dealt with in order for that country to get into the 21st century and improve its economic situation.

    I hope things work out the best for you and your wife.

    • says

      Todd: You mentioned something about trusting your spouse… There are hundreds of expats who get married here and lose everything due to real estate. Marriage is no guarantee of security. Again, you own nothing. It is everyone’s personal decision, but caution and due diligence should be a must, and I certainly wouldn’t advocate real estate transactions before living here a while (NOT merely visiting). But again, people will do what they will. Also, an attorney is no guarantee… Many attorneys here will tell you what you want to hear in order to get the business.

  14. Phil R. says

    Well this is a good article John .. You know what they say “A fool and his money are soon departed ” and they are a bigger fool if they think they can own land in the Philippines .. They can buy all the land they want but they will never own it …Unless they become citizens the the Philippines… Phil R.

    • says

      Phil: Even if they become citizens of the Philippines, land ownership is restricted to those who are native born… so naturalization would not allow land ownership.

      • Katrina says

        I might check on that one again. From what I know it was specific to “citizens”. I will double check on that if it was explicitly written.

      • mimi_dearest says

        The ONLY way a foreigner can own land in the Philippines is to become a naturalized citizen of the Philippines.

        As a rule, it is a BAD IDEA to buy real estate in a country where one is NOT a citizen. The government can always throw you out and like it or not, you can’t take the real estate with you.

        If one looks at the world history of property ownership, one would realize that ownership was (and is still) established by force. I’m sure many here have heard it said “Possession is 99% of the law.”

        A good example of this was when many Spanish citizens in the Philippines lost their properties in the conversion of their land grants from the King of Spain into the American Torrens titles after the Spanish American War of 1898. The Philippines’ colonial past explains a lot of the present-day Filipinos xenophobia and aversion to foreign ownership.

        So I repeat: Only buy property in the country where your property rights are recognized and protected as a citizen under the Law. Do not try to get around the Law. You are a foreigner. You will lose.

  15. says

    Ouch, the kills dude. Our story is very different to yours. We are non-filipino citizens as we have gave that right away oh.. say about 20 years ago? But we have 2 farms there and 1 house property. We knew about how we can’t really buy land there. But you know what? My dad still bought a property for a 4hectare? acre?? for a farm.. anyway the magic number is 4—not sure if it’s hectare or acres…. This makes it a total of 4 different properties all together with one under our names. All the titles are with my name and my siblings name. I don’t know where mine is, and my other sibling don’t know where theirs is too!

    • says

      JC: You can own land as long as you reacquire Filipino citizenship… Up to one hectare. You cannot sell the land until that happens, and if there is a claim by someone else, you may be vulnerable. You might want to check into this,.

          • TWohl says

            Hi John. From what i read on the philippine consulate site about a former filipino reaquiring there citizen ship and becoming a duel citizen, that when the former filipino require’s there citizenship they regain there full citizenship there is no restrictions on land or owning a business, also if you do a search on the law that went into effect in 2003 allowing former filipino’s to regain there citizenship they will have full rights as if they never left. we will be applying for my wife’s U.S. naturalization next month and as soon as she becomes a U.S. citizen we will be applying through the philippine consulate in San Fransisco to reaquire her filipino citizenship, if you check there site it will tell you that when a former filipino regains there citizenship back that they get full rights.

            • says

              My understanding is the same as yours. I believe that a person who has reacquired Philippine citizenship can own land in the same amounts as any other Philippine citizen.

              • says

                Bob: When we were looking into citizenship for Juanito, this issue was brought up by DCFS (and his adoption judge as to the “consequences” of dual citizenship. Because of the circumstances, DCFS believed that we had to consider all possibilities towards his future welfare, including inheritance issues), since Rebecca is nearing her 13 hectare limit under CARP. I would suggest that TWohl check with an attorney if land ownership is a big issue in his case. Because of conflicting information, it could prove to be an expensive mistake.

              • says

                Hi John – I just looked up the text of the law, and it clearly states that a person who has reacquired citizenship has the same land ownership rights that any other citizen has.

      • says

        Well that’s a double whammy for us, the land there is over 1 hectare (if the measure is that)… and I am not looking at a dual citenzhip.. or maybe I should start thinking of that idea…

  16. AlexB says

    Hi John,

    With my sympathies to Rebecca. Sadder to see she bought it with her savings. Going through the same thing, and I’ve had to retain a lawyer. As for the Baranggay Captain, too bad. It’s a crap shoot with them. The law is there but enforcing it is a problem. The action of the President stopping legal eviction of squatters last year is an indication. The senator who created the “Lina Law” giving rights to the informal settlers is another. The “sue me” action is about the only way to go. (I plan to do that soon.)

    Good luck.


    • says

      Alex: She is claiming exemption under the Lina Law, but the court believes that it will not be applicable in this case. The fact that she used her savings from years as an OFW is part of why we aren’t letting this drop. We will win if we have to fight this to the bitter end. I’ve been telling Rebecca that when she talks to people about this in town that she refer to this woman as a “thief”…Really strike hard at Hiya… That is starting to have a bit of an impact. Most people in town are on Becky’s side and the thief is having to defend her actions to her peers, particularly after Rebecca made it commonly known about the free land offer from the Barangay in the first agreement.

      I think that pressure from others in town may be what makes this go away, rather than court.

      • says

        Alex: As an additional side note, part of what is making this difficult is that immediately after she signed the Barangay agreement, she set up a mah jong hut on the land… so she started earning income. We believe that is why she is now making a fuss… The Barangay would not let her do that on Barangay land.

        • Tom Ramberg says

          If that is an illegal gambling outlet then it would be worthwhile to report it to the city police. If she has no business permit then report her to the Mayors office or BIR.

  17. dave bennett says

    Hey John,

    It is noble you are taking the high road; it is better in the long run. What ever you do like a curse or putting the pigs out there just opens you up to counter revenge like poisoning the pigs as you mentioned.

    There are people right now who done me great harm and I always try to keep in mind the downside of starting a war that will just further worsen my situation. It is good for them that I have a more spiritual attitude towards things like that, because I can be very creative in thinking of things to make someone’s life miserable. I have some suggestions for you but you shouldn’t use them anyway based on what I just said, so I won’t reveal them!

    This thing with the Barangay Captains and all is interesting. I am learning more about that. My brother in law just became Captain of a Barangay here in Mandaluyong.

    Here is the thing regarding squatters that I have surmised. There are so many squatters in some places that the candidates for Barangay Captain need their vote and support. They are not interested in improving things, just getting in office so they can fill their pockets. This is why the squatters continue to be there. Can you imagine a candidate running under the platform of “Remove the Squatters”?! The Philippines will never improve unless some how this system changes.
    Informative article for foreigners thinking they will get land here.

    • says

      Dave: That is part of the issue. In our case, the family dynasty in town had their patriarch pass away… There is currently quite a bit of confusion, discord, and power struggles going on, and I think the new captain is just trying to lay low and not get involved in any controversies. The old barangay captain is now the mayor, and Rebecca has his sworn affirmation of events that has been presented to the court, so he HAS been helpful. I still have a nagging suspicion that things are really going to get nasty, though…

  18. says

    Hi John – You just gave me a GREAT idea. “Our” property is all in my wife’s name. All I have to do is be a good boy to live here with her. If I “go” first, no problem. If I become a widower, I’ll just become a SQUATTER on the property – I probably couldn’t live 18 years after my wife goes. Our sons (who can claim dual citizenship) can legally inherit the land, so I could lease from them. Or, form a family partnership or corporation. Who knows?

    One of the things we did do is evict (via the court system) all others from the property, and not one is here anymore.

    Of course, I’ll suffer arthritis resulting from the heavily crossed fingers. 😉

    • says

      Paul: You built your house knowing the rules and accepting the risk… So many people seem to think that they are immune, or that they know how to beat the system… That’s when they lose everything.

  19. Tom Martin says

    I agree with you. One bad experience I was on a lease. In the end the court ruled that a filipino citizen has the right to terminate a least at anytime if he or she can prove they have a more valuable use for the land. The twenty year lease on the land was worthless after only two years and I had made some slight improvements. You are right there are those expats that regardless of how many times and many ways you try to warn them they will not listen. They gernerally will say I have found a lawyer that knows how to get around the law. The 1987 Constituion says that if you do anything in order to get around the law then your actions are illegal and void.

    I am glad you posted what you did. I hope you do not get the same attack I did from a Davao journalist that discovered my blog and accused me of thinking I was better than Filipinos. He accused me of being a liar and a coward for using a blog to express my opinions and hiding behind a blog. As if local newspapers were going to print stories for me.

    I hope things eventually work out in your favor and from what you say since the land is in your wifes name I think you will be successful in the end.

    • says


      That’s one reason that I would obtain legal review before leasing… As to being attacked:

      On this land, I am not on the title. I don’t claim any ownership. It is Filipino vs. Filipino. I am an interested observer in that I don’t like to see my wife upset and some dirtball taking advantage of her. I won’t keep my mouth shut while watching someone steal from her and ultimately, my native-born Filipino son. I am not suggesting that laws be changed… Quite the contrary, I’ve stated several times in the comments that foreign investment is no panacea.

