Your Altitude Determines Your Attitude

Hmm, don’t you have that headline wrong, Dave? I’ve seen that saying a dozen times or more in motivational literate and it always seemed to read, “Your attitude determines your altitude”.

Well, yes, that is likely the most usual way it is used, but here in the Philippines a lot of things we ‘know’ from the Western world don’t always seem exactly the same as they were before.

One “minus” about living in the Philippines that can’t be ignored is … it is hot here. When I watch the news about blizzards in Colorado and ice storms in New England I enjoy the warmth, but here in our little low-lying town it’s hot as far as most Americans are concerned, year ‘round.  So if you can’t stand the heat, it’s likely your altitude here is going to have a lot to do with your attitude.

(the map you should see here is “live”, you can use the plus and minus icons to zoom in and out, use the “Map”, “Sat” and “Ter” buttons to change format and click on any of the “mao pins” to get more information.  Let me know if it works or doesn’t work for you)

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There is a winter and summer in the Philippines but in general the temperature change is very small. An old friend of mine who lives nearby once told me, “Night is the Philippine winter”, and he wasn’t far from the truth. Our average temperatures vary only about 6 degrees C from May or June (high summer) to November or December (what we call the “ber” months. Daily temps between daytime highs and nighttime lows often vary 6 or more degrees as well … so you might say winter comes every night … but you won’t need an electric blanket, for sure.

Some foreigners seek relief from the heat by taking advantage of a little fact of nature … the environmental lapse rate … average temperature anywhere drops as you move higher. A typical rate (in American Fahrenheit degrees) is about 3 degrees per thousand feet of altitude.

Almost all the heavily populated places in the Philippines are very close to sea level. A few that are higher, where some folks have made their homes are worthy of note.

Baguio is the best known example of moving up to cool down. Baguio was established as a ‘summer retreat’ for the rich and famous many years ago. It’s in the mountains in north-central Luzon, about a 30 minute plane ride or a 4 or 5 hour drive from Manila. Baguio is by far the highest elevation city, averaging 5,000 feet above sea level, and thus normally 15 degrees or so cooler than Manila. Baguio has a lot of housing, shopping, schools and other amenities and is well-regarded as a great place to live … so it certainly can go on most people’s short list. Something to consider, as with any high altitude location … when wet air cools, clouds and fogs form. It’s common for Baguio to be ‘fogged in’ for long periods of time and the airport can’t be used in “instrument weather” so you can’t depend on coming and going at will. Personally I love the cool but hate clammy, foggy weather.

Tagaytay (ta “guy” “tie”) is a small city on the border between Cavite and Batangas provinces just south of Manila. It’s less than half the elevation of Baguio but also less than two hour drive from Manila. It’s growing rapidly and is also a very popular vacation destination location … well worth considering for a living location. The roads to Tagaytay are no where near as scary as the mountain roads heading to Baguio and it is much closer to the main center of population.

Cebu island in the Visayas has the second highest population in the Philippines and very popular with foreigners. However, like the other larger cities, Cebu is essentially “at” sea level and stays pretty hot. There are no other cities or larger towns on Cebu of significant elevation except for one small village, Mantalongon, Dalaguete, Cebu, (a town that is around 700 to 800 (~2100 – 2500 feet) meters and the highest town in Cebu. I want to visit Mantalongon, but it doesn’t seem suitable for a living location for many. There is little infrastructure and the only way to get there is via a several hour trip on a pretty scary dirt round (you can forget about it if it rains).

Last but not least on my list is the Kibawe area, a rich land at the center of Mindanao, located in southern Bukidnon. Atan approximate land elevation of 1100+ feet (340 m), at a little more than one fifth the elevation of Baguio the temperature effects are only going to be about one fifth as well, but this area of Mindanao is a few hours drive from large cities (Cagayan de Oro in the north and Davao to the south), both with all modern infrastructure and international airports. Highways are good, land is fertile and unlike most popular areas on Luzon or Cebu, overcrowding and traffic are not an issue.

So, there you have some ideas on altitude versus attitude … or perhaps comfort. You can come to the Philippines and control your own climate to some degree. A great many people I’ve been friends with or offered help to seem to be obsessed with the idea of going only where other foreigners have gone before … but I say, if you’re going to move halfway around the world, don’t be afraid to choose your environment to suit yourself, not others … you can live virtually anywhere in the Philippines and be happy … take your time in deciding and choose what suits you bets.

