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We get a few of our clients and enquirers who say they want to move to the Philippines, buy a house, start a business, and to start living the easy life.

It’s not necessarily a silly idea, but it’s not for everyone. It’s definitely not something you should rush into. We live here ourselves, as you’ve probably gathered. And yes, I don’t mind saying we live a comfortable life. We have a nice house. We have household helpers. We have a driver. We have administrative staff in our office. We have no plans to go back to Australia. However, we also know plenty who are struggling here.

 

An Australian moving to the Philippines australian living and working in Philippines

 

As the husband of a Filipina lady (husband….not de facto partner), you may apply for permanent residency here. It’s not overly difficult. You may own a condominium unit. You may then work or start a business. As long as you remain married, and as long as you behave yourself, you may stay.

However, living in Philippines and visiting on a romantic holiday, it’s not the same thing.

 

Issues with moving to the Philippines

 

Main issue is that of money! And foreigners running businesses in Philippines! Or foreigners getting jobs in Philippines!

I had somebody asking me what “the wages in Philippines were like” here a month or so ago. The only honest answer is “woeful”. It’s a third-world country. Filipinos can live on the smell of an oily rag, and are OK living simply. Living in crowded conditions with leaky roofs, and on diets of rice and dried fish (in quantities that are OK for a 5’3” male who weighs 50kg) is acceptable. It won’t be for you!

And if you wish to start up a business which competes with Filipinos, you are competing with those who are OK sleeping on the floor in the business and living on dried fish and rice. You can’t live like that. You don’t WANT to live like that! And you also don’t have family members who will help you out when you don’t have enough money for your dried fish and rice either.

The other issue is that there are a lot of businesses here in markets that are oversupplied.

Just down the road from us you can see somebody with an umbrella over a cart with a pot over a gas burner with a pile of sweet corn on the cob. Yes, they’re selling sweet corn by the side of the road. 40 – 50 meters from them is somebody else selling…..yes….sweet corn. Then the same distance is another one selling sweet corn. I think there’s about 6 or 7 of them. And they’re not very busy!

We had tinting put on our first car. We went to a place that did tinting. There were about 4 similar places doing car window tinting in the same block. They were happy to shut up the shop, hop on a tricycle and to come to our place to do the job. I also have a barber who is happy to close his barber shop to come to my home and cut my hair. Business is not always booming! We bought two very nice glazed pots (plant pots) the other week. The owner was very grateful, because he hadn’t had a sale for three weeks!

There’s an abundance of “spas” and massage places nearby to us. I’m sure they’re not all busy all day, and we watch new ones open and older ones close. Over the last few decades I’ve stayed at a number of resorts where we were the only guests for a week.

Those who do OK here are either (a) those who are employed by multinational companies who give them jobs, (b) those who like myself are dealing with Australians or other western clients, and (c) those who are pensioned or superannuated or otherwise living on investments.

 

An Australian in Philippines

 

I have yet to meet any Australian who comes here and “shows them how to do it properly” and competes with Filipinos on their own turf. It doesn’t happen. Not only do you not know the market, you also don’t know the culture enough to know how to do business. I was discussing sugar cane juice with an Indian (he worked for Citibank, I think) once. Sugar cane juice is commonly sold by street vendors in India. Delicious and very refreshing when served cold. They DO grow sugar cane here. My Indian friend thought it would be a great business to start up here, with a chain of franchises, etc. I disagreed! The chances are the locals wouldn’t like it, and would stick to their old favourites like buku (coconut) juice. I’d love to see pie vans here, like we have in Australia. But maybe I’d be their only customer? Don’t assume the locals will clamour for your “great western ideas”! And your sales technique, your ways of building rapport, your slam-dunk sales closes…..they probably won’t work here either. Don’t kid yourself.

If you get a great job offer in Philippines, with a high salary, relocation expenses, house, car, maid and driver tossed in, then you should seriously consider it!

If you have a business where it really doesn’t matter where you are in the world, then yes you should consider it. Do your homework re. internet connections and any other infrastructure that you need first.

And if you’re pensioned, superannuated or have investments you can live off? Consider it too. Just be realistic about what you can live off. Come up with a household budget, and then double it. Don’t kid yourselves. Yes, we buy most of our meat, fruit and vegetables from the local market. It’s cheap compared to Australia. But I can’t stand the local sugar-infested bread, and I can’t eat tiny fish full of bones, scales, etc which stare back at you from the plate. We get imported beef. We get imported bacon. We get imported ham. We get Aussie wines, imported brie and gorgonzola, and some really nice (but not cheap) bread from Santis delicatessen. We don’t ride jeepneys or tricycles either. As I said, come up with a budget and then double it. Again, don’t kid yourself!