      In fact, I’ve shown restraint in resisting the temptation in not mentioning the thief’s name in a public forum, being conscious of the libel and slander laws here, and obeying them.

      If some “journalist” has a problem with that, as far as I’m concerned, “F” him!

      • Holger says

        Hi, John.
        I hope you doing that! The time we figured out, that my brother in-law owned somehow all the properties, it was not easy for Audrey. She couldn’t believe it first. ( I figured it, I guess, now out after Roselyn’s post with the tax receipts – doesn’t matter the relatives sending my brother in-law the money to pay “there tax fee” for there property – so long all the receipts are in his name, he is after a while the owner??! (What a grab!! and WOW!) )
        A other point is always for me the fricken Brezel that some Filipinos call there brain…
        Example: Calling a cap in Manila to get to the airport. After arriving my Audrey gives the driver for a 200 peso fair a 500 peso bill. The driver let the bill fall under his seat and argued with us it is was a 200 peso bill. Calling Audrey an “Americano-bitch”. OK. Right beside us is a Policeman. Telling him the story, the Policeman did not even ask the driver to get out the cap to look under the driver seat. After the cap driver and the Policeman hat a small talk, he said:”That’s my cousin! What you like that I am doing? Get in the airport and catch your flight, stupid Americano!” Audrey pulled me away – but not before I am told him that I am a German – “you moron!” :-)

        An other think is with the laws all over the world. What you, John and I read black on white – is for lawyers and courts always something different. Sometimes I thing – they take the letters – figure out new words – like in that famous game I forgot the name – so it makes a total other sense. And I can tell you – that makes me crazy! After a while – you thinking that you are the moron…. And they look at you and smile….

        Think about it – get a cold beer – and enjoy your family. The world is not made for easy things. In my life – if something is going to easy – something is wrong!

        Best regads

        • says

          Holger: That is why before the arbitration is filed, Rebecca is doing some research into who is related to the thief and if any of her relatives have any pull in the court.

  20. Tom Martin says

    Oh yea, I was accused of saying the laws of the Philippines were stupid. I referred to only one law in the Philippines that I thought was stupid.

  21. Dwayne says

    Cowboy justice is always an option. It certainly exists in many countries I have visited in South America. Seems to work.

  22. preben says

    Hello John.
    I am married to a wonderful philippina for 33 years, living in Denmark, so I have a very good idea of how life in the RP is. When I read your article I cannot help smiling, nothing is new under the sun, but I hope for you that this case will solve quickly.
    Can`t help thinking, what happens if this “thief” dies? will her family “inherit” her “right” to live on your land, and if so does that start a hole new case?

  23. Gordon B says

    Ever thought of just staying in the US or wherever you come from guys? Saves on flights too! And at least when you wear out your heavenly boots, Mrs. You can inherit and live happily ever after!


  24. says

    Hi John,
    My question is about the “equivalent piece of barangay land less than 100 meters away.” When this is said and done and the thief is evicted from Rebecca’s property, will she still get this piece of property that was offered to her? or will she really be on the street?

    If she is left without the property, she will regret not taking the offer of the other land in a few years.

    • says

      Jake: The mayor (ex-barangay captain) is not very happy with the thief right now… She basically thumbed her nose at his authority while he was in the office. Personally, I don’t care where she goes.

  25. John says

    Just spoke to a friend of mine with the same issue in Marikina, he went to Meralco and after many meetings they finally cut the electric.

    I would buy one of those cell phone things that block the signal, a Filipino without a cell phone imgaine the chaos.

    Other thoughts:
    -Build a public Out House and supply free toilet paper
    -Daily garbage burn at meal times and laundry days
    -build a 10 foot wall, rainy season is coming
    -flood lights
    -beer garden buy one take one open from 11pm
    -pick up one of those street urinals from MNL
    -Apiary-honey farming
    -Black rose garden
    -ants love sugar

    • says

      John: The Meralco idea is fantastic! Rebecca is calling our attorney and having him draw up a demand letter to Cagelco that she doesn’t want any of their lines on her property. Same thing with the cable TV…. Let’s see her run her Mah Jong games in the dark. Thank you!

  26. Holger says

    Hi guys.
    As for me it was not new, that foreigners can’t own land. A co-worker of mine was married to a really young, gooood looking Filipina. 2 years before he got retired, they start building a big house in the Philippines. Every time I met him, he told me how wonderful it will be if he moves there….. 2 month after he moved with his “pretty Woman” to the Philippines, he phoned our office, if he can get back his truck. The little, pretty, very young lady kicked him out, after the house was finished! With 68 years, he started all over again.

    But wait… I hat a nice house in Germany. It was my own house. Coming from a poor family, I dreamed always from my own house. In Germany, it is not so often that people own a house. If I remember that right, only 20% own a house. The most are renting. So with 26 years I bought a lot. 1 1/2 years later, I started building my house by my self. From the foundation up to the roof. All alone by myself. I carried a lot of stones I can tell you. (besides my 12 hour shift in the factory) After finishing the house – something was missing. A family. So I did fall in love with a single mom of 3 kids.
    And as nice stories always going on, my son was on his way. I am old style, also that I am not so old – things must be right – get married the woman who is caring your Baby….
    Hey and Germany is a western country with laws and so on…. So what shut go wrong….?
    Honestly? Everything! After 9 years really good marriage, my wife changed – in the really wrong way. This and that is not good enough anymore. Bad mouthing against me by neighbors. I was listening to this for 3 more years. After everything was failing, I gave a lawyer a visit. Divorce!!! But. We live in a modern world. So what shut go wrong?
    Yeahhh I know…

    My beloved girlfriend moved with plastic bags 12 years ago into “my” house. After 12 years – I hat to move out – court order! “We can’t kick her out the house – a mother of 4 kids – so the government has to pay for her bills. So it is easier for me as a judge to sent you out, sir!”
    Ohhh yeaahhh! I loved that! Long story – short end. Divorce, hat to sell the house, because the judge and my ex’s lawyer did believe I pressed my fiancée 12 years ago to sign an agreement, before we got married, that mine is mine and her’s is her’s (what was nothing…), also it was signed at the very same court 12 years ago….

    So. That’s why I thought over 5 years ago F* Germany – let’s have some adventures in Canada.
    With nothing at all, only my clothes in my old Army bag, I arrived on the 30th of November 2005 in Canada. A work permit in my pocket and the excitement of a kid. And hey. After 6 weeks here in Canada I met Audrey…. January last year we moved in our brand new home…

    You never know what’s coming next around the corner in your live – that’s for sure.

    So you see. Not alone in the Philippines is something wrong in the courts. I learned it the hard way in Germany.

    Best regards

    • says

      Holger: Non-scientific, but most of the expats that come here to get married are divorced… Rebecca is my third go-round, so read no criticism in that statement. Point being that starting over again at any age is tough. Once you add real estate into the mix, it adds problems. There is no such thing in life as a certainty.

  27. DAVID says


    • sugar says

      David… you’re married to a Filipino. Wonder why you married one. Hmm. Third word country? Every corner has Mc Donalds and 7 -11 and Starbucks. People speak English. Even the balut vendor has a cell phone. The country can also be like develop Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia and others.

      • Bryan G says

        Sugar,the chances of the Philippines developing like Singapore or Malaysia are remote to say the least – having McDonalds and Starbucks does not take the country out of third world status – a government that could do something about the graft and corruption might.

        • says

          Bryan: Both Singapore and Malaysia have nowhere near the same population. Add in the fact that Malaysia nearly bankrupted itself on vanity infrastructure projects using Saudi money and the corruption is very strong there too… Yes, it may look “modern”, but, take it from someone who works there frequently, there are deep issues just beneath that facade. Not least of which, the country is always teetering on the brink of a race war.

          • Bryan G says

            Hi John,
            I too have spent a great deal of time in Malaysia – going back to colonial times in 1953 and understand exactly what you are saying but it is still a functioning semi industrialised country . As you say it is always on the verge of racial conflict – hatred of the Chinese minority in particular is not concealed.The Bumiputra laws are a disgrace – can you imagine the furore in the U.N. if a western country dared to introduce anything like that. In spite of all the faults the people of Malaysia enjoy a higher standard of living than in the Philippines and the corruption is not really on the same level .I have found Malaysians that I have worked with a much more self confident people – being able to tell the truth rather than what you would like to hear. What I really wanted to reply to Sugar was that having Starbucks and McDonalds has little relevance to the status of the country.As far as Singapore is concerned it was created by an exceptional politician – when I arrived in Singapore as a 7 year old he was jailed as a communist agitator! Would that the Philippines could be governed by such a man.

      • Jeff Carlson says

        I travel to the Phils. almost every year and 6 times now. I am from cold Minnesota USA so love the warm weather. I hope to go there 3 months a year when I retire. My wife is Filipina and we have had very little problems in our 12 year marriage. Her family is great and when I visit the people always are nice to me. However I could not imagine living there full time. People are jumping on rafts to come to the USA and upgrade their life. My wife does not want to live there full time and same with her friends. For me the pollution and not enough activities to pursue. More to do in the main city but pollution will shorten your life.

    • says

      David: There is no problem with buying or financing real estate here as long as you are prepared to accept the fact that you will never own it. If you can take the risk, then great.

