Expats, Money, and the Philippines

If you have blue eyes ( maybe brown of some other color ) and white skin you are rich, well that’s what every Filipino thinks anyway. And we sure try hard to reinforce that. What does narely every foreigner do once he arives here in the Philippines including me. He builds the biggest house he can possibly come up with, mine is just about 2000 square feet, this tells everyone he is very rich, they don’t see the fact that this foreigner may have taken his entire life’s savings to build that houes. Then what does he do he buys lots of fancy cloths for his Filipina wife along with a nice SUV. So every Filipino thinks we are rich we convey that to hem, we have so much money we can just give it away and not even be bothered. When in fact most Foreigners here “Kano” we are called, are relatively poor, most are just getting by on a fixed income from their pension or social security. I know one with only a $700 a month pension and he manages to help out his relatives eat and pay his rent month after month. Once you get settled in, sooner or later someone will ask you for money be it a loan usually they ask for a loan or a relative has a medical problem and you are expected to  help out. It happens to all of us all the time, vender’s just know you want their product and I do buy a lot of products, 28″ TV, 17,000 watt stereo, t-shirts all sorts of stuff purchased right in my own living room and they just keep coming back, in a way I feel sorry for them and often feel obligated to buy something  just to help them out after all they are poor and working hard to improve their situation. One lady almost daily shows up at our home with her kids in hand selling clothing out of a bag. I can’t tell you how much of this stuff I have purchased.  The point I am trying to make here is, sooner or later you will encounter some one, a friend, or a relative expecting some monetary help from you. And unless you married into a wealthy family which is unlikely, your Filipino family is likely pretty poor. Also when you marry a Filipina you marry the entire family they are yours and under your wing for protection, and this is decided by them not you. It’s just that way here and there is little you can do except run away with your Filipina to somewhere the relatives do not know of and some do this. Some times this is hard because the Filipino family is a close nit group not like in the US where most relatives barely know what the others are doing. Most  Every foreigner who comes here will be asked for money, even if you are married to the best Filippa you could possibly find like my Marianne who never asked me for a dime, but her family are constantly asking for 100 pesos 500 pesos and this goes on daily. Her brother lives in our house with his wife and two kids, so far he does not work, he eats out food and enjoys our home and asks for gas money for his relatives Honda of which he borrows. Marianne’s mom and dad still live here in this house and flat out refuse to leave. Her dad thinks he owns this house one reason he will not leave.  There is no real solution to this situation other than simply running away and banning any relatives from coming to your place. I would find this hard to do although I know some that do it. And the reason we lived in Mactan was to escape the relatives Marianne kept our location a secret from them.  But now that we are back in Bogo they all know we are here. When I first arrived here in 2004 several of the relatives from Negros Occidental showed up at our door expecting I could send them all to school. We did end up helping some through school. So what do I do now I let Marianne handle all the money issues with the relatives maids and employees of this houe becvause she knows best and does an excellent job then I don’t have to worry. She managed to save so much money she was able to buy the little Suzuki Celerio costing $12,000 she is doing something right.



  1. i guess my situation is different in that most of my wife’s family works for me at our resort…and at below minimum wage (but we furnish housing/meals and pay their social security). if they borrow, it is against their salary and since we pay weekly, i tell them they just have to wait till payday. all of fe’s brothers have developed a side business so they have something else to fall back on. many of my american friends married to a filipina have helped their family start a business so they can earn their own living. some have just invested in sari-sari store and feel that $200 a month to restock the store is still a good investment. we bought two of my wife’s brothers share of their inheritance of the family farm and they used that money for their business or sending their son/daughter to college, but it was a good investment as we now have a large part of the family farm worth much more than we paid for it.

  2. The reason we moved to Mactan was so we could live in a house without all the relatives there with us. I do usually help out when I can and had done so many times. My wife’s sister has a daughter with a brain tumor and she gets regular cat scans I gladly pay here hospital bill each time she goes in for one. Yes I wish I could run naked here but with two live in maids that is just not possible. I do spend most of my time in the master bed room mainly as it it cool and it is our private area. The brother in law is working on getting a job as a security guard and will have his own place so that is only a temporary situation and he does do things for us all the time.

  3. I think you have made a fundamental mistake Charles,

    No matter what follows, if my brother, mother or child came to me and told me that they were going to suffer badly if I did not help them, I would simply open my wallet, quit any occupation, and do what was needed. With that said…

    Something you did not mention is that generally speaking, in the Philippines, people feel that if you have money you have everything or at least you can buy it. But there are a lot of things you need in life that money just will not buy at reasonable rates, and you should make that very clear to your relatives.

    What I insist on is that ‘family’ is a 2 way street. Agreed, generally speaking, I have a greater access to cash than my relatives do. And so, I too help out some. But I also have very poor access to business contacts, food bargains, social events, labor services, government, to mention a few.

    If a guy who is your wife’s brother is asking for gas money, but will not repair your your car… for free and done well, without you asking for payment, never give him another Peso. He does not respect you. He will respect you even less if you make him feel small by making him beg. If he has no pride, it is only a short time before he steals from you, tells the neighbors unsavory privileged information about your marriage, or that he secretly hates you.

    If you are having trouble renewing your business permit, for example and, your father does not go, ON HIS OWN, to argue for YOU, using his “contacts”, kick the old fart out on his own, he thinks you are pussy whipped fool.


    Yes, you are in the Philippines. Yes they have different ways of doing things. But in YOUR house, things go YOUR way. Period full stop. Americans come from a culture where most family things happen inside the house, out of the sight of the neighbors. We feel that what happens at home is simply nobodies business, outside the house. We build our houses so that it will be no problem to get up in the night and raid the ref nude. Privacy is important to Americans. American culture demands that the best way to promote family values is to provide for yourself first, to the best of your abilities.

    It is time you told your relatives that living in the Philippines is harder than it needs to be for you, because you can’t even retain your own culture, even at your own home. That like fish, company smells after 3 days.

    A large % of the decisions made in your household are made by your wife, who was brought up with her parents providing all that she needed. Her brother sheltering her. Her uncle buying ice cream for her when he had no money for himself. These debts must be honored. But it was only ONE ice cream, they raised her the best they could, but it was in poverty. Her brother sheltered her, so she may…. occasionally…. maybe, buffer his poverty.

    So many guys act as though because we are visitors, we have to dance daintily around Filipino pride. That because we have gone there, we have also agreed that we will “respect” Filipino culture. I personalty never saw any contract with the Tourism Bureau, that implied any such agreement. In fact, the reverse should be at least as true, that because they have invited you, they approached you, they should show tolerance/respect for YOUR culture. If they don’t want to show respect for my culture, fine, do not ask me for money, do not sell things to me, do not let your doughtier marry me, do not move into my house.

    If all your family relationships were placed in the street, and a big spotlight shined on them for all to see, would you really want it any other way?

    Poverty in the Philippines is due to the thinking of Filipinos. Not due to the visitors of that country not doing more. If your family is poor, it is not your fault, or responsibility to remedy. Family finds ways to help their family where everybody feels pride in their roll in the improvement of family life.

    Children come into this world penniless. As they grow, every responsible parent demands that they help the rest of the family, prepare for becoming independent, to the best of their abilities. It is abuse to simply put them on the dole and let them live a life learning to leach off of others. These facts hold true for both Filipinos and Americans.

    Joe Pinoy

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