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Reasons to Move to Davao or the Philippines

Recently many of my articles have, what might be looked at as a negative attitude about living in the Philippines. This is not what I am trying to do. What I am trying to make the readers understand life here is not the same as in America, Europe or any other “First World Nation.”

There are many sites with the subject of living, retiring or just visiting the Philippines. Some of these sites make it look like it is the best place to live with no problems attached. They make it feel as you walk off the plane sexy native girls in bikinis will put flower leis around your neck and if you wish, offer you a night in Heaven with them.  Other sites makes it sound like the worst place to live and the only reason they are here is because they could not afford to live in their home country and were forced to move here.  Neither of these scenarios is correct. There are good parts to living here and parts that are that are very different from life we are used to.

Even in the States if you move from one coast to another or even across the State, there are differences. I remember after I moved to California from New York friend berating me for saying often “in New York this….” or “in New York that…” He was right. I was so used to things, life and foods in New York, I had trouble getting used to the differences. Again, when I moved to Florida from California it took time to adjust. With so many people in Florida are from New York, I again got frustrated with things that were not really “New York” style.

You need to remember this is a Third World Nation. There is a lot of poverty. In addition, this is an Asian country and most of the culture has developed with an Asian mentality. It is true this country was under the Spanish rule for many years, and then by America but the main influence is Asian. For many centuries, the Chinese were here and the old Chinese families own much of the bigger corporations.  There is also a large Japanese and Korean influence here.

Many of the hard good products here are manufactured in China. In addition, as most of we know there are many products we would consider substandard.  There are “rip offs” of known products, especially cell phones that look just like the real object. They are much cheaper but unfortunately, they do not work as the original or last.

Even with known foods turn out to be different. Most bread here has sugar and is sweet. Beef and pork are tougher then we are used to. This is because in most of the world pigs and cattle for meat are the males. Also at a young age, they are castrated so there is not testosterone to toughen the meat and the animal is smaller. Here they are hogs and bull meat. These animals are raised to their maximum size and because of this; their muscles are stronger so the meat will be tougher.

Being a nation of many islands fish is the main food protein source. In addition, rice is the main food staple. Most Filipinos eat rice at the three main meals a day. It is not a side dish or about a cup of rice, it is a huge pile of rice on the plate. Pork and chicken are eaten often, but the chickens are small. About pork, Filipinos love the fatty parts and because of this most of the pork, you see has a thick layer of fat.

Clothes in bigger sizes are hard to find and for some reason I do not understand, the size you see is smaller than in the US. I am not talking about small, medium or large. I am talking about things like slacks. In the US, I wore 36-inch waist. Here I need a 40-inch size. I have wide feet. Not only is it difficult to find a size 12, it has been impossible to find a wide or E width.
Traffic is something to get used to here. I have a friend riding with me the other day. He told me he had owned a car and had driven his whole life, but he would never attempt to drive here. Many foreigners hire drivers so they do not have to bother.

So, where are the good parts to living here? Well we all know, the biggest reason is the cost of living.  Even though some items are actually more expensive here, over all the cost of living is cheaper.  Where in the states can you live in a city area and have a nice two to four bedroom house in an upper scale gated community for around $85,000. Where can you go out for a nice steak dinner for $25? Where can you play golf with a golf cart and a caddy for around $30?

If you are a single man in the retirement age, where can you find a girl and have a relationship from an age of their early 20’s to 30’s? It might not be the exact relationship you think of in the States but you both get what you are looking for. You just need to set your needs and boundaries.

Is living in the Philippines a total paradise? No, but where is there a paradise.