  28. sugar says

    Hi John- I wanted to make a useful comment like the others but don’t know much about stuff. I do know many squatters live on lands they don’t really own. Some are hard headed and won’t leave and will fight knowing the poor sector will be on their side. I guess. Relax. Your wife has papers and pays taxes then she has good case. The land is her name (or family) anyway.

      • says

        Sugar: The reality is that the real estate rules here favor the poor. There is historical precedent. The murky titles are what makes it difficult even for Filipinos, much less foreigners. Even with the documentation that we have, successful court fight is by no means a sure thing. We are having to balance the expense (That we know will never be reimbursed, even if we win. Realistically, how do you collect?) versus the risk.

    • says

      Doug: Though tempting, everyone in the town is related, if distantly, and Rebecca’s family still lives there. As with most things, it is best to handle this above the board and legally.

  29. Fred says

    I have been trying to talk my wife out of wanting to buy a house for almost 6years. I lost!!! At age 71 plus, I have no desire to own a house. In my many years, I have had 3 houses never one that I wanted, always Mama wanted!!

    There are 2 sayings, which I think are in order:

    If Mama is not happy, no one is happy!!!

    You do not own a house, it owns you!!!

    I do not know if the Philippines has moved into the 19th century, as far as estate planning is concerned.
    I would have her set up a funded self-directed Living Trust, put everything in to the trust under the trusts name. A trust allows great flexibility, no one knows about it, until the person who set it up dies. then a bank takes over. When the TERMITES come out of the wall,and believe me they will when property and money are involved. the bank’s lawyers walk into court, hand the judge a copy of the TRUST, the judge will read it over, then dismisses the for lack of jurisdiction.

      • Fred says

        Not necessarily, Mama being the one, who normally occupies the space next to us males in the BED. If she is not HAPPY!!, where will you be SLEEPING on the COUCH in the living room, or FLOOR or BATH TUB!! Then listening to her make talk-talk, day after day, rewinding and rewinding!!!

        We males seem to need a companion!!

    • says

      Fred: I believe most expats buy here because of spouse pressure / desire more than any other reason. Historically, land was the one area of assets that you couldn’t lose. It represents security.

      In a way, I am fortunate that this dispute has really cooled Rebecca on the idea of buying a house. If we ever buy here, it would be in an Ayala or other large subdivision, where the title and rights are basically clear (And any challenges would be fought by the developer).

  30. Dan says

    John..maybe some kind of trust fund or some kind of life insurance or some other kind of investment other than owning a house or land, for the man to get who is married to a Fillipina and forget the awfull mess, so it seems of trying to own land there in the Phillipines….

    • JohnM says

      Dan: We go the insurance route ourselves, but I am forbidden to discuss it by Rebecca… Talking about it means you want it to happen… Sheesh! Sometimes you can’t win for trying!

      • Fred says

        Well if you own life insurance, the side of the bet you are on, is that you will die before the actuarial tables say you will. If you do then you win!! If not then the insurance company wins. The insurance company premiums for insurance are based on actuarial tables. They take your premiums pool them to together and buy stocks, bonds, land, shopping malls, office buildings. They only need to keep 4 to 5% in cash to payoff death benefits!!

        • Fred says

          It gets even better!! Let us say your wife is the owner of a whole life policy on you, the insurance company is charging you X amount of Pesos/Dollars per month in Premiums. The Insurance Company takes the first months Premium, and buys a a 1 Year Term Policy for about 90% less than they are charging in Premiums. Puts that 90% in their pocket and invests it, as out lined above. How are they able to do this, when your wife buys insurance on your life, the insurance company now has an insurable interest in your life!!!

  31. Gary says

    I could tell some interesting (scary) stories regarding land disputes here in Gensan and in Luzon but, I’ll refrain because they are ongoing battles, and I don’t have permission from any of the parties involved. However, in all these cases, they are Filipino against Filipino. So like you said, what chance does a foreigner have? Especially since the law regarding no foreign ownership is clear to begin with.

    By the way, in all the cases that I am alluding to, one party seems completely in the right regarding title, bill of sale, etc, while the other party’s claim seems completely baseless. Yet the seemingly baseless party is able to drag things out in ways that completely baffle my mind.

    I recommend foreigners NEVER buy or improve property here unless they are financially and emotionally willing to lose their entire investment.

    • JohnM says

      Gary: Sound advice, IMO. And, you are completely right… I believe many of the disputes are completely baseless. There is a reason that the court case I cited took so long.

  32. John H says

    I was just reading the article article recommended by Hudson above on the reason for world poverty. Undefined property rights keeps a country poor. Seems to have a lot of truth in it.

    I had never heard that a foreigner couldn’t lease without worrying about it being annulled wow that’s a new one. The one about not being able to own land unless you were born here though hat really takes it. I had debated about becoming a citizen someday but apparently their inst any benefit to it. I fully understand why they wouldn’t want foreigners to own much of their land especially agricultural land but not even citizens? That is over the top.

    Then I read about whoever pays the taxes owns it. wow another duzy. I told my wife to make sure she pays the taxes herself from now on and on time to check for other problems.

    • JohnM says

      John: The land laws are complex and they are really quirky. That is why myself and the other writers on this site repeat it over and over again not to even consider real estate until, at the minimum, you have been here a few years. It never makes an impression, though….

  33. Gary Wigle says

    My father in law offered to GIVE Meriam and I some land he owns in Bukidnon. I have yet to even look at it. It would be me that would build the house. Then I would have to buy a car. The dollars would just keep adding up and I am 65 years old. Not sure that 2 + 2 = 4 in this case.

    Good luck John. Thanks for the insight.


    • Roselyn says

      Gary: Proceed with great caution on this offer. This happened to a relative of mine (who was an overseas worker). His wife placed great pressure on him to build a house and they started a goat farm. Well, his father-in-law started bossing them around. They had a falling out with them. They got kicked out of the land and the courts ruled that his father-in-law owns the property and the house in it. That was that. Don’t lose your shirt.

      If you feel that you must accept the offer because of your wife, have your father-in-law sell it to her legally. Complete the process with a “deed of sale”. Go through an attorney on the transaction process. Get your clear title through the “Register of Deeds”. Best wishes to you.

      • says

        Roselyn: Good advice…. When it comes to relationships, no matter how strong, things can unravel very, very quickly. (As I’ve mentioned above, I have 2 ex wives… I know)

    • says

      Gary: As long as you accept the risk… Also… just be aware that despite what you may read online about improvements being separate from the land, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that improvements to the land become part of the land.

  34. Clay says

    I’ve thought about this very subject many times over the years and I have heard and read about more land ownership schemes than there are islands in the philippines. I came to the conclusion years ago that it doesn’t matter whose name is on the deed. Like any other place in the world marriage is a 50/50 gamble and if it ends in divorce/seperation then chances are that you will have to give half if not more of your possesions to the wife anyway, so why should things be any differant in the philippines. Besides, if there are children involved I would feel better knowing that they had a decent place to live while their custody was decided in the courts, and being a foriegn father I’m sure the court proceedings would/could drag on for years. At the first signs of trouble it would be better to isolate any cash and or valuables in such a way that the wife/girlfriend couldn’t get her hands on them and then just forget about any real property the two of you may own, let her have and be done with it.
    As for men who build/buy homes for a foriegn girlfriend, that is one of the most idiotic things anyone could ever do…………… ha ha thats what happens when you let the little head do all of the thinking for the big head. Better to rent and live together and see if the relationship flourish’s into something more permenant, girls come and girls go, no use throwing your life savings at one after only the second date or the first BJ , but this will never change as long as there are horny, lonely, love sick men standing in line to be taken to the cleaners by the first pretty face that shows a little interest. I guess the same holds true for schemes and dreams, As long as there are hot young girls and desperate men there will be a never ending line of blind, hard headed schemers………………

    • Gary says

      Sage advice. I think a major point of the article however is that property ownership here is risky period. A possible exception, as John points out, is buying directly from one of the major developers.

      Most of the disputes are between Filipinos. They can be costly and can drag on for a very long time. Even after holding title and paying taxes for decades a dispute can be raised. Could be filed by a relative, previous owner or relative, owner or relative before that, a current or previous tenant, squatter, ancestral land claim, or who knows who. If the land is particularly valuable, the person filing the claim may be a front for someone who ultimately wants to grab the property.

  35. Scott says

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the great story of even a local citzens problem of owning property in the islands.

    I am sorry for the stress that you & your wife are going though! What a nightmare!

    I was going to buy a resort or land & build in Palawan, but after many months of seeing too many peoples problems of owning property in the Philippines i have decided to just rent & not buy. I not going to make any large capital investments in the Philippines unless i am willing to lose those assets.

    After researching how cheap it is to rent why would anyone ever want to buy. To me it makes no financial sense to buy when you can rent for 1 10th the cost of the mortgage if you bought.

    I guess i could understand if you were buying to create a stable place for your wife & kids, with no benefit for you other than peace of mind.

    I know this is no comfort to you or your wife but there will be one less expat that will be lured into buying property in the Philippines with out drastic changes to their Real Estate laws.

    Thank you so much for posting your horror story. You have saved me thousands of $ & many sleepless nights!

