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Offering Services in Davao

You might be wondering is this an advertisement, and maybe it is. As you can see, I have had this site for about 2 years. Originally, it was a free site on Google BlogSpot. After a year, with some encouragement I purchased a server service and registered my own domain.

Now this is not the main reason for this article, but I want to explain a little history.

I had dreams of making an income from advertisements on the site. I soon found out, this is a difficult way to make an income online. Most readers of blogs come to read and do not even notice the ads. I then put the “Donate” button on the sidebar and then on the bottom of each post. Some readers have been kind and I do receive a donation at times, but this is not enough to support myself, my family or really cover the time and costs of this site.

I have mentioned my architectural experiences in articles and had a few who have inquired about me doing design, full construction documents for permitting and even managing construction. I have done a few designs and then never went further. I have wondered if my free designs were giving to someone else or not, I never made any money for my time.

I started this site mainly to journal my life as an American living in Davao, hence the name American in Davao.  At first, many of my articles and photos were about my family and my life. Over time, I have developed to write more about how life is here for a Foreigner in third world country.  I try to tell the truth and not “sugar coating” what observations or advice.  There are many wonderful parts to living here, but there are difficulties too. I have tried to assist people to understand how to conduct themselves here and how to be careful in different situations. Many times my wife Elena has assisted too.

Over time, I have had many comments or direct emails asking for advice, information or even assistance. I have helped visitors find accommodations, helped locate restaurants, doctors and shopping. I have had many emails from future Expats-to-be or from men with online girlfriends who were planning to move here and I have offered any assistance I can give.

Last month I was surprised when I received an email from an International Relocation Service. They had a client company sending a representative here to Davao to open a branch office. I was offered the position as a consultant to assist this person find acceptable accommodations such as a furnished house or apartment, obtaining a bank account, services and a list of restaurants, entertainment, attractions and activities.  I would be paid for expenses, mileage and an hourly rate for a preset number of hours.  The hourly rate was good even if I was in the states.

I accepted the offer and then started trying to locate high-end furnished rentals. This was no easy task. It is not like in the states with magazines and classifieds listing all the apartments and houses for rent. There are some websites that individual real estate agents have, but sometimes they do not have decent descriptions, places shown are already rented or the furnishings are not what would be desired. I felt it was my responsibility to visit as many as I could before this man arrived. I did not want to embarrass myself by bringing him to a location and discovering there was problems.

In addition, many real estate agents do not want to show a property to someone in my position with the fear I would steal the business and they would lose their commission. I did locate a few on my own and found some to be below the standard needed and one that was great. I also planned to show him a place that would be good for a temporary   residence until we could find something better.  To make this long story shorter, we found a place he liked and with my wife’s help, we negotiated a good price.

During this process, I received an email from a man planning to come here in the near future and asked, from reading my site, if I offer any services.  I told him I could offer myself and car for transportation around town, help him find accommodations and local attractions he might enjoy. I told him I would not help him find women or clubs where he can find women.

This man replied he was coming to meet his online girlfriend and offered to pay me to drive them to different attractions in the city. He stated he did not want to ride Jeepneys or has to worry about hiring drivers and/or taxis where language could present a problem.

Today I met a person who is somewhat new to the city. While we were talking about these services, he told me, if he had known about me before he moved here, he would have liked to have someone who could have assisted him finding an apartment, finding and purchasing furnishings and even getting services such as cable and internet. He said he would have had no problem paying me for my time assisting him.

Another friend I have made is planning to come visit his girlfriend he met online. Her birthday is soon and asked if my wife would assist him in buying her a present. He sent us the funds for the purchase. Elena was happy to assist. For this, he offered to take us to dinner once here and to bring both of us certain items we would like from the States.

Some people I have met through this site have offered remuneration, bringing me items from the states I might need, or just a nice dinner with my wife. All of these offers have been nice.  Even though I would like to earn a steady income, being able to assist fellow foreigners with needs, information or advice is something I am enjoying and will continue to do so. If there is a way to assist and earn, I am not against that either. From these few earnings and from the donations I have received it makes me feel it was the right thing to keep this site going and continue the time to write articles and answer comments.

It is also all my visitors to my site that shows me this site has a need and a worth.  Even though it is difficult to find items to write the three articles I try to publish every week, I will do so as long as I am able.

Thank you all for showing me my effort and work is appreciated.

