Category Archives: Blog

Becoming a Filipino Citizen – Again!

Now, dear readers, if you’ve been following this blog you know that some months back Janet was able to become an American Citizen! That process is expensive, complex and time consuming, but we considered it to be worth it, particularly because of the value of the blue passport we Americans take for granted.

However, one of the stipulations of becoming a US citizen is that you must give up all other citizenships. Therefore Janet was now an American citizen with all the rights and privileges that I have, but she was no longer a Philippines citizen.

But here’s where it gets interesting. Unlike the US, the Philippines does not require you to give up other citizenships. Therefore you can re-acquire your Philippines citizenship, without giving up your US citizenship, thus becoming a dual-citizen. And that was our plan.

Unlike in the US, the Philippines laws, regulations and bureaucracy are a bit less transparent, so it took Janet a while to try to determine what she had to do in order to re-acquire her citizenship. We stopped in the Immigration Office here in Dumaguete, and as expected were told that they could not handle such a request; it had to be done at the main office in Manila.

Calls to the main office in Manila went unanswered but finally Janet did get a response to her emails. So the following is what we learned.

The paperwork is fairly easy and you can download it here: http://www.immigration.gov.ph

What we were interested in was the Petition for Reacquisition of Philippines Citizenship Under R.A. 9225. The form itself is fairly short and simple. However, you cannot just fill it out and send it in. You must go to the main office in Manila.

So, after Janet had put her documentation together; standard stuff including marriage license, US passport and proof of citizenship, birth certificate, etc. we booked a flight and hotel and we were on our way. The Immigration office opens at 8:00 AM and we decided to arrive around 6:00. There were only a couple of people ahead of us but by 8:00 the line was at least 100 people. I’d therefore recommend arriving early. You cannot get an appointment no matter how rich or white you are. It is strictly first come, first serve.

The two couples ahead of us were both foreigners with Filipina wives. One guy, an American and nice enough, had lived in the Philippines many years and therefore thought he ought to impart his wisdom to me, the newbie. I smiled and nodded my head a lot, though as I say, he was certainly nice enough. The 1st guy in line was German and right out of central casting; think Sergeant Schultz, only a lot less funny.

Once the doors opened (and they actually opened a few minutes early) we were hustled to a line that was essentially a triage area. Some people were there to get or renew visas and there were people there looking to do what Janet was doing. A lady, definitely the bureaucratic type (again think Sergeant Schultz, only less funny) checked Janet’s documentation, gave her a couple forms to fill out, told her to put it all in a folder and come back when she was ready.

Five minutes later we came back and waited, and waited and waited. Finally we were hustled into an office with an Immigration Officer, whose specialty was the re-acquisition of citizenship. She more thoroughly scrutinized Janet’s documents. Of particular interest is a document that Janet and I typed up. Essentially they require an affidavit stating that you have nothing bad hanging over your head under any of your past or current names. The document must be notarized, so Janet and I found a notary the day before,  a couple hours after we arrived in Manila. The notary literally had a desk situated in a restaurant and a couple hundred pesos later we were set. The Immigration Officer looked at our letter closely; later I understood why. Most applicants don’t have the letter and are sent around the corner from Immigration where a large area processes writing and notarizing documents. So, don’t worry; if you don’t have the letter, somebody will write it for you and have it notarized. We still had to go around the corner since they required the form itself to be notarized, for 100 pesos.

BTW, speaking of money, online we read that the fee for the re-acqusition was about 3100 pesos. When we arrived at Immigration it turned out that the fee was closer to 2500; I have no idea what the discrepancy was, maybe the notarization fees.

We returned back to the room to show the finalized documents to the officer. Sitting there was an elderly woman and her daughter and in typical Philippines fashion not only did Janet and the older women strike up a conversation but the Immigration Officer joined in. We found out that the lady’s husband had died, she had become an American citizen through marriage, all the husband’s money was being grabbed by his children from a previous marriage, that the woman was now broke and re-acquiring her Philippines citizenship to avail of some benefits she can get, if she’s a Philippines citizen. The woman’s daughter was stunned that Janet would re-acquire her Philippines citizenship, thus giving up the golden goose (aka the American passport). They all explained to her that Janet did not have to give up her American citizenship; that she would be a dual citizen. They all laughed and had a great time. Try doing that with an Immigration Officer in the US.