    • Mars Z. says

      Hi Scott, better yet, I know a guy (American) who stays in the resort in Cebu full-time. He said his monthly bill is cheaper than the monthly mortgage when he was in the US. He said it is convenient: food readily available, room service daily, swimming pool and other hotel/resort conveniences, if he has to go to other places he does not worry about his room-he can go anytime, laundry is free, towels, etc., The owner gives him a break on the rate.

      • says

        Mars: When I lived in Abu Dhabi, it was at the height of the real estate boom there… Monthly rents were utterly ridiculous (I had a 40 sq. meter flat… $3,300 per month rent).

        The first six months that I lived there, I lived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, paying only $4,500… Little more, but with room service, maid service, and laundry service. It can be more economical. I learned that you must talk directly to the hotel sales manager, rather than online or telephone, to work a deal over and above the discount rates. They normally want to negotiate, since it ensures occupancy for a set period of time. You are 100% correct that it IS an option that expats should research.

        • says

          Also, as an afterthought… My rent on an “average” flat in Orange County was $2,000 per month… For far less than that kind of money, you could live in a posh resort, indeed, in the Philippines.

          • Mars Z. says

            A very good option, this guy negotiate yearly, so also all the workers knows him and still able to connect with the locals—what he like most: no maintenance and not have to worry about landscaping-no maid or driver to worry about!

            • Roselyn says

              Pension houses are another option. They are reasonably priced without the frills. Accomodations are like Motel 6 or Motel 8 here in the U.S. They have maid service, laundry service, cable tv, air-conditioning, hot water (optional), telephone, meals taken to your room, and the lobby has internet and food vending machines. Some have mini stores.

    • says

      Scott: Glad you found it helpful. Interesting note that many, many resorts here are built on leased land…I’m talking big hotels. It is not unusual by any means. If the company is drawn up properly and the lease properly executed and reviewed, it is possible.

      As to renting, I prefer it… We are in no rush to buy a house.

      • Scott says

        Hi John, Thanks for that, amazing big resorts are willing to invest in a project on leased land. I have alot to learn doing business in the islands. I am still going to be renting, do not need the problems you have buying land in the islands, & then building. You & Bob M. are wright about renting, the intelligent choice for ones housing needs. Thanks Scott

        • says

          Scott: Even in the United States. Back in the day, I was the chef at the Executive Plaza hotel in Chicago… It was built on leased land, right in the middle of downtown.

  36. Mike says

    Imagine if lightning were to strike that piece of land and a fire would ensue….That squatter would have to vacate..Wouldn’t she?

    • Roselyn says

      Mike: My family had to deal with squatters on my late mother’s land. The Bureau of Investigations will look on the legal land owners first as culprits. Torching houses is the most common strategy to remove squatters. However, this is not the way to go as people could die. People are still people. We have been able to remove squatters on legal means. However, it takes a great deal of money and time. The solution is not to let the squatters in. We have employees on the land to patrol the area. My brother (part-time resident of the Philippines) also have a residence in the place and checks on the status of the property periodically. We are holding our parent’s property as this is home for us. It is of great sentimental value. This may be a retirement home for one of us (permanently) as living in the U.S. is increasingly becoming very expensive for retirees. So, again think very carefully before purchasing a residence for your family in the Philippines.

      • says

        Roselyn: To add to your comment, one of the biggest “opportunities” for squatting here is from OFWs buying houses. One of Rebecca’s flatmates from Abu Dhabi build a house in Pampanga, asked a brother in law to look after it, and can’t get him out now.

        • Roselyn says

          Hi John: That’s a double ouch. That’s hard earned money. We have the employees on written contract, we have a lawyer (a firm in town-has direct connections with the Register of Deeds) that oversees the properties as well, one Kagawad (my father’s niece), and the Bureau of Investigations Inspector (a relative) to look over the properties periodically. It takes a great deal of vigilance to maintain a property in the Philippines. It takes a tribe to watch each other. Like Rebecca, our parents’ properties are kept for sentimental value. For what I’ve spent on retaining my parents’ properties, I might have been able to get a small house in a gated community. However, I would never purchase one without checking its title or occupy it immediately.

        • Holger says

          Hi, John.
          I hat to smile now. Audrey’s uncle in San Diego has also still property in the Philippines. After he got the story, that my brother in-law’s name is on all of the “families” properties he asked us if we would like to have his property for free. “Why is that?” (watch out for creeks they offer presents!) “Oh I don’t like it anymore. I am so sad if I thing about it.”

          Than he told me the story when he and his wife (Audrey’s mother’s sister) got some money in the beginning of there years in the USA. With hart work double shift, two job’s…. And they went back home. He talked to his brother. Bought all the materials for a house after they got a plan. Ordered everybody to watch over the project and paid his brother also some money. Back to San Diego. After a year back home. “Where the hack is my house?”, he asked the neighbors. “What house?” “The house I bought the materials last year and my brother shut watch over the project…” Mhmmmm…. the neighbors were thinking. “Ohhh! Go to that place. There is your brother in “his new house”. Maybe he can help you?” So Audrey’s auntie and uncle ended up with “a little toilette house” as he always says and his brother in a Villa…..

          He still keeps me backing to take the present…. Will see. Maybe Audrey takes it…. Only that her auntie and uncle are happy. (There own kids never liked the Philippines..) BTW: Wonder oh wonder. His name is still on the lot. He triple checked it with a lawyer. After 40 years. So his sister is still paying the taxes on his name…


  37. sugar says

    Hi John – or anybody else who can answer.. because I’m just curious (sorry for the ignoramus question), if it’s the other way around, can a foreigner own a land in the US?

    • Bryan G says

      I do not know about the US but in the United Kingdom as far as I can tell the only requirement is money to pay for it.I do not believe that you even have to live in the UK. A non resident would not get a mortgage that is about the only restriction and even that is not a legal problem ,it is just a business requirement. Filipina nurses and their families who came to Scotland in the last few years are buying their own homes – that is without being citizens but with resident status. Our laws would not allow any kind of discrimination on the grounds of nationality.

    • Gary says

      The US too, and I don’t think residency would necessarily be a requirement for a mortgage since the property could be collateral. But mortgages in general are tougher to get right now after the real estate meltdown.

      Land ownership does not qualify you for a visa however.

      • sugar says

        Thanks all who answered the question. I figured that US being a first world, and melting pot of so many different nationalities, that there would be restrictions as to owning land. I guess not. Meanwhile, here in in this developing nation, we restrict those foreigners with money, who wants to buy land. I’m thinking it must be because if foreigners are allowed to buy land, there would be more who would own lands..instead of Filipinos.

    • Roselyn says

      Hi Sugar: I believe that there are territories of the United States that have similar laws to the Philippines. I had a professor who lived in American Samoa who mentioned that foreigners cannot purchase land or a home (with land) other than native Samoans. I have to research this subject. Good question to ask.

  38. Scott says

    Hi Sugar,

    The only bad question is the one that is not asked. I have been in Real Estate in the U.S. for many years. There is no requirement for residing or being a U.S. citizen to own property in the U.S. You will need 25-30 % down payment if you are getting a mortgage, being a person from another country. This is the only difference that i know of that is different than if you were a U.S. citizen. I hope this helps.

      • Mars Z. says

        Currently, still requiring 20%+ down payment, and the banks are not enthused about lending right now even though we lend them billions for bail out money.

        I’m in Savannah GA right now on my other house (paid for), tried to sell it last year but no lookers. Will head up north to Va. in a couple of days. Lots of houses for sell right now just looking any body with money–even foreigners.

        • Roselyn says

          Hi Mars: The problem of houses not selling is everywhere. We have a new faculty member who cannot sell her house in Tennessee. She is paying double mortgage payment. To get her present house loan, she had to get a letter from the University, stating how many years they plan to keep her. In addition, her salary earnings had to be verified. I believe that her loan is conventional (most likely 20% down payment.) Investors are not in a rush to buy, as home values are still tumbling. You could go underwater. Sorry about your house. I know of retirees here in the U.S. who want to return to the Philippines, but are holding out for the sale of their present homes.

          • Mars Z. says

            Hi Roselyn, well, my Savannah house is really not hurting us ’cause its paid for–just insurance, maintenance and minimal utilities, plus it’s good retreat when it gets to cold i Virginia. But guess what, it is also in the 30s here, supposed to get up to 4os later.

            The paperwork requirement for buying has increased fourfold. About 14 months ago, my newly grad daughter in Tennessee was trying to buy a townhouse with us as co-signer and the Realtor buyer was so frustrated at the requirements of the banks. We almost did not met the deadline of getting the $8000.00 tax refund. The way the bank asked for documentation from us is as if we are the ones buying .

            • Roselyn says

              Hi Mars: That explains why houses aren’t moving. Your daughter is lucky that you are willing to co-sign. Most parents would not. Best of luck to selling your house.

              • Mars Z. says

                Thanks Roselyn, well the property is also a victim of a slow market therefore was discounted. with an FHA loan with a 2.5% down payment, her monthly is less than the apartment we had been renting during her senior year, and rented the other room to her classmate/co-volleyball player so made her monthly very affordable for a newly grad teacher.