41 Responses to “Reasons to Move to Davao or the Philippines”

  1. Steve in Davao says:

    Many are the reasons we come here. Most people have what I call a comfort zone. If you have problems using inadequate public toilets, then the Philippines may be outside your comfort zone. Most toilets here have no lids/seats or toilet paper. You can find pay toilets, but all that gets you is one or two squares of toilet paper and (maybe) a clean bathroom, still no lid/seat. If you can adjust to such a small (until it’s you that has to go) problem, then consider coming on over. This is but one example of adjusting to the Philippines.
    Bruce has had a lot of articles on reasons to come (or not come) to the Philippines. I have my reasons too.
    My wife is Filipina from Davao. We were married and lived in the U.S. and now she is also an American citizen. We came here for several reasons.
    1) She is returning to college to get her BA in Nursing. We paid over $6,500 dollars for one year (4 quarters) at a small community college in Ohio. We are paying less than 1/5th of that for an accredited Nursing college here. No need for student loans or financing. We pay cash here.
    2) We want our five year old daughter to attend school here. No liberal teachers trying to give her condoms or tell her that she cannot pray in school. We can afford a private school here.
    3) I’m now retired (on disability) and we can live, once again, at the higher standard of living we were accustom to before my health problems and do it on the lesser amount of my retirement pay.
    4) We want our daughter to get to know her Grandma (Lola) and Grandpa (Lolo). We want her to learn the language and we really like the traditions and morality of the Filipino people.
    We will return to the States after my wife finishes her Nursing degree and get her career started. We will be able to upgrade our standard of living with both of our incomes in the states.
    So you might say that we are “using” the Philippines as a way to further our goals as a family. I think it’s a pretty good plan.
    We have bought a house and will keep it or downsize to a condo before returning to the U.S. That will give us a place to come “home” to here.
    All-in-all, we are very happy here and we are living quite comfortable. Many of the conveniences of the States do not exist here, but that’s just a matter of adjustment, now isn’t it!
    Thanks for keeping us thinking.
    Steve in Davao

    • Bruce says:

      Again, thank you for opening your life to share here for all of us to learn. There are many differences in our lives back home and here in the Philippines. We also have our different needs and reasons for being here. It is good to see from different perspectives.

      • Billy says:

        I am american living in bacoor cavite im trying to get out of here its to crowed here ive been reading your articiles here and can anyone help me find a good place in davao maybe its not so crowed there ive been here for 1 and a half years now im disabled retired vet please can anyone here help me out,my e-mail is,if you can help please drop me a note I sure would love your help.thanks.

  2. Steve in Davao says:

    P/S… Bruce, you said that this is not paradise. You’re absolutely right!
    …But, if you stand way up high on your tip toes and look off to the east and a little bit to the south, you can just see Paradise…Ok…Ok.., it’s the Paradise Isle Resort!!!..Ha-ha!!!

    • Bruce says:

      I have been there and I think the name does match the place. That is for me. I lived in California for 18 years and Florida for 10 and did not spend much time at the beach. Maybe I was afraid they would roll be back into the surf.

  3. don m. says:

    I will be back in Leyte next month. My family there is happy that I will be back as it has been three years since my last visit. I just went and bought a dive mask today to watch the little fish in the bay. My idea of heaven! The kids are getting older there and they can hardly wait for my return. Do I spoil them-yes-will I continue to spoil them-yes!

  4. jan says:

    You are so right.
    Philippines is the place for me that looks like a paradise.
    Once a person accepts the Filipino way of live and has respect for the Filipinos and thjeir culture, he will realize that he is living in a ‘paradise’.
    As expats we pay no taxes (or very little), we enjoy the nice climate, the friendly people, the good food; and all this very affordable compared to American or European standards.
    Check also my website: expat in the Philippines

    • Bruce says:

      Everyone has their description of Paradise. In Manila, even though you pay more, there are more imported items available too. I hope someday to meet you. Maybe you have a spare room. hahahaha

      • jan says:

        Of course you are welcome in our humble house.
        We do have a spare room ready for guests.
        Just let me know when you arrive in Manila and we will pick you up at the airport.
        We will drive you around Manila and show you this hectic city, but also the quiet surrounding area.

  5. jeff says:

    I have continued to read your blogs but have not commented in a while. As this article starts, someone else must of noted the same thing that I did. I was reading between the lines in your other posts that you were missing the USA. Maybe you wern’t exactly thinking that you made a mistake by moving there but I saw you were just missing what we would call home. I live in Ohio, USA and I can drive 5 minutes from home and get a steak you can cut with a fork or any other food. Traffic is good and housing is reasonable. BUT, you have to remember when you look at your new family and lovely wife. Home is where the heart is.

    • Bruce says:

      Yes, there are things I miss in the US. Foods, traffic, people with similar personalities. But Elena is hear and we are surviving ok and that is the the best.

  6. david S. says:

    Very informative post Bruce. Thanks for sharing. If you have the time and inclination, perhaps you could go post an updated budget in a future article. I’m curious how much expenses have risen since you first arrived.

    • Bruce says:

      Elena does the shopping and I have never kept a log of price changes. Now I wish I did. I will try to make a list of costs and show the difference in pesos and US dollars.