30 Responses to “Offering Services in Davao”

  1. Rey says:

    Hello Bruce,
    It is nice to see another blog came out from an expat like you. I was browsing the internet yesterday and came across with this website. I read some of your forum and feedbacks from other readers and found-out that this blog is very useful and helpful to people who have plans to retire or settle in the Philippines. Please keep up the good work and I know someday I may needed your help for an advise to settle in Davao. I am just same age as you and Im glad you took that plunge. My life is still tied up here in the Bay Area until my kids are settled. Life is becoming tough in CA as my wife is unemployed for almost two years now. She was laid-off from an insurance company as an underwriter. I had a degree in Architecture from UST Manila Philippines but my present career in the US is a mfg. engineer working for a defense contractors which is the main reason I am still here. Let me ask you because I read from one of your reader that if he has $80k if it is enough to live there. You replied, it is somewhat ok to start a business. What do you think a worry free income of $2500 per month with a fund of $200k in CD plus $200k in 401k retiring at the age of 45 yrs old? Of course there are tools in yahoo to calculate how much money you need in retirement but still I am not convince w/ the result. Please give a comment. My lifestyle is simple and a conservative investor.

    • Bruce says:

      With a monthly pension of $2500 you could live fine here. Then with your investments, you could purchase a nice home and a decent vehicle too. If possible, I would advise finding a medical insurance plan that would cover your expenses here.

      • Rey says:

        Hello Bruce,
        Thanks on your quick reply. I meant the $2500 per month income will come from $200k CD in which I could set it up as annuity. The pension is not accounted yet since I plan to take an early retirement (45 yrs old).

        With regards to services you mentioned, there is a potential you can grow that business there. When I worked in Shanghai last 2008 for a year, a person in China took care of my needs until I am settled in an apartment. I am sure with so many people planning to retire in the Philippines (fil-am or american citizen), it is always nice to have someone who can do the leg work in advance before settling. I myself is a filipino but I am not familiar in Davao. I myself will look for a person like you.


        • Bruce says:

          I know of friends that live on a lot less. Depending on your needs, you should be able to live comfortable here on $2500 a month. As I advise, besides having the monthly income, come with a cash supply for fees, security deposits and household furnishings. From Immigration, to drivers license to services there is much paperwork and fees that go with them.

          About the services, No need to look, unless I die soon or offered a high salary job (doubt it) I will be here to assist you.

  2. Steve in Davao says:

    What’s the possibility of a expat classified ads section. I’ve noticed a couple of houses for sale on the FOM site and this could become a good spot to find housing, furniture and cars or bikes, scooters and such for expats. Give expats a place to sale items to other expats. Just something to think about.

    • Bruce says:

      I guess I could do it with a forum section. If I do it I would want it moderated so the commenting does not get into a pissing match. Maybe you will want to assist in this addition to the site.

  3. rich says:

    Bruce looks like networking is working out 🙂 good to hear

    • Bruce says:


      Actually, all these opportunities are from this site. I hope in the future more readers will pass the word to others. I am going to work on more connections here so I can assist in more areas.

      Rich, the apartment my client rented was the one you stayed at. So I guess knowing you helped a lot. I was really impressed with the design, furnishings and what they offer. They are planning to build more units, some 2 bedroom for people that need less rooms, but keep the style and design concept.

      • rich says:

        Yes the owner of that property is very very nice. If it is available we will be staying there again on our next trip over, unless we find something a whole lot better.

        And yes that property is almost up to western standards, really close.

        • Bruce says:


          Yes, it is very nice. I look forward to their future expansion plans and will always keep them in mind when I have someone looking for an upscale place to rent.

  4. ian says:

    Bruce- a lot of the time people who are by nature friendly and generous with their time are almost embarrassed to ask for money for the services that they offer- if those services are not of the usual kind. Believe me, your realtor, car mechanic or plumber do now have a problem charging for their services- so why should you ?? You have something to offer- it is of value- so get over the embarrassment of asking for money and start to charge for your services. In fact, advertise your services- with an hourly rate or a per item rate. And if you spend time doing something at someones request-and you cant find what they are looking for- you must still charge them for your time [ but make sure they know that up front]. Be proud of who you are and what you have to offer Bruce ! You will find that rather than people seeing you as just a money grabber that rather the opposite will happen- they will respect you for putting a value on your time and skills.