Ideally, keep your house in Australia. Rent it out. Don’t burn your bridges. Come and rent a place and give yourself a year before you make any firm commitments.

And keep yourself safe! Don’t rent (or buy) a place in Philippines in a poor neighbourhood. You stick out like a sore thumb. Regardless of your bank balance, you will be seen as a rich westerner. There will be plenty who will see you as a target for scams or worse! You may also get burgled, violently robbed or kidnapped. Or you may be set up for blackmail, ie. neighbourhood girl (or even boy) gets alone with you, tears clothes, runs out and screams rape. Policeman (who is probably part of it) says they will drop the charges for ½ a million pesos on the condition that you get on a plane immediately after paying up. Find a nice gated community with security guards at the gate and bars on the windows. You will ALWAYS be a target for the have-nots. Once again, don’t kid yourself.

 

Postscript – 15/08/2014

I’ve just had a few comments from some expats here who seemed to take offense at my last paragraph. These are expats who live in the provinces in their wife’s home town, and they feel perfectly safe. Well, good! That’s great. And no doubt if in someone lives in a town where there are a large number of family members, and Filipino society being a complex web of relationships and obligations, troublemakers will leave you alone.

But I was referring to the poorer areas in the more urban areas. This is why I said “Don’t rent or buy a place in a poor neighbourhood.” I actually know this one from experience. When we first moved here we rented a house in an area with a mix of reasonably-OK houses and a large number of squatters. And we WERE a target! Had a few close calls. And I’ve known people, both friends and clients, who have intended moving to areas where the police don’t like going! This is what I’m referring to. I had a client just this week who’s hotel was right next to a girly-bar area where an English friend of mine was attacked with a machete (which left a great scar across his forehead)! We persuaded the client to move somewhere nicer.

So no, I’m not insulting the local population, nor am I saying you should lock yourself away like a prisoner. Just a dose of reality to keep you safe.

NOTE: The is an updated reposting of a post from August 2013

 

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43 Comments

  1. john reynolds

    Well i read your article and after spending the last 30 years travelling to philippines its spot on.The philippines is a great country for pinoys but westerners just cannot survive unless they have independant income .Even then its not safe .My wife will not allow me to visit her home as the area is just dangerous for foreigners and for them too.If i visit her home then i make them a target for the local thieves and put the family in danger . When people are desperate they will do anything so beware and stick to the tourist areas with the smiling security guard with the shotgun.

    Reply
    • mark

      One should take due dilligence and investigate if there are other reasons why a wife has not invited you to the family home even once. A surprise visit may confirm the reason.

      Reply
      • Jeff Harvie

        I agree with that, Mark. Could be an interesting visit.

        Reply
      • Zed

        I have a Filipina friend here in Australia who is from Mindanao (The bad part of Mindanao). And for that reason she will not allow her Aussie husband to visit her family back home. It’s just way to dangerous for him to go there…..Tripadvisor has for years recommended foreigners to keep clear of that place.

        Reply
        • Jeff Harvie

          95% of Mindanao is perfectly safe, but some parts of it are not.

          Reply
          • Graham Jones

            I agree with you Jeff my partner and I have a house near Tandag Mindanao and are safe as my partner has family and friends in the area and we are regularly updated on the NPA s movements so we can adjust our situation accordingly..I like your post Jeff it’s spot on .

    • Craig Smith

      I have been traveling to the Philippines for the past 6 years and visiting every two months staying for around a month sometimes longer , I have been most places and enjoyed the people and Philippines immensely, I have fallen in love with a girl from northern Sumar . She currently lives in Quezon City with a friend . I have decided to move to Subic Bay with her and give it a go .
      I plan to go there with $30,000 Australian dollars and have a income of $500 A week also Australian dollars . What is your opinion on how I should approach this , I am flexible on where I live as long as it is not to far from Manila as I plan to re contact with a company I am doing business with from a meat export business I have

      Reply
      • Jeff Harvie

        I really can’t comment, Craig. This is nothing to do with visa applications.