  39. Dan says

    Sugar..Yep..If you got the money you can own all the land you want…Lots of foreigners own land and business in the USA. Now you might run into a few road blocks if you wanted to take out a mortage being a foreigner..but if you got a pot full of cash…then you can be a land owner in the USA..

    • says

      Dan: Not picking on you, mainly placing this here because I thought it an important point, but if you think about it from a perspective of history, the US has always had lots of good arable land. The Philippines has 1/3 of the population, but only 1/20th of the same available area. Add in the historic restrictions of Filipinos being able to own their own land, and it isn’t hard to figure out why the law is what it is.

      • Dan says

        John..My post about buying land in the USA was not really directed at any of the Fillipino people per say. I was just saying that any foreigner if they have the cash can buy land in the USA…and yes I understand why things are the way they are in the Phillipines, and yes I understand that there are near 100 million people in the Phillipines and over 300 million people or more in the USA…..and lots less land there in the Phillipines for the people there. My self I do not think the USA should alow foreigners to buy land in the USA….that is just my personal opinion and has nothing to do with the Phillipines.

  40. Bryan G says

    As far as lending goes the banks in the UK are in the same position -loans hard to come by.I am buying property to let at the moment and prices in Scotland are definitely falling – it is possible to bargain down while in recent times it was a sellers market. Property prices in this country went crazy and large profits could be made as a result investment money was sucked in and no investment was made in industry etc.,now property prices have crashed there is no investment money available which has had a terrible effect on the British economy.
    On a brighter note we will be back in Manila on 31st of January – we have had the worst winter for over 100 years- there is still snow in my back garden. To be back in the sun and relax is a pleasure that those from warmer climes do not appreciate.Have tickets to Davao already arranged and hope to meet Mindanao Bob for the first time.

    • Holger says

      Hi, Bryan.
      Nice that you have “still” snow in your back garden. Hehehe. We got this week 37 cm on one day. Also a new record.
      Credits or loans are still easy to get in Canada if you have a good job. The last 4 years I hat a lot of trouble with my sweetheart because of “getting a house”. You guys know all how a Filipina could get “ugly” if all of her friends are racing in the housing market but I was still siting there and did – nothing. (Ok. Working my A** of on the road and listening to all the complains my Audrey hat after 3 weeks on the road…) :-)

      “Everybody of my friends has now a house! Grrrrrr But YOOUUUUU don’t like to buy….RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!! * I guess you know how that sounds :-)

      2009 in April. Back from the road I found a advertising in the newspaper I couldn’t believe first. I waited until the show homes opened at noon in an area we never were looking for because of the “high price level” in this area. Nothing else to do. Audrey working, the little one ,14, at school. Found it. Looked around. Asked again how much. Same price as in the newspaper. Signed a cheque. Picked up Audrey after her work to drove back to the show homes. “Thats not the way home. What are you doing….?” Arrived. Got in the show homes. Sales-manager got the papers ready. We signed. And Audrey?? “OMG! I can’t believe that right now! I never thought in my live we get one. Now we get a brand new one. Nobody of my friends has a new one……” Yeahhh! Filipinas. Always have to show off…. *shaking head

      *we saved around 200,000. before we moved in we got already 80,000 on winnings. so sitting it out is a good thing to do. we got this deal, because nobody was selling/buying anything there the last 6 month. after may 2009 – all lots were gone… Lucky me. Still alive after all this fights, endless weekends and happy to get back on the road for couple weeks at this time. But still. If she like to have something – and I am sitting there and do ->nothing!<-
      "I get crazy! What are you for a husband…….?" And I am sitting there – and smile…. :-)

  41. Holger says

    Ohhh forgot. In Canada as a foreigner you can buy a property. Also 20% down – but there gives a size restriction. ( If I remember that right only up to 200 acres I think.)


    • ian says

      There are almost no restrictions in Canada as to foreign land ownership.
      . In Alberta there are some exceptions, these being land outside a municipality, agricultural land and controlled land. The amount of land that a non-resident can purchase in Alberta is limited to 20 acres in most cases.

  42. Leah Lynn Geanga says

    hi john it´s a lesson you give to everybody,, TO ALL FOREIGN HUSBANDS the first thing you consider in buying a property is checking the authenticity of the land title at the bureu of Land,and every transactions made should have written aggreement signed by the buyer and the owner.After paying the property make sure you have deed of sale on hand. And process your own title right away. In your case as a foreign husband, it should be named to your filipina spouse.Even it´s on her named the ownership is conjugal as it appears on the title that she is married to you.She is not allowed to sell any property if the property is acquired on and after the date of ur marriaged.As a foreign husband you have 50% right/ ownership.This was the issue i aslo tackled to my danish husband to avoid conflict , me and my husband has a written agreement too , in such unavoidable circumstances like divorced, or returning to his homecountry or maybe replacing me to a sexier ,boobsy and younger one…Don´t be fooled even by ur wife..transparency is needed..(on paper)

    • says

      Leah: In this case, the title was authenticated and supposedly unencumbered. In any event, it is virtually impossible to reliably check from overseas (note to OFWs). A big part of our expenses were from sorting out conflicting information that was given to us.

      As to 50%, yeah, I could be on the title. Yeah, technically I would be entitled to a monetary share. However, I would remind you that collecting such is an entirely different matter. With the lack of divorce here, should anything happen between Rebecca and myself, I fully expect to receive nothing, and went into getting married with that thought. Any foreigner thinking otherwise is truly deluding themselves.

      Also, should she pre-decease me, I really don’t “own” anything. I am sort of a long term tennant.

  43. Leah Lynn Geanga says

    That´s the irony JOhn,but hope ur wife is not a greedy type like few people I knew. Now the court system in my beloved Philippines is also a pain in the ass to add. It´s gonna be a long and thorny battle. My grannies are fighting for a piece of land for 25years now and nothing is moving except the bills for their attorneys.Remember justice in PI is what we called “usad pagong” (move like a turtle).Hope everything will turn favor on you and rebecca..

  44. Scott says

    Hi John, This is off subject due to i do not have a way of contacting you. I know you travel alot, so i was wondering as a first timer, if i stay past the 59 day stay on a tourist visa do i need a return ticket. I was thinking i just wanted to buy 1 way in case i wanted to stay 5-6 months. I don’t want to buy a ticket back if i don’t know when i will return. Thanks Scott

    • says

      Scott: The best thing to do is to buy your 1 way ticket to the RP, and then buy a “disposable” one way ticket on Cebu Pacific or Tiger Airways to HKG or SIN. Buy the absolute cheapest anywhere outside of the RP that you can find online. I’ve seen the Tiger tickets as low as 25$. If you don’t do that, you risk the airline refusing you boarding unless you buy a much more expensive ticket out of the country on the spot (I used to run into this frequently with business travel… And often forgot about it, so am very familiar with the rules.)

      • Scott says

        Hi John, Thank you for that, can i book travel on Tiger airlines online though travelocity? Where do you fly for $25.00 i understand i will not use this ticket. Thought i would ask so i would know where to book to. Thanks for saving me more money, i owe you dinner when i get to Manila. Do you use money changers in Manila? Do you know a honest good one? Thanks again Peace Scott,

        • says

          Scott: Normally, Tiger to SIN. I know you need to book them on their site. You should also check Jetstar to SIN… Those tix are normally very cheap as throwaways.

          • Scott says

            Hi John, Thanks again for saving me money. You are better than any financial consultant! The real Estate advise you have given me is very valuable to me, & i will always feel that i owe you one. I would like to take you & your family out to dinner when i am in Manila as i know that is where you live. I assume sin stands for Singapore. Thanks again John Peace

  45. rebecca Ferry says

    I kept wondering why most of the foreign husband who married to filipinas keep worrying about property ownership in the Philipppines, (pls. don’t get me wrong, i’m not a fan of our legal system as well) but if divorce happened and you have kids i think the foreign husband need not to worry too much coz the property will probably go to your kids ( your biological kids )and as a father i don’t think your children will abandoned you so i think you still have the right to your properties, after all when the right time comes ,aren’t you going to give it to your children as an inheritance?I may be wrong but what can i say?

    • JohnM says

      Rebecca: Though I doubt many will read my answer to you, and quite a few may get angry, but it’s the truth. Many, many of the expats that move here skew to the older age in demographics. The most likely have kids (heirs) from previous marriages and have been divorced one or more times. They then marry a Filipina, much younger, with few resources of her own, most likely by meeting her on the Internet. So, they are trying to protect their “investment”. That is part of the problem… If you are buying something in which to live, then OK, you need a place to live. Many people, after being drilled into their heads for decades that real estate is an investment, refuse to let that idea go. There is also quite a bit of that “American dream” of home ownership.

      When I married Rebecca here, I went into it with the full expectation and realization that if something were to happen to our relationship, I would leave the Philippines losing everything “invested” here. Now that we have Juanito, he inherits, either from myself, Rebecca, or both. It is also easier since Rebecca was not previously married, so there is no-one to come out of the woodwork if she dies first. It is not just the land laws here, but the inheritance laws that make land ownership extremely complicated.

      Personally, Rebecca and I may someday buy a house. We may lease land. But keep in mind that I have lived here for a while, am learning how things are, and am keeping the realities in perspective.

