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How life is different living in the Philippines (Living conditions)

I have written in the past about construction techniques here and I am not going to go through it again but use the technology to talk more about living conditions.

Here in most homes there is no weather proofing around doors and windows. There are no thresholds at entry doors. Metal window frames do not have rubber seals. They do not even have drain holes on horizontal sliding windows for water to leak out when it rains.

In America, in most areas, if you see ants or roaches in your home, you call the exterminator or come out with the spray. Usually one or 2 treatments and your house is fine for a long while.

Here the ants are endless. There are many varieties but to me there are big and small, red and black ants. The black ants are easy to get rid of. Using spray or an ant killer product and they are gone within a day. The red ones are relentless. I have used Terro and the homemade version of boric acid, sugar and water. I have had times I had used the Terro for a week until they stopped.

Because of the lack or thresholds at the doors, they can just walk in. Also they will climb the walls and come in through the windows and they even will go up to the roof and find their way in that way. If there is any gap in ceiling panels or moldings, in they come. I have seen the trail going up a tree to where the tree is against the house to get there.

Also without thresholds and sealing of window, the roaches will come in. Also in the evenings, if your windows or doors are open, the roaches will fly in attracted to the lights.

Even though I hate fining ants on the kitchen counters or on the floors, I have gotten used to them to the point I just get out the spray or just squish them with my shoes.

The other day I saw a thin trail of the little black ones on the wall in the sala (Living room) I just rubbed my hand over the trail and then brushed them off my hands out the door.

Also the mosquitoes and flies, they are here. When you first arrive you will get bitten often. I am guessing there is something in our body that attracts them more. Maybe it is the new cuisine to them “Caucasian.” Most foreigners complain or mention the quantity of mosquito bites they get for the first few weeks or months. I know I did. Now I hardly get any. I do notice them most in the bathroom. That is because of the cooler water pipes and the water.

Even though my Filipino family does not like the ants, roaches and mosquitoes, they are a part of life here. You look at the ants and comment and they look at you and say yes.  They have seen them all their life and it is a normal, even if unwanted discomfort.

Of course you can hire a professional exterminator like the restaurants and hotels use. But for most of us, that is an expense you do not want to add to your already tight budget.

So, as I am pointing out with this article series is how you need to adapt to the change of living here. If you do not adapt, you will go crazy and drive your Filipino crazy with your unease.

If you like, please comment how you deal with these discomforts.

23 Responses to “How life is different living in the Philippines (Living conditions)”

  1. Lizza says:

    I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but there’s a local superstition (perhaps not in all parts of the country, though) that black ants are supposed to be lucky. They say the presence of black ants in your house is a sign that money is coming your way.

    How I wish that were true! 🙂

    A few friends who visited the Philippines or Asia for the first time almost fainted from shock at the geckos. Funny how something that we here don’t give a second thought to can startle other people out of their pants. I agree geckos (butiki) aren’t the most lovable of animals, but I don’t mind seeing one scurrying across the ceiling or up a wall. After all, they do eat those pesky mosquitoes.

    • Bruce says:

      Coming from Florida, I am used to seeing lizards. The difference is, in Florida I would try to get them out, here I just let them live. I just wish they would eat the roaches, but I think since the roaches are so but, they would eat the lizard.

  2. Neal in RI says:

    Is there any market for someone to construct/retrofit houses there to somewhat US standards ie good window screens,
    roof insulation, attic exhaust vents,thresholds etc. Perhaps with your Architecture background this could your niche.

    You gotta love when your in bed and one of them butiki falls off the ceiling and onto the bed.

    • Bruce says:

      I think the problem is the getting the items and the cost. Unless your rich enough to import the items, I am not sure the availability. Plus, once started costing or building a house, many cringe that it is not as cheap here as they thought.

  3. Alan says:

    You do adjust to the creatures here as a foreigner over time but i still get p’d at the big lizards that wants to hang out in the house out of sight and watch tv with you . With their ” barking ” i can hardly hear the tv . 🙂

    In regards to construction my wife has a friend that worked state side for many years so is familiar with 1st world building and they are presently building apartments here in CDO to rent out to expats . Which means rooms will be larger , more cr’s , etc . So it can be done . You just have to find the right people and maybe more importantly the right person to oversee the construction .

    • Bruce says:

      As I replied to Neal, the room size in not the problem, it is some of the items wanted and availability and the contractors to build the way you want.
      I might be getting a project that is to be upper scale and I will see what we use and get it built. My architect tells me many of the items are avaliable. Plus if you want it, and cannot find it here, import it.