There were of course more lines, more approvals and finally Janet was in the payment line. After that she was directed to an office where another 5 women where waiting for exactly what Janet was awaiting; their dual citizenship. All were women and all much older.

Finally all 6 together were in front of an Immigration Officer (a 30ish man). I was looking on – the only husband – I suspect the only husband still alive. It’s not the 1st world so the officer one by one confirmed each person’s name and age. A couple were in their 80s (including the woman whose story we heard). One woman said she was 62. “You look at lot younger,” the Officer said. Janet confirmed her name and age of 29; she was half the age or less of any other woman there. It was obvious that the other women had deceased husbands and were looking to re-acquire their citizenship for whatever benefits Philippines citizenship gives.

They all raised their right hands and took an oath and were told that in 2-3 months (it is the Philippines, after all) they would receive confirmation that their petition was approved and we’d have to come back to Manila to get it.

But for all intents and purposes, our plan, which started five years ago with a K-1 Visa, went through two separate green card applications, an application to become an American citizen and now the application to re-acquire Philippines citizenship, was done. Don’t ask me what the total expense was, since I don’t want to think about it, but really in the end it’s all been worth it. Janet is a citizen of the world and has all the options possible. I’m very proud of her!

How I Paid 5 Pesos to Pee in a Cup – Getting my PI Driver’s License

Today I obtained my Philippines driver’s license. It was all in all a pretty smooth experience but as all things Philippines it had its moments of humor.

Philippines law says that when you arrive here you can drive with your foreign drivers license but have to get a Philippines drivers license within 90 days of being a resident. My 90 days would be up at the end of October.

I walked into the LTO (Land Transportation Office) behind Robinsons Mall in Dumaguete. There was a woman at a desk just inside the doorway. I explained that I wanted to convert my foreign driver’s license into a Philippines license.  “Have you been here 90 days?,” she asked. “No, it’s been under 90 days,” I answered. “Well you can’t get your license until after 90 days,” she replied. “Hmm. I thought you had to get it within 90 days,” I countered. She hesitated, nodded her head in agreement and handed me the application. She quickly went over what I would need: medical certificate and drug screen which I could get next door; proof of residency (I have the Balikbayan stamp on my current visa); copies of my passport, visa stamp and foreign drivers license (I had them all). Then she mentioned that once I had done the medical and drug screen I would have to go to the main LTO office, since this office does not handle this type of license.

I went next door and once again found a woman inside the doorway. She handed me forms to fill out, took my Oregon drivers license, and started to hand me a cup to pee in. Uh oh. It had all happened so quickly that I realized I wasn’t ready to do my, uh, business. “Just let me know when you’re ready and I will give you the cup,” she said. I texted my status to Janet who wisely suggested I drink lots of water. There was a water dispenser near the woman but I saw no cups. “Where are the cups?” I politely asked. She pointed to the cashier’s window. “You can get one there. They’re 5 pesos.”

I did a double take, looked at her with disbelief and then sat down. No way was I paying 5p (about 10 cents) for a cup. But after a few minutes I realized that without water I’d be waiting an hour so I went up to the cashier window and asked for a cup. “5 pesos please.” I handed her the coin and took my cup. Who says Filipinos don’t have a head for business. They provide free water and charge you for the cup!

Since I now had 5 pesos extracted from me I was damn sure I was going to use that cup as much as possible. I went back to the water dispenser three times to fill the cup with water and practically forced myself to drink it. After the 3rd cup I was ready. I got my sample cup from the front desk lady who told me that I could not close the door to the CR (bathroom for those who do not live in the Philippines). This meant that the 20 or so people waiting could see me doing my business. And, not to be indelicate, but since I needed one hand to hold the cup and the other hand to hold my you know, there was no third hand to hold up my shorts which were a bit baggy and didn’t want to hold themselves up. Somehow I did manage to juggle everything and turned in my sample.

