Living in the Philippines
I have just racked up over a year of retirement at age 41 in the Philippines and thought I would share my thoughts given some recent submissions which seem ill informed.
I live in Barrio Barretto on Subic Bay which has a relatively small nightlife scene of some 20 odd bars catering to mainly foreigners. I chose Barretto over Angeles as it somewhat cheaper to rent here and the attitude is much more laid back than AC but there is still more than enough girls to keep me entertained. My rough guess would be around the 600 mark in the bars compared to perhaps 5,000 in the AC area.
The vast majority of expats living in Barretto and AC are ex-military (95%?) due to the presence of the former US military bases in both areas. Subic port is still a regular stop over point for visiting military ships, mainly US.
I have visited AC on several occasions and continue to do so every few months. I have a few friends up there that make regular trips here to Barretto as well. I have visited LOS several times mainly Bangkok, Phuket and my last trip in June to Pattaya. I will use these as comparative tools.
English is one of the official languages and universally spoken in all the major tourist areas to a high standard. Pretty much every government document or forms are printed in English .
At age 40 I was able to avail myself of a retirement visa. Cost approx USD2,000 plus a “security” deposit of USD20,000 which is returned when you cancel your visa. I pay USD350 a year for my residency card and never have to reapply or do a visa run. I am legally allowed to work if I want.
Being a relatively small town there is consistent pricing of bar fines or EWR (Early Work Release) as they are known locally. At P1,500 (approx THB 1,100) it is an all in price and a tip is generally expected but not compulsory. I generally tip the overnight good performers P500. In AC EWRs range from P1100 at the Perimeter Rd bars up to P4100 in the Fields mega bars where many have tiered EWRs. Girls here will happily visit me overnight on their day off for P1,000.
There are very few beggars here and few vendors out at night. Many vendors do seem to hang out on the beach during the day but the sand here is partly volcanic so is a shade grey and I spend more time indoors anyway. Trikes are cheap and generally consistent in price but do try it on with tourists every now and then. Fields area of AC is crammed full of vendors and beggars at night and it is almost impossible to walk 10 metres with out being offered Viagra or Cialis. Trikes are relatively expensive due to local mafia/kick back issues. E.g. a p20 fare in Barretto would cost p80-100 in AC. Jeepneys are also a cheap and easy way to get around P12 to get from here to the major town close by of Olongapo.
There are several good local eating spots here. Sitnbul is my favourite run by an American expat where you get massive sized western meals for a few dollars. Blue Rock is so well regarded for their steaks that many AC expats will day trip here to get one. The Aussie owners have their own butchery!
We are just outside the SBFZ (Subic Bay Freeport Zone), the ex US military base, and it has been designated a special economic zone and is run exceptionally professionally and very well maintained and clean area when compared to what goes on just outside their gates. Locally known as “on base” or SBMA which is actually the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, the organisation that runs the SBFZ. Somewhat similar to Clark Freeport zone, another ex US base, adjacent to AC.
We have 2 large malls. One ubiquitous SM mall in Olongapo city and the new Ayala Harbour point mall literally across the river but within the SBFZ. Each has 3 digital cinemas and a 3D cinema. There are also 3 large “Duty Free” stores in the SBFZ which carry all your western essentials (Cadbury for me) that can’t otherwise be found in the local supermarkets.
I rent a fully furnished one bedroom apartment, one block from the beach for P10,000 per month.
I find the girls here generally less mercenary and happy to provide a GFE if you treat them well. They can also be just a crazy and clingy as Thai girls and I find they have very similar looks.
Many areas are dirty when compared to LOS. My pet hate is the local habit of men urinating in public anywhere they feel like it whether someone is watching or not.
I believe the value and choice of hotels is nowhere near as good as LOS and while improving in AC, Barretto does not fair that well IMHO in terms of value for money.
Street food is not recommended and the local cuisine is somewhat disjointed and hard to define. Chicken Adobo is a favourite local dish but to me it was just like chicken pieces (bones included) and gravy. Lechon (pork) varieties abound but are mainly 90% fat and bones. Beef sisig again tends to be unpleasant as beef is expensive so they use cheap gristly meat. The Sitnbul does do a nice Beefsteak Tagalog but not at local prices due to using decent quality meat.
No nudity in the bars. This is a predominantly Catholic country.
Due to the prepaid EWR there is a nasty concept of runners (girls that leave without providing their service) and long time to short time converters. With a runner you can generally get a refund from the bar but there is nothing you can do about a LT – ST converter except not tip.
A nasty item known as a double ladies drink has invaded AC and now Barretto. Basically charging twice the price for a LD with no guarantee of twice the time to do your interview or chat with the girl. This has also led to the concept of the drink slut whereby a girl doesn’t need to EWR as she makes enough on drink commissions to avoid it.
Cherry girls. My pet hate. A virgin in a bar full of hookers is a weird concept to me but some guys love it and ask for them. To me it’s a pre-qualifying question to avoid wasting a LD and my time.
Corruption. Probably slightly worse than LOS with no signs of improving any time soon.
For me I chose Philippines over LOS for a number of reasons and Barretto over AC because it suits my lifestyle choices. I take the good with the bad and have had no major dramas as yet. I enjoy visiting LOS but it is now relatively much more expensive to visit and live there than here. I enjoy visiting AC for the huge selection of girls and bars but I prefer to live here. I still have 7,106 more islands to explore and will be heading to Palawan, Puerto Princesa at the end of this month to visit the world famous underground river. I will submit a pictorial and report in due course.
Interesting report. I'd LOVE to see a report of Angeles City with a lot of good photos from outside the bars that give a real feel of what the whole area is like for someone who has never been there. It's something which, remarkably, I don't think I ever recall seeing.