Why do I live here?

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A few weeks ago, I was out walking.  When I’m walking, I tend to do a lot of thinking, and come up with some of my best ideas at that time.  On this particular day, I was thinking about a request from a reader.  Remember couple weeks ago I wrote an article about Penny, a white female who is thinking of possibly living in the Philippines, but was concerned about safety?  This particular day, while I was walking, that’s the subject I was thinking about, and planning to write the article.  However, my thoughts strayed on that day.  The subject that kept coming back to my mind was, why do I live here?

If you think about that, it’s not really an easy question to answer.  Even though I knew that I enjoyed living here, if I wanted to give specific reasons why I like it here, that was something I had to think about.  I mean, there are a number of reasons why a lot of people would not like it, and there were reasons that I did not like.  However, even though there were things I did not like, overall, I love living here.  Why?



Well, one of the things that I thought of that I didn’t like was that I’m different.  I’m always different.  No matter where you go, you are often the only foreigner there.  The only time that this is really not true, is when you go in a group with other foreigners.  And, I don’t just mean the you look different, you’re just different in almost every way.  As a foreigner, you will find the you think differently than the local people, do things differently, react to situations differently, you are just different.  Like I said, at first I was thinking this was something I didn’t like about living here.  However, as I thought about it more, I realized that I’ve always been different, no matter where I lived.  I never totally fit in any place that I went, because I was different!  There’s nothing wrong with that either, and as I thought this over, I decided that this was actually something that was okay about living here.  I accept being different, and have no real problems with it.  A friend and I once talked about this, and we came to the conclusion that if we weren’t different, we probably wouldn’t live here.  The normal person back in the states doesn’t move to the Philippines, it takes somebody who’s a little bit different to do that.

So, while this subject was already on my mind, last week I was having lunch with John Grant.  He has lived here for a couple of years now, and I have lived here for 8 years.  He asked me a question which I found intriguing.  He asked, “in the time you’ve lived here, what is the worst thing that ever happened to you, and what is the best?”  Wow, now that was something to think about.  It was not something that I could immediately answer, rather something that required some deep thought.  After a while, I gave him a few answers, off the top of my head.  However, now, I have given it more thought, and I want to answer it here in my column.

So, I’m going to write two more columns about this.  Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about the worst things that have happened to me since living in the Philippines.  These worst things are things that I do not believe would’ve happened to me if I did not live here.  The following day, I will write a column about the best things that happened to me since living here.  So, if you’re thinking of moving here, these two columns are some things you might want to consider for yourself.

Learn Bisaya/Cebuano

Let me give you a little clue.  Tomorrow, take a look at the number one worst thing that has happened to me since living here.  The next day, take a look at the number one best thing that has happened to me since living here.  You may find that there’s an interesting connection.

See you tomorrow?

Post Author: MindanaoBob (944 Posts)

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

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  1. Paul says

    Hi Bob – Will have to keep my eyes on the blog! :shock:

    Last typhoon (Igme or Fung Wong) may have dealt us a "bad" experience or two these past few days. An uncle who farms near our home was caught in a river's swift current and swept out to sea. :cry:

    Lots of rain, wind, lightning, etc. may have affected the house we're building but we can't find out until phone service is better retored. :neutral:

    On the positive side, our community of farmers finally have their fields sufficiently watered to start planting rainy season rice. :smile:

    Of course, like your situation, there's always a connection! :lol:

  2. says

    Hi Paul – I always feel fortunate about living in Davao, because we don't get typhoons down here, so thankfully weather is not something that will make my "bad" list of things that have happened to me here.

    Thank you for sharing your story!

  3. says

    kamusta bob
    i guess i would have to say i enjoyed being different when i was in philippines.most of the time it was good and also bad sometimes.one day while me and my fiancee are at paradise island resort on samal and we see these other foreighners there on the beach.my fiancee asked why i didnt say hello to them and my reply was that the foreigners didnt seem the friendly type so of course i wouldent say hi.i told my fiancee that i see my own kind all the time so it didnt seem to be something out of the ordinary to me.
    salamat bob

  4. says

    Hi Ron W – Thanks for your comment. Ha ha… I got a laugh, because you were so right that seeing other foreigners was just normal for you anyway! For me it is different, having been here for 8 years already. Seeing foreigners is somewhat different (although around Davao you see foreigners every day). When I see a foreigner, I do generally at least give a nod of the head, or I'll say "hi" just to be friendly.

