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The Philippine Art of Bill Presentment (Lifestyle)

A year ago last December 1 we rented a 2 br apartment in a large complex on V. Rama Ave, Guadalupe, Cebu. We had PLDT set us up with a landline and broadband DSL. We have not received a bill by the end of January, so I called PLDT. By way of an answer, I received the motto of the Philippines: "Wait for awhile". I repeated the same experience at the end of February and at the end of March, with the same results.

In early April, our phone and internet service was summarily disconnected. I called PLDT again and they read me the riot act about not paying my bill. I asked when were the bills delivered. "Ahem, hmm, they were not. But you are still responsible for paying." It turns out that the PLDT installer has recorded the wrong address. I nearly lost my composure. I told the agent that in the civilized world if this happened, the company would make an attempt to contact me via email or phone or both and correct my address of record.

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Bread and Circuses (Politics)

The title phrase, originally panem et circenses in Latin, was first coined by the Roman poet Juvenal around 100 AD. He used the metaphor to depict the Roman populace's only remaining concerns amidst its widespread apathy and ignorance of the once great nation's birthright and politics.

As I reflected on the 2012 Presidential race after watching the last Iowa GOP debate, it came to mind that the bread has been scarce but circuses abundant.

Political rhetorics aside, it is quite amusing to watch the GOP contenders compete with one another on who is most consistent conservative. If that was the sole criterion, Ron Paul would have already won. No one can compete with Dr. Paul on consistency.

As for the Democrats, is there not a single person in the entire Democratic Party who thinks that they might be able to do a better job than President Obama? You could randomly pick a senior from any high school in the land I am sure they would be no worse as president.

I came across this short video about Dr. Paul's foreign policy of non-intervention. I think it is well worth watching.

A Special Circle of Hell (Opinion)

Dante Alighieri could not label Circles 8 and 9 of Inferno (Hell) properly because cell phones did not yet exist in the year 1300 when the Divine Comedy begins. Circles 8 and 9 are reserved for souls guilty of sins of malice (fraud and treachery) and should more properly be labeled "Verizon".

I have been through nine circles of Hell with Verizon Wireless. My two-year contract is up with them today, Wednesday, December 7, 2011, which is a red-lettered day on my calendar for this very reason.

About a week ago I sent customer "service" a nice email requesting to cancel my service upon contract expiration. I have included all my relevant information, even my SSN. I cannot cancel via their web site; they require me to call them so they may verify my true identity. Read more »

More Americans Go Abroad for Economic Opportunities (Econ.)

So little is worth listening to (or reading) on CNBC that I was shocked to find this article of some relevance.

CNBC is one of the pillars of "MSM", or the main-stream media, owned by General Electric. Thus (and this should not come as a big shock), its talking heads and writers serve the interests of whose logo is on their paychecks, the corporatocratic oligopoly effectionately referred to as MSM.

This veritable but rarely verisimilar arm of the once-relevant fourth estate has published the following story on their website: More Americans Go Abroad for Economic Opportunities and it is worth reading!

Sorry about the short post, I am busy working on a new project.

Letter to Husband (Humor: Joke)

My Dear Husband,

Before you return from your business trip, I wanted to write to let you know about a tiny little accident I had with the pick-up as I was trying to park it in the garage.

Luckily nothing serious happened, I was not injured, please do not worry about me.

I was just returning from grocery shopping. As I turned into our driveway, instead of the brake, I stepped on the gas.

The garage door got slightly dinged but fortunately the pick-up stopped immediately after jumping up on your Vette.

A minor scratchI am very sorry about that, but I am sure you will find it in your kind heart to forgive me. You know how much I love you, baby!

I am attaching a photo about the minor scratch on your car.

I can hardly wait until I can hold you in my arms!

Your loving wife,

Hugs & Kisses

P.S.: Your girlfriend called.

Singapore & Johor Bahru, Malaysia (Travel)

We have taken a week off from the hustle and bustle of finishing the building of our townhouse, the preparations to move to Talisay City and flew off to Singapore for a week of R&R. It has been quite a reprieve from the disorganized mayhem of the Philippines.