    • Bruce says:

      In my life it has been difficult to put a price on a service. I was always the type to help out a friend. But I am learning. I will always be there to advise, but learning all the time it takes to help someone, and I do need to be paid for my time to research, locate and find the best for the person. With locate housing, I have seen apartments in a dingy compound with palate beds and cheap furniture to more modern and comfortable items. That is why I wanted to visit first before bring my client.

  5. *lynne* says:

    That’s great to read/hear! Glad you’re able to assist folks who could do with your help, expertise or plain old presence! 🙂 Do keep on with it!

    I think that it’s important to put the “helping out” intention first and foremost — this pure intention will shine through, and build your reputation and contacts; it will help with the $$ too, but I’d like to think that if you place importance on the intent of helping and not on making money, both you and the business will benefit greatly 🙂 But start focusing on the $$ and the ‘heart’ goes out of it, y’know?

    I wonder if I’d have helped out people similarly if I were living in KL… I’d like to think so! 🙂 Highly unlikely to have such opportunities here in the boonies of Springfield, IL 😀

    • Bruce says:

      That is my point and what I said in the last comment. I feel if I am being paid for a service, the quality should be there too. I had a Filipino contractor friend install some downspouts. One fell as he was installing it. This guy usually does high end quality work, abd I was embarrassed and shocked when I saw the dents. I told him we would have to come back and he needed to use filler putty and repaint and pay for supplies from his pocket. He looked at me shyly and agreed. In a land where “OK” is enough, it is not for me.

  6. Steve in Davao says:

    Bruce, Ian has a good point. Maybe a little advertising of the services you can offer. House hunting, airport pick-up, hotel arrangements, Passport/ACR card advise and walk thru, driver’s license assistance, set-up of utilities and such. Sounds like a small business opportunity. You’ve already been down the road once. Now advertise!!
    You have helped a lot of people with your blogs, no need to stop that, just charge for direct services. I can think of several things I needed help with once I arrived here and would have gladly paid a small fee for expert help.
    Steve in Davao

    • Bruce says:


      I am roughing out the services and possible fees. Plus I am going to work on making contacts for more services and assistance. Knowing where to locate and purchase needs and teaching the retailers that if they give fair prices to foreigners, they will recommend their store. If they add “White man Tax” thay might make one sale but lose on future ones.

      • Michael Gantert says:

        Hi Bruce….As usual very informative blog. I have been thinking of doing some investing in some chain coffee shops in the Philippines …in the Davao or Cebu area because of the lower cost and growth potential as opposes to the city of Manila.
        Yes still cannot work out a business plan that cannot be successful with only a 40% ownership or profit as required by the present laws.
        But one advice … careful when you are setting your prices…I had need for someone to check out a future business partner and he (expat) wanted a fee of $150.00 USD/day plus expenses…..???? I think that the problem that most expats cannot make a business or living even with a Pinay partner ( and not subject to the 40% rule ) is that they make the mistake of thinking of the USA in terms of pay for work and dollars. The reason and only reason that I am even considering the Philippines is the difference in start up price and the daily cost of doing business. I understand that everybody has their own needs and price that they are willing to work for …..but the reason that most expats in the area cannot make any money is that they simply demand more than the market can bear on a regular basis…Sure an occasional job may come their way ….but the steady income will not!
        Just some thoughts about what I have been encountering in my search for business help .

        • Bruce says:

          For me, to take a position or plan a fee, I do not think in US wages but I do feel if my expertise is needed, I deserve more than basic Filipino wages. Is it fair, maybe not, but why waste my time if the pay does not cover my gas and time.

  7. ian says:

    Bruce- re not imposing a “white man’s tax” in order to attract further business from foreigners. A great idea! – but one that I think is absolutely unworkable in the Phil. We -westerners/europeans, were taught the value of saving for a rainy day, of putting a portion of our earnings/gifts received aside in order to buy things in the future. However, that does not seem to be a part of the Phil culture. Here it seems that you spend whatever you have today, and worry about tomorrow tomorrow. And if you have the chance to overcharge someone today- you do it- and you really give no thought at all to any future business- its just not in the mix. Sort of a ” live each day as if it were your last” kind of philosophy.
    I dont want my wife to feel that she has to come begging to me everytime she needs money so I give her an allowance [ not big money, just 1500 pesos a week] for her to spend as she wishes. But i notice that she never ever has a single pesos left at the end of the week, and when I suggest to her that she save some each time for future purchases/needs she accuses me of trying to control her ! I dont think i will eve be able to change her spending/saving habits, coz its such a big part of how she has been raised, and the culture in which she was raised.
    And I dont think we will ever be able to convince the local merchants that not ripping us off for every pesos possible at every given opportunity will ever succeed! lol No more than we can convince the stores to do inventory control and order items in advance of them selling out. ” No available stock Sir ” is almost a national motto ! hehe In a previous life i would have allowed myself to get frustrated- even angry- now I just find it all very amusing, and realize that it is me who has to change my attitude- not them. Its the old ” love ’em or leave ’em” attitude.