        Reply
      • Marcus T Cicero

        better be in laguna or batangas” close to metro manila” get a nice simple basic house from PAGIBIG /HDMF ” stay away from your girls extended family” just you and your girl. let your girl do the cooking for you. 500 aud a week is enormous budget just for foods and utility bills. Internet connection here is around 1.5k pesos with telephone. electricity here monthly will cost 5k pesos if lots of aircon in the house, 1 aircon in the bedroom is sufficeint for those hot nights with your girl.LOL. celphone subscription is 500 pesos, just dont let your girl do the budgeting. you should! Subic? don like it there,

        Reply
      • Zed

        Hi Craig. Subic has a large Expat community. Lived there for a while back in 2011. You should be ok with that budget. You can rent some nice places there for a decent price… But you need to be careful of one thing. Your girlfriends family!!!!. I hear it all the time. And it will NEVER stop. Filipinos are a very family orientated group. Most children of larger families work and send most of their earnings back home to the family. (Some are huge when you consider extended members) ie: Numerous uncles and Aunties and cousins. (first/second/third and fourth cousins) And of course you will have a basketball team of nieces and nephews. All of them have birthdays. And lets not forget Christmas. When you are in a relationship with a Filipina, the hands come out steady and fast from family members. So you need to be prepared in helping out MANY family members when this happens. Also another thing happens… As soon as your girlfriend see how you as a westerner lives. It will make her feel guilty as her family is not as well off as she is. So be prepared for the sympathy donations to her family….. Other than that. You should be ok…. I was lucky. My wife had already woken up to the fact that she was busting her balls to support her huge family. She realized her whole family was taking advantage of her.. Making up ridiculous lies about people nearly dying, family members being involved in accidents and people needing emergency surgery.. She was that busy from work she had no time to actually go home to see what was going on. But soon she found out through neighbouring friends that most of what she had been told was nothing but LIES> This had gone on for many many years Then one day, she put her foot down… She told them all to piss off, changed her phone number and moved to Manila. A year later I arrived as a Tourist and fell in love…. Married now for 5 years and living in Australia.

        Reply
  2. David Samuel

    Wow ! Wow ! What an eye opening blog…I was thinking if we don’t get our visa to live in the Philippines…Whoops !

    Reply
  3. Steven Lisk

    Invaluable info exposure and open eyes there’s millions of locals trying why will you capture a market ? Realy . From the bit I’ve seen I could not agree more . All the best to everyone concerned and happy times . Regards Steve

    Reply
  4. Glyn

    I could not agree more.

    Reply
  5. Bill

    Very good and well writen article jeff, it pretty much hit right at home, without a good income of some sort coming in its going to be pretty hard and impossible to live comfortably. Something that needs well planing and execution, were planning and hoping to be there in maybe 3 -4 years to live in the philippines, by then everything should be pretty well sorted out by then. I always read and hear expats and westerners living in the PH and I can feel there joys and most of all there struggles at times, life is not what people think at times. Reading hearing and learning by others is the best wisdom one can have and whats the best way to tackle the move, what needs to be in place to live comfortably..

    Reply
  6. Dave Weisbord

    You had me until the end with the stay in a gated community with security guards comment. Not for me. There are plenty of home in PI not behind gates and walls and guards where you can be relatively safe. I will prefer to be among Filipinos, not just sequestered with a bunch of other Westerners. It can be done.

    Reply
    • downundervisa

      Hello Dave

      I’ve updated the post. I hope I’ve clarified that issue. Thanks for your comments.

      Reply
  7. john b

    A little on the extremist side. You must live in Manila or some other congested, crowded city.

    If your wife on’t let you visit her home town, she doesn’t know enough to keep you safe or mayhaps doesn’t want you to meet her husband.

    I have lived in a small town on northern Mindanao for five years and have never had any problems, nor have any of the expats who live here.

    Yes there are pitfalls about living in the Philippines, but if you won'[t take a jeepney or a sidecar you are not living, you are being held prisoner. You made the choice, don’t badmouth others because you don’t like you decisions….

    Reply
    • downundervisa

      Hello John

      I’ve been to my wife’s home province many times over the years, thanks. And no, she is not keeping a second husband there. You may not agree with me, but I fail to see why you would feel the need to make a personal comment like that.

      And if you re-read the post, you will see that I did not in fact “badmouth” anyone. I expressed my opinion. I’ve since updated the post to clarify the issues that you’ve raised.