What’s your favorite place, and do you want to get high?

Post Author: Dave (86 Posts)

Older (born 1945) American living with his Filipina wife and extended family in Marilao, Bulacan, Philippines. Dave is an American expat, retired from the US Civil Service and the USAF and has been enjoying living in the Philippines since 2006. Dave hails from New Jersey, but has lived in many US States and full-time in several other countries before settling on the Philippines as "home". Dave enjoys his family as well as travelling and running his own sites: and

49 Ways to Make a Living without a Job


  1. John Miele says

    Hi Dave: I enjoyed your first column. Both Baguio and Tagaytay are on the list of places I want to visit. Particularly Baguio, since Rebecca has always wanted to go there, but never has. We are thinking late in the year, perhaps.

    Good luck on the new column!

  2. says

    I have been to both Baguio and Tagaytay and have to say Tagaytay is much better and of course not as far from Manila. I also heard that it is the beef center of the Philippines. I mean real beef not carabao.

  3. CHAS says

    Hi Dave,A couple of places i thought may be worth a mention.One close to my heart,Malaybalay City in Mindanao,2000 feet above sea level,cool climate.Downsides,morning fog,no shopping malls,virtually no western foods available,nearest major city (and airport)CDO, 93kms away.The other is Valencia City in Negros Oriental,elevation 700ft to 1600ft,cool climate,only 9kms to Dumaquete City,regards Chas.

  4. Martin says

    Hi Dave,

    I have been to Baguio and Tagaytay and both are very 'liveable' cities. Their mixture of amenities are good, and this combined with the cooler climate makes them really appealing.

    In the south, I agree with Chas that Bukidnon is a great, cool climate kinda place. I often thought Bukidnon (especially around Malaybalay) would make a wonderful place for a vacation home. Lets also not forget the cool climates just above Davao City on the way to Bukidnon — close to Davao shopping, cool and fresh air, with a strawberry patch in your yard if you so choose!

    Thanks for showcasing the cooler places in the Philippines!

  5. says

    Hi Dan Mihaliak – I didn't lies that Tagaytay was a big beef area. I General Santos city was kind of the beef area of the Philippines. In General Santos, it's kind of the way station for importing beef from Australia.

    Hi Chas — I also love Malaybalay. Actually, there is one great source of Western foods in the area, it's not so far away from Manolo Fortich, were I believe you'll find one of the great steaks in the Philippines that the Del Monte country club.

    Hi Martin — I'm completely would you about the area between Davao city and Bukidnon, it's a great area, and very cool indeed.

  6. says

    Hi Dave, great article. Wow, I like it. I also would agree with Bob and Martin about Davao City and Bukidnon. It's really great there. And of course it's nearer for us living in Davao. I also love Baguio… 😉

  7. says

    @Dan Mihaliak: Hi Dan … indeed Tagaytay is closer. It's abit of apples and oranges, as tagaytay … although officially a city .. is really just a small town that is very much a suburb/satellite of metro-Manila, while Baguio is a much larger independent city … in fact the largest city for hundreds of kilometers around.

    Being twice the elevation makes Baguio a lot, lot cooler too. iIt is not beyond possibility that my wife and I might move there someday, but frankly, even Tagaytay's cold fogs (low clouds really) can be too cold for me at times … and in Baguio fireplaces are common and commonly used from time to time.

    I would question any one city/area being the 'beef capital' of the Philipines … as Bob mentions certainly GenSan is a contender (but there is a lot more beef than imported beef) and I am sure other places might be as well. Tagaytay, however, is on the road to Manila from the province of Batangas. a province long-noted for beef production. The Mahogany Market in Tagaytay is a great surce for beef, they have some meat stalls there who actually cut beef in recognizable cuts … the problem with beef in my experience has been that most meat vendors just attack a beef carcass with a bolo, what you get next day may be decent the next day it won't be … beef cutting is indeed a skilled trade and there are not many qualified members of the craft here.

