My Life in The Philippines: American Expat Bud's Story in Cebu

American expat Bud has only been living full-time in the Philippines for more than a year, but is already very familiar with the country's customs, culture and languages from previous visits, and from being married to a Filipina for forty years already. Here he talks about his life in Dalaguete on the southern island of Cebu, and shares some tips on what to keep in mind for those considering a move to the Philippines. 

Bud Brown

-Where were you born?

I was born and raised in California, USA.

-In which country and city are you living now?

I am presently living in the city of Dalaguete, on the island of Cebu, Philippines.

-Are you living alone or with your family?

I am living with my Filipina wife. We have been happily married for forty years.

-How long have you been living in the Philippines?

I have been living in the Philippines almost exactly one year.

-What is your age?

I am sixty-two years old.

-When did you come up with the idea of living in the Philippines?  

In 1971, while I was in the U.S. Navy, I was stationed in the Philippines . I was an English/Vietnamese interpreter and went back and forth to Vietnam. I fell in love with the young lady who washed my clothes down at the river. She did such a good job that, to this day, 40 years later, she's still doing my laundry!

-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?

Tourists from America, and certain other countries, will get a free three-week visa upon arrival. However, those that are married to a Filipina, such as myself, will get what is called a "Balikbayan" visa, which allows you to stay up to a year. Your Filipina wife must be at your side, however, when you pass through immigration.

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?

The Philippines has several health insurance options. Most foreigners get PhilHealth, which pays a percentage of your health bills and is very affordable.

-How do you make your living in the Philippines? Do you have any type of income generated? 

I am a retired public school teacher so I have a small pension. And I also have a small income from selling products on the internet.

-Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language? (please add your thoughts on local customs and whether it's important for expats to respect/observe local customs)

Ever since we were married, my wife and I have been speaking Tagalog, (officially called Pilipino), one of the national languages of the Philippines. But on the island of Cebu, the local language is called "Cebuano." These two languages are mutually unintelligible. Being a linguist, I dove right into trying to learn the local language. I looked and never found a good source to learn Cebuano. So I interviewed many, many native speakers and, after about ten months, came up with a course of my own to learn Cebuano, called Essential Cebuano: How to Speak and Understand Cebuano. Although many Fiipinos speak English, it is a false assumption to think that all Filipinos speak English. Besides, knowing Tagalog or Cebuano, even just a few words and phrases, heightens the respect for any foreigner. 

-Do you miss home and family sometimes?

I return every year to California to celebrate Christmas with my family and friends. After staying a month I am ready to get back to the Philippines.

-Do you have other plans for the future?

I originally wanted to have the Philippines as my home base while I travel around South East Asia. That is still my plan but there is so much to see here, the other countries might have to wait a while!

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? 

I am presently renting a two-bedroom 1-bathroom house two hours south of Cebu City. We are paying about $225 rent per month. Electricity runs about $35, city water is $3. 

-What is the cost of living in the Philippines?

Of course, the cost of living depends on your lifestyle, but you can be living here on $1000 a month. A little less, possibly, and a lot more, if you want all the creature comforts of your homeland.

-What do you think about the locals? 

I have had nothing but positive interactions with the native Filipinos. When I hear horror stories I always take them with a grain of salt. I am called "Kuya" by all my Filipino friends and neighbors, which means "older brother", a very respectful title.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in the Philippines?

The positive aspects are low cost of living, cheap labor, respectful natives. The negative aspect could be that people always assume, if you are a foreigner, that you have a lot of money to loan or invest. That can be irritating.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in the Philippines?

One man who's been living here almost thirty years says that he gives people three pieces of advice: 1. Don't believe all the rumours that you hear. 2. Believe only half of what you see and 3. Take your time! I'd say that's pretty good advice.

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about the Philippines?

One site that you can get good input from lots of expats about life in the Philippines, especially Cebu,  is and to learn to speak the Cebuano Language go to