  7. Tom Martin says:

    Bruce thank you for being honest. I read some of the sites on living in the Philippines and wonder if I got off the plane in the wrong place and for the last six years have not actually been in the Philippines. I agree with you that $2000 is a reasonable figure for living very well in the Philippines not $300 as some sites state. I believe one could live very comfortable on about $1500. I also appreciate you being honest about the rent. I see all the men posting on sites I have a 4 bedroom, 3 comfort rooms, large yard, over looking the mountains or the seas for only $150 a month. I am sorry I have been here for six years and I have not found those places. I also admire you being honest about having difficulty learning the language for I find myself in the same place and now really get turned off by website geru’s that try and make me feel guilty because I have lived here for six years and cannot speak the language. I am glad I now know why meat is tough in the Philippines I did not know about the size and age issue. I think many of the Expat sites do a disservice when they portray life in the Philippines as PERFECT and sometimes quite honestly I feel the person who makes these claims on public sites have moved here are not happy and want others to be as miserable as they are. Life is okay in the Philippines. If it was not I would leave for I am not one of those who are living here because it is cheap. I live here because I choose to live here. There are things I miss from back home, but I am adjusting. If and when I decide I will be better off back home or some place else I will move on. At the moment the Philippines meet my needs. But, no matter how long I live here or anywhere else abroad the U.S.A. is the place of my birth, it will always be home and deserves my loyalty for it made it possible for me to live any where in the world I want to live today. I am a guest of the people of the Philippines that is the way I see myself and I am sure that is how they see foreigners living in their country. Thanks for your honesty. Tom

    • Bruce says:

      I do not think other blogers are miserable and wanting others to to have same experience. I think they might have started their site with good intentions and then not admit they might of made a mistake.
      You are also right, no matter what people say or twist the truth, we are here with the allowance of the Philippine Government and they can send us home any time they want. It might be harder with residency but they can always find or fabricate a reason.

  8. Steve in Davao says:

    Tom, well put! I agree.

    Bruce, you seem to have touched on an issue that is on a lot of minds. Living in the Philippines may not be paradise, but is IS an adventure!!!! I know that my family and I are building priceless memories here. Tom said it very well. We all have our reasons, and sugar coating the reality of living here helps nobody. I see alot of OLD (I think) site that say $800 to $1500 is plenty. $800 means going “native” and that’s a tough row-to-hoe, as my Grandpa used to say. I’ve talked to some who do it and they are thriving and happy with a simpler lifestyle, but they would be the first to say it’s not for everybody. $1500 is much more realistic and you can spend much more if you want to live “American style”. I think that a budget is REAL important until you start thinking in “pesos”, as Bruce puts it. You can overspend real, real easy here while thinking in Dollars. Getting here and finding the right house and the right lifestyle takes time and patience(and maybe a little help).
    Good luck to all that come! Bruce has been a big help to me and I sure he’ll be happy to assist others who ask.

    Steve in Davao

    • Bruce says:


      We have discussed this many times when we have meet. An Expat with a good pension or income can life large and spend. But even for them, it can change if their currency conversion drops. I remember a friend living well and enjoying life until the British currency exchange dropped greatly. All of a sudden he is counting his pesos.

      When I visited here before moving, the exchange was around 50 pesos to the dollar. Then I moved here and needed to purchase many high priced items and the rate was down to 40. Then if you have US currency, you lose more with the commission fees all charge.

      Life can change here for all. Even Filipinos with a family member as a OFW. The law here is OFW’s have to be paid in US currency. To they lose too.

  9. Steve in Davao says:

    Oh yeah, quick note to Bruce,
    Note* “Bruce, I have recently volunteered you to help others move here!”*end note. He-he!

    Steve in Davao

    • Bruce says:


      Thanks, but somes that mean I owe you a commission? 🙂

      You need to set up a Balikbayan business taking orders for Expats and having the items shipped here. I will advertise for you too.

  10. rich says:

    “They make it feel as you walk off the plane sexy native girls in bikinis will put flower leis around your neck and if you wish, offer you a night in Heaven with them.”

    Thats not what happens!!?!?!? awwww shat i guess ill have to retire somewhere else!

    thanx alot pal

  11. rich says:

    you guys are just killing my dreams!!!!! you mean i cant live for 500 USD a month on the golf course with maid / driver / yard boy and mistress!!!!

    gonna have to rethink this whole philippines thing, yes that goes for you too neneng gonna have to shorten that 30 year promise!

  12. rich says:

    hey bruce btw put my website up and starting to fill it in well my 2nd website well 2 pi website

  13. rich says:

    hey bruce btw put my website up and starting to fill it in well my 2nd website well 2 pi website

  14. Al says:

    Hi Bruce, nice to find your website and to see you have a good and realistic understanding of the Philippines.

    I am an expat myself (5 years here) and I must contradict you on the cost of living part. I spend ~$600 living in Makati (renting condo) and I have everything I need. I am 28 so I do go out as well, eat etc. So you can definitelly live well with ~$1000.