    • Bruce says:

      I know, as you see in the malls on the 15th and 30th all the spending. Then a week later, they are borrowing from family and neighbors to eat instead of budgeting.
      About over charging foreigners, if they keep losing customers, they might learn. We too have to barter to keep our pricing down.

  8. Ceblogger says:

    Bruce, it’s good to hear that you helped a lot of people. i’m sure they’ll be forever grateful to you and to your wife.

    • Bruce says:

      I have always been the type to help, even if I get nothing in return. Not even a thank you at times. But that is my nature.
      I am enjoying helping in a more service type of situation and earning a little for my time.

      P.S. Whats up with John Ray. His site is ignored and he does not reply to emails or text messages.

  9. ian says:

    To Michael Ganter- I have set up 2 corps in the last year in Davao to conduct business here. I have a friend here [ foreigner] who owns 2 restaurants. If you ever need someone to kick things around with let me know. I am not really into networking so thats not why I mention it. But sometimes synergy works ! lol
    Bruce has my contact info and has my permission to give it to you if you should ask. [ Thanks Bruce lol]

    • Bruce says:


      Thanks for your assistance.

      • Paul Fuller says:

        Hi Bruce, I agree with those that suggest you charge for your time. Even if you simply provide information and help prepare the way for a new arrival you should charge them. Plenty of people seek advice about all manner of things from housing, costs, eating places, dealing with various govenment offices etc and many are happy to pay for quality assistance. Don’t take into consideration what locals get paid here (150-250 per day)because you are not a local but a foreigner living here. Your minimum rate should be US$5/hr (or as much as you think is fair)plus actual expenses such as transport,meals and so on. Remember that you use your computer for researching their requests and for communicating with them so it is all chargable. Just going to the Immigration or LTO for a drivers licence can be a formidable exercise for a first timer. But if you have someone holding your hand and helping to get the forms, fill them in, drug and eye test and just having someone to talk to while waiting for several hours is well worth while. So it cost your client 30 dollars? It is a cheap service!
        Good luck Bruce

        • Bruce says:

          Thanks for visiting and commenting. All my life I have had trouble putting a price on my time. I was always a “nice guy” and helped those needing assistance. But you are right. Moving here and not knowing where to go, the time needed, and what to do once there can be confusing and I can help.
          As per what Michael wrote, I understand you cannot charge US rates since it is cheaper here, but cannot charge Filipino rates since Expats do have a higher cost of living and can communicate and understand an expats needs better.
          I guess I will, over time, find the right balance.

  10. Tom Martin says:

    Bruce, I certainly see a need for the personal service you could offer. I wish when I first came there would have been someone I could have hired that was familiar with the culture, market, housing,etc. I would have certainly hired them. Simple things like utilities can get complicated if you do not know where to go and get them connected. I also have found that real estate agents in the Philippines are not really interested in the buyer or renter they are interested in the seller or landlord because that is where they get their commission. It would be nice to have someone helping you find a place that was really interested in your needs and not the needs of the person renting or selling the house. I have also on many occassions hired a driver for the day to visit places and would have been more than happy to have hired you if I had known you were interested. Of course, with my lung problems we would have to do something about your smoking. Thre are places a few hours out of Davao that I would like to visit, but have not because of transportation and perhaps there are others like me that could use your services. You have a good site, have contributed well to informing expat’s in an honest way. Your personality certainly makes it easier for a stranger to feel comfortable around you. Tom

    • Bruce says:


      Thank you for your candor and enjoying my company. I wish I could share more of yours too. As for my smoking. I can control it and if we do go for a long drive, and I need a “fix” we could pull over for a minute or two for me to “Suck one down.”
      As my friend, fee or no fee, you can always call on me.

  11. Chris says:

    Hello Bruce:

    Are you in Davao currently, July2011?

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