  8. says

    @Martin: You're more thna welcome, Martin … it's important that people realize the Philippines is a very diverse place … too many just focus on a few major cities and don't get to know the rest. I made a map here a while back:
    That pretty much sums it up for me … anywhere within driving/commuting distance of an SM Mall is livable for a foreigners so far as I am concerned … we don't need to think only of foreign enclaves to live well.

  9. says

    @Klaus: About the only thing about baguio I would consdier negative at all, Klaus, is the air quality and the crowding … it is not a city well suited for the growth it is undergoing. But there are a _lot_ of foreigners who live there and not many who aren't happy in their decison.

  10. marshallmellow says

    Cool post Dave *sorry had to say type it* :roll:

    Having been to only Baguio on your location mentions, I would have to agree with the crowded, lack of room to adequately expand comments. I will make the journey on my next trip if only to visit Burnham Park and have a cup of coffee in the SM Mall there. 😆

    It was of interest to me to read about Tagaytay. This area has recently come up in conversation with my wife so it looks like it will be in our upcoming trip schedule as well.

    Lookin' forward to the next installment – I have to say the comments to this and many of the other contributors posts are terrific and really add a grerat deal to the "conversation" ❗


  11. Arto says

    Just want to express my appreciation(again) to you for all the seriously helpful and, therefore, comforting info here and on your website. The U.S. economic weakening has delayed me and my fiance's move, but you and Bob and company's insights definitely increase our chances of success…whenever we get there.

  12. says

    @marshallmellow: Thanks Marshall. You are certainly right about the commeners LiP seems to collect. Even those I disagree with make a lotmore sense than on most blogs … and on the various Philippine-related Yahoo Groups which I now avoid completely. Must be the air down in Davao or something that attracts a better class of reader/commenter.

    regarding Tagaytay, I'll be in touch privately. You cna/should certainly work in atrip during your next visit … it's a place high on the list of decent places to live and there is also a lot of land in surrounding areas that would still be practical to buy. It isn't like Baguio where most of the surrounding land is too "uap and down" to build economically on. Also arund to the south of Taal Lake, in areas like Lipa City, the elevation is still a thousand feet or more and the views are pleasant also.

  13. says

    @Arto: Hi Arto, thanks for the kind words and for taking the time to comment. I didn't comr to the Philippines to save money over what it was costing us to live in the US … but now I wonder if we could move back. Indeed times are on the hard side. However, I'm old. I can assure you, these times will pass. In 1982 I bought a house in Colorado Springs and two years later it was the 'foreclosure capital' of the US. In 1999 I sold it for 5 times what it cost in 1982. Times won't always be bad … worry less and enjoy more, life is too short to worry about inconsequential things like money.

  14. John D. says

    Your so right about Baguio and Tagaytay. Both places are stunning with sights sounds and smells that draw you into their world. Having spent several years there while in the service as well as numerious vacations, my lovely asawa being from cavite is eyeing tagaytay as our retirement home in next couple years. Will be coming over again next year and doing some intial eye balling in Tagaytay for a house. Thats after I find a dentist in cavite to get some work done…ouch!!

    John D.

  15. Tom Kidd says

    Stumbled on this site and glad I did. Am presently living in east Texas trying to sell my ranch so can go to the Philippines. I was searching for a more temperate climate and believe Tagaytay would fit my pistol well. I’ll noodle around, but if you have the time and temperment, could you tell me if there is high speed internet available in Tagaytay plus anything else (web sites) you could pass along that would be helpful to this future expat.
    Thanks a bunch.
    Tom K.

  16. says

    Hi Dave,

    You forget the coolest and perhaps the nicest place in Mindanao – Buda in Davao City. This is where Seagull Mountain Resort is located. At 4,200ft. above sea level it is generally cold by Philippine standards. I cannot even last a full 2 mins. dip in a swimming pool. It always fog in the area even in the middle of the day. The breeze is cool and for me, the place is an ideal retirement place if you want a laid back, healthy, quit and rural atmosphere away from the city. It is about 2.5 hours drive from Davao City Center. Cheers!

  17. Heinz Schirmaier says

    Hi Dave.
    Forgot about Valencia on Negros Oriental, just north of Dumaquete. It’s also higher elevation and a bit cooler than Duma. I’s a laid back bedroom community with mostly affluent people living there. Foreigners have discovered it finally to the dismay of the wealthy Filipino.

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