Within a few minutes I was called to have a photo taken and sign my name electronically. Another couple of minutes and I was called in for my medical screening. To my surprise this consisted of a simple eye test. I was handed a form which said my eyesight passed, as did my hearing. Apparently just hearing the lady tell me to read the chart constituted passing the hearing test.

It really all went smoothly from there. 550 pesos later (for the medical exam and drug test) I had my documents and could return to LTO, assuming I could find the main office.

At the main office there was once again a woman at a desk just inside the doorway. I explained what I wanted, she repeated what I needed, I pulled it all out and handed it to her and she sent me to the appropriate window. My name was announced many times: to get my picture taken, my thumbprint taken, pay the fees (852 pesos), check in at another window.

Finally I was called one last time to receive  my temporary license. The temp license was little more than a receipt for what I’d paid. “Come back in February or March for your official license.,” I was told. Only 5 months; pretty quick for the Philippines, but who’s counting.

The truth is the process was fast, reasonably efficient and no worse than going to the DMV in Oregon. Of course there they don’t charge you 10 cents for a cup.

 

 

Dave’s Useful (or Possibly Useless) Philippines Tips

Surprisingly, many people ask me for tips about traveling and moving to the Philippines. I say surprisingly because I am not sure I know anything, except what seems to work for Janet and me. Nonetheless here are some useful or useless tips in no real order of importance. Take them with a grain of salt but, no matter what you think, in most cases I am definitely right 🙂

Can you find it?: Most things are here if you are motivated to look hard enough. For example, I’m not a picky eater and I like most Filipino food but there are a few items that are important to me. A bagel, and it doesn’t even have to be a great bagel, was one of them. I did my online research, found a recommendation, and went to Rolling Pin in downtown Dumaguete, which has not only passable bagels, but decent pastries and breads. Of course I’m still looking for a great New York pizza, but then I’m a masochist.

Another thing that’s important to me is acupuncture. I’ve been going to the same acupuncturist for 6 years. What were the chances I could find someone here? I did some research, contacted a couple of providers and made an appointment. I was able to find her office (in her home) thanks to Google Maps and had a good session, similar to what I experienced in the US. One more important thing I wanted to have is now off my list.

I guess my only point is that most things can be found here if it’s really important to you. BTW, the acupuncture was 500p ($10), so finding the difficult to find doesn’t even have to be expensive.

A corollary to the above is: If you find it at a good price, grab it. I have already had multiple experiences where I saw something, went back to the store a week later and the item in question was gone. So live for today, guys!

Smart/Globe or Sun: One of the most important decisions you will make when arriving in the Philippines is which of the major phone carriers to use. I have no real advise other than to wish you good luck. There is no obvious winner. They all offer similar pre-paid and post-paid packages. Coverage depends on your city, neighborhood and house. Janet likes Sun because all her family uses Sun so she can get unlimited calling and texting between all the Pillazos. I just switched to Smart because Sun’s reception within our house sucks. The jury is still out but I am not sure that Smart is any less suckier.

The good news is that most plans are cheap and there’s a fair amount of flexibility. Right now I get 30 day pre-paid plans, since I don’t want to make a longer commitment until I decide who has better reception. Many people in the Philippines have phones that take 2 Sim cards; I now know the reason why.

Driving: Driving is wildly different here in the Philippines; there’s no denying it. But the sooner you get out of the anger over the fact that “they” cannot drive or “they” don’t follow the rules of the road, the better off you will be. “They” aren’t going to change their driving habits, so stop wasting energy thinking “they” should. In fact, “you” will be the one who will have to change your driving habits. BTW, it appears that most foreigners do change their driving habits. I base that statement on the fact that 90% of the foreigners I see driving motorcycles do not wear helmits; they’ve gone native.

Horn Honking: A corollary to the above is the use of the horn. Back in the US I probably honked my horn no more than once a week. Back there the horn is usually used in anger or frustration. It can be a substitute for flipping someone the bird. In the Philippines it’s used almost as a standard courtesy, as in “I am passing you no matter what, so I am letting you know.” I now use my horn many times a day, not only for that reason but because there are numerous blind curves which I enter honking away. Now whether anyone pays attention is another story.

