Welcome To The PI: This to all those who still live in the land of the Big PX (or Navy Exchange) and are planning or thinking about moving to the Republic of the Philippines. I know that you’re beset with countless questions concerning a decision of such magnitude. So my response is study, investigate, and get off your duff and just do it! First thing you must and I’ll repeat, must know, is this is their country and you are just a guest. Subject to their rules and they will not change to make you happy. But if you’re married to a Philippine Girl you already know a lot about that.
The Weather: Four Seasons’ Mild, Warm, Hot, and wet as hell! Like Florida, but on steroids and no Disney World. The Rainey Season is my favorite, it’s a good reason to stay home and play with the baby’s mamma. Air-con is only needed on a few days and everything smells clean and fresh during the Rainey season. OOH, it’s smart to build your house on a mountain or a hill and steer clear of low lying areas, and or depressions, if I must explain more, you should study more about gravity and water flow. Example: A friend told me that every year for five years, the ground floor of his house floods. I advised him to sell the house and move to higher ground. His reply: “I’m renting!” You can’t help everybody.
Shopping: There is for some reason here, that if you have blue eyes, the price will double at the market. So I let the pretty lady I’m married too flash those brown eyes and I’ll wait by the car with a cold beer. If you’re single, and that won’t last long, then shopping will become easier. Also if you find something to like to eat, at the big super markets buy a lot, as you may never see that product again. Buy a freezer and keep it full.
Dealing with the Government: You never will deal with the government, as that is nothing but a concept. You will be dealing with people, and I’ve found that smiling and being friendly helps every time. Go off on them and you’ll find out just what stubborn means. People want to help people that are polite to them. When you return to that government office (and you will return many times) they will remember you, and help you get what you need. If you remember that backwards is the direction of choice, you should have good results in your endeavors.
Utilities: They may be shut off at any time and don’t waste your time trying to discern the reason, just plan for it. Electric, hard wire a generator into your house and keep it serviced. Water drill a deep well and keep your tank full at all times. Phone, Duh! Cell Phone is the way to go and yes you can buy a 3G phone and get connected to the World Wide Web. Trash removal, outside of cities, build an stainless steel incinerator and pay some kid to haul off the ashes, a guy with a cart will pick up all metal, plastic, and glass from you, and pay you also. I’ve found that he will take it all if you don’t charge him, and I know he’s got kids to feed, so I don’t take any pesos from him. Fire Department, Forget about that, I saw them show up to a fire with an empty pumper truck. They left to get water and returned when the house was gone.
Word Usage and hand signals: If the guy next door asked to borrow a tool, money or anything. Remember that the word borrow means GIVE. He now owns it and he won’t let you borrow it back. If you hire someone to fix anything, he will tell you that he knows how to fix it. So if while explaining what you want he nods his head in understanding, watch to see if his hand scratches his head, if that happens he has no idea what the hell you just said. Then he’ll do it the way his grandfather (Lolo) taught him and ask to borrow your tools.
Public Transport: When riding on Jeepneys someone will hand you money, it’s not for you, pass it to the driver and say “Via Do”. When you want to get off just tap the roof with a coin and say “Para”. Pretend you know what you’re doing, when you receive your change look hard at it like you know how much the trip costs. If you’re taking a special Jeepney by yourself, tell the driver you want to give a free ride to all the pretty girls waiting for a ride (Charlie Hilsee taught me this). As I said you won’t be single long. Married guys disregard my last bit of advice.
Bamboo Telegraph: Know that the bamboo telegraph in the Philippines is the quickest and most effective form of communication here. Any place you go, or anything you do, your wife will know about it 10 minutes before you’ve done it. If you don’t believe me hide the battery in your wife’s cell phone and go try it. When you get home if her right foot is tapping, you’re in it deep dodo. If both feet are tapping, run my friend, run and don’t stop for any reason.
In conclusion: I’ve been around the world three times and watched a bear dance at a Russian fair and passed more salt water through my bladder, than most people have ever sailed. And I’m glad I live in the Philippines. The Country is beautiful, the people are wonderful, and I can afford to live very well here. This is why, I choose to live here! And you should too.