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Interview with The Immigrant Magazine

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Recently, I was interviewed by Johnna Villaviray-Giolagon who works for a magazine here in the Philippines entitled “The Immigrant”.  She had questions for me regarding my move to the Philippines, my life here, and other related topics.

The interview has now been published and can be read online.  However, the way that the website is set up, it is a bit difficult to read it, in my opinion, and also it is not possible for me to cut and paste parts of the interview and share it with my readers here on LiP.  Because of that, I want to share the e-mail that I sent to Ms. Villaviray-Giolagon when she did the interview.

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Basically, the interview was about people retiring in the Philippines, and also how the Philippines can attract more foreigners to retire in the country.  To read the interview, you can visit the article: PHL at Home.  The part of the article that refers to our interview is on page 2, in the first column.

Now, below is the e-mail with my answers to the questions that were asked of me:

Hi Johnna,

Thank you for offering me the opportunity to discuss this with you and share my opinions and experiences.

I first came to the Philippines in July of 1990, and during the 90’s made 5 trips to the Philippines.  In May of 2000, my wife and I decided to relocate to the Philippines and settle here with our children.  My wife is Filipina, from General Santos City.  We have 3 boys and 2 girls.

Interesting that you are writing for “The Immigrant Philippines” as while I used to consider myself an expat here, I now prefer to call myself and think of myself as an immigrant.  I feel that the term “expat” has more of a temporary connotation, and also a connotation that the country where you are currently living is not really your home.  Your home is the place where you came from, and perhaps you intend to go back there again.  For me, I consider the Philippines my home.  I have lived here for more than 13 years, and have never returned to the United States during that time, I suspect that I will never return there again.  Thus, I consider myself to have immigrated to the Philippines.

What is the biggest draw bringing expats to the Philippines?  Well, I am going to be honest with you, even if it is an answer that I don’t care for.  The answer is the ladies here.  A LOT of men come from overseas because they are here to chase women.  It is not my reason for being here, but it is the simple truth.  I have no problem with foreign men coming here and marrying, but just womanizing, well, it goes a little overboard.  The second biggest reason bringing expats here is the cost of living.  During the time that I have lived here, the cost of living in the Philippines has really skyrocketed, but it is still inexpensive compared to many other countries.

For me, cost of living was part of the reason I moved here.  Another big reason for my move was just wanting to get out and do something different.  I was a bit bored with life, and wanted to do something adventurous.  I also feel that the Philippines is a great place to raise my kids, given the family values that are part of Philippine Culture.

Biggest turn off?  For most expats that I talk to, there are a few big turn offs.  One is food.  Most expats feel that the quality of the food available here is poor, and they long for the availability of a higher quality and better variety of foods.  This is probably not a big problem for Manila, but out in the Provinces it can be pretty bad.  I live in Davao, and we have it fairly good here when it comes to the availability of quality food choices.  But, probably outside of Manila, Cebu and Davao, this can be a problem.  The other big problem that I hear about from most expats is that they often feel that many Filipinos try to take advantage of them financially.  I feel that this is a problem that can be dealt with if a person lives here longer and learns how to handle such situations.  I know that in the early years of my life here this could be a problem, but I really never run into such problems any more.

You mentioned the huge number of Filipinos wishing to leave the Philippines, go work abroad, etc.  Yes, that is something that kind of puzzles me.  I say that, because there is so much opportunity in the Philippines.  I found that by working hard, and thinking outside the box, I make a much better income here in the Philippines than I ever did when I lived in the States.  I know that many Filipinos can do it to, if they are willing to be a bit unconventional about it.

Why can’t the Philippines move closer to the top spot of a retirement destination?  Well, there are a number of reasons.  Many foreigners, even myself to an extent, feel that we are treated a bit unfairly by the laws here.  One big issue is that a foreigner cannot purchase property here.  Back in our countries, Filipinos can own property and such, yet we are not allowed to do that here.  We cannot own many types of business here, this sort of thing.  Visa requirements are a bit unusual here, making it difficult for people to understand how they can retire here and stay here permanently.  Mostly it is these kinds of things that hold the Philippines back.  Another thing that is often mentioned among expats is that corruption here is difficult to deal with.  This is only my opinion, of course.

