uch is written about the beauty of the Philippines, from its many unspoilt beaches to its welcoming, friendly people. It is true, the Philippines is a very welcoming country and with the English language widely spoken offers foreign visitors the chance for real adventure.
However, it is a country that should not be underestimated. Whilst it is natural for any citizen of any country to remain staunchly patriotic, the majority of Filipinos are repressed by powerful family cartels and experience corruption at every level. As a foreigner you stand little chance of winning an argument with a Filipino, who will simply smile, and in most instances walk away from a direct altercation with you, only to shoot you in the back later. Cowardice is rife, as are firearms.
Life is tough
Unlike ‘Westerners’ who are accustomed to ‘fair play’, a degree of decency, logical solutions and a society that abides by its rules and regulations, in the Philippines most citizens have grown up in the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ and have experienced hunger, poverty, corruption and violence on a daily basis. It has been a way of life for all but the very wealthy. So, if you think you will win an argument over ‘who is right and who is wrong’ with a Filipino – think again!
There are numerous instances where wealthy and connected individuals (or relatives of connected individuals) will literally get away with murder. Life is cheap in the Philippines. A hefty bribe to officials will often see cases closed with no further investigation necessary.
On the flip side, there are thousands of citizens (both Filipinos and Foreigners) who are incarcerated for years pending trial. Even the innocent will spend years festering in some of the worst jails on the planet before they see their day in court. The Philippine judicial system is underfunded and overwhelmed. Further reasons why corruption at the highest level is epidemic.
As a foreigner – you are at fault. The reason? Well, if you weren’t in the Philippines – then the accident wouldn’t have happened in the first place. And unless you are fluent in Tagalog (or other local Filipino dialect(s)) you will never be able to successfully represent yourself either to the traffic police or in court. Expect to end up liable for all material damages and real or fabricated losses from all parties involved.
If you are lucky enough to reach a modern hospital in the Philippines then you stand some chance of receiving a reasonable standard of healthcare and medical treatment. However, even the high-end hospitals in the Philippines regularly misdiagnose or fail to highlight potentially life threatening conditions. I personally know of one friend of mine dying in St Lukes Hospital (Manila) after receiving the wrong Blood Type after a serious motorcycle accident. This of course was covered up by the hospital and no doctor received any kind of reprimand whatsoever. We in the motorcycle club community know for a fact that several donors with the wrong blood type were accepted by the hospital and their blood specifically earmarked for our good friend. Even after his death his four days at St Luke’s Hospital in Manila equated to a ₱1.5M bill. Ouch!
Foreign tourists can be covered via adequate Travel Insurance, however for Expats Healthcare remains of constant concern. Younger, fit Expats can usually afford some level of Health Insurance, but as is so often the case, older Expats (with or without pre-existing medical conditions) find Healthcare medical insurance either impossible to obtain and/or completely unaffordable. Most Expats accept that access to quality Healthcare Insurance and high quality treatment is not a reason to live in the Philippines!
Additionally, the vast majority of good Doctors/Surgeons work abroad – Why? Because they can earn ten times as much working abroad compared to what they can earn working in the Philippines – for them its a no brainer!
Long Term Care
The Philippines is keen to promote itself as a first class destination for longer term Expats wishing to retire to a warmer climate and receive a level of Long Term Care they could not afford in their home country. Healthcare is substandard in the Philippines unless you have very deep pockets and even so, as already explained, no matter what authorities might advertise otherwise, hospitals are private – and they are businesses first and foremost.
Not to be confused with Healthcare, Long Term Care is potentially a winner for the Philippines. If you are elderly and are not suffering from severe medical conditions requiring specialist treatment, then the Philippines can potentially be a great Long Term Care destination. The favourable exchange rate (Philippine Peso weakness) means your foreign money can go a long way to affording a comfortable retirement, nurse visits, home help and general care. There are also a growing number of bespoke Retirement Villages being constructed and I see no reason for these not to continue. The average Filipino Care Assistant is quite hard working, conscientious and most importantly – caring. Don’t expect miracles, but due to lower wage costs, widely spoken English and the ‘sweet’ nature of the average (educated) Filipino the Philippines can potentially be the number one Asian destination for the Long Term Retiree of ‘average’ means. Wealthy expats will choose more up market destinations such as Thailand or Malaysia – but ‘bang for your buck’ the Philippines is sure to make gains in this ever-growing sector.
With very few exceptions, the Philippines has one of the worst records of customer service anywhere in Asia, in fact anywhere in the World. Guarantees are not worth the paper they are written on, product servicing and after-sales is virtually non-existent and several products are sub-standard compared to the same product sold elsewhere globally.
Likewise, expect a million pre-sales staff happy to sell you something, and a handful of people coping in the after-sales departments – if such a department even exists.
The majority of tradesmen have no access to the right tools for the job, do not do a full days work and will do anything to overcharge you, do substandard work (to the point of being dangerous) and steal from you. Filipinos may be ‘God Fearing’ but most won’t fear you – and won’t hesitate to walk off with anything that isn’t bolted down or securely locked away. Wealthy Filipinos can afford not to be involved with petty theft (they have bigger corruption scams at work) but poorer tradesmen will rarely avoid temptation. They are poor, they have families to feed or Red Horse (Beer) to drink – so any opportunity they can to take advantage – they will.
Did Filipinos invent paper? You will come to think so. Why have one simple system when you can employ ten more people and make it complicated to justify more employment? Why have a simple online payment system when you can force people to travel to an office through dense traffic and wait for hours queuing to do something that could have been done online in five minutes?