Tiger AirwaysTiger Airways has excellent and inexpensive, direct service from Cebu City's Mactan International Airport to Singapore's Changi Airport (Budget Terminal). Unlike Cebu Pacific and AirPhil Express, they fly in the middle of the day and not in the middle of the night. We left Cebu at 12:30 in the afternoon on September 7 and arrived at 4:20 PM in Singapore. Tiger Airways is a budget carrier, so you will have to pay for extras, such as checked baggage, first boarding, preassigned seats, drinks and food but the service is excellent, the aircraft are new, clean and comfortable and their on-time arrival record is very good.

EZ-LINK (CEPAS) cardChangi airport is probably one of the world's best, most well-organized airports. Neither US nor Philippines citizens need a visa for Singapore, so Immigration and Customs was a breeze. Free shuttle bus takes you from the Budget Terminal to Terminal 2, where one can connect to the Singapore public transport system (MRT station in the basement, bus depot at ground level). You can purchase an ez-link (CEPAS) card at the MRT Ticket Office (S$5 plus S$7 load) valid for trains and buses all over the city. There are no terminal use fees or departure taxes at Changi Airport, only excellent restaurants, stores and great (really) duty free shopping!  Read more »

Retrench or Expatriate? (Economics, Lifestyle)

Going ExpatriateThe economy of the western world, meaning mainly the US and Europe, is not getting any better. Unemployment is high and rising, the private and public debt burden is skyrocketing out of control and civil unrest is growing. The mainstream media bubbleheads try very hard to paint a rosy tint over the already manipulated government statistics but if you dig a bit deeper, you can find the truth. It has an ugly brown color. I encourage you to subscribe to alternative media RSS feeds, such as Zero Hedge (excellent agglomeration of relevant news with many sage and some inane comments), Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis (more analysis not just a mash-up), Calculated Risk (focus on the economy with emphasis on real estate), Clusterstock (not just about economy and finance but lots of fun reading, too), Clusterfuck Nation (exceptionally well written essays by James Howard Kunstler, author of "The Long Emergency" and several other books, published about once a week) and finally Karl Denninger's The Market Ticker (acerbic comments on the economy, finance and politics). Reading these blogs regularly will give you a more balanced view of the economy, finance, politics and the world in general.

The decision whether to batten down the hatches for the coming (raging?) economic storm or to relocate to another country is a major one and it depends on many individual factors, such as family, friends, health, finances and a host of others. One of the biggest factors for me was the question whether the system can be repaired (changed from within), or is it so corrupt, so irreparably damaged that it cannot be fixed. All other things being equal, if you believe that the system can be righted over a reasonable period (e.g. within your lifetime or less), by all means protect yourself and your family. If you believe that the problems are chronic and terminal, then you might want to consider expatriating. Read more »

The Filipina Wife (updated 4/19/2014)

Update: April 19, 2014
It has been nearly a year since my last update. I have not forgotten about you, dear reader and I offer you the latest developments herewith. We are now in Hungary, more or less on a permanent basis (is anything permanent in a life that is temporary?) mainly at my wife's choice. I hardly influenced her decision at all.

We both have adjusted well, perhaps too well. Adjustments were needed to the waits of our clothing and our belts. My excuse for gaining weight is that I have quit smoking (again), my wife does not have a convenient excuse. We went back to the Philippines for the coldest three months here and that required an even bigger adjustment. I almost turned around and came back. It was difficult to get used to living in a filthy, dirty third-world country again where water service was disrupted more than it was on, where the electricity would go out without notice for hours and in some places, for days, where customer service is an alien concept and so are vegetables, perhaps with the exception of kankong and pichay, both unfit for human consumption.

Three months there was more than enough and we are both very happy to be back in Europe. In fact, my mother-in-law is also here with us for a three-month visit. We are hosting a small family reunion next month, so we will not be traveling for a while. Before Yolanda's arrival, we did have an opportunity to take a 4-day holiday in Tauplitz, Austria with our dear friends from Kalocsa. Tauplitz is in a spectacularly beautiful region called Salzkammergut, surrounded by the high Alps and not too far from Salzburg.

