Retiring Cebu – Quality of life

Quality of life in the Philippines (+ and -)

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I decided to title this post “Quality of life” because things are actually quite different here from what you are used to in America or even Europe and many other countries for that matter. This can be quite a shock to some people especially if the US or Europe is the only place you have known. Your quality of life will definitely change once you are living here in the Philippines. In some areas the change will be more severe than in others, and you will have to adjust to those changes. For some this change will be unwelcome, but for others like me, can adjust to these changes quickly and learn to live with it. I am a very adaptable person and can adjust to new situations without a lot of trouble, even in extreme cases. As I had to in 1970 when I went to Thailand and lived in an open bay un air conditioned baracks. With temperatures in the 100s, that was quite an adjustment but I did fine and slept well. For some, those that do not adjust easily, this place can be a big problem. It is one of the main reasons some people give up and return to the USA. Read on for the rest of this story…

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Photo by Charles Harman Copyright (c) All Rights Reserved

The photo above is of an active volcano, these folks had to be evacuated just after we visited here in 2006 due to an eruption. Notice the cone has rebuilt itself, a sign an eruption may soon occur.

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Not Every Home Has an Oven

One of the differences you will notice right away is that, most homes here do not have ovens. Only the wealthy Filipinos here will have one. I believe the reason for this, two fold, 1.) electricity is one of the most expensive utilities here in the Philippines, and therefore baking pies and cakes for many is simply cost prohibitive. 2.) Why not just walk down to the main street visit a local bakery and let them do the baking. I mean just about any street and you can find a bakery full of great baked goods. If I desire brownies all I do is send the maid out to buy some at the local bakery or hop on my Honda and go bakery shopping.

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Thanks to: http://www.dinneratsixthirty.com

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Frozen Hamburger Meat

Another difference here is, you can’t find frozen hamburger patties like you get in most grocery stores or Wal-Mart in the US or other countries. The ones they do have here in the grocery stores and in Gaisano a major grocery and department chain in the Philippines are from China and do not look good to me. They are often brown in color, never have I seen a package that is a nice pink color. I think the reason must be there is no market for burgers here although this is changing. Sure they have fast food chains but the average Filipino does not eat burgers. If I want a hamburger I either have to send the maid to the local fast food restaurant like McDonalds for one or I could hop on a tricycle for 30 pesos and get one myself. And that brings me to McDonald’s. Where does McDonald’s get those great tasting burgers from? Well, they get them from Australia of course, shipped in frozen, and they taste as good if not better than the McDonalds in the US. So why can’t they just import frozen burgers from Australia you ask? Again there is not enough of a market for frozen burgers here is the only thing that makes sense to me. As to McDonalds, not every city has one, if you end up in a city without a McDonalds all you have is big-Mac, a street vender and JolliBee a fast food establishment similar to McDonalds. Restaurants just don’t serve burgers unless you are in one of the larger cities like Cebu City or Manila that has a T.G.I. Fridays or other US stile restaurants. I think eventually you will start to find frozen Australian beef patties in the grocery stores here because Burgers are starting to become a desired item even from the Filipinos, especially the younger Filipinos see below.

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This is the typical burger Pattie available in most grocery stores here, does that look appetizing to you?

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And this is what a good beef patty should look like, not brown but rather nice and fresh looking pink or red color. Suggestion: buy beef from the meat market, have it ground, them make your hamburgers from that.

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Charles in the Texas ball cap, Michael Board, his wife Michelle, and my wife Marianne in a Jollibee in Mandaue City on the main highway and near the main road that takes you across the bridge to Mactan. We have been here several times now.

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Big-Mac has frozen burgers that are thin and not near the quality of the US brands, they also look partially cooked and are a tan color, the taste is just not there either, and they are shipped out of China, who knows what’s in them. Your best choice here is to get fresh ground beef and pork mix it half and half for a tasty burger, and just make them yourself.

They don’t have Subway fast food restaurants here in Cebu City yet but there is one in Manila. Sub-Way is another of my favorites, I miss those great meatball sandwiches.

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Big Mak Not to be confused with McDonalds.

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http://my3rdand7thsense.blogspot.com/

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http://my3rdand7thsense.blogspot.com/

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Big Mak has burger and egg, ham and egg sandwiches.

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Going back in Time

To me coming to the Philippines is like stepping back in time to the early 1950’s I imagine a lot of what I see here has not changed much in all this time. Even most offices here do not have computers and the workers are still using old style typewriters and keeping records on paper and paper books. City Senses is taken down in huge bound books. There are plenty of people here who either do not have expensive electricity or do but only for a couple of lights and maybe a TV. Streets are dimly lighted for the most part as are smaller stores. There are a few large chains like “Gaisano”, “Uni Top”, and “Prince Warehouse” that are styled after Wal-Mart; these are usually brightly lighted and full of products mostly from China. The images below are from Cebu City SM Supermarket a truly modern grocery store that resembles Wal-Mart.

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The Family Automobile, Motorcycles

Most people here do not own a car only the wealthy or working Filipino and foreigners do. The main form of transportation here is the motorcycle, and just about every Filipino owns one. You won’t find many large displacement engines here either, as nearly all motorcycles are from 50cc to 150cc and not much above that. I could special order a Honda or Kawasaki with a larger displacement engine from around 600cc to 1000cc from Japan, but would pay for that in the sale price and import taxes for that motorcycle. Many foreigners here have purchased larger displacement motorcycles and you see them around once in a while. I have seen Harley Davidson’s and other larger bikes here also.