      So many of the expats I see here fall in love online, rush into marriage and buying houses and so on, and end up losing everything. There are also an abundance of self-appointed “experts” out there spreading a lot of disinformation and, quite frankly, outright lies.

      • JohnM says

        Rebecca: After reading my answer, some clarification… Dave Starr wrote a while back about inheritance and how much a will impacts who inherits what. These guys marrying young women often don’t realize that her brothers and families can legitimately claim inheritance rights on her property… Not just direct Filipino descendants.

        Furthermore, realistically, though a foreigner may have some rights collecting in a tort, land, or inheritance dispute, winning in court on the moral or legal ground and actually collecting any money are two entirely different things. As I wrote in the article above, even if we “win” damages from the thief, in reality, what is the likelihood of actually collecting any money from her? Practically zero. So many people in this country live “off the grid”, and have absolutely nothing to lose by dragging you into a lengthy court battle, whether bona-fide or not. Given that 40% of the country lives below the Asian poverty line, it represents a real risk to foreigners’ investments. That is why I tend to brush off the comments about “allowing foreign ownership” and so on… The problem runs much, much deeper than simplistic statements and simply changing laws. Unless there is viable, enforceable recourse, none of it matters.

        • rebecca Ferry says

          Sorry, i forgot that most Americans married twice or thrice w/ children from previous relationship before they married a filipina w/c makes matter more complicated but don’t get me wrong my sympathy always goes to the foreign husband and their children that i thought even though their marriage w/ filipina didn’t work out you still have the children who has become the legitimate heirs and because of them you can still have the right to your property. If i happened to be a foreigner’s child i will make sure that my father will not suffer in terms of financial security……

  46. Steve Maust says

    I sure hate Rebecca is having to go through all this! Hope things will settle out soon.
    I did purchase (through my wife) a lot and house in the Philippines. I know and understand the risk completely of this place never being mine. But it is a risk I am willing to take. I know to how marriages can go from being blissful one minute to 12 years down the road hitting the rocks. So I believe that although I do not “own” the land and house i can still call it my “own”. I bought this place more on account for my children to have later in life. I also wanted them to have a place to romp and play freely. They all really enjoy the place.
    I would just like to say that everyone has been right on when saying to check the title before buying anything. Make sure that you get a verified clean title. Although we did have a clean title it took a little muscle to get the title once we made our final payment. We found out that the person we were paying was not the one who actually owned the house although he had the title. We actually met the owner when he came to collect his final (more than we owed) payment. I call them a bunch of thieves were getting commission from the sale for “showing” us the house. They kept this money from the old man that owned the house. Problem was they gave us receipts for the payments each time. So we have a good Barangay Captain that clarified the ordeal for us. Nothing is simple in a simple country as the Philippines!
    But just to say loving life now! Wife has the house and kids and I have the chickens and pigs! Or at least I would get one or two if we ever divorced!
    By the way I just told her never to send anyone to pay the taxes for us! It will be her and her alone!

    • says


      The difference is that you know and accept the reality and risks going in… So many people who move here do not.

      Realistically, the whole point is moot… If you marry and live here, later split up, then good luck in trying to collect your “half”. So many people seem to conveniently overlook this point.

    • rebecca Ferry says

      Hahaha! Steve, you made me laugh but if you have the chicken and the pig , just let me know and i will buy it so you will not leave penniless, joke only!!!!

      • Steve Maust says

        Thanks! As I understand it I really do not own much! I can only hope she will give me the chicken and the pig as parting gifts! To be honest I hope it never comes to that though!
        Just starting out right now. I had to find something for the “family” to help out with. Our chicken pen is growing and the pigs we have should soon become multiplied! Our garden is producing many fresh vegetables also. I will help out the “family” if only they are willing to help themselves. In past years I have only heard it will not work. Well today it is working. Welfare is not coming from me for someone to sit and drink GSM all day while I work!

        • JohnM says

          Steve: You have also been married for some time, now, if I remember right… You and I are also lucky in that we married people who were OFWs for a number of years… Much of the money demands, expectations, and squabbles were dealt with years ago.

          On another note… That may irritate a Filipino reader or two…

          Ybanags tend to have a very self-reliant mindset. Even though there may be some expectations, that code of honor runs strong through Ybanag families. The problems we’ve encountered have all come from the extended family… Great Aunts, second cousins, etc. When Rebecca’s mama or brothers have requested money or help, it has never been frivolous, and it was done with a sense of honor and pride. In particular, I had to sit down with my mother in law one day and explain to her that we are family, and she need not feel ashamed at asking for help. I did this because I know from her past requests that they have been reasonable, were seldom for cash, and that there have been times that she chastised Rebecca and I for being “frivolous”, like when we bought her a new blouse for her grandson’s christening (God doesn’t need to see me wearing new clothes when others do not have enough to eat!… She got the blouse anyway 😉 )

          • rebecca Ferry says

            Don’t worry only those pinoys who doesn’t know the value of money will get irritated about your comments but not those working overseas who knows the value of hard earned money, we worked, strived and dreamed for our ultimate goal that’s why we became self- reliance and independent .

            • says


              I don’t worry about it. Becky’s family accepted me as one of their own. There are responsibilities associated with marriage, here or in the US, and I accept those responsibilities.

              The situation was difficult on Rebecca when she first became an OFW. She tried bringing everyone a small gift. She told me a story about giving her uncle a small box of Lipton back then, shortly before he died. He went to the neighbors, and showed them, “Look at what my niece brought me!”, beaming with pride. The box laid unopened in his cupboard for years… He was so happy that she thought of him, that he couldn’t bring himself to actually drink the tea. Whenever the demands from extended family became tough, she told me that she always thought of him and the pleasure that a $1 box of tea gave him.

              Now, with so many families with OFWs, things changed from simple respect and helping out if you could to facing of entitlement and expectation. No human could possibly meet those expectations. So, she helped those to whom she felt an obligation, or in truly dire circumstances. She also remembered those who helped her with the fees to go overseas… They, to this day, have her loyalty until death. It is the old way of thinking…

              • says

                Rebecca: As a side note… That uncle was a barrister… He was “well off” and could probably afford to buy anything he wished. Rebecca also told me that when she was in school, girls were taught that their only obligation in life was to marry and have children. As a lawyer, her uncle had shelves full of books. Rebecca used to sneak away with the books, reading them, but always careful to return them. Her uncle noticed that the books went missing, but always returned to their proper place. All of a sudden, titles of interest only to young girls started appearing on his shelf… He never said a word, but he wanted her to keep reading and learning. An unspoken bond between them. This is one of the things hat gets Rebecca teary-eyed when she thinks of the old ways…

  47. Keith says

    I was wondering if it would be viable to buy 1 or 2 condos and rent them out as income? It’s my understanding that a foreigner *can* own condos….is this correct? Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

    • says


      Yes, foreigners can buy and own condos here, as long as the total units in the building owned by foreigners is under 40%… However, I’m not certain as to if there are any limits as to how many condos a foreigner may own (There may be none, but I really don’t know). As to renting them out, many people do that, but you need to have someone to maintain the units.

      • rebecca Ferry says

        My friend’s Chinese boss bought several condo’s in Makati and they rented out for investment but they live here in HK, her daughter married a filipino banker and lived in Manila that’s why my friend’s boss visited the daughter from time to time. i think they also bought some properties for investment in Tagaytay.They love Manila but their only complained is that they’re not get used to a hot weather.

        • Keith says


          We visited the Philippines about 2 years ago and was looking at property in Tagaytay. I remember looking at several subdivisions but the only name I remember is “Crosswinds”…LOL!

      • Keith says


        I am about 12-15 years away from retirement and my asawa and I just purchased a lot in Muntinlupa. The name of the subdivision is Portofino…ever hear of it? The plan is to build the house 1 year before we move there. As far as I can tell my SSI and pension will be enough to live a good life there but I would love to buy 1-2 condos and rent them out for added income. Thanks for your response!!

        • says

          Keith: The name sounds familiar… I think I’ve seen the advertisements. Some of the new projects being built now are pretty nice… I would certainly not write off a condo out of hand. (This new Aqua project looks fantastic… I’m even starting to decide whether or not to try and convince Rebecca… They even have “rainforest gardens” on alternating floors!)

    • kagay-anong pinoy says

      hi keith,

      yes you can certainly buy multiple condo units but if you’re buying within a particular neighborhood to cut down on travel time during inspections, make sure they’re in different buildings/blocks so you can also spread the risk.

      ortigas center for instance offers plenty options with its many ongoing developments, but what many people forget is that it actually straddles the marikina faultline. oops.

      in any case, study local maps & transport routes so you can gauge future rental demand for your final picks.


      • JohnM says

        That is excellent advice that people really need to pay attention to… There has been more than one major earthquake that has flattened Manila, and the area is overdue on the next big one.

        • JohnM says

          I would also add that people need to check the flood history… Many condo owners in Marikina found out the hard way last year.

  48. Bill says

    Ha, ha. Well, a squatter obviously doesn’t have many family or friendship ties. You should have called me. I would solved you squatter problems for 500 pesos and half a bottle of Taduay. Ha, ha, ha!

    • says


      The thought entered my mind (something similar), but we want to stay on the right side of the law.