  5. Neal In RI says

    Bob, This is a deep subject to ponder.

    I recall something you said here on this site probably 8 months or so ago.
    Would you rather be a Small fish in a Big pond or a Big fish in a small pond?

    U.S. life goes on day in day out and nothing really seems to change, we go on in a mind numbing trance/ratrace/work routine (macculeete) everything seems grey and old and no one seems to differ from most of the rest of the people.

    Maybe what we who want to LIP really want is to be different to some point, but try to fit in and be accepted in in a totally different culture. Not just fade into the grey and be just another Small fish.

    Perhaps I need Counseling :shock:

  6. says

    Hi Neal In RI – Yes, that is true. I had not thought about my big fish/small fish column from last year when considering this. That's what I like about having so many great commenters on this site – it helps get the mind pondering so many different possibilities!

    Thanks for your thoughts, Neal!

  7. says

    Hi macky – I can’t say for sure what he meant, but it sounds to me like he was talking about the fact that a lot of expats (not including me) are out of their countries trying to duck some issue that is following them. Maybe they are wanted for some crime, or something along those lines. It is quite common actually.

  8. chas says

    Hi Bob,I certainly agree,a person has to be different to settle in a so called 3rd world country.Most expats from UK tend to move within Europe or Canada and Australasia where the culture is similar to what they are use to.Many people here are apalled that anyone would want to live in Phils and say "well why do so many filipino's want to live in the west".On the other side of the coin, i feel there are many westerners who would not fit into Phils culture simply because of their attitude,regards Chas.

  9. Richard Wicky says

    This topic begs many a discussion. In my travels here to the Philippines over some 28 years now including 5 living here, I have found a number of reasons why people live here and tis is becomijg more true each year.

    1. Many and perhaps the majority cannot afford to live anywhere else in the western world where by and large they mostly come from;
    2. Most men are able to have relationships with women they could never dream of having back in their own countries. Of course age is one major factor in this equation. You can find very young women here to be your partner, love interest, whatever
    3. Another, is that many of the people I have met here and perhaps even myself LOL are dysfunctional or have physical limitations.

    In many ways Bob I think that the demographic of people living here that are retired would not be considered a normal demographic back in their home countries. I am in no means trying to be snobby all I am saying is the majority of the men I met here are at the low end of the totem pole. bad teeth, poor social graces, and many other factors that create a situation where a place like the Philippines is the only place they can live in without judgment at htis stage in their life

    I know this sounds crazy perhaps but this is what I have seen. From reading this Blog I think that perhaps there are actually more monied and younger people that have more choices in their life but I am guessing there are also many that represent what I am describing and that is the majority living in this country (who are not working for a company)

    You Bob seem to have a very genuine love for the Philippines but could you afford to go back to the States and live the life there that you do here. Maybe that is a question that should be answered by everyone. How many actually have a choice about this.

    Just some food for thought for the members here.

    I myself have a love hate relationship with this country. For my own sanity I have to leave it every year for at least a couple of months or I would literally go insane or kill someone. I fortunately can afford to do this while there are many, many I know that can't and just put on a good face and then bury themselves in the Tanduay.

  10. Phil R. says

    hey Bob ..My wedding was the best thing that happened to me .but I haven't been there long enuf to have anything real bad happen to me yet . :smile: .So far so good …Phil R.

  11. says

    Hi chas – What you say is very true. When I decided to move here, back in 1999/2000, I got a litany of comments from people that I was crazy to do so. The most used comment was "if it is so good there, why do all the Filipinos want to get out?" Well, I think that people with no money want to get out and go somewhere where they think they have a better shot at earning money. For people who have money, I think the Philippines is a great place to live!

