Moving to the Philippines – part 2
The reasons I am actually contemplating this move, in spite of all my problems and difficulties, are (1) At 64 and having done very little different for a very long time, I just feel I need a new and exciting experience in my last years. I am aware of the saying that a ship that stays in harbour is safe but it just rusts out. (2) I hate the cold and dullness of the English weather from about October to April (but realise that in Phil it is the overwhelming heat that is the problem and perhaps more difficult than dealing with cold). (3) I love being by the sea and know it would give me such a great feeling to have a beautiful beach and sea to look at and spend time on.
Also, it seems the cost of living is lower there in Phil (although Filipino friends who have recently been home for a holiday have been shocked by prices now); it would be good to think we could go for a meal without being charged a ridiculous amount. My research indicates that renting a house would be much cheaper; I pay about 50,000 pesos equivalent per month for a 3 bed semi here, plus Council Tax of about 7,000 pesos. My energy bill is about 6,000 pesos per month on average. I see properties in Dumaguete for about 25,000 to 30,000 rental per month but am not aware if there are any taxes to pay. However, to balance that I think my energy bill would be much higher as I would want air-con in 2 bedrooms and a living room. Btw, would I be correct to think that if rooms are south-facing then they would remain reasonably cool and may need only a fan? Another additional cost would be healthcare as here it is free. But, if I had a better environment to live in then I would not be too worried about living at the same cost as i do here or even slightly more.
So, why did I pick Dumaguete? (1) I like the Rizal Boulevard; it is quite English and reminds me of the promenade where I was born in Penzance, Cornwall. (2) The size appeals to me; I am not a big city type of person but I want facilities at hand, such as hospital, selection of restaurants, cinema. Dumaguete seems to fit that. (3) There are some beaches and beach resorts nearby (e.g at Dauin) that do not involve trips over mountainous areas to get to them (4) It is the ‘City of Learning’ and ‘The City of Gentle People’ and that appeals to me (in spite of the 25 or so murders which take place there annually … or so I read). (5) My research indicates that it is less prone to natural disasters than many other areas I would consider because of the shelter it receives from typhoons and because the earthquake epicentre appears to be nearer Bohol (although that can always change!).
I hope you will reply to me as I have to make the decision soon; time is not on my side at my age! I am interested in how you think someone with my difficulties could manage there …. by that I mean if you find the heat a very big problem, if the area is more hilly than I think, if beach resorts nearby do require trips over mountains to get to them, if prices are much more than I think. Obviously I am the one who has to decide if I can do this move but I am really looking to know what to expect before i come there as I prefer to base my decisions on sound information and not unrealistic expectations.
Hi again Stewart . Let me try and answer a few of your questions and share my own personal insights, for what they might be worth.
Myself, like the majority of people, have spent most of life getting so caught up in “daily existence” and forgot to look at the “big” picture of life itself. I had always figured that there would come a day that I would have the time and finances to experience a more interesting and fulfilling existence, but again like most people, assumed that it would come in my waning years, when I might not be physically well enough to actually enjoy it fully, lol. I always dreamed that I would live in a place like I do today, but out of fear of the unknown, convinced myself to keep putting it off. What I have come to learn from my own experiences is that, it is possible to have a life beyond my wildest dreams, but I am the only one who has the responsibility and ability to make that life a reality. That is what I am doing now!
I too hated the weather in my Country, and believe me, the 5-6 months of snow and sub-zero temperatures which we experience in Canada is not a pleasant existence. It downright sucks! I have traded that in for a tropical climate and though yes it does get hot sometimes, but not more so than what I had to live through during Canadian summers. To be honest, I have very rarely found that I have been uncomfortably hot here in Dumaguete City. Being right on the water, its climate is more temperate than tropical. Though I do have air conditioning, a fan usually suffices. It is important to note that here in Dumaguete, humidity is very rarely an issue so even 30 degrees C is not unbearable. It is also a small enough city that on those really hot days that can be stifling in the bigger urban centres like Manila, Cebu or Davao, here all you have at maximum is a 15 min trike ride to reach the cooling effects you will find at the waterfront, on the blvd or one of the nearby beaches.
