-Where were you born?
Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
-In which country and city are you living now?
Pasig City, Metro Manila, the Philippines
-Are you living alone or with your family?
-How long have you been living in the Philippines?
± 2.5 Years
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in the Philippines?
I’ve always been interested in South East Asia and the movement of call center and back office work offshore simply provided the impetus to move to the Philippines.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
This was handled by my employer; however, the Philippines has created a package of economic incentives that make application for a work permit relatively simple.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
This again is part of my compensation; however, local insurance is not hard to come by. Much like insurance in the US, it is less expensive to get when you belong to a group plan.
-How do you make your living in the Philippines? Do you have any type of income generated?
I have two sources of income — I work in the call center business, which is undergoing major growth at the moment. While my position came from corporate expansion in the US, there are a number of executive search firms and placement agencies in the Philippines. Likewise, for searching for jobs in the Philippines two options come readily to mind: Teledevelopment Services (www.teledevelopment.com).
The first is really geared more for positions filled by locals and reflects a pay scale commensurate with this. The second, Teledevelopment (TDS), is a well-respected executive search as well as a staffing firm.
My second source of income is a small web marketing firm established for the same reasons that the call center and back office processing industries have become so enamored with the Philippines — high-quality, English-speaking talent. Basically, this business is being developed as a future income opportunity. I also provide occasional consulting work for groups establishing themselves in the Philippines under the umbrella of my local company.
-Do you speak Tagalog and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I do not speak the local language, Tagalog or Filipino, very well at all and I’m committed to spending more time learning it. It would be a significant benefit to do so, but English is widely spoken in the Philippines and so it not necessary to function comfortably.
In this regard, acculturating to the Philippines can be tricky since there is a veneer of American and western culture that can seem deceptively familiar. In fact, the Philippines is a very complex cultural mix with elements of Spanish, Chinese, Malay, and American culture. It is therefore important to tread somewhat lightly until you have spent some time understanding how the culture really operates to inform local attitudes towards foreigners.
With that said, Filipinos are enormously warm and friendly people.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
I certainly miss the States and don’t really get back often enough — the food is great (hard to get a fresh bagel here) and there isn’t anywhere in the world like it. But the Philippines is a tremendously diverse and engaging place to travel and live.
With so much history, architecture freaks like me are able to travel around and see beautiful churches and Spanish colonial structures. The beaches and diving in the Philippines are, without doubt, the best in the world.
Opportunities for travel to other SE Asian destinations are easy and very affordable with so many destinations within a three-hour flight of Manila.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
In the near future, I intend to remain engaged in the explosive growth of the outsourcing scene here in the Philippines. With this industry growing and the overall prospects for SE Asia unfolding, it’s a pretty exciting moment to be here.
To this end, I believe my ventures will be expanding as more people become aware of the opportunities in the Philippine archipelago.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
I currently rent space in Metro Manila, located in the Ortigas area, which is quite central. For a 100-meter western-style apartment I pay around $800 or P40,000/month. This is paid quarterly and is at the high-end of the spectrum. One great feature of the building is that it is an office building with a couple of residential units — so I’m the only resident and I get to be close to my Company. The unit has two bedrooms w/maid’s quarters and four bathrooms — two of which include shower, etc.
I pay this quarterly and pay my office rent monthly. It’s worth factoring utility (electric) costs in as well — mine runs anywhere from $150-200 US, depending on if I’m in town much that month. In this regard, I’m not too frugal, so it could be much less with some discipline.
-What is the cost of living in the Philippines?
The cost is much lower than the US, on balance. You can spend quite a lot or a little, depending on your lifestyle and what you think of for fun. The big shift is the ability to afford anything that is man(person)power intensive. So domestic staff, driver, nanny, etc., are something that a middle-class person can afford (on an ex-pat salary at least).
Here’s a snapshot of typical expenditures:
- $150 or Php7,000 per week on groceries to feed myself and my employees
- Vet visit for two cats (without medication) costs $12 or Php600
- Gas for a Nissan Xtrail in-city driving runs $40 orPhp 2,000/week
- A move theater visit costs $2-3 or Php100-180
- Electronics are very costly here depending on the brand and how new they are
- A full-time maid runs around $100 or Php5,000 month
-What do you think about the Filipinos?
Filipinos are pretty accustomed to dealing with Americans and foreigners in general. There are offshore workers from the Philippines in North America and Europe so everyone is related to and has visited relatives somewhere else.
The culture fosters politeness and hospitality, so I find the interactions positive. Occasionally there are cultural disconnects that have humorous consequences. In general, avoid commenting on the standard items like politics and religion and be aware that people will ask you questions as a matter of course that would be considered forward or impertinent elsewhere.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in the Philippines?
- Everything and anything can be delivered
- Local travel diversity – beach/mountains/resorts
- International travel proximity – Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Macau, etc.
- All night culture
-Grocery store selection (get ready to substitute)
-Lack of greenspace/uninspiring public space
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in the Philippines?
Partner with an ex-pat guide who has dealt with the issues you’re going to face. The person can help you in ways that a local simply can’t since this needs to come with a frame of reference for the things that will confuse you and can offer advice when you need it.
Remember, as an ex-pat your support group is other ex-pats.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about the Philippines?
Also, Carlos Celdran’s blog is an excellent resource: Walk This Way
Project Manila is a visual delight.