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Should You Consider Living in the Philippines?

Many of our members write to us asking our opinion of living in the Philippines.  Since we did live there, we do have some experiences to share and some suggestions to offer.
As you should know from reading our past advice articles in our blog, common sense and visa issues both require a couple to spend time together in person.  Because the Philippines does not require a complicated visa for most people, it is usually the best place to meet first.  And the Philippines is definitely a great place to visit.  Many of our members also consider living in the Philippines.
We met in the Philippines, and we lived there in the Visaya region near Cebu for about a year together.  We considered staying longer.  But based on our own experience and what we learned from others, we decided to process the visa to live in the USA. After processing the visa, we have now been living here in Hawaii, USA for almost two years.
There are hundreds of thousands of foreign men who live for a few years or more in the Philippines.  There are even a few foreign women who live in the Philippines.  However, in our experience the foreigners remain permanently outsiders, legally and culturally.  In part it is an isolation imposed by the Filipino culture and laws, and in part it is a self-imposed isolation from the rest of the Philippines.
Foreigners in the Philippines do not experience the same protection and rights (legally or practically) as Filipinos, in their country.  From the laws about land ownership (foreigners are prohibited from land ownership and ownership of controlling interests in most businesses) to police service, the foreigner in the Philippines is not entitled to the rights or protection he often expects for himself.  Additionally, the hardships of life in the Philippines (high crime, unreliable utilities, needy families) force most foreigners to set create their own boundaries and infrastructure.
Here in Hawaii, when we go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, to transfer a car title, we pay 5 dollars, and within 5 minutes we have a new title in our name.  In the Philippines, this would take either days at the corresponding offices (if not months), or employing a “fixer” who would do some combination of waiting and bribing in order to process the paperwork.  The same story applies to land ownership and processing of other papers, many of which will be required for a marriage license and passport application.  Of course these issues are not unique to the Philippines.  Living in Central America, Africa, or many other places in Asia would generally be similar, based on our research.
Another consideration we had in mind was whether to have children born and raised in the Philippines.  We heard too many stories of doctors who routinely pushed high percentages of expectant mothers into the operating room for caesareans if they believed the mother had the funds to pay for this more expensive form of birth, regardless as to whether there was any indication that a normal birth would have complications.
So, these issues, and the isolation they require in order for a foreigner to maintain sanity living long-term in the Philippines, are significant.  They must be weighed against the benefits of living in the Philippines: warm weather; inexpensive rent, public transportation, dental work, and food; a sense of popularity; a good chance to meet a sincere Christian Filipina; beautiful islands and beaches; delicious and abundance mango, coconut, and other fruits.
In summary, our recommendation is that it is nice to visit the Philippines, and can also be a pleasant place to rent a small apartment for several months or perhaps up to a year if your schedule allows.  It gives an opportunity to get to know a Filipina and to be married and to be together for some time in her place.  However, we do not recommend putting the cart before the horse and committing yourself to living permanently in the Philippines before living there for six months or more on an experimental basis.  And in most cases, we believe most foreigners and their wives will ultimately be happier back in their own countries.
If you would like to research more on this topic, there are dozens of other web sites and groups on the topic of foreigners living in the Philippines.  We do warn you to be careful, because many of them are closely censored by their website owners who seek to present their own specific idea of what the Philippines is.  Actually we did also start a forum about living in the Philippines which you are welcome to review, and if you wish, to join.  We started it a few years ago when we still lived in the Philippines, and it has not been very active since we left there.
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