      Actually, if the court doesn’t progress, we are filing an estafa case against the squatter… putting it into the criminal court.

  49. Better than Courts says

    You’re going about things a little the wrong way. I’ve a little experience living here in the Philippines … over three years now.

    What you do is get just enough involved in politics to become the friend of the barangay captain. Throw a bbq occasionally and invite him over. Discover what business the barangay captain is involved in, and if they sell stuff that you need to buy — only buy from them.

    Barangay captains hold seeming unlimited power, at least where I’m at here in Mindanao. For instance, recently our barangay captain decided to put in a little zoo/park/place for people to get married right across the road from us. He alone, through eminent domain or whatever — had people (who were not squatters) have their lands resituated to fit it all, including lots of parking. My house got halved, as our lot was pushed back.

    So the first step is to make friends with the barangay captain. They may or may not be willing to directly help. But even if they won’t directly get involved — they will also not get involved if you become a pain in the arse yourself.

    The second step, is to figure out something really stinky (like a chicken coop with 50 chickens … not enough to be regulated but enough to cause a stink) put right next to their house.

    Third step, every night build a big fire right on your own property, burning brush from your property and snip off a few pieces of rubber tire and throw it in the fire for a good smell. Make sure the wind is blowing in the right direction.

    Fourth step, buy some fish in the local market. Stick it in a sealed cooler for about 10 days. Stick it next to their house when no one is looking. Shrug your shoulder when you are blamed … you of course didn’t do it.

    The big question is — who is going to be a big pain in the ass to who? Right now they’re banking on YOU wanting THEM to do something and you having to go through all the work to get it done.

    It should be YOU torturing THEM and they feeling like they need protection from the government. At which time you whip out your ownership papers and tell them if they don’t like you storing your organic manure fertilizer for your rice fields 2 feet from their house, then they can either get their butt off your property, or they can try to fight you in court.

    You own the property for heaven’s sake, be as creative as you want — as long as you can legally do it on your property then do it legally on your property 2 feet from their front door.

    • John Miele says

      Why is it my fault and stupidity? My wife is a citizen of the Philippines. She bought the land when she returned here using her own money money that she saved while working overseas… Yes, working. I did not give her the money. She EARNED it. And now a worthless piece of crap is stealing from her by squatting. I cannot own the land, nor do I ever want to. I could not care less about a small piece of farmland in a remote province. She purchased the land for her family to use. We had no intention of living there. We rent a house in Metro Manila.

      My concern is as any husband would have for his wife… I don’t like to see her getting ripped off by a thief. She worked hard for the money she earned, and was trying to help her family.

      The point of this article was to re-iterate to foreigners why buying land is a bad idea…. My wife, a Filipino, ran into problems. What chance would a foreigner have?

  50. Roland P. Caasi says


    Just recently came across your site and was quite impressed with the wealth of information shared by you and your guest’s. I wish to thank you and others that commmented personal insights in how things are in the Philippines; I could have save myself some griefs and a lot of money if I had this information twenty-five years ago. Better late learning than never. I would share my story but it would be a novel. Just wanted you to know that I appreciated the crash course and am persuaded not to invest anymore until am over there. Both myself and wife were born in the Island and planning to retire there.


  51. JimM says

    Interesting discussion, and thanks for the insights. I see your points, though it seems a bit of a stretch to discourage any land purchase whatsoever. Certainly, it can turn out bad, no question. However, let me use my situation as an example.

    I retired last year from a job that was killing me with stress. My wife visited family in the PI a couple of years back, and was shown a beachfront property that was gorgeous and inexpensive. We decided to buy it, build a house, and retire there, which we did. It’s heaven. I have a sailboat, a banka to go fishing, a car and motorcycle to get around, my scuba equipment, a beautiful house right on the beach, and lots of stuff to do every day.

    My choice in life was either stay in a job that was killing me, or take a big risk and retire and move to a 10 acre beachfront in the PI. Granted, the property is not in my name. Granted, my wife could ditch me tomorrow and I’d have to move back to the US. Granted, all kinds of bad things could happen.

    On the flip side, if all goes well I could spend my retirement in a way that most people on the planet only dream of.

    Your points are totally valid. However, squatting is not an issue in our case. I suppose her brother (our caretaker) could somehow decide to give us trouble. But in his case we WANT him to keep living on our property, which is why we built him a small house. He’s the caretaker.

    It seems to me it’s just a matter of risk. How much risk are you willing to accept? In my case, I’m willing to take a fairly big risk for the possibility of a big reward. I don’t think it’s reasonable to label that as a bad or dumb idea (not that anyone did, I’m just saying…) unless the risk is so high that it’s unreasonable.

    In my case, I can’t imagine giving up this opportunity, and instead staying in a high stress job. Life’s too short. I imagine there are other retirees in a similar position, and I think for them buying land might be a risk worth taking, as long as they know the game going in.

    • John Miele says

      Jim: Yes, but you went into it knowing the risks. You also understand that for all intents and purposes, you don’t own anything… Your spouse does. As long as the risks are acceptable to you, then more power to you! Of course, there are ways to mitigate those risks. In our case, this continues to drag on and on (And we did get a mangkukulam involved… didn’t work).

      • JimM says

        One more thought…

        Also keep in mind that, for many/most married folks, the part about “you don’t own anything, your spouse does” might not be all that big of an issue, at least in a relative sense. If we were to divorce, my wife gets half of all I have anyway, including my retirement. So whether it’s some money in a bank, or invested in the market, or some property in the PI, whatever form it’s in, it’s hers if we divorce. And I have nothing to say about it.

        And since the value of this property reflects only a small fraction of my total net worth, I pretty much look at it as a gift I’ve given her, which she shares with me while we’re married, and should we divorce, it’s hers. I will lose it to her, just like I’ll lose the rest of 50% of all I have to her.

  52. JimM says

    By the way, I think the issue of squatters’ rights, and people just taking over other peoples’ property seems, at least in my limited view, to be part of a much larger societal perspective in the PI.

    One thing that has caused me probably the most grief and frustration during my short time living in the PI is the apparent lack of a sense of personal property, and the boundaries associated with it. I don’t mean to criticize, just to highlight that many people don’t seem to have a sense of boundaries that we in the West associate with private, personal property.

    I own a lot of stuff, like most Westerners, but many of the Filipino relatives and friends I associate with don’t really seem to recognize any boundaries associated with my stuff. They seem to feel free to touch it, and if it’s nearby they grab it and use it, and kids jump on it, and so on. I even parked my new SUV on the side of the road to visit some folks in a small barrio, and a bunch of kids gathered around, opening doors, getting inside, scrawling stuff in the dirt on the car, etc. Stuff that would NEVER happen in the US.

    And people don’t seem to recognize boundaries around my house. They just show up whenever they feel like it, sit on the patio, walk past the windows, make noise, etc. It’s one of those things that you never expect you need to explain to people, much less explain to them over and over and over.

    My guess is that it’s due to the fact that most Filipinos don’t really own much of anything, and therefore have never really established any boundaries. Everything, including the house and the property, is community property. They have multiple generations living in the same house or even the same room, and they all use the same stuff.

    I may be way off in my evaluation of the reasons, but it’s something I see just about every day I’m there. And my wife and I spend a lot of time explaining to people that you don’t just walk in the house at 6am, or use my banka boat if you want to go fishing, or grab my expensive dive equipment if you want to use it.

    But what makes it even more difficult to understand is my (probably incorrect) assumption that most Filipinos, especially those in the provinces who rarely, if ever, see foreigners, have some inherent respect and/or fear of Westerners, and therefore would never cross those boundaries. Guess that’s not the case.

  53. JimM says

    Okay, one more comment, since this is such an interesting topic…

    I really think that Better than Court’s input, while being kinda funny, is right on the mark. In the West, the natural instinct in something like this is to fight it in court, use legal means, etc. One of the things I like about the PI is that there are other ways to skin a cat…

    First, when you consider the total cost you will spend on this legal battle (something like 650,000 pesos according to your write-up), I wonder if that money could have achieved better results using other methods?

    For example, if given the opportunity to receive, say, half of that in cash if they moved down the road to squat on somebody else’s land, would the squatter have agreed to move on? Just a thought. That’s a whole lot of money in the PI, and I’d think that most folks would jump at the chance.

    To Better than Court’s approach, I think it’s brilliant, and definitely something to consider. I realize that you’re far away from the property, but 650,000 pesos can buy a lot of help and influence in the PI. Considering many/most people make less than 200 pesos a day, I wonder how much it would cost to make the squatter desperate to leave your wife’s property?

    Some more ideas….

    Since the squatter is probably somewhat superstitious like many in the PI, how much would it cost to get some local assistance in spooking them out? Strange noises at 2am, wierd goings on outside their hut, dead chickens, etc., might encourage them to move down the road. We had a neighbor caretaker living in a hut next door, and one night there was screaming and wailing. Turns out they were keeping chickens next to their hut, and a huge boa snake (or whatever it was) came calling looking for dinner, and was curled up in the corner of their bedroom. I wonder how much it would cost to rent a boa?