As for the cost of living in the Philippines and specifically Dumaguete, that is a HUGE plus for settling here. I believe you have obviously studied the numbers on NUMBIO.COM, and they are pretty darn accurate. I spend $ 15-20 cdn on a top of the line restaurant meal here compared to the $75-100 I would pay in a similar establishment back in Canada and due to the high number of foreigners in this area, there are plenty of really good restaurants with western food. In other smaller cites and towns with a lest robust expat community, you will have less options to chose from and in the bigger centers, the options will be less centralized and more time consuming to access.
For accommodations, renting a very comfortable apartment or small house will easily be accomplished for 15,000 – 25,000 PhP. In that price range, You can either choose from something a little bit out of the city down south toward Daoin, or north toward Amlan where you can get closer to the ocean itself or opt for right within town. If you are willing and able to drive a motorcycle/scooter (which is the prevalent mode of personal transport here), my suggestion is a little out of town where you can be close to the ocean but 15-20 minutes to all the amenities Dumaguete has to offer. Should you need to use public transport, you have the options of Jeepneys, which are extremely cheap but can be crowded and hot or take a trike which even from the outlying areas will cost only a maybe 100 PhP. There are no taxes on top of your rent, but yes you have to allow for utilities. Water will be a few hundred pesos and power, even with excessive use of air conditioning, will probably not run more than 2,000 pesos. And yes, shade and which direction your place faces will greatly affect whether you need to use the air conditioning. Choose well and you will not need the air conditioner nearly as much as you think.
Health care should not be a major concern. There are of course international medical plans that do not cost a lot which I do suggest you purchase even though medical care here is laughably cheap. I recently had to stay in the hospital for an enlarged gall bladder, and a full battery of tests, medications and a private room, the bill was under 40,000 P ($1,000 Cdn). For a week!! It is important to note that another big plus for Dumaguete is that the main medical facility here is top notch, as it is an extension of the Silliman University medical Department.
About safety, I have not seen any issues here and any violence I have heard about has been related to the drug trade between locals. As long as you do not intend to hang out with those people in the few isolated areas where they hang out, you just will not have any problems. Filipinos, and the authorities here are EXTREMELY respectful of foreigners and appreciate the benefits they bring to the City.
Now, natural disasters, something we obviously have no control over. Dumaguete, and Negros Oriental is suitably located near the center of the archipelago so well sheltered from Typhoons and Tsunamis. No active volcanoes in the area that would affect Dumaguete, but earthquakes are something that we have to accept will most likely happen, just like most places on the Pacific Rim. One thing that is important to note here though is that the majority of structures are built with reinforced concrete, and are engineered to structurally weather most ordinary quakes. But, again like in any pacific rim country or city, who knows what will happen if there is a 8+ magnitude event.
Thanks Gord …. and this sums it up for me “I always dreamed that I would live in a place like I do today, but out of fear of the unknown, convinced myself to keep putting it off.” This is the barrier I need to break through.
Btw, may I ask which area you live in. I was thinking of living close to Rizal Boulevard so that I can walk there any time I wish in just 1 to 3 minutes. Would that be possible or is it all retail near there? I assume i would need to live in a gated compound and I realise that they may be situated away from the City Centre. I think I favour city life so that we can visit the Cinema, restaurants and any cultural activities (music, dance, theatre … are there many?) with a walk or short ride there.
My partner says I would find it cooler near the sea during the daytime but hotter there during the evening …. compared with living further inland. Is that your experience?
Where would I find a decent beach (or beaches) nearest to the City in both north and south directions? I think I would be looking for something with direct access and not a cliff walk and also with some form of shade or shelter I could hire. I would not be working and maybe my partner would not be either, so I am looking for a location which allows me to be on a beach much of the time to keep cool but with restaurants and entertainments available also.
