December 25 2006
-Where were you born?
-In which country and city are you living now?
I consider myself as living half in Australia and half in the Philippines. In the Philippines, I have two homes. The Cebu Century Hotel in Cebu City and my ex-wife’s family’s home in Palompon, Leyte.
-Are you living alone or with your family?
In Australia, I live alone. In the Philippines, I usually have companions with me in the hotel. At the family home, I live with my ex-wife’s family.
-How long have you been living in the Philippines?
This arrangement started 3 years ago. However, I have been coming and going from the Philippines for 12 years.
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in the Philippines?
I worked in a bank in Australia for nearly 24 years. In 2003 I was retrenched (laid off). At the same time, my Filipina wife decided it was a good time for a divorce. So, I paid out my ex-wife and decided the Philippines was a good place to live permanently on the rest of the money from my retrenchment payout. If I could set up a business in the Philippines, I would do so but I had no specific plan. I also decided that if I needed more cash, I would just go back to Australia temporarily. Foreigners can’t get by on Filipino wages!
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Providing you leave the Philippines once a year, you can live in the Philippines permanently as a tourist. This suited me fine as initially, I had a lump sum to live off.
Citizens from all western countries are granted a 21-day visa waiver on arrival in the Philippines. To stay longer than 21 days, you arrange an extension. The first extension is for 38 days. You can extend for 2 months at a time until you have been in the Philippines for a year. After one year, go home to visit friends and relatives or go for a shopping trip in Hong Kong then come back to the Philippines and start the year all over again.
You can’t work on a tourist visa. If you want to work, you can arrange a work permit. However, there are a couple of other ways to work too! If you are married to a Filipina, you can arrange a 13(a) visa. It will allow you to live permanently in the Philippines and own your own business. Another way is to arrange a quota visa. There is a quota of 50 visas given away per year by the Philippines government to citizens of countries that accept Filipinos. A quota visa allows you to live permanently in the Philippines and own your own business.
I am about to start the process for a quota visa so that when I am in a position to start another business in the Philippines, I can own it myself.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
I made a decision in 1995 that I would never bother with medical insurance again. In 1995, I had medical insurance when I ended up in hospital for 4 days with dengue fever. The insurance covered all costs for medicines, hospital stay, doctor’s bills and AUD $50 for every night in the hospital to cover incidentals. I was admitted to the hospital in Palompon, Leyte. My room was a private room with a private bathroom, which cost a whole USD $3 per night at the time. When it came time to claim on the insurance, the bulk of the claim was the AUD $50 per night in hospital.
The hospital in Palompon was a low-class hospital but I have also been admitted to one of the best hospitals in the Philippines. It is Chong Hua in Cebu City. In 2004, I had kidney stones. I didn’t know when I was admitted that it was kidney stones, I just knew I was in pain. My room in the Chong Hua was as good as any hotel room in the city. I had a private room with a private bathroom, cable TV, remote control bed, a separate bed for the watchers/family, a view overlooking the Fuente Osmena and a greeter pack with toiletries, calendar and writing materials. When I was admitted I asked how much the doctor visits would cost. I was informed that the more expensive my room, the more the doctor charged. I was in one of the best rooms. Two nights in the hospital, all medicines, all doctors’ visits, an ultra sound, all meals and absolutely every other cost associated with staying in hospital cost USD $300. I knew then that my decision to not bother with insurance was the right one!
If a foreigner wants to have medical insurance, there are several, foreign-backed, Filipino companies offering health insurance.
-How do you make your in the Philippines? Do you have any type of income generated?
As already stated, I initially had a lump sum.
Last year I had a business in the Philippines with two partners. It was called CebuTours.com. One partner was a Filipina and the other partner was her American husband. As the American and myself were tourists, we couldn’t own the business so the business was in the name of the Filipina. We arranged visa extensions for tourists, assisted with wedding arrangements, offered Internet and other office services, ran tours of the city, sold cell phones and prepaid cell phone cards and generally took care of anything a tourist might need. It made enough income to live a very basic lifestyle for a foreigner. However, any Filipino family would have been very happy with the level of income.
About a year ago, the American man bashed his Filipina wife and she decided that she didn’t want to continue. So, no more business!
I came back to Australia to work so I could get enough funds together for another business, but in Australia I made some unfortunate decisions that left me with debts that had to be repaid before I could get the money together for the new business. So, I have spent more time in Australia now than originally planned.
I have tried to set up a business in absentia: Filipino Tours and Services. Unfortunately, my new business partner thought that my plan of working in Australia was better than running a business in the Philippines so he will soon come back to Australia too.
-Do you speak the Filipino language and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
English is one of the official languages of the Philippines. All the street signs are in English. Most of the shop fronts are in English. Most of the advertisements are in English. Restaurant menus are in English. And, all Filipinos can speak English to some degree, depending on their education.