Google Maps: I made reference to this above but use Google Maps. You can actually download the information to your phone if you don’t have data service on your phone plan. Google Maps has most everything in Dumaguete listed; businesses, neighborhoods, streets, etc. It has taken us to weird places a couple times but generally gets me where I want to go. Apple’s Map App is not nearly as comprehensive, at least in Dumaguete.

Banking: Contrary to some reports, you can arrive here and get a bank account quickly. Janet and I did. It may be hit or miss depending on the bank or bank officer you talk to but here’s what you will need: proof of identity (passport); proof of residency (13A, ACR Card, or Balikbayan stamped passport, which is what I used); proof of where you live (lease agreement for example). Add to these items an air of “I am rich and will be passing a lot of dollars through your bank” and you might just get an account.

Bank Fees: Fees vary – don’t expect consistency. I write a monthly check against my US bank account to cover my monthly expenses. Sometimes the teller collects a 200p fee for depositing the foreign check and sometimes not. There’s no rhyme or reason, so just best to go with it.

Phil Health: Yes, the cost recently went up significantly for most foreigners. Nonetheless, I signed up for Phil Health and they struggled getting me into the system without an ACR card number. But they were very helpful and figured out how to skirt around the computer and get me my Phil Health card. I have coverage through the end of the year and next year will decide whether to continue it. Now, I’m not getting into the foreigner anger of “it’s the long nose tax.” Last time I checked I still have free will as to whether to sign up or not. So, I used that free will to punt until next year.

House Renting: Like driving this too can be a unique adventure in the Philippines. I have not rented a house in many years but I know it’s a frustrating challenge in the US. It is here too but for different reasons. For example, you may find a great house but it only has a terrible dirt road leading up to it. You may also have difficulty communicating what you are really looking for. Janet and I were adamant that 3 bedrooms was a requirement and were amazed at the agents and owners who tried to get us into a 2 bedroom place.

One tip would be to post what you’re looking for on all the local buy and sell websites/Facebook sites. But this was also an adventure. Despite posting our requirements of 3 bedrooms, I consistently got contacted by foreigners who owned a 2 or even 1 bedroom houses, asking would I be interested? But in the end we found a nice house in an area we liked. Unlike in the US, rent here is negotiable and we ended up at a price we were comfortable with.

Flights to the Philippines: Here’s a mistake we made. International flights from the U.S. allow 2 bags per person of up to 50 pounds per bag. That’s plenty when you are moving. What we didn’t consider was that domestic airlines don’t allow 2 bags at 50 pound each. The flight from Cebu to Dumaguete, for instance, only allowed 1 bag at 10 kilos. In the end we took a bus.

Don’t Expect Homogeny: I know – it’s too early for a big word. But what I mean is that people want to know definitively what the Philippines is like. As a country of over 100 million, living on 7107 islands, it’s varied – it’s not that homogenous. And because there are not strong central structures and institutions it might be more varied than your Western country. Dumaguete is not like Manila for example in almost all ways, including language. We now live in Valencia, a small town outside Dumaguete. But even Valencia is not homogenous. We’re in E. Balabag, a neighborhood at the beginning of Valencia, not too far elevated. Then you go further up the hill to the city center, and still further up to those rarified neighborhoods with rich foreigners and great overlooking views. Those neighborhoods are not the same; the prices, who lives there, the amenities and even the weather are not the same.

Flexibility: Let me ask you a question – are you flexible? No, I’m not conducting a sex survey – get your head out of the gutter.

IMO you should be flexible in life no matter where you live but you sure as hell can’t travel to or live in the 3rd world without flexibility and humor. This may be the best tip I can give you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Months Retired Report

Actually I’ve been retired 5+ months, but 6 sounds better and when you’re retired who the hell keeps track of time. Nonetheless  it seemed like a good time to report about the boredom of retirement.

Let me think about what Janet and I have done since the 1st of May. We prepped our house in Portland for sale and listed it. We personally handled about half the open houses, giving us both confidence that we too could be realtors – if we were out of our minds. We cleaned obsessively (well, that was mostly Janet). We schemed how we could sell a house that we were assured would fly off the market (it didn’t). We worried – a lot. Who says retirement means no stress.