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Personal Computers

Another thing you notice here is, most people do not own is a personal computer, that’s why you see so many “internet Café’s” here, we even own one in Bogo City which just closed it’s doors this year after more then 14 years of operation. There’s an internet cafe near you, actually one on just about every corner and they all seem to do good business.

Not like in America where Wal-Mart has turned many towns into ghost towns and shut down nearly if not all family owned businesses. You do see a lot of family owned stores and shops here, the free enterprise system is definitely alive and well in all of the Philippines. Many of the stores look like something right out of the 1900’s with names like “Rosekie Drug & General Merchandise”.

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Thanks to Paul James wowbantayan.com

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Quality of Education

Most Schools here remind me of “little house on the prairie” although they are many rooms. You often see many grade levels in one classroom. Buildings are what we would use for a shed or a business in the USA in most cases.

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School Kids in their uniforms in Medellin Philippines, notice the school buildings in the background.

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Home Construction +

One change I do like is the quality of construction of homes here. And I don’t mean the bamboo homes; I am talking about the solid concrete homes that are everywhere here. Each wall has it’s own foundation of rebar and concrete which is a big change from how homes are built in the US. The walls are hollow block a sort of thin cinder block about 8 inches wide. As the wall is being built the blocks are filled with concrete and steel rebar then the exterior surfaces are covered with several layers of a mortar smoothed out to a glossy finish. These walls are so strong you can try to kick one in and it may break your leg but not the wall. Then the floors are poured with concrete over a flattened and compacted dirt floor; they seem to hold up very well. I had a 2000 square foot home built in northern Cebu in Bogo City built this way in 2004 8 years later it is still solid and nothing has cracked or settled. it has no wood in the construction other than the door frames, even the roof is made of steel angle and I beams and concrete cross members.

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This was our house in Bogo Philippines, it’s all concrete and steel, sold it this year.

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Water Utilities

In most places in the Philippines water is at very low pressures because water is gravity fed from a large water tank on your roof. Only in the newer subdivisions do you see the US style water towers and pumped water at sufficient pressures to take a shower. Most homes and I do mean most do not even have hot water only a single 3/4 inch water pipe incoming to supply the entire house with a small electric pump to force the water up to the roof and fill that tank. Otherwise it is normally gravity fed into the homes resulting in low pressure. Some people have installed pumps to pressurize the water. In Bogo City, Cebu Philippines, the Bogo Water Department pumps it’s water at high pressure and taking a shower is a lot easier there. the funny thing you will see here is the 3/4 inch steel and plastic pipes running down the city streets and on the sidewalks supplying water to the homes. You can purchase on demand hot warer heaters for your home and they work just find for that hot shower. If you have enough pressure to feed that shower head.

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220 Electrical Grid –

Electricity is not near as clean and spike free as it is in the USA or Europe. In the Philippines brown outs are the rule and last from 30 minutes to 3 hours. The power often fluctuates a few volts up and down and it is can be seen in the house lights dimming and getting brighter. In more recent months, it has improved somewhat and I sometimes we go a month or more without a single brownout, in 2010 they were daily in Cebu City for about an hour each. Power supplied to each home is 220 and only 2 wire not three phase like in the USA. If I am standing on a tile floor and plug in my computer then touch the metal casing I feel a faint buzz from electricity leaking through my body to the floor it’s not a lot but you do feel it and I don’t like that buzz feeling. Ground wires are rarely used here. Be careful if you bring any 110 VAC stuff from the US as you will fry it if plugged into 220 I know I have fried a few by forgetting to use that step-down transformer.

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Washing Machines

You don’t really need a washing machine here, although one is a help and your maid will love it. They will run up your electricity and water bill. Most go for Php 15,000 to around 60,000 or so. For around $50 a month you can afford to have a maid to wash your cloths, clean your house, and cook for you. If you carry a brief case they will be the one to do that also.A friend of mine a retired California police officer is living on a $1000.00 a month pension and even he has a maid. Enjoy your retirement, come to the Philippines…

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Getting Away from the Stress +

The best part of all this is, if you want the get away from the rushed busy life style with all it’s stress, and just want to lay back and relax you will love it here. Retirement is good here if you have the funds to support life here. If you are having trouble making that dollar stretch the entire month in the USA or Europe, especially you seniors, you will find it easy to do so here. Since it is so cheap to live here your worries are pretty much gone. Living pay check to paycheck is gone and life is once again pleasant. The Philippines is not for everyone though, for the most part it is the retired folks that can exist here. You need to be on Social Security or some form of compensation like a medical pension to have enough money to live here for a sustained amount of time. Rent is pretty cheap here, I only pay around $170.00 a month for a two bedroom living and kitchen apartment. Most young folks won’t be able to find work here either. The young folks that are living here have found a business that makes them enough money to get by like Chris from the UK who owns a 200 man call center in Cebu City, hiring all Filipino workers. I have heard of Teachers and College professors that came here to live and taught at the Universities. The upper education system is all English now. However jobs are mainly reserved for Filipinos, so don’t think you can come here and run out and find a job. Although there are jobs available for English speaking people like in a Call Center. Most Foreigners just start a business and make money that way.

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