ONE YEAR IN THE PHILIPPINES
I have been living in the Philippines now for a year. I came here with about $10,000 saved in the bank and it did not last long with the finishing of our home and buying my bike. Only last May did my Veterans Affairs appointments start and surprisingly I was given a small disability percentage, it does help. That payment started in July. It’s not enough by US standards if I was living in the US, but it is enough to sustain a decent life here in the Province. If you come here to live, have a plan.
I been living the simple life here with my wife. We have pigs, chickens, and grow vegetables. I have seen more of what life here was like in the provinces for the locals. Many people here living with next to nothing, surviving off the land. Growing rice, vegetables, and some livestock. Beef is expensive and not so common, but fish, chicken, and pork is somewhat abundant. I have definitely become more healthier living here. There is No fast food in Caramoan. I hope it stays that way.
The primary source of income in my area for the locals is coconuts. They dry it out and sell it by the weight. It goes towards the making of coconut oils, creams, and what ever else you can imagine with coconut extract. Like rice, coconuts are also a family affair, even children of the families will take a few days out of school to climb the trees for coconuts that are ready for harvesting. Some people make money through the small resorts and island hopping. There is a tourism industry here but it is not much as Caramoan is a bit out of the way with no airfield. The TV series Survivor has helped a lot with boosting tourism as many countries other than the US have filmed their version of Survivor here.
Many people in my area do not have much for serviceable clothing. Most men wear worn clothes full of holes and rips. Many women don’t have bras and their clothing are worn thin. Many kids have clothing that do not fit well or they are faded hand-me-downs from older siblings. Their only good clothing is usually saved for church or the school uniform, and sometimes that is handed down and not properly fit. Many young kids are barefoot here and even wear flip flops to school. I would love to help everyone if I could. But I am not a charity and I would go broke myself helping everyone here who could use the assistance. I have already given away shirts and stuff that I don’t wear or did not fit as I expected it would. Even still, the overall quality of life here is better than it is in Manila.
Just about everyone in my area is Roman Catholic or Born again Christian. There are a few missionaries in the area, even Jehovah’s Witness. I don’t see them too much in Caramoan. But near to Naga City they are more common. Even me, since being in the Philippines, I have taken more interest in Catholicism. I was not raised to be a religious man. My Grand mother was, but my mother wasn’t. I been reading more on the Catholic religion. Soon I will be baptized a Catholic. My wife is Catholic. After living in the Middle East for many years I see that Christianity is far better than Islam on any given day. Islam is cruel, Heartless in most areas, and quite sick.
My main mode of transportation here is my Motorcycle. I have a Kawasaki Rouser 200 NS which is an excellent affordable bike for someone my size. We also bought a Kawasaki Barako II 175cc. We turned that into a tricycle for transport and resupply use. I been saving and soon I hope to buy a new truck. Sometimes I am stuck at the house due to the weather. I don’t ride in the rain. A truck would better suit our needs. When I go places like Manila, Naga City, or Tabaco City I will use the bus. Public Transportation in the Philippines is really cheap compared to other countries. I have had nerve damage in my right wrist since I was in the Army. After about an hour of riding and throttling on the bike my hand becomes completely numb and I will have to stop a while to shake it out.
As a pensioner or someone living on disability without a business; the provinces of the Philippines is a good location due to the low cost of living. Before my disability started we were able to sustain ourselves on much less than 500 USD a month. However we do own our home and have a well for water. Our only utility bill is electric and it runs far cheaper than it does in the US. On my last trip to Naga City I met an older American couple from the Los Angeles area of California who moved here because it was more affordable to live here.
To my readers, If you have been to the Philippines or live here as a foreigner, what are your experiences? Did you get a pass or fail in your endeavors?
David Lee Martin
Functional US Army Veteran