      Reply
  8. john b

    Meant no offense Dave, I interpreted it, perhaps wrongly that you were not allowed to visit her family.,,and it has happened to others before. my apoplogies

    john

    Reply
    • downundervisa

      Not a problem, John.

      Yes indeed, that sort of thing does happen. We’ve heard it all over the years of our practice. Hidden husbands. Hidden boyfriends. Hidden children. I still say that most of the ladies are wonderful, and with our clients I would say the problem wives and fiancees would be 5 – 10% at the most, which probably isn’t bad odds.

      Reply
  9. peter proctor

    i totally agree about the criminal content of your blog, ive been travelling to the phils since 1991,an have seen some pretty eye opening stuff ,i recently,meet my dream pinay and spent the month of march in Santiargo City ,Isabella, i stayed in my fiances place in an working class community ,my dream is to get my partner here to Australia ,but if all else fails im thinking of moving to the phils after we are married ,my new partner has grown children whom she shares a home with ,thing is they support their mum ,and are so giving an supporting when i was there ,i really want to leave Australia an the rat race ,but dont have the funds to support myself

    Reply
    • Jeff Harvie

      Not a place to rush into emigrating to, Peter. Most people can’t make it.

      Reply
  10. bob

    I am a 78 year old .male from the Redlands area of s.e. queensland. I am currently living in Cebu and plan to move to manila in a week or so. this trip I have been to boracay, ormoc, tacloban, maasin looking for somewhere to live but have decided to live in manila. I have lived all my life in queensland, but it is now no longer a safe place to live. The local council is run by a dictator and the police have no respect to the eldeley. You cannot challenge them even in a court. they are always right. How sic queensland has become local gov. councillors will not replyto questions as also your state member. I will probably buy a house in a gated community in manila after I have sold my house in qld. on return next month.

    Reply
    • Jeff Harvie

      Gated community is a good idea, Bob.

      Reply
  11. Tony Montone

    It is always a pleasure reading Jeff’s blogs and his insights and opinions as to Philippines culture, traditions and values. I have travelled to the Philippines many times and I agree wholeheartedly with his views. Philippines can be a dangerous place for both Westerners and locals. Whilst I have never experienced violence with a local, I did with a drunken Australian in a bar. A good life can be had in the Philippines, but you must have money. The more the better. There will always be relatives of your Filipina and they always expect you to pay for groceries or fuel or utilities whenever you visit them. There could be several birthdays a month within the extended family and they will remind you that it is someone’s birthday coming up or is today. Extended hands are always out in Philippines as we are considered the “rich” guys compared with them. I agree with Jeff as to security in your living premises. Rich Filipinos always live in high-rise condominiums which may have a dozen or more armed security guards there to protect the residents. Rich people there do not want the local riff-raff from entering the building. So too with gated communities. Security is very important to rich Filipinos and it should also be important to “rich” white guys. I think you also need a savvy Filipina to guide you and teach you the customs and ways of the locals. In my view she must be educated herself and have greater intelligence than many of the local people. An educated Filipina in my view is much more compatible to an Australian guy than is a local village girl who really does not know much outside her village and her usually large extended family.
    I personally have had no problems travelling in Jeepneys and tricycles. However, most of the time I was accompanied by my partner lady. I have had trouble with taxi drivers not switching on the metre as I was the “rich” white guy. The police there are not to be fully trusted especially if you are in the wrong. Good contacts in government or just knowing the right people is essential in my view.
    A reasonable salary by Australian standards can only be earned if you have a senior position with one of the multi-national companies in Philippines. To live well there, you must earn dollars and spend pesos. Then you can afford a nice house full of servants or helpers and eat an Australian diet. A white guy will always stand out in a Third World country, so you must always be on your guard and have a “Plan B” for everything.

    Reply
  12. John

    Philippines is an awful country. I am currently an expat there and I can’t wait to leave. I was genuinely happy to move there at the beginning but after a few months, I became more and more disappointed by the local. Crab mentality, jealousy, rude with foreigners who are not western looking and acting friendly with the “white looking”…it was a bit surprising. No rules, no consideration for others, awful food…I tried hard but I give up.

    Reply
    • Jeff Harvie

      It’s not for everyone, John. Better to leave if it doesn’t suit you.

