Is there an easy way to contact people in the US?
One option is the MagicJack phone system. It is easy to set up, just plug it in to your router or laptop. You then have the option to either connect a real handset to make your calls, or you can use the on-screen software to make your calls via your computer. It is relatively inexpensive, with the first year’s unlimited calls built into the original purchase price. (see website for latest prices) After that you can renew, saving even more money with a 5-year discount subscription.
You then can call all of the US and Canada for no monthly charges or long distance fees. And you can talk as long as you like on a clear connection. It uses your internet connection to process the call. (known as VOIP)
But MagicJack is primarily for those not too familiar with social-media. You can accomplish the same thing by making calls from computer-to-computer (not via phones, like MagicJack does) using a wide variety of social media functions already built into the website. Facebook, for instance, already has built into it’s Messenger service the ability to do either voice-only or voice w/video chatting with any other Facebook member. It does not do messenger-to-phone, but considering most people do have Facebook these days it’s a free and easy way to call anywhere in the world, not just the US/CANADA like MagicJack is limited to.
Another online option is Skype. Skype bridges the two options of whether you want to call a landline phone in another country (at a low fee) or speak for free with another Skype member via online connection. You can choose to either speak via video/voice or voice-only, unlimited and for free.
While these are the main options most people use to keep in touch ‘back home’, there are lots of other options as well. Both Facebook Messenger and Skype can be run from your smartphone, so as long as you have a 1mbps signal you can do video-chat. (at least 700mbps signal for voice only). Other communication apps you can look into are Viber, Snapchat or Voxer. (links are for Android, but other platforms also supported.)
If you absolutely want to stick with an inexpensive way to call from cell-phone to landline/cell-phone overseas, then check out Rebtel.com (affiliate link). They offer about the lowest rates for overseas calling. You create a free account, enter the number you are calling from (one time) and number calling to (one time) and then it will give you a re-assigned number that makes the call go over the internet.. using your standard landline or cell-phone. You load it up with credit via Paypal and can talk for hours very inexpensively.
What about internet service in the Philippines?
The internet service overall in the Philippines is slower than most countries. In fact it rates at the lower 5% of countries in the world and among the lowest in Asia. What you can expect is less than 1mbps and it will cost you around 1000 pesos a month (about $21 usd) on average for a pre-paid, Wifi connection via a USB modem. If you are living in the province, more than a few miles from the center of town, expect speeds as low as 500kbps.
If you absolutely must have faster speeds than that, you will have to get either a post-paid account with either a DSL or an LTE connection. These run about 2,000 pesos a month (about $42 usd) and speeds are generally about 4mbps during the day and up to 16mbps late into the evening after 10pm. (when less people are online). These are called “post-paid” accounts and require some approval as well as an established address since it is a 1-year lease minimum. Some will try to convince you there is a 2-year minimum for the higher commission to themselves. Always be willing to walk away and come back later to speak with a different rep or different outlet/provider. One requirement is often a valid ACR card, which you can only apply for from immigration after you have been in the Philippines for 59 consecutive days. (there is usually a waiting period for the card to arrive, about 6 weeks after that.)
In the Philippines, there are only 2 internet providers.. Globe Telecom and PLDT. Any other company is simply a re-seller or subsidiary of Globe or PLDT. When you interact with either company (neither is the better, although most seem to favor PLDT) expect it to be a challenging process. Be prepared to wait up to 45 minutes at the mall for your number to be called. Or for some communication issues in language. For instance, “unlimited internet” does NOT mean you have unlimited internet. It means often you have access up to a daily ‘cap’ (usually 800Mbs per day with Wifi.. 60Gbs per month with DSL). If you go beyond this amount, your internet access will automatically be “throttled” down to a snail’s pace to where it is essentially useless until midnight of that day. Then your daily cap is reset. One advantage with LTE connections is that there is no “fair use policy” on it, so the connection is truly ‘unlimited’.
Here are two videos dealing with what is involved in getting decent internet when living in the province, outside of town. Within city limits speeds and access is generally better.