I see from maps that elevations seem low from Dumaguete City to Amlan (and further north) and Dauin (and further south) … but I an elevation of say 40ft which is a cliff edge is not something I would like to travel along. I suspect you have travelled these roads so what are they like? Even in the UK I don’t travel anywhere unless I check the elevations first! I ask about this because it will give me some idea of the range of travel around Dumaguete I could manage and so stop me becoming too trapped within a very short range. I know that inland is hilly and then mountainous; Valencia is somewhere I have thought of having perhaps a cheap rental as a second home so we could go there to be cool at times, but I also see it is about 700 ft elevation and I may actually find that too high for my comfort zone (but perhaps with time that may change as I live now in a very flat region of the UK and so am not used to travelling to elevated areas routinely). So for me my area of travel would be restricted to how far south and north I could travel along the coastal route.
Regards and thanks again for your efforts … the first person I found in The Philippines who is understanding enough to be willing to help me.
I personally live about 5 min ride from Robinson’s mall up the highway towards Valencia. Though the blvd is great to hang out on, at night it s a happening place which gets loud. Best to live 5 to 10 minutes away. My suggestion is Piapi. 5 minute trike ride to the blvd with Silliman beach and Siliman university both within walking distance(5-10 min) Let me see if I can upload a map and I will head out today and take some pictures for you.
In regards to cinemas, there are 3 at Robinson’s mall which show latest release films, restaurants are really good here, and the biggest attraction is the live music on the blvd on friday and saturday nights. There are 3-4 cafes that have different live bands with a good mix of different genres. Just a really cool atmosphere with a great mix of foreign and Filipino culture. The city also puts on cultural events regularly with more Filipino flavor. If international opera, plays and dance revues are your thing, you will be out of luck with that here I’m afraid.
I would have to disagree about the heat though. My experience is that closer to the water is cooler at all times of the day unless you compare it to Valencia , which is marketly cooler all the time. Please note that Valencia is at the foot of the mountains and does not really have cliffs per se. It is a gentle uphill slope that you will experience until you move past the town itself.
To the north of Dumaguete you will be faced with cliff and steep slope within a 100 metres of the shoreline, but going south the coastal plain is a lot wider and the flat terain is good for a kilometer or two. in regards to travel, the circumferential national highway is on the coastal plain and in no places that I have traveled are you really elevated on a cliff. Even if the plain beside the sea is only 50-100 meters wide, that is what the roads have been built on.I really do not foresee any impediment to your travel unless you wanted to cut right across the inland of the island. Even people without your issue can get that knot in their stomach on some of the inland mountain roads , especially if traveling by bus. They are continually passing slower traffic with little regard for safety. I believe you could navigate the whole circumference of the island though,(Negros Oriental and Occidental) without being subjected to a ride that would cause you panic. I have found that the best fine white sand beaches are in Siaton which is about 60 km south of Dumaguete City proper or a short boat ride to the amazing Island of Siquijor. (an island paradise)
Ok, now I have to talk about the big thing. There are ex-pats here that are unhappy living here in Dumaguete and the Philippines as a whole and it is sad to see. They are in the minority but do exist as is probably the case in any country. What I have noticed with these people is that they came to the Philippines and expected it to be just like their own country except warmer and more beautiful. That is not the case nor will it ever be. We are in a foreign country with their own culture and to expect them to change to suit us just because we have chosen to move here, is simply unrealistic and I feel, arrogant. There are a pile of wonderful things about Filipinos and their culture , but there are also things that we just are not used to, are frustrating, and seem highly illogical. Attitude and Acceptance is the key to living a happy life here, but that is probably true in any country we chose to live in , even our own.
What I would like to do tomorrow is write to you what you should expect in that regards. The good, bad , beautiful and ugly.. Then you will have to look inward and determine what you can live with and what you could not.