The Philippines Option
Stickman, thank you for this website, I have come to be especially appreciative as I venture into the Philippines and find that there is no comparable site for that country. I am also the author of Filipina Mirage,
a story that never fails to amuse. Hell, I almost find it funny now and I lived through it.
I want to express my personal opinion that the Republic of the Philippines (RP) is a viable option for expatriates, retirees, visitors and mongers alike. The one consistent rap against the RP is that many perceive it to be dangerous to the point that they exclude the country as an option. I believe this perception to be wrong and I suggest a visit to find out for your selves.
There are 3 sections in the Philippines: Luzon in the north, Manila is part of Luzon, Visaya is the central section, where Cebu and Boracay are located and Mindanao in the south. Stay The Hell Out Of Mindanao! This is where priests and missionaries and others have been kidnapped and sometimes killed. This is where the insurgency groups operate and there are political and religious disputes in this area. This is perhaps why the RP has a reputation for being an unsuitable place to visit but this danger can be avoided by simply not going to Mindanao.
The RP is an armed republic, of this there is no doubt. A visit to McDonalds, a coffee shop or many stores will likely find an armed guard in front of the business or roaming the store. This is disconcerting to many and certainly gives the perception that there is some grave and imminent danger or else why would the guard be present?
I have spoken with several guards and some store managers and the armed guard issue in the RP appears to be that guards are inexpensive so why not have one? There is also an element of competitiveness in that if your competitor has an armed guard at his place of business then you should also have one to keep up appearances. Wages are low in the RP, lower than Thailand at about $6. USD per day so these armed guards are making only a few dollars a day as are the 5 employees at the cash register, two to ring up your purchase, two to place it in a bag and one to supervise the operation. This is the Philippines and that’s how they do it over there.
Some cultures are more accustomed to seeing armed security guards but the bottom line is that the armed guards are a cultural and economic reality in the RP rather than a response to an abnormally high risk of being robbed. You can choose to believe me on this or not of course but in my 4 visits to the RP and 2 visits to LOS I have never felt that I was in danger. The same basic rules of common sense and caution apply in both these countries and in Washington D.C. and New York also.
I have been to the RP for about 10 weeks total in country so I am not a distinguished expert by any means and I am only able to give you my personal observations. I have been to Thailand twice for a total of about 6 weeks.
I would like to open the discussion of the Philippines as a retirement option and as a visitor venue and I suggest that Thailand visitors consider visiting the RP once and check it out if possible for you. Boracay is a white sand beach paradise with night life and a tropical paradise feel and Manila has a night life that compares to Bangkok. Not quite as decadent as Bangkok, but close enough for me.
The RP is a Catholic nation so there are no spirit houses or talk of ghosts in the RP. People of the RP also speak English quite well especially the younger generation. Taxi drivers are still rude but you can have a raised voice discussion with them in English about their lack of safe driving skills.
The RP is emerging as a call center business area for staffing the computer and information help lines that are currently staffed primarily in India. Several of these call centers have opened recently in Manila and some employ hundreds of workers thus encouraging English speaking skills and perhaps promote a pro-Western perspective.
The RP seems to encourage retirees to come and live there and it seems from recent articles about Thailand that this is less true in LOS. Retirement information is available on the official Philippine Government website.
There is an also an economic reason to consider the RP perhaps especially so for U.S. residents. Both the Philippine peso and the Thailand baht are strong against the USD but as Stick noted in his weekly article recently this is less true in RP than Thailand as the American dollar has declined only about 10% against the peso in the past two years. Also there has been virtually no inflation in the past two years in the RP.
I have spoken to several retirees who are living in the RP on about 1,000 USD per month but I believe this would be the minimum amount needed.
Goods and services cost less overall in the RP than they do in LOS. For my 1,000 USD I can buy approximately 47,000 pesos or 33,000 Thai baht and the amazing news I have for you is that the peso buys roughly the same amount of goods and services in the Philippines as does the baht in Thailand so you do gain financially whatever currency you are using.
Some examples, about 3,000 baht gets me a nice room at the Ambassador Hotel in Bangkok and 2,000 baht gets me a less luxurious room at the Manhattan Hotel in Bangkok. 3,000 pesos gets me a nice room at the Midtown Hotel in Cebu, about the same as the Ambassador Hotel and 2,000 pesos gets me a room at the Citadel in the Makati section of Manila which is roughly equivalent to the Manhattan Hotel room.
Also 2,000 pesos is the expected morning gift to a Mall Pixie (definition follows) or freelancer and from my limited experience in Thailand 2000 baht is an approximate morning gift as well.
Night life in the RP is good but slightly less wild than Bangkok. Burgos Street in Makati or the Malati section of Manila are excellent night life areas with lots of nightlife choices and they treat Westerners very well. Bar fines are high in the RP as they run about 3,000 pesos but can mostly be avoided by all but the least experienced. Many of the bar girls are freelancing at 4 a.m. when the bars close and will also accept a cell phone number discreetly given to them and you use can your texting skills to set things up.
I have found the best value and a very easy option to meeting girls in the RP is the mall. Go to any major mall and find a Starbucks or Bo’s coffee shop and sit there for a short while and you will meet Western visitors and retirees and you will have the option of meeting young freelancers. These are girls who are sometimes students who make some or all of their income by providing the GFE to Westerners and they are as adorable and adept as their Thai counterparts. I have nicknamed them “Mall Pixies” (copyright pending) and you can have the full GFE for one day or several days or for your stay, up to you Joe.
Maybe I am a Cheap Charley and have just gotten away with it. I usually buy dinner and some entertainment only for the first couple days and later a few small clothing purchases or phone credits called a “load” over there and the 2,000 pesos a day.
Food is roughly equivalent in both countries as 1,000 pesos buys a premium meal for two as does 1,000 baht. Drinks at restaurants and bars again roughly equivalent for peso and baht I have found.
2,000 pesos will get you a smile and appreciation and stay as long as you want her to. I do not know what the bottom amount or minimum is but I do know that 2,000 pesos is enough and this is for the pick of the crop and usually very attractive. Coffee shop girls, also known as Mall Pixies in the RP are, in my opinion, as attractive overall as the lovely ladies of the LOS. Good, Badass and Ugly in both places with a few that we wonder how they make a living thrown in for good measure.
The information in this article is of course subjective but I will stand by it even if I get flamed. I also believe that overall the girls who play in the RP have a better attitude toward Westerners than do girls who play in Thailand. I can go to a coffee shop or mall in either Manila or Cebu and I prefer Cebu and meet a 23 – 27 (younger if one chooses but be careful as some are younger than 18) year old and she is doing this for the money but not overly obvious about it. She will give her new boyfriend a pleasant experience though you do need to work a little harder with the Mall Pixies than bar girls. .
You will of course need to come to the RP to experience what I am talking about but if you are dissatisfied with Thailand either as a tourist or retiree or potential retiree I encourage you to visit the RP. I recommend a visit to Manila, either Makati or Malati area if you are interested in mostly play for pay. I recommend Cebu and the nearby islands of Bohol and Boracay for the beach vacation oriented tourist who still wants to play.
Your USD will go considerably further than in Thailand and the natives are friendly, pretty and accommodating.
I read Stickman daily and have seen some good things written about the RP but an underlying concern from many writers is that the RP is too dangerous to consider. I have not found it to be any more dangerous than Thailand and I don’t consider Thailand to be a dangerous place either.
Just one man’s opinion – Loving Life in the Philippines!
A good, balanced summation of the Philippines.