Thank you, and if you have any follow up questions, please just let me know.

Posted in

Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur. Bob is an American who lived in Mindanao from 2000 until 2019. Bob has now relocated back to the USA.

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chasrand
chasrand
8 years ago

Hi Bob, Interesting article for sure. On the food issue it would appear that many people are not as adventurous as myself. I never find the food much of an issue, plenty of ingredients available for cooking your own but you have to be adventurous and experiment. Foreigners can’t really expect the food to be the same as their home country, experimenting is half the fun. Eating out i’ve had some fairly good Filipino/Chinese and other food there, even in the provinces, but i’m no gourmet 🙂 I agree that there are career opportunities in the PH for those who… Read more »

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  chasrand

Hi Chasrand – Nice to hear from you. I pretty much agree with everything you say. Remember, in my answers, I was not saying what I think about the issues, but what I think others think. In other words, I was asked things like why more people don’t come here to live… so the answers I gave don’t necessarily match with my feelings about the Philippines, but what I hear from others. 😉

chasrand
chasrand
8 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

I get you Bob.
I would say lack of good infrastructure keeps more people away than anything else i can think of.
Some people buy 3rd class tickets but expect 1st class service, lol.

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  chasrand

Hi Chas – Interestingly, poor infrastructure is something I hear only very rarely from foreigners here.

chasrand
chasrand
8 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Maybe it’s mostly the Brits and Europeans Bob, we are spoilt with infrastructure lol.
With respect, i find Americans complain the most about food, corruption and rip offs lol.
Maybe we have better infrastructure overall and Americans have better food, less corruption and rip offs lol.

On the whole though, i think most Westerners are too brainwashed by fixed prices for everything. Most have lost the art of negotiation that i grew up with and love, it’s going the way of the Dodo like me, lol.

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  chasrand

Hi Chas – Living here, I deal with probably an equal number of Americans, Europeans, Aussies and such. I just rarely hear about infrastructure. Most of what I hear about is food, corruption and immigration equally across the board.

I certainly agree that most westerners have lost the art of negotiation. It is something I quite enjoy when going to the market.

Cordillera Cowboy
8 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

I would say that poor infrastructure would come into play for someone who doesn’t have any Filipino connections. I would be terrified to have a relative or friend show up in Manila airport without one of us to meet them. When the article covered infrastructure, it mentioned that Manila airport is considered one of the worst in the world.

Take care,
Pete

MindanaoBob
8 years ago

Hi Pete – Wow, all of the sudden I am hearing about infrastructure from multiple people. Until today, it had probably been 3 to 5 years since I have heard that complaint! 🙂

corjo
corjo
8 years ago

Hi Bob.
Its a bit off topic but I have just heard from Samar. Torrential rain and very strong winds plus a large sea surge. Luckily its a low tide condition at the moment. But already many nipa homes have been destroyed. There are widespread blackouts but the cell phone system is still working. As I spoke to my colleague he described whole nippa houses being ripped apart and flying away and trees being knocked over. Its going to be a bad time for those in the path of Yolanda.

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  corjo

Hi corjo – Thanks for the update. I am thankful that the storm took a more northerly track and missed us, but certainly feel bad for the people in the Visayas.

Brenton
Brenton
8 years ago

Hi Bob – The retirement points are very relevant to the nation moving forward. Locals will always ask what business I would set up or house I would buy. My response is Hong Kong is a better country to run business from and I can’t buy property, so it is best I buy elsewhere. They don’t make it easy here to do business. But to the Philippines credit they just moved up 30 spaces in global rankings in the last year for ease of doing business. Last year they were number 138. Now they are about 108. Immigration would be… Read more »

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  Brenton

Hi Brenton – In general, I see the country moving in the right direction when it comes to Immigration, doing business and such. There is still a long way to go, though, and the points you make line up with my thinking as well.

corey
corey
8 years ago

Great Interview Bob. Great minds think alike LOL

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  corey

Thanks, Corey.