      Reply
    • Roland Pawlak

      Same as me ive given up many times .in philippines having said that my partner and i own 2 condos in makati leased .a beachfront lot in oslob cebu .and the customary 2 suvs .which i hate .my partner is a doctora .surgeon. very educated ..thats the key in living here .she knows the important people .still.for me .as a white person getting looked at scary

      Reply
  13. David Pickford

    Hi Dave, l am looking at moving to the Manila area, most likely around Cavite, in 2018 to marry a local woman. I will only have about $100k but she has a small business that has started taking off and owns her own home in a small gated community. I am 62 next year and so no government pension for another few years. I am thinking that on moving l may start up a home maintenance business as l have found my skills much in demand when there. Can you give me some ideas on what l need to do to firstly obtain a long term visa until we are married in 2019 and what l would need to do to set up the home maintenance business. My wife to be has a SUV and a truck, both relatively new, that l can use and l would bring all my tools etc with me.
    Regards Dave.

    Reply
    • Jeff Harvie

      Really outside of my area, David. I’ll tell you a couple of things: 1. If you plan on marrying next year, I’d just rely on renewing tourist visas until you’re ready to apply for a 13a spouse visa. 2. Think VERY carefully before making long-term plans when you’ve only visited here. Make no solid plans until you’ve lived here for 12 months. I can tell you that there are not too many Aussie handymen running businesses around here. Local tradesmen cost P500 to P700 per day. I suspect you don’t want to compete with that. You would also be dealing with locals who would find it very difficult to deal with you, because what you’re suggesting is unprecedented. So you would be on the back foot, and would be their last choice. P500 a day, and out of work most of the time.

      Reply
  14. Mark

    Hi im thinking of moving to davao
    Met a nice girl there
    I am 50 years old
    I have $100000 to live on before super sets in at 65
    Hows super annuation work in this situation?
    I need advice in this

    Reply
    • Jeff Harvie

      Wrong person to ask, sorry. We do visa applications only.

      Reply
  15. Brian Hawes

    Can someone tell me where I can get help with my visa please.. I recently spent 3 weeks in Manila with a Filipina lady friend with no visa required.. I’m now looking at going back for a longer stay, 6 to 12 months to get more of a feel for the place, but I struggle with legal mumbo jumbo.. So some help with a visa application in Brisbane would be right up my alley..
    Also wondering why a chest X-ray is required if applying for permanent residency? Would I be knocked back coz I’ve smoked all my life and not in perfect health?
    Thanks..

    Reply
    • Jeff Harvie

      You won’t get a permanent resident visa in Philippines without being married.

      You can go to the Philippines Embassy in Australia to apply for a longer stay, or just do what most people do and apply for extensions. There are people who’ve been living here for years just renewing tourist visas. Nearest office of the Bureau of Immigration will help you.

      Reply
      • Garry Poole

        Hi Jeff is it that easy to just renew your tourist visa till we get married iam going to cebu in 3 weeks this is my 3rd time my lady was here for 3months in 2016 i met her through a good mate of 50years who is her brotherinlaw iam only staying for a month then going back next year for good iam 66 and on an old age pension my lady is 56 we are waiting on her papers to get married

        Reply
        • Jeff Harvie

          Are you talking about renewing a tourist visa for yourself inside Philippines? Yes, very easy. Via the Bureau of Immigration.

          Reply
          • Garry Poole

            Yes i know the first month u dont need one but do u have to keep extending it over and over and how long for i mean will they let u do this untill we get married

          • Jeff Harvie

            We’re not experts in that area, Garry. Best to enquire at the Bureau of Immigration.

        • Alex J

          Garry.
          In 2017 I lived in Iloilo and just kept extending my tourist visa. Renew after 1 month, then get a 2 month renewal. After that, you can start to apply for a 6 month renewal. I got my ACR card at the same time that I applied for my first 6 month visa. After 3 years you must leave the Philippines for a day then return and start the process over again. It’s a paperwork exercise, but it’s quite simple to do.

          Reply
  16. Alan

    G’day,
    I’m a 65 yr old Australian Vietnam vet and receive a TPI pension ( $2300.00 AUD ) per fortnight. Not having been born into a rich family and suffering financially from 2 failed marriages and losing the home I built, my bank balance took a nose dive and hasn’t recovered. I’ve met a 62 yr old Filipina who has never married and despite all the warnings, she is a “bonzer sheila”! I want to retire in PI and marry my lady BUT……I simply don’t have US10,000.00 with which to lodge in a bank there to get the SSRRV. Does anyone have any suggestions please? Cheers!

    Reply
    • Jeff Harvie

      Wouldn’t have a clue, Alan. Sorry.

      Reply

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