  12. says

    Hi Richard Wicky – Like you, I think that I have a love/hate feeling about the Philippines. It is 90% love, but there are things that I hate about the place. I have to keep that 10% under control, and not let it ruin my life, though. That is very important. I think that leaving every year will keep the hate fresh and make life more difficult. Living here without leaving will help you overcome the hate, in my opinion.

  13. says

    Hi Phil R. – Well, good and bad happens no matter where on the earth you are. The best thing you can do for yourself is to find a place where more good happens and less bad! I think that is what I have here!

  14. says

    Hi Bob
    Wow this topic really hit home. I have also always thought I have not fit in wherever I've been. I guess the best thing that happened to me in the Philippines was the birth of my daughter.

  15. says

    Hi Bob

    For me, at one stage the Philippines was on a totally different planet being so far away. Even when I first met my wife the thought of even visiting Philippines was beyond my comprehension for a long time.

    We discussed a visit several times until one day I decided to take the bull by the horns and ventured eastwards. During the two weeks visit I just fell for the place. It was so calm, peaceful, laid back, romantic, there was a certain innocence to the place…..you name it, it was all here.

    I made an instant decision then to build a house (the land was already available with my wife) because I didnt want to stay in hotels for future visits and also to buy a car, at that time you couldn't rent a car here except private and then the driver also had to come along so I didn't want the hastle of either. That was about 12 yrs ago and I love the place to this day. I believe that instant decision making usually work out better then the best of planned ones.


  16. Richard Wicky says

    Of course I am very thankful for the Philippines for allowing me to meet my wife. I actully wrote in my profile that I have no interest in going back to the states so if you want a green card keep searching. I got a couple of resposes and one turned out to become my wife. We just had a baby girl (my first child) 5 months ago. The funny part in all this is my wife (even before she met me) can go anywhere in the world she wants on her own and can actually get into more countries than me LOL
    The even more wierd part now is she really can't stand the Philippines anymore and could care less about staying here another day. She is so happy to be leaving soon . She is so sick over the corruption here and what it does to the people. I know many other Filipinos that are feeling this way as well. Coming back for a game of tongits and to eat some filipino food jst doesn't carry the same weight as it used to.

  17. says

    Hi Dan Mihaliak – The birth of a child is certainly a great moment in anybody's life, no doubt there. Tomorrow, and the next day, when I look at the best and worst things that have happened to me, I am talking more along the lines of things that happened because I lived in the Philippines. So, that is a little different. Don't be surprised when I don't list my marriage to Feyma or the birth of my kids among those "best things" because all of that happened before I lived here….

  18. says

    Hi Jack – Like you, I am a person who does a lot of things "on the spur of the moment" – without thinking it over much. As you said, most of the things that I have decided instantly like that have turned out well for me. A few haven't, but…. what the heck! :lol:

  19. says

    Hi Richard Wicky – Yes, I know a lot of Filipinos who feel just as your wife does too. I don't like the corruption either, but I try to just live my life without regard to such things as much as possible. Most of it doesn't directly effect me, and I can have little impact on it anyway.

  20. says

    hmm, interrresting. your article in a reverse sort of way, this may partly explain my hesitancy to move back. financially & comfort-wise it's a no-brainer, but i am not drawn to the familiarity & the lack of cultural diversity (to me) at this point of my life.

    i too am that guy who never really fit in everywhere i go. it's much more disconcerting when it also happens in the place you're supposed to fit in (home country). i totally see your point here with a kind of reverse logic.

  21. says

    Hi macky – Interesting points, macky. You know, one thing you said made me think twice. When you said "lack of cultural diversity" it kind of spun me around, because one of the things that I do like here is the culture, and I feel that there is a diversity in that. The diversity is in the fact that there are "regular" Filipinos, there are lumads, there are Muslims, and other such groups in Mindanao. In regard to Lumads and Muslims, they even have multiple ethnic groups within each category. However, in the USA, as you are experiencing, there are so many cultures, especially there in California where you live. I guess that in a place like Los Angeles or other big California cities there must be people from nearly every country in the world living there!