  4. Tim Troutman says:

    Ah the flashbacks of Manila! The cockroaches are definitely hard to get used to – I’m not a big fan. Ants don’t bother me as much. I’m surprised to hear you talk about the mosquitoes though because I never saw or got bitten by one in the time I was there. I figured the pollution in Manila killed them all off!

    I love the Philippines, but you’re definitely right about building standards in such impoverished conditions contributing to the endless supply of insects and rodents.

    • Bruce says:


      About the ants and roaches. Since sanitary conditions are not great and people dumping garbage instead of using the garbage collection bins, they are feeding the pests.
      You need to change a countries attitudes to clean up a country.

  5. Evelyn says:

    hi ,bruce…kumusta ka na and elena?
    i was reading this topic of yours and was laughing at the comment of one of your visitors..about the butiki falling on the bed..and i thought right away,yeah.. he’s right , how come the butikis ?they don’t fall on your bed?
    but did you know that every 6 P.M. ?they go down and kiss the ground?i started noticing this when my grandpa(he’s gone now)told me this story that the butikis do come down at 6 in the evening to kiss the ground…i don’t know but from then on, i started to notice that they do really come down during that time..
    and here in CA, the lizards are soooo big.and greenish in color…we call this TABILI in cebuano..they live in the coconut trees.i see them here on the streets/walkways climbing on the trees and sometimes on our patio..there was one time,one of them got inside the house and i was screaming because it was right there under me..sitting beside my right foot while i was on the computer…OMG..i ran upstairs and called my boss but when he came down,it was gone..i was really scared because it was like a snake in color..
    when my boss went to the Phil, he had great time taking pix of the butiki inside his room in Isla Parilla when he stayed there..he said the butiki was his visitor…
    well, i hope everything is going well there in Davao.

    • Bruce says:

      I do not remember seeing many in California but they are all over Florida. We have one in the kitchen. I just wish they could be trained to poop outside.

  6. grayspirit says:

    Well, I’m now in the Phils, but shacked up in a hotel until the end of the week. Only have been buggered by a roach or two in the hotel. But I’m kind of used to that coming from Hawaii. Will see how I fare in the bug wars when I move into my rental unit. I’ve already been checking out the supermarket for ant and roach killers … lol.

    • Bruce says:

      Welcome to Paradise. I hope you come to Davao sometime to meet you.

      There are many sprays avaliable. There is a product I have heard that is good. It comes in powder and you mix with water and spray it. It is called “Seven”. There is also Terro at some stores for ants and roach traps for the ones that get in. Also if you buy Boric Acid, there are formulas online on mixing. That is just like Terro and you make it as needed.

  7. Tom says:

    As long as you accept the fact that you can only control them you will never get rid of all of them you will get along ok. The butiki do eat small roaches when they catch them The big flying ones are too big. 😎

  8. Bill says:

    Bruce, this is a wonderful site and I am letting my friends know about your blogs. How long can you live away from the states (by law) and how long can you stay in Davao being a “cano?” I am not sure if this has been discussed in any previous blog, but I’d appreciate a reply.

    I guess you would agree with me “better light than white (snow in the northeast).

    • Bruce says:

      Thank you for enjoying my site and your kind words. I hope your friends will visit and enjoy it too.
      An American can live outside the states indefinitely. You do need to file your yearly tax return if you have any earnings needed to report to the US.
      Living in Davao, or anywhere in the Philippines you have mainly 4 options. As a visitor or tourist visa you can stay for 16 months, 24 if apply to Manila for the extra extension. You do have the renew your visa every 59 days.
      You can apply for residence, like the US greencard, if your married to a Filipina. There is also a retirement visa and the forth is if you own a qualified business. you can read more about this at an earlier article I wrote here.

      I am not sure how to reply to your last comment.

  9. brspiritus says:

    Well if you want to get rid of the roaches just find some Huntsman Spiders lol. Seriously though in Diho we have Tabili and even the rarer (these days) Tuko. I love to hear them barking at night, it’s one of the sounds of home to me and I miss it. Now if we could only do something about the motorcycles coming down the street.

  10. Banot's Asawa says:

    I only have 4 words for you ………. TIGHT AS A DRUM!!

  11. Jim says:

    I have been in Cebu for only a few months I came to get my future wife. I really want to go back to the US. Things we are used to buying all the time are not available here and if you can find them they cost just as much as in the states. It was even a chore to find razor blades. They have a phrase used often here. Out of stock. What it usually means is they have no idea what you are talking about. Good luck on getting good food like you are used to.

    • Bruce says:


      It does take time to get used to what products are available and what is not. Also there are times items you have bought for months are out of stock. I had a problem a while ago getting decaffeinated ground coffee.So for a few weeks I drank instant decaf. One problem is most imports come through Manila and they get first dibs on stock.

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