(2015 update: I've been here 6yrs now and I'm still loving life. Me and Angelica are still friends and me and Hazel have now known each other around 9yrs and finally got around to getting married in 2014. Life is good!)
I have gotten a lot of questions about my recent (2009) move to the Philippines from Michigan so I thought I would make a page explaining why I moved and what it is like here. We also plan to try and update our Blog with a mixture of day-to-day business and personal stuff for those of you that are interested in what we do.
(leaving Cebu Island on the way to Camotes Island...this photo is not the island I live on, unfortunately the area I currently live in is more populated than this)
In short I moved here because it's cheap (you can live off of as low as $300 a month, but need about $800-1000 for about the same standard of living in the US) and for the warm weather, and beautiful beaches.
The longer story is:
It all started when I was sitting there thinking about my future. What do I want to do when I "grow up" (never!). I had worked various jobs over the years.....cook, tour guide, armed security, quality control, shipping, assembly line, etc, etc but nothing held my interest for long.
I realized the most fun I had at a job was when I was making custom jewelry, and since I had been a part-time/hobbyist knifemaker since the age of 14-15 (1991-92) and enjoyed that I decided to give it a try full-time. I soon realized knifemaking is a very hard way to make a living. Most full-time makers also have other income they can fall back on such as retirement, a spouse' income, Social Security, etc. I had none of that...all my bills were paid with my knifemaking. I did however have the advantage of living in an economically depressed area that offered low living expenses (near Flint, Michigan) so I was able to live very frugal.
I then decided I should return to school to get my degree. After a long hiatus (I originally went to school for Mechanical Engineering in 1995) I returned to school to get a doctorate in pharmacology. At the last minute I changed my mind because I had chosen that field entirely because of the pay scale and job market....its not something that was interesting to me. Not looking forward to the prospect of working 8+ hours a day for the next few decades doing something I don't enjoy I decided to take a variety of classes while still doing the knifemaking to help pay the bills. Botany, environmental sciences, world geography, geology, macroeconomics, Geographic Information Systems, etc. While some of it interested me I realized I am better suited to being self employed (I hate keeping to a schedule, and I'm prone to migraines....reporting to work is no fun when you've got such a bad headache that sounds, smells, and bright lights cause severe pain) and I was really enjoying knifemaking even though the income wasn't that good.
Somewhere around that time I decided I needed to move to a different area for a change of pace...I had lived my whole life In the same county....20miles from where I was born. Michigan is a nice state but I was sick of the months of cold, snow, rain, and overcast...I wanted tropical beaches! But the problem is the areas in the US with nice tropical beaches (Hawaii, Florida Keys, etc) all cost much more to live in than where I was living....so it would be like taking a huge pay cut to move to the tropics....or I would have to raise my knife prices by a large amount, which I didn't want to do. So I stared researching other countries....Panama, Mexico, Dominica, Brazil, Belize, Thailand, etc etc. An online friend of mine recommended the Philippines.
My requirements were to have about the same expenses I had in Michigan, warm sunny weather, beautiful beaches, english speaking people, fairly safe environment....the Philippines met my requirements.
I then got onto forums to make some friends with people living in the Philippines so I could learn more info on what day to day life is like there. After having a few dozen women ask me if I was looking for a wife (because they were looking for a green card) I became friends with a lady living in Manila named Angelica who helped me learn about life there and soon after that I met Hazel on Myspace. Neither were looking for husbands, lol.
After chatting for awhile I was surprised to find out that Hazel happened to be the perfect match for me (isn't life funny like that? I had given up on dating and had been single for 6yrs then met someone randomly on the other side of the world that was perfect for me) . But unfortunately for me she had no interest in dating. Thus the wooing began..... To make a long story short like 2years later she finally agreed to meet me. I flew over to see her, and the country, and fell in love with both. I stayed for 3weeks before returning to Michigan and school.
After meeting we got along great so decided to date.
Another (looong) year and a half went by as I saved up money for the move.
I moved to Mactan Island in Cebu, Philippines in September 2009 and have found it a great experience.
As for me and Hazel... it's been around 4yrs since we met online and she is exactly what I was looking for, I'm very blessed to have found her.....and as I say to her "I'm not sure what you did to deserve me...but it must have been something really bad."
(on Camotes Island, on the beach of the small resort we stayed at for $10 a night)
So whats it like?
Different. Better in some ways, worse in others.
Some of the positives are....
... being able to live on a tropical island with tons of beautiful beaches near me, for the same price as it cost me to live in mid Michigan (remember I'm darn frugal...thats how I keep the knife prices low).
.....The snorkeling is great! Starfish, clown fish, trigger fish, sea anemones, angel fish, sea snakes, coral reefs,and a bunch of other stuff I can't identify yet but is still beautiful to watch. One of these days I'm going to buy an underwater camera to share pics with you guys.