    And of course the cheapest might be to rent the property out to everyone in the bario for next to nothing to have all their karaoke parties there, and set up a karaoke hut right next to the squatter’s hut. A few weeks of 2am karaoke parties every night outside their hut might change their minds. And in the process you might make some money.

    And let’s not forget the political influence that 650,000 pesos could buy…

  54. JimM says

    And one final comment before I sign off from this site. Honestly, I think there’s a little too much semi-irrational fear mongering in some of the articles, and it’s just not helpful. For me, at least.

    It’s fine to throw out hypotheticals about what could happen, but too much of that is just, well, too much.

    I think the real lesson learned from your experience, John, might not be that it’s a bad idea for foreigners to own land. Instead, it might be a lesson I learned before I ever moved to the PI, from one of my Filipino friends. When we were considering buying land in the PI, the first thing he said was to make sure someone you trust is watching your land, because he had a similar experience with squatters. Which is why the first thing we did is send a trusted family member to live there, and act as a caretaker.

    I think the logical conclusion from your article, based upon the agonizing, frustrating, expensive, and ultimately hopeless situation your wife is dealing with, is not only that foreigners shouldn’t buy land, but neither should Filipino citizens. If your wife’s legal battle is ultimately hopeless (which we all hope it isn’t), then why is that any better than what a foreigner might experience? Hopeless is hopeless.

    And I think most would agree that’s a ludicrous conclusion. Yes, buying land in the PI can be a nightmare. But that’s true if you’re a citizen or if you’re a foreigner.

    Personally, I know a foreigner who has, for the last 6 years, been happily running a successful beach resort, on land he purchased (via his wife, I believe). I think he’d strongly disagree with your conclusion that buying land is a bad idea for foreigners.

    And I believe (though I don’t have direct knowledge) that there are many beach/dive resorts around the PI owned by foreigners. If I’m wrong, please let me know…

    And I’m sure many of those are successful, and many of the owners might disagree with the conclusion that it was a bad idea.

    And that’s just beach resorts. There are many foreigners who own property in the PI, and presumably a large portion of them are happy. Again, correct me if I’m wrong.

    Personally, I think the direction of the article should have been “Never buy land in the PI without someone to watch it for you”, rather than extrapolating that no foreigner should buy land because you had a problem with squatters.

    But then again you guys know far more than I do, so I’ll bow to your wisdom.

    • JohnM says

      Jim: I can also point to number of failed beach resorts “owned” by foreigners… Last year there was a very high profile incident involving an Australian couple and their well-known resort that was taken from them in Boracay.

      The constitution is quite clear: Foreigners may not own land in the Philippines. So you “buy” land. You think you own it? Your spouse owns it. What if the relationship fails? You think you’ll get your money back?

      The situation you mentioned is that you bought land knowing the risks. You stated you think of it as a gift. Great.

      However, many people fall for the numerous scams out there related to land investment in the Philippines. All sorts of dummy corporations, complex land contracts, etc. This is where people fall into trouble: They get so bullheaded in trying to circumvent the law that they lose their ass in the end.

      Finally, just because a beach resort may appear to be foreign owned, doesn’t mean that they own the land. Many resorts are built on leased property. Secondly, there are exemptions to business ownership (and land ownership by corporations) when significant investment is involved…. More significant than probably 90% of the readers of this site are likely to possess.

      So, back to the premise of the article: If a native born Filipino has problems, what chance does a foreigner have?

  55. JimM says

    “The constitution is quite clear: Foreigners may not own land in the Philippines. So you “buy” land. You think you own it? Your spouse owns it. What if the relationship fails? You think you’ll get your money back?”

    I thought we already covered this. OF COURSE, if a relationship fails, lots of bad stuff will happen. And property in the PI might be the least of the worries. But if it doesn’t fail, life might end up being grand. If hypothetically bad stuff can happen, is that a reason to recommend you don’t even try?

    And like I say, if a citizen can go thru hell (like unfortunately your wife is doing), why limit your recommendation to only foreigners? Why not recommend nobody buy property in the PI, because squatters can make your life miserable?

    And of course there are bad things that can happen in any transaction. Make sure you do a title search. Make sure you prevent squatters. Make sure you talk to folks in the barangay about the property to see if something else is going on. And so on…

    But the same bad stuff can happen in the US. I buy a house and property with my wife. If we get divorced, she might get the whole thing. Just like I never owned it at all. Life sucks. Why is that any different from the PI? Should I never buy property in the US because I might lose it in a divorce?

    Maybe the article should have focused on a list of things to do and consider before buying property in the PI, instead of just a blanket recommendation not to even consider it. Unless you REALLY think that there’s no way any foreigner should even consider it…..

  56. queeniebee says

    Hi John,
    I’m sorry about all the grief that your wife has had to deal with with this woman on her land. You mentioned that this was some farmland that was purchased for the intended use of the family for the future. Was it in a remote area away from family supervision? I know that it’s too late now to consider, but I was under the assumption that when puechasing a parcel of land that it’s best to immediately fence and contain it from any possible squatters as anyone entering would be considered as “trespassing” Is this correct or an oversimplification?

  57. Nilda Broger says

    Very interesting blog. Am Filipino but have been away for the last 45 years.
    Inherited some farmland in the Ilocos from grandparents whose name still figure in the land titles. Have delegated the management of this property to a relative who pays the taxes and collects rental from the farmers. Well, recently I heard thru a grapevine that it seems the ownership of this land has changed hands. Who? I’m the rightful owner. My power of attorney to this relative states that he/she has no authority to sell off without my prior knowledge and written consent. Any ideas (suspicions) how this came thru?

  58. says

    Even though you can never own land, the courts will look at when the land was purchased, was it during your marriage, how long into your marriage e.t.c and will demand that the land and assets to be sold, however unlike the western world the split is 70 / 30. But again does it really matter, because if you split up or got divorced would you want to live there? No I doubt it. This only applies to land / house in her name with you titled “spouse of” and anything fully in her name is un-touchable. Again this is a court related procedure and most people would not want to incur the costs as it would out weigh the purpose, so in short 95% would just walk away leaving the land / house to the ex.

    Now if your spouse died, the land / house would be given to your son’s / daughter’s if you had children and thus you can live there until you die. However if you do not have any children, the land / house would revert back to living relatives, brothers, sisters, parents e.t.c They too might allow you to continue to live on that land until you leave or pass on, depending on how well you and your clan get along.

    Either way at the end of the day most people put way too much thought into a home, and does it really need to be in your name? No that’s just western way of thinking… Home is where you hang your hat and where you are surrounded by people you love. Without them would you want to be there?


  59. says

    In regards to Squatters, lets talk about that for a second from a standpoint here in the UK, yup that’s right, a western civilized country right? BAH! and I live here hahaha

    This happens all the time here in the United Kingdom. Let me paint a picture for you. If you buy a house at these OUTRAGEOUS MARKET COSTS here in the UK and you do not move in for a few months due to the long line of total and complete BS rules and regulations, or the sale of your previous property has not come through e.t.c and a squatter kicks in your front door to your newly purchased vacant home and they start to live there (eat / sleep) and then along you come to move in, but wait! whats this?!? There are people living in YOUR HOUSE! Can you kick them out? NO, can you call the police and they will kick them out, NO! The police can do nothing of the sort. BY LAW you can not kick them out onto the street even though it is YOUR HOUSE in YOUR NAME! You will then have to go through legal proceedings to have them legally evicted, which can take months and sometimes years, and at an additional cost to you in the upwards range of £20,000 to £50,000 or MORE! I have seen this first hand with my friends home in London. Just outrageous!

    Unfortunately this kind of BS happens all over the world, I have even watched news about people doing this in the US through a property loop hole in the title documents.

    It is such a shame and such a stress, not to mention a huge cost! I wish you both the best and I hope that you get it sorted soon.


    • Alain says

      Bilko and JohnM; to add to this uncertainty and bruhaha, most countries have Imminent Domain where interested parties, aka thieves, can use the power of government to confiscate your land ‘for the benefit of the community’. Whatever that means – usually benefitting the land grabber.

      Also, in the US there is such a thing as Adverse Possession where someone can squat in your property (usually house) and after 7 years file a court claim and if you do not do anything to oppose it, the court usually will award it to them.

      Remember, it is all about money and power!

  60. aldwickk says

    I bought a condo shop unit for my Filipino wife , if i die the unit is her’s , if she die’s first then i have an amount of time to sell the unit ….. that’s what i have read.

    But i don’t know how long they would give you to sell it

  61. says

    Hi John
    I hope you’re situation will be solved soon…
    I have a question:
    It seems that a foreigner can create a corporation that will own the land.
    Foreigner can own 40% max of the corporation, and Filipino partner(s) 60%.
    If your partner is trustworthy, would you consider this safe?

  62. John Reyes says

    “The Philippines’ colonial past explains a lot of the present-day Filipinos xenophobia and aversion to foreign ownership.” – Mimi

    No disagreement to the above, but perhaps the more realistic reason is that when your country has a land area that is slowly shrinking because of an increasing population with no end in sight, you can’t afford to share the little that you have with foreign nationals, or you’d find yourself living in house boat like the Badjaos. :)

    • Russell says

      You can get your pinoy spouse to give you the rights to the property and if she dumps you then you can sell the land.

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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>