Lenny
Lenny
8 years ago

Your answers were right on.

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  Lenny

Thanks, Lenny. I’m glad that you felt that way!

Mike Henebry
Mike Henebry
8 years ago

Bob. Poor infrastructure and the difficulty of traveling to different places is my biggest complaint about PH; lots of beautiful places, but often barely worth the difficult and dangerous road conditions involved in reaching them. While typical PH dishes are not world-class, like Thai, Chinese, French or Italian, I have never had any problem finding good quality ethic restaurants, and we are always able to purchase good quality veggies and meats to cook at home. To me, PH is like England and Ireland as far as food; edible and capable of sustaining life, but not great. But, when in England… Read more »

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike Henebry

Hi Mike – I based my answers on what I hear from other foreigners. Like I said to chas, it is very rare that I hear anybody complain about infrastructure (except for poor internet). I consider most Filipino food to be “OK” at best. 🙂

loren pogue
loren pogue
8 years ago

Well Bob its like one hammer said to the other “you hit the nail right on the head” in that interview, and I agree, but take exception to one item. I think you are a highly qualified person in a kind of specialized unique field for earning money, and I don’t think average people have the ability to find and make a good living here. I see a lot of failures even in the your line, and most people could not even get to first base in that business. That being said there are a lot of opportunities here and… Read more »

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  loren pogue

Hi Loren – Thanks for your thoughts. I believe that there are lots of ways to make money, and not all of us can make money the same way, but because there are so many ways to do it, many people can prosper. This includes the “average guy”. Yes, some people will fail at one method or another, but there are so many methods that everybody can find a way to do it, if they are willing to be flexible and work hard at it!

James
James
8 years ago
Reply to  loren pogue

Loren: I share your thoughts about the need for Filipinos to go abroad to help support their families. Although I would have never met my wife, a Filipina, if she had not come to the US as a nanny, I do hope that conditions there change so that future young Filipinos will cease to feel a need to leave their families and beautiful country.

PapaDuck
PapaDuck
8 years ago

Bob,
You are correct about business, you have to think outside t he box. I see a lot of businesses being run the same way and you wonder how they really survive. Alot of the food I like, but some I don’t because of so much sugar and salt. I brought or I buy quite abit imported food, no matter the cost. It can get frustrating when having to deal with government agencies. You just have to show patience.

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  PapaDuck

Hi Papa Duck, we have all heard the saying that patience is a virtue, and that statement certainly applies in the Philippines!

Jay
Jay
8 years ago

Hi Bob, Nice interview! I think the food thing is a lack of variety issue more than quality. I love Filipino food. If I lived in the Philippines I guess I would miss a medium rare rib eye steak. My wife hates Italian food. If we lived in Italy I guess she would complain about the quality of food there. In the US we can have pretty much any type of food we like, but I am not sure that is the case most places. The complaints about Visa requirements annoy me, because if I want to visit the philippines… Read more »

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Hi Jay – Thanks for your comments. On the food thing, I don’t really think it is a matter of variety. It is things like spaghetti with a ton of sugar in it… foods that are fried and dripping in fat, etc.

I totally agree with you about the visa. In my opinion, they make it easy to visit here. Most expats, though, don’t see it that way.

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hi Bob – The spaghetti thing may explain why my wife hates Italian food. Maybe she feels the spaghetti needs more sugar when she taste Italian style spaghetti. Good point on the food that I had not thought about. I am from the South so I guess I am somewhat accustom to fried and dripping in fat because traditionally a lot of Southern dishes are prepared that way. I remember my aunt making home-made french fries fried in lard and how they were the best I have ever had. I think one thing I like about Filipino culture is it… Read more »

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Ha ha… I didn’t think about that, Jay, that she may not be liking the Italian food because it lacks the sweetness that she is used to! 😉

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