Finally we sold the old homestead and after a pleasant stay with some friends, a week later we were on a 20 hour plane ride to Cebu, followed by a 5 hour bus ride to our new home in Dumaguete.

We arrived at the Hermogina Apartments; our apartment was as advertised and reasonably pleasant. We immediately discovered the joys of Robinson’s Mall, since we had virtually nothing for the apartment. There’s been barely a day the last two months we haven’t been back to Robinson’s at least once.

While we intended to rest and take some time before starting a search for a house rental, we didn’t. 64 years of no rest mode meant we were anxious to find a rental house and a car. We scored both within a few weeks of arriving in Dumaguete. But an unfurnished rental house meant we had pretty much nothing other than an empty house. Appliance and furniture shopping followed and we scored some nice things at decent prices.

Just as importantly we shopped for an Internet provider. The Philippines is notorious for poor and slow Internet and most expats complain (sometimes bordering on whining) about it. I expected the same. The Internet at the Hermogina Apartments was slow but adequate. Since neither Janet nor I are gamers or downloaders of porn (lol) our speed needs are modest. We found a new service in our neighborhood and so far my connection is much faster than what I had in Portland. I try to be very careful about speaking about this too much here, since I do not wish to get kicked out of the expat community. So when anyone talks about their lousy Internet I just nod in agreement (while giggling to myself). This said, I know things do change quickly in the Philippines.

After 6 weeks or so our 9 balikbayan boxes arrived from the US. For a few pesos we were able to convince LBC to deliver them to the new house rather than the apartment; try doing that with UPS or Fed-EX! So now we had a houseful of crap and spent the next few weeks in frustration, trying to figure out how to organize it all. Oh, did I mention that unfurnished in the Philippines often means no cabinets and closets. Plastic boxes are plentiful and in every imaginable size and shape here.

So now that we have been in the house about a month it’s actually taking shape. The 3rd bedroom which will be my shop and tiny office, seems to be the trickiest but I’m getting there. Another six months and I might actually be able to start building guitars here.

In the midst of all this we are still planning to build or purchase a house and are doing research on what, where and how much. And Janet has some business issues in her hometown of Alcoy which has taken her back there a few times.

I have also spent the last two months re-learning how to drive. Driving in the Philippines is not the same as in Portland. The closest example I can think of is when I spent a year in NYC, but it’s even crazier than that.  I have no words to describe it really; it has to be experienced. But so far I haven’t killed anyone and it may be the masochist in me – but I am kind of enjoying it.

In case anyone reading this thinks I am just listing complaints – I am not. I am having a blast! So I will add the times I have been at the beach and went into the warm ocean, the nice pools we have discovered, the varied restaurants and sights we have taken in. There hasn’t been much time for socializing, but we’ve met a few people and look forward to more of that. In fact, we have company coming over this afternoon for the first time since we moved into the house.

In short, I haven’t been bored for a second. Boredom isn’t in my nature in general but for those who worry that retirement in the Philippines might be boring – it’s been anything but.

We’ve also got a second bedroom set up as a guest room. Our first guests will be here in a couple weeks and I expect once the word gets out we might have a small stream of guests come by.

Oh, and one more thing. I’ve spent part of the morning chasing a Huntsman spider here in my shop/office. Apparently this thing does not want to die and despite their size they hide very well. So as the cliche goes it’s more fun in the Philippines!

Trike Land

Let’s start out with the basics: I like trikes. In Dumaguete they are ubiquitous and pass by constantly. It’s rare that it takes more than a few minutes to grab a trike. I’m height challenged, so I can, unlike some foreigners, fit in a trike. Yes, I did post about actually breaking a trike’s seat but that was an aberration (I think). Trikes are generally cheap (which is the topic today) and while uncomfortable, for the short ride, they work well for me. Since I purchased a car several weeks ago, I take them less often but I still take them; sometimes it’s just more convenient than driving and parking.