    I don’t think the “other” websites are too far either when they mention renting a house for 150$. As you know, in real estate the keyword is: location.

    I personally rented a 2 bedroom house in Cavite (Dasmarinas), gated subdivision for about 3500php (~$70) back in 2006. It was an average subdivision, the house, you could also part 2 cars inside the gates which is pretty decent space I would say. So going up to let’s say ~$200 can get you a pretty decent place.

    However, all these depends on eachother’s standards. Coming from US standards probably it’s hard to match those here, however, those who come to the Philippines from US(other western country) hoping to find US are just fooling themselves unless you are going to build your own compound covering a hundred square miles 🙂

    Embrace the local ways (particularities) or it’s NOT going to work.

    Those who fight with the language problem, here’s a trick (that works for me always): Use logic (they can’t deny that 1+1=2, right?) So go on and explain to them nicely that English is more useful to them than Tagalog (Bisaya) for you because when they will visit other places or communicate online with other people, English will open their ways.

    In my case I can add more to that, since my mother language is Romanian therefore I can also mention that I made an effort to learn English and so they can as well. This way I cannot be seen as lazy and they will agree with me that English is far more useful for them than it’s Tagalog for me.

    Anyway, this is getting long, have many things to say though 🙂

    • Bruce says:

      You are right, the comfort needs vary by person and their background. Being from the UK, your not used to using Air conditioning at home. Most Americans need that.
      I find more people wanting to speak in English when I m out. They like to get to know me and practice. But there are some that are against it.

  15. ian says:

    Sometimes you have to see to your own comfort. One thing I never do here is to leave the house w/i a packet of toilet paper in my back pocket! lol Has saved my ass in several emergencies .
    The usual method is no paper- just your hand and a hose. I’ve never tried it myself but it creates problems for me, coz I can never lower my pants to sit w/o them getting soaking wet coz the floor is always semi-flooded.
    When you go to someones house here its considered correct to leave your shoes at the door. But then when you want to go to the bathroom { CR here] you have to walk thru the wet floor shoeless. I’ve always assumed that the flood on the floor was just water- but now that I think about it?? mmmmm
    Of course almost no one here wears shoes- they all wear flip-flops that they call slippers.

    • Bruce says:

      I learned that too. At first I was always out with Elena. I have irritable bowel and when the lower body screams “CR” I must listen. I would say to Elena “Give me the Tissue” now I keep a package in my pocket.
      Many public restrooms do not even have a water bucket in the stall. I wonder what Filipinos who wash do? After flushing use the fresh water from the toilet?

  16. alantooth says:

    hahahaha not all fiipino houses need to leave their shoe outside the house, maybe that families are some kinda OC, just kiddin’ how can you go to the CR if semi flooded floor and still wearing your socks on, lols even me i hef to borrow slippers from them, about the fresh water and a hose? lols i knew american uses tissue after their pooooooooh time, yes we use tissue also, but after the tissue thing we hef to washed it with water also, i cant walk with extra shit on my anus, hahahahahahaha

  17. ian says:

    Alan- you might want to consider buying a better brand of tissue ! lol
    And when you say ” yes we use tissue also”- you obviously havent been to most of the CRs in Davao City ! hehe

  18. ian says:

    Still on the CR thing [ just what is so attractive about bathroom humor? lol]
    A few months ago I went to look at the model houses in Toscana. The houses cost about 2.5M but are very small. I went into the CR and it was interesting how the handled the problem of the CR looking too small- they had just downsized the toilet and sink !
    The sink was about 12″ wide- just enuf to wash one hand at a time. And the toilet could either accomodate one philippino butt or one foreign cheek !! hehe

    • Bruce says:

      I have seen here, no matter how small a toilet is, it is too deep. One of the CR’s in the house is so narrow, if you put in a flush toilet, you could not open the door and would have to climb over it to get to the shower. Without cutting the floor and replumbing there is no way to add a fluch toilet in that room.

  19. Hi Bruce, I’m a Filipino living and working in Manila. I’ve been reading your blog and it made me realize that we are very fortunate that many foreigners are loving and considering the Philippines as a paradise. In behalf of the Filipinos, we thank you and appreciate the things you’ve done to our fellows and to our country.

    • Bruce says:

      Thank you but I just tried to be myself as I always try, no matter where I am. I do wish your country would make it easier for Expats to live there and feel welcome and secure.

  20. Liezel says:

    I am a filipino and laughing all those CR thing. Anyway, we have our own ways on feeling clean, for us mostly, we use water to clean that thing. For me personally, I use tissue then water then wipe with tissue again.hehe

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