I am teaching, I am programming and I am having the time of my life. I would love to see my children and three beautiful grandsons and hope to have an opportunity to do just that sometime soon. Cheche is a miracle -- supportive, loving, kind -- and I continue to be blessed to have her in my life.

Update: May 10, 2013

Since this is such an immensely popular entry (the most popular, in fact), I will write a short update to my original (August 23, 2011) post. As of December 1, 2012, we have been together for over two years, and married nearly as long. In that short time, we have traveled the world, moved into our new home and made many new friends.

I was seriously wondering how she will like living in Talisay after she has seen Paris, tobogganed in the snow of the German Alps on the Zugspitze, beat the casino in Monte Carlo, and enjoyed the nightlife of Nice, Vienna, Budapest, Saigon and many of the world's cities.

Well, Cheche is the same, modest, happy-go-lucky, joyful and content woman I married almost two years ago. No demands, no expectations. Loving and attentive as ever, takes pleasure in the smallest things. I kind of expected a changed mentality with blind pursuit of things Gucci and Louis Vuitton and that never happened. She is happy to shop for her clothes at the local "ukay-ukay" (second-hand store), although she knows and manages our monthly budget and could shop at department stores.

One big question on many readers' minds has to do with the financial support of her family. As I said, we have a monthly budget and we rigorously adhere to it. One line item is "Family Help" and frankly, it is not a lot on money -- only 2,000 pesos per month. Cheche usually uses this to take her mom shopping in Bohol at a supermarket but sometimes she, or Cheche's aunt, would rather have the cash. Support of the extended family is one key element of how her family will view you, so think about this carefully. You do not want to become the family's ATM machine yet at the same time they need to know if there is a dire emergency, they can count on you.

As a rule, we do not lend money. If immediate family has a real need, we will probably cover the expense (hospital bill, repair bill, etc.) but we rarely hand over cash. There were a couple of times when a member of her extended family was in a bind and really needed a short-term loan and we gave it to them. We have been repaid in full. They know (from Cheche) that if they do not pay us back, there can be no more "utang" (loan) and they want to keep the line of credit open.


As discussed in the previous post, Filipinos are amiable, easy-going, cheerful, happy people by nature. They bear their burdens with stoical equanimity and are accepting of hardships and differences.

John and Che in IloiloThe Filipina wife is in a class of her own. I have traveled extensively all over the world, have lived on three continents and I can unequivocally aver that the Filipina makes the best wife for any man but especially for an older westerner. I will highlight some of the reasons for this conclusion, but first, the requisite disclaimer.

Not all Filipinas are alike. There are plenty of schemers and gold diggers, opportunists, users, takers and con artists. There are self-serving sycophants here just as there are in any culture. However, that is not the norm. If you look for your Filipina wife in bars, mega-malls, free Internet dating sites, you might get disillusioned and disappointed. There are plenty of horror stories out there. If, on the other hand, you look for a woman with solid values, traditionally raised, "simple girl" typically not from a big city but from the provinces, your chances will be immensely improved.
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The Filipino Character

There are many compelling reasons to live in the Philippines: the tropical weather, stunning beaches of white sand and warm, caressing water, low cost of living just to name a few. The most compelling reason of all, however are the Filipino people. While generalizations are inherently misguided and most often wrong, there are some clearly observable and unique traits among the Filipinos which apply to a very broad spectrum of the population.

Marian RiveraFirst, a bit of background color. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I assert that the most valuable export of the Philippines is the Filipino. According to the most recent (2010) Philippines census data available, there are 2 million Filipinos working overseas, sending or bringing home 141.2 billion pesos (US$3.3 billion) of foreign income during the second half of 2010. They are referred to as OFWs, or Overseas Filipino Workers. The women work as nurses, maids, au pairs and alike in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK and many other countries. The men work as sailors, IT technicians, laborers, etc. all over the world. You will find them in fisheries in Alaska, aboard freighters in the Indian Ocean, in hospitals in Christchurch, New Zealand and all places in between. In the Philippines, there is a special financial services industry segment which caters to OFWs (remittances, money transfer and money exchange).