Thankfully, some government money is finally finding its way down into systems that are helping to speed up processes. However, the vast majority of state departments and multi-national corporations still reply on manual processes and (at best) Windows 95. Profits and benefiting from corruption remain more of a priority to the businessman (or woman) than reputation alone.
General retirement to the Philippines is very subjective. If you are the kind of person who seeks convenience, first-rate creature comforts and access to great food, entertainment, culture, arts and fast transport links – you better cross the Philippines off you list – right now. Corruption and inability to follow societies ‘rules’ makes retiring to the Philippines tough. It is not for the majority of Expats.
Do as I say not as I do
The average Filipino is very nice. If you are not having an altercation or disagreement, you tip well and you are both humble and courteous you will encounter very little in terms of stress. However, life sometimes gives you lemons – and wether it is when dealing with an office, on the roads or with tradesmen – there will be times when the ‘other side’ of Filipino culture surfaces and you will ultimately question if their childish, silly nature is really worth putting up with?
Their cultural loyalty, ‘always right’ attitude and stubbornness to change, listen to reason or accept that their country is held by corruption is frustrating. The average Filipino talks a lot about change – but never does anything about. This encourages the corruption, feeds contempt and ensures the Philippines remains a ‘whipping boy’ for other countries in the region.
President Duterte is a force to be reckoned with. He has instilled so much fear in the country that some corruption has been eradicated and many lives lost in his war against drugs. However, it is widely accepted that the Filipino ‘King Pins’ continue to live lavish lifestyles and remain out of his reach. It is the Filipino drug addicts that are either incarcerated (without charge) or simply shot in the street that are paying the price for this crackdown.
Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos became synonymous around the world for their inhuman treatment of Filipinos when in power, the massacre of tens of thousands of citizens and the rape and pillage of the country’s wealth for their own personal gain. And what now? Their son Ferdinand ‘Bong Bong’ Marcos is campaigning for government office with the support of Imelda Marcos, who for reasons that many can still not figure, continues to live in luxury in Manila. Money talks! Most Filipinos simply do not stand up for their rights and fear death if they ever spoke against anyone of influence. They will die. They are right to be fearful.
Its not your looks, Handsome
Never more so than at present is it apparent that a ‘western nose’, blue eyes, fair skin or blonde hair is not a prerequisite in the Philippines. Western foreigners (historically white, Caucasian) have been kidding themselves for decades that Asian women are attracted to the popular stereotypical preference to have ‘mixed race’ offspring and that Filipino women prefer Western male characteristics. Nope. Western men are now outnumbered several times over by Chinese and Korean men. Some are wealthy businessmen, but the vast majority are simply male sex tourists.
At this juncture it is the turn of the visiting Korean male tourist – they are happy to spend more in the bars, throw more money at ‘the girls’ and see the Philippines as a much cheaper place than Korea to pay for sex and the company of an attractive girl.
The rapid increase in the number of KTV Bars, JTV Bars, Hostess Clubs, Gentleman’s Clubs, Korean Massage Parlours and K-Pop music and Korean TV Dramas is testament to the fact that an attractive Filipino girl will ‘follow the money’. Many Filipino girls now work in such establishments. It is a common occurrence for Western patrons to be met with resentment and some hostility in many Bars which are now exclusively the domain of high-rolling Koreans.
Several Korean Bars ‘advertise’ their girls online via a website or Private Chat Room. Girls are ‘reserved’ in advance and this is why you often see minivans pulling up outside Korean establishments (KTV, JTV Bars) and the girls being ferried from the bar into the awaiting minivan. They are usually then taken to a private rented house for an organised sex party away from the prying eyes of the authorities. This is not paranoia – it is happening right under the noses of the authorities, who are either paid to conveniently ignore it, or (just as probable) remain oblivious to these tactics as such websites are not hosted in the Philippines and are written in Korean (illegible for most).
I know of several extremely attractive and educated Filipino girls aged between 18-27 with secure day jobs or that are in higher education that work as hostesses in these Korean establishments. They are connected to Korean customers after their shifts have finished via online Korean Chatrooms and are actively encouraged to date, meet and provide sexual services to Korean sex tourists who are patronising these establishments. Many girls are earning anywhere between ₱50,000 – ₱100,000 per month, tax free; three or four times more than a senior professional career-orientated individual. The rewards are huge, but so are the risks of HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases that are rife in the Philippines amongst hostesses and sex workers.
Away from major cities it is still possible for a Westerner to meet and date an attractive local girl in a province. However, in the major cities cash is King and an attractive girl will be attracted to the guy with the deepest pockets and the stupidity to believe in her every word!
Firstly it was the Spanish, then the Americans, then the Europeans and now it is the turn of the Koreans. Next will most likely be the Chinese. There is only one thing that a Filipino fears more than God – and that is running out of money. You can’t blame them. There is no system in place to help the poor. They suffer. They die. Life is cheap in the Philippines.
Get with the program
As is the case for every Expat living in another country, you have to expect the unexpected, take a deep breath before you loose your temper and brush-off inconveniences as ‘hey-ho, that’s life!’ Sticking to your principles is all well and good, but the less you expect of the Philippines – the more rewarding you will find it. Expect too much and you will live in constant turmoil, stress and frustration. These frustrations will eat-away at you and if you are not careful you will end up bitter and twisted, resenting everything and appreciating nothing.
Living in the Philippines is a way of life. It is not a holiday. It is different and it is a very dangerous place to be if underestimated. Yes, many Filipinos are wonderful people and very kind. Just never, ever run out of money – or you are doomed!