  22. says

    Hi Bob – yeah, for a second, I tried to think of another word other than "cultural diversity". it didn't sound right. There is diversity here on California too, no doubt about that, but it also compares to my feelings about home.

    There too is definitely is diversity in the RP, but I grew up around it. I do have a curiosity to explore it (especially the far ends of the north & south) & see its richness sometime. That is going to happen, but not yet.

    For now, Pinas is sort of like my backyard & it feels like a reversal if that is all I settle with.

    The US & RP culture are very familiar to me.So finding a place outside that sphere to experience appeals to me.

  23. says

    btw, Just an hour ago, while watching a travel channel show (Anthony Bourdin's No Reservations), I heard a quote uttered by one European expat in Uruguay.

    I don't know if these are the exact words, and I'm not sure what the hell he meant, but I found it very interesting.

    He was asked why so many foreign nationals choose to settle there.

    He said (& i paraphrase) : "most foreign expats have some sort of unfinished business in their home country. In their past life. Once they settle here, they are given a choice to simply live out their remaining years or fulfill that unfinished business".

    Like I said, I have no clue what he really meant by it. But I liked the sound of it & it did intrigue me.

  24. says

    Hi macky – I understand what you are saying, macky. Perhaps your idea of spending time in Mexico would be just right for you! :lol:

  25. says

    strange. i saw it as a positive thing.

    an overworked man who grew up wanting to be a painter or fisherman. that feeling that there was some sort of weight that held him back to what his true nature really is. & now there is a freedom that allows to reach his true potential before life's end.

    but yours would be a good movie.

  26. says

    Hi macky – Now that you say that, I believe that you are probably right. He has unfinished business – things that he could not have accomplished back in his homeland. It's sort of romantic.

    Do you think I can get any royalties on that movie? :lol:

  27. ted says

    I like the reason mentioned by Neal (#27). I’m amazed how much one can help in Ph with even modest financial means, which wouldn’t do much of a difference in Western Countries.
    When I met a poor woman in Manila and her family of 15 people, all jobless, no relative overseas – it was a hopeless situation for them back then.
    I managed to bring her to Canada and she works here, just minimum wage job so far, yet able to send every month a couple of hundred of $$ and with that small money she is supporting the whole family and even helping with education of some kids.
    With modest means one can still help a lot in Ph. From here or to retire there (as I maybe could). It’s a good feeling to be able to make a difference and a good “karma” probably as well.

  28. Neal In RI says

    Bob, Another thing comes to mind for me. Your video in the past of you and your family going on the road trip at Xmas and giving food and treats to the less fortunate there. Im sure that type of generosity is in alot of us, but here in the US or another country the average person cannot really do much in the way of helping the less fortunate.
    There in RP there is always a opportunity to do some kind thing for someone that will be actually appreciated by them. It may be something as small as giving out a few lbs of rice or helping some kid with potential, to go to school and perhaps break the chain of uneducateded poverty in their family. Im no bleeding heart by any means but to me this seems to be one of the small attraction to LIP.

  29. says

    Hi Neal In RI – I just want to say something in regards to your comment (I am not being critical of you) – I never put up a video of distributing food at Christmas. That was put up by John, not me. If it had been up to me, I would not have shared that video. I've been doing this for a number of years and have never put up video of it before, as I consider it more of a private matter…..

    Anyway, though, yes, I agree that doing things like this is part of the joy of living in the Philippines. You don't have to be a bleeding heart to enjoy helping people who are in need.

  30. Carolynn says

    Hi Bob, If you and Macky do the movie please can I have a part???? Been watching some really bad ones lately so sure you two can come up with a block buster. But some artistic input here,,,, If you had one story line going with flash backs and forwards to what could have/ would have been, that is always a winner. You dont know wether someone changed the channel when you were out of the room or if the senility has set in.