So today, let’s discuss how the process of trike taking works. I know I know, I’ve lived in the Philippines for all of 6 weeks but I’ve been on plenty of trikes over the years and my lack of time as a resident of the Philippines never stopped me from giving my opinions before.

Now in Dumaguete, like many cities in the Philippines, trike rates are regulated. No, really – I’m serious. I know a lot of guys who complain about getting beaten out of major amounts of pesos but in reality there is a system to the way trikes charge. This is true whether you are in Dumaguete, or the small town of Alcoy, Cebu where Janet is from; there is a regulated rate.

In the core area of Dumaguete there is a rate. Now don’t ask me exactly what it is because I have heard various figures. Actually it’s 8 pesos/person, but that gets a bit complex because that is technically only for the 1st kilometer. Each additional kilometer is .5 peso, which can add up to big money 🙂 When Janet and I take a trike in the core area of Dumaguete I usually give the driver 20 pesos for the two of us. If I am in a particularly generous mood (meaning I’ve had a San Miguel or 2) I will give the driver 25 pesos.

So now we come to Tip #1: Know the rate as best you can and don’t ask what it is. If you get in a trike and ask the driver to take you somewhere in the core area and then ask “how much” you may get pissed off by the answer you get. The 1st time Janet and I were in Dumaguete a few years ago, I made the mistake of asking the driver “how much.” “50 pesos, Sir,” I was told. I answered, “I thought it was 8 pesos per person.” Without missing a beat, he responded, “It is, Sir, but perhaps you’d like to give me a tip.” The point being tell him where you want to go, get on the trike and just pay at the end.

BTW, the official Dumaguete rates can be found here.

Tip #2: Now here’s where it gets complicated. Let’s say you want to go somewhere outside the core area.  There are fixed rates for many towns, and they can get pretty high by trike standards. But most trike drivers will negotiate. In the first few weeks after we arrived , Janet and I took many trips to the town of Sibulan, north of Dumaguete. All the car dealerships are there as was the place where we ordered furniture. So in this case, the trike stops and I would say “Ford Dealership in Sibulan. Near the airport.” One of several things happens. The driver may look at me like I am an insane kano and drive off, because he doesn’t want to drive all the way to Sibulan, which can take as long as 30 minutes. Generally the driver will not even say “no” – he’ll just drive off. Don’t feel rejected; the next driver will want your pesos.

Or, the driver might state a price. It’s your choice to accept it, reject it or negotiate. If you get agreement, he’ll nod and you get in the trike. Or if you’re married to Janet, she will yell and if you’re lucky an agreement will be made, you’ll get into the trike and then hear about what a terrible deal we made 🙂

In the 3rd scenario, the driver will ask what you are willing to pay, putting the ball squarely in your court. If you’ve made that Sibulan run a bunch of times like we have, you know what you will probably have to pay. Depending on whether you are in a rush you might lop 10 pesos off the price you usually pay and start there for negotiating. The driver might accept it or might simply drive off. They don’t tend to throw the bird much in the Philippines but this basically means the same thing.

The 4th scenario – and I’ve only had this happen a couple times – is the driver will actually say, “whatever you wish to pay, Sir. Its up to you.” Don’t count on this happening, but it might. If it does, thank your creator or whomever you believe in, then give the driver a decent amount to encourage his great behavior.

Tip #3: Here’s where it gets even more complicated. Let’s say you want to go somewhere off the beaten path. One of the reasons the regulated rates in the core area are so cheap is that the driver is likely to find other passengers along the way. But if you want to go to Timbuktu (or the Philippines equivalent) he’s unlikely to find anyone else and you are essentially hiring the driver exclusively. It’s called Pakyaw (pronounced Pacquiao, not to be confused with Manny). Again, negotiation is the call of the day but expect to pay more.

Tip #4: Tips. It seems that most Filipinos at the end of their trike ride, get off, hand the driver some coins and wait for their change. I just hand over whatever I have decided to pay and get the hell out of the trike; which often involves some groaning and banging of the head. In other words, tips are optional but I always try to give a few (but not too many) extra pesos.

Tip #5: While I just talked about Filipinos getting change, we are talking about a few pesos. Do not give the driver a 500 peso note and expect change. He won’t have it and will look