So, only being able to speak English in the Philippines is fine! However, to be better accepted by your local community, you need to be able to speak the local language.
There are many Filipino languages and dialects spoken in the Philippines but only two main languages spoken by most of the country. They are:
- Tagalog, the language of Manila and is mostly spoken in the northern Philippines. It is also the basis of one the official languages of the Philippines called Filipino.
- Bisaya (also know as Visayan and Cebuano) spoken in central and Southern Philippines.
I can hardly string a whole sentence together but I can speak about 100 words of Bisaya which allows me to follow most conversations where I live. It also helps when traveling in central and southern Philippines to get the right price as you can appear to be experienced in the Philippines. Speaking Bisaya is not much help in Manila! I always have a hard time avoiding the “Long nose tax” in Manila. “Long nose tax” is our term for foreigner prices.
If you want to be respected and accepted where you are living, of course you need to follow local customs. If you are happy that people ignore you when you enter a restaurant or a shop, do as you like! Me, I will follow the local customs and enjoy the friendship of the local community.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
I have a 10-year-old daughter in Australia. She lives with my Filipina ex-wife. So I miss her when I am in the Philippines.
In the Philippines, there are all the social activities available in any western country including:
- Playing Golf
- 10 pin bowling
- Poker games
- Shopping in large malls
- Pool halls
- Picnic on the beach
and much more
I personally like traveling around and filming interesting sights in the Philippines. I have made many short videos of the Philippines and they are loaded to my website: Big Jim's Philippines Experience
-Do you have other plans for the future?
Yes, another tourism business as soon as my finances are in order!
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
When I first met my ex-wife in 1994 her family’s house was a little box with no bathroom. Since then I have made the house comfortable for myself to live in. It is now on 3 levels with air conditioning, 3 bedrooms, living room, main kitchen, dining room, family room, bathroom/laundry and a dirty kitchen. USD $6,000 would build the house over again today. My ex-wife’s family is still happy for me to live in the house. I have my own room in the house and they are currently storing my clothes and furniture there.
In Cebu City, I live in a family room at the Cebu Century Hotel. I call it the no-fuss way to live. The room has 3 beds, private bathroom, free local telephone calls, Internet access through the same line as the telephone, air conditioning and cable TV. Someone cleans the room every day and the hotel has room service until 3 AM. So, I don’t have to worry about electric bills, phone bills, rent or anything else. I just pay for my room by the month and eat out or eat from room service for every meal. The cost of the room? Only P18,000 per month or about USD $360. To eat out locally, I only pay from USD $1 to about USD $4, per meal, depending on how hungry I am.
In Cebu City, I could rent a small 3-bedroom house for about USD $300. I could rent a decent 2-bedroom apartment plus maid’s quarters for about USD $700 per month. I could rent a very nice 4 bedroom house, plus maid’s quarters plus swimming pool for about USD $1,400 per month.
In Palompon, Leyte, I can rent a low quality, 1-bedroom apartment for as little as USD $30 per month and a nice 4-bedroom house, 10 minutes from the sea, for about USD $100 per month.
-What is the cost of living in the Philippines?
For about USD $1,000 per month, I can afford to live permanently at the Cebu Century Hotel, eat out for every meal, socialize with friends every day and travel occasionally to other islands. If I want to live life like I am on a permanent vacation, it would cost me about USD $2,000 per month.
At the family home in Palompon, Leyte, where there is much less to attract my money, USD $500 is more than enough to pay for cable TV, cooling by fan, occasional use of aircon, housemaid, eating out regularly and socializing with friends every day.
-What do you think about the Filipinos?
If you treat Filipinos with respect, they will treat you with respect. If you act like an arsehole, you can expect a different reaction!
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in the Philippines?
- Cheap living
- Friendly people
- Many interesting places to visit
- Warm weather all year round
- Some people may have difficulty coping with the poverty.
- Long nose tax, until you know what the real prices are.
- You may have to deal with corrupt officials from time to time.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in the Philippines?
- Leave your money in your own country and access it by ATM.
- Treat all Filipinos with respect
- Don’t make yourself a target and you are unlikely to become one
- There is a saying. If you want to make a small fortune in the Philippines, start with a large fortune. So, be very careful about starting a business in the Philippines
- The Philippines culture is not your culture, so don’t try and make them conform to your ways or you will always be making trouble for yourself and you will always be unhappy.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about the Philippines?
Here is my website address which I gave earlier. It has hundreds of pictures, more than 100 short Philippines videos and hundreds of links to Philippines websites: Big Jim’s Philippines Experience
Here is my blog about life in the Philippines.