    Bob, cant wait to see what your best and worst things have been

  31. Neal In RI says

    R Wicky,
    Dam man thats Hard Core about the people on the lower end of the Totem Pole with Bad teeth and such. You don't need to go all the way to RP for that just go to the nearest Trailer Park here in RI and you can see all the toothless, social nitwits you want and they are sucking up all the benefits that they can paid for by the working class. :evil:

  32. Neal In RI says

    I recall a Video of You and your Kids walking around a Privince with small Bags of Rice handing them out. Maybe a error by me but If I see your Mug on a video I just assume it is one of your Video's. Yup it could be my memory failing me.

  33. says

    Hi Carolynn – OK, OK…. how about if I cast you in as the bad ex-pat who is being sought by police? That could be interesting! :wink:

  34. says

    Hi Neal In RI – Yes, the video is on the site. What I said was that I did not post the video, it was posted by another writer on this site, John Grant. I am just saying that I did not do that food give away to gain publicity on the site, but as a genuine act.

  35. Neal In RI says

    Bob, Gee don't get defensive about it on me. You are getting Critical on me and Im a bit put off that you think that is where my mindset is.

    It seems to me that you have built a very good reputation on your site and you do not need self promoting publicity stunts for your site and I said NOTHING to imply that your food giveaway was for publicity.

    Yes I agree genuine acts of kindness are rewarded by the way it makes you feel inside.

  36. says

    Hi Neal In RI – Ha ha… go back and read what I originally wrote, Neal! I specifically pointed out that I was not mad at you. I was just pointing that out for people reading the site! Don't get upset, I have no problem with what you said! I know that you didn't say that it was a publicity thing, but I was just saying that so others would realize that I didn't go give away a bunch of food, then rush to put up a video of it on the site! No problems.

  37. Neal In RI says


    Peace and Harmony has been restored to this site, and I will NOT sneak up on you some day an the streets of Davao and put you in a "Pain Restraint Hold" :lol:

    Off to work I go

  38. BrSpiritus says

    I have to ponder your comment Bob where you said that leaving every year may make the hate fresh. This may not be a question I can answer until I actually get back but for right now, at this moment I am homesick for Davao. I've been in the states now for 5 months and all it has done is to reinforce the things that made me want to move overseas to begin with. True there are things in the Philippines that can drive a westerner nuts (ie. the manana mentality) but I have come to accept the bad with the more overwhelming positive of living over there. Besides I can't stand to be away from my wife any longer I miss her so much right now… I can't say I ever felt that way about any of my former "western" relationships.

  39. Sean says

    "Why do I live here ?" is a question I have posed many times over the past ten years.

    Having grown tired of the boring, monochrome life in the UK I decided to take my first step in the life of an Expat and moved to Saudi. I wanted change and I definitely got what I wanted. I also met there my adorable Filipina wife. So after 2 years there we moved to Hong Kong…again a big change in life style. Since then moves to China, Canada, Bermuda have resulted in the same feeling. Every day is an adventure….every day is a challenge. If it is not a new cultural experience, it is a language challenge or you simply see something that you would never see in you own country. Even in Canada, the sight of snow for the first time for my wife was amazing.

    So now I am on my way to live and work in the Philippines, and I am in for another life changing experience. Having spent a lot of time in different parts of the Philippines I know a little of what to expect. But I also expect a whole lot more of surprises.

  40. says

    Hi BrSpiritus – the idea of having the things you hate become refreshed by leaving regularly could be different for each person. I do think, though, that by leaving regularly, and getting away from those things, the tendency could be to get them out of your mind, and making you hate them even more the next time you come back. Just my thought, it may or may not be the case. It makes sense to me, though. I can't really say for certain, since I've never left the Philippines since living here.

  41. says

    Hi Sean – Thanks for your comment, nice to meet you! Yes, you are right, every place is an adventure, and I think that the Philippines is a little more an adventure than a lot of other places! Good luck with your move back to the Philippines!

  42. Bob New York says

    When I first began making regular visits to the UK in the late 1980's it was the first experience I ever had being in a foriegn land for any length of time. It did not take me long to realize that even though I have traceable ancestory to England, being there I knew I was different and so dod the people there. What you would expect would be similar actually indicated one of the biggest differences, the language and I am not just talking about the accent. I finally figured that if I just didn't talk in a public place, " they " wouldn't know the difference. Naturally I am sure they did but it made me feal more comfortable fooling myself like that although on several occasions I was asked to speak to an audience of hundreds of people.