Unskilled laborers earn about 150 pesos (US$3.50) per day in the Philippines while skilled workers about twice that amount. By working overseas, a Filipino can earn from 2 to 5 times as much. They are perfectly OK sleeping on a plywood platform or even just a couple sheets of corrugated cardboard, eating a couple of lumps of rice, maybe with a few pieces of chicken or fish thrown on, and "showering" from a barrel of cold water with a pan. In spite of conditions most westerners would consider horrid, they never complain, never demand, work hard and follow orders and rarely if ever ask for anything. I know a very smart and pretty young lady (Michelle) who works (and lives) in a small convenience store (called sari-sari) for 1,500 pesos (US$35.30) per month. She wakes up at 5:30 every morning and opens the store at 6 AM. She does not stop until the store closes at 10 PM, then she closes the books for the day and finally goes to bed at 10:30 or 11 at night, thanking God for the wonderful life she has. She does this six days a week. On Sundays, when the store is closed, she cleans the store and the house, does the household laundry and other chores as needed. She cooks, cleans, chops firewood, stocks inventory, tends to customers and does all the menial work around the house and store. All the while, she has a smile on her face and a kind word for everyone.
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The Best Place to Live in the Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands located in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean, stretching from 3.5° N to 18.2° N of the equator. Thus, the climate is tropical. This means that it is hot and humid here, all the time. There are two main seasons, wet and dry. The wet, or rainy season is between June and October and the dry season is from November to April or May. During the rainy season it can and usually does rain every day, albeit the sun comes out quite often. "Summer" here is between March and May, that is when the schools are out and the weather is the hottest. The best time to visit is between November and February — the weather is very pleasant and rain-free days are most likely. That time may be winter in the northern hemisphere but in the Philippines is still warm, even at night. Most Filipinos have never seen snow except in movies and on TV and many dream of experiencing it.

LuzonThe Philippines has a total population of over 95 million people and it is the world's 12th most populous nation. It is crowded here, no question. It is not unusual for a Filipino household to have 20 or more people living in 3- or 4-room house. Many young working people rent "bed spaces" in boarding houses where they sleep 20 or 30 to a room, dormitory style. It is not unusual to have 30 to 50 people in line ahead of you when you go to the bank, to buy movie tickets, or at the grocery checkout counter. OK, back to geography. The Philippines have three main island groups. Luzon is the northern third of the country, Visayas is the middle third and Mindanao is the southern third. All of them have very nice places to see and even to live and all of them have areas I would not recommend.

Luzon is the most economically, politically and culturally important island group and it is the home of the capital city of Manila. The National Capital Region is the most crowded, congested and in some ways most polluted area of the Philippines. If you live here as a foreigner, you cannot avoid visiting Manila since that is where all the major government offices as well as foreign embassies are. The smog is as bad or worse than Mexico City and the traffic is horrendous. Baguio is the "summer capital" of the Philippines, north of Manila in the Cordillera Central mountains at an elevation of 1,500 meters (4,920 feet). Its climate is subtropical highland and thus cooler than lower elevations. Luzon is in the middle of the "typhoon belt" and severe typhoons occur frequently. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are also frequent.
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The Journey Begins

I have been traveling to the Philippines for several years and I have grown to really like the place but most importantly, its people. In November 2010 I have finally taken the plunge and moved here — not without apprehensions and reservations. The move was easier than I expected but certainly not without its snags and snafus.

Beach on PalawanI grew up (I think) in Europe and spent the first 20 years of my life there. The next 40 years (essentially my productive span) were invested in the United States (mainly in California (both Southern and Northern) with stints in Colorado (Fort Collins), Washington (both state and D.C.), Idaho, and Montana. The last however many years I have I want to live in Asia — it has a nice balance and symmetry to it.

Other web sites and blogs gush about the Philippines, its people and the way of life here. I will give you a balanced, honest perspective on what it is like to retire to the Philippines, to live here, to meet people and make friends, about relationships and even marriage. I have nothing to promote, nothing to sell you. I write this blog because it is my joy and it helps me put my experiences into perspective and persistent record for any who care to read it. Read more »