(me grabbing some starfish...there are a lot of colorful sea critters here but I don't have an underwater cam yet and starfish are far easier than fish to catch...they just lay there)
.....The people are friendly, and most of them treat "kanos" (white people) better than we deserve....opening doors for you, bringing you shopping baskets in stores, holding umbrellas for you when its raining, etc. Which is nice in a way but its disconcerting too...I'm quite capable of opening doors, walking in the rain, etc...I'm not a needy/pampered celebrity.
(some of the native kids that were yelling "hi" and asking to get their picture taken)
......The weather is almost ideal.....if you have ac. 90-100 degrees all year round it seems. Back in Michigan when it got rainy it often drizzled and would be overcast for days. Thus far over here it seems like when it rains it simply pours like mad for 15-30mins then stops....and its usually at night. Half an hour later it might be blue skies again.
(a tree on Pandanon Island, a small island in the Camotes Sea near Bohol...a 45min ferry ride away)
....cheap transportation. For the first time in my adult life I don't have to own a car. We take multicabs and taxis everywhere. Multicabs are an open sided van type thing with bench seats....hold around a dozen people and goes on predetermined routes. Typical fare for the places I go is like 20cents. For areas where we would need to take multiple multicabs we use a taxi instead. Typical cost is like $3 to get to the places I go (malls, tool stores, etc). Beats the heck out of car payments, gas prices, car repairs, insurance payments, speeding tickets (I drive too fast), etc.
.....Speaking of speeding tickets....there's no speed limits here! Very, very few stoplights...which are ignored during low traffic, and not a single stop sign! So after everything I just said in the previous paragraph I almost want a car....something like a nice beat up Subaru I can take down the dirt roads in the provinces and get a lil crazy. They sell dirt bikes here but unfortunately I am death-waiting-to-happen on a motorcycle. A nice quad would be ideal but they don't have then here...alas. So for now my need for speed is on hold.( Also as odd as it sounds there are FAR fewer car accidents here than in the US. Everyone drives like a madman so it makes everyone actually pay attention to their surroundings instead of just relying on traffic lights and assuming everyone will stay in their lane and not do something stupid.)
Some of the negatives....
.....The country is very poor. Which is good for me because I can live cheaply, but I do feel quite bad for many of the people here. Social programs are pretty much nonexistent (which is good on one hand and bad on the other) so if you get in financial trouble and don't have family to help you then you're in trouble. There's not much in the way of retirement benefits so If you get old and don;t have enough money or family....then you're out on the streets. There is no such thing is equal opportunity employment here...they have a bit more freedom than we do in this regard....you see employment ads where they say what age they are looking for, what sex, etc. Think its hard to find a job in the US when you get older? It's even worse here. If you're born with a disability here and don't have money to get it fixed (health insurance is a rarity) then you might be unemployable...even if its something like a clubfoot. I often see beggars at the market with missing hands, clubfeet, etc. They are begging not because they are lazy or drug addicts, but because they simply can't find work and need to eat. I also see people that are too proud to beg digging through bags of garbage looking for food or items of value..often they are women, children, and the elderly. I tend to help out when I can but with relying on knifemaking as my sole income I can't afford to help out as many people as I would like.
.....The country is getting polluted. Unfortunately the government is not doing much work trying to keep the place clean. The garbage trucks don't have a regular schedule and just come by whenever they want to. Which means people place bags of garbage at the road then stray dogs tear them apart and the wind blows it all over. Then nobody wants to clean it up. So they get used to seeing litter and they stop looking for garbage bins (which are far and few between) and will open packages and throw it right on the ground. It's a real shame. They also tend to burn their garbage at home which leads to air pollution....but then if they give it to the garbage men they simply take it to the dump where they set it on fire anyway. It really is a shame because they don't realize they are destroying their country. In my opinion one of their biggest assets is the beauty of the country itself....but then they are deforesting it, overpopulating it, littering, air pollution, water pollution, etc. It about makes me ill to dwell on.
.....Shopping isn't fun. I was looking forward to shopping here....I thought I could find a bunch of cool stuff cheap. Not the case. They have way less variety of goods here....for example our cereal aisles are a hundred feet long...theirs are 6ft. I can find dozens of different brands of dust masks near my house in Michigan, here there are 2. etc etc. Many items are overpriced. I saw a Sony tv at the mall for $4,500ish....the exact same TV could be bought at Walmart in Michigan for $1,000. So I could literally fly home, buy the tv, then fly it back here cheaper than getting it at the mall. Many items I can't find in this country at all......for example I can't find my size eye contacts here at all, and at home every eye place carries them. Worse yet I can't find many of my knifemaking supplies so I have to import them from the US.
So how long am I here for?
Not sure. At least another 1-2years. Each country has advantages to it so I'm not sure where I want to live in the long run....I enjoy both for different reasons. But if they get around to building a Taco Bell near me (nearest one is a 20hour ferry ride away) I won't be in as big of a hurry to get back to the US....mmmmm tacos.
(a Camotes Island beach)