    One of my most memorable experiences in this is when I went into a coffee shop for a " Tale Away " " Coffee Wihte " USA translation = Give me a " Regualr " " Coffee to Go ". Well so far so good, no obvious reaction from the girls behind the counter. I got my coffee, paid for it and then without thinking about it I said something very American, " Thankyou and Have A Good Day " . As I walked away from the register I heard the girls whisper " Did you hear what he said Did you hear what he said " LOL. They dont use the expression " Have a Good Day " there .

    In the considerable amount of time I have accumilated visiting the UK since then , after I am there for a while and I am surrounded with people who I may think " are different " it begins to rub off and as long as I don't look in the mirror I really dont feel different at all.

    When I began researching Mindanao and in particular Iligan City and Cagayan De Oro I really think many tried to scare me out of going there. I got comments like " people will spot you from a mile away as a wealthy tourist " ( hey I'm a blue collar workerso I am far from wealthy by USA Standards ). I replied, I'll put on a pair of dark sunglasses, they'll never know LOL. I do have a naturally suntanned type of complexion so I didn't think I would be " that " obvious. For just about anything negative people told me about going to The Philippines, I always had an answer of how I would work around any of these suggested situations, like baracading hotel room doors from the inside, getting custom made Kevlar pants to prevent against being bitten by the " Packs of Rabbid Dogs " that wander about the city, stainless steel bands sewn into the straps of my camera bag to prevent loosing it to a " cut and Run " snatcher on a jeepney " and the list goes on and on . I was really wondering where people come up with this stuff although I did not dismiss it as totally false.

    By the time I actually arrived in Mindanao, in the 2 plus years I had been researching it, I had built up a group of very nice, genuine, reliable and trust worthy friends. They were always with me so I was more or less " Surrounded " by people who were supposedly " different " to me. Being surrounded by people and things that are different actually make me feel Less Different than if I were by myself .

    In more situations than not, these " Differences " were an advantage in my visit to Mindanao. I would have to say at ALL times I was treated with a great del of Respect and Interest by all that I encountered there. The hospitality was tremendous and with my " Entourage of Friends " I almost wondered if I was a celebrity there !

    One interesting aspect of this whole thing was that many of the friends I had made prior to my arrival in Mindanao were made on a one at a time basis based over a period of more than 2 years. Most of them although living in the same city, did not know eachother prior to my arrival. After my first night, we all got together as a group the following day and everyone was introduced to each other. Everyone during the time span of my visit became friends with eachother and those genuine friendships have remained long after my departure for home. A couple of them even discovered they were relatives and never knew it prior to my visit. Being with a group of genuine friends like this, after one or two days any feeling I had of being " different " completely vanished, even if i did look at myself in the mirror.

    What about the Kevlar pants, Stainless steel banding sewn inside of my camera bag straps , baracading hotel doors from the inside and ways around all of the other negative suggestions I had recieved ( many from Filipinos ) ? From my experience, Total Nonsense as i did not incur any of the situations that had been previously " sugested " that I would encounter.

    This experience indicates that there are times and situations where " being Different " regardless of wether you feel it or not, can make some good things happen. I left behind a group of people who are all " Bob New Yorks Friends " who are as anxious for me to return for another visit as I am as anxious to return to Mindanao to be with them again.

    If this is what " Being Different " is all about it may not be a bad thing at all.

  43. says

    Hi Bob New York – Ha ha… Yes, I got a kick out of the “have a good day” because I get the same reaction from John Grant, a Brit who writes on this site. Everytime that I tell him to “have a good day” he gets a little chuckle! Ha ha… we are indeed all different!

  44. says

    I read your reply to my post about my daughter being born. She was born while I lived in the Philippines the first time. And oh by the way she did happen because I was in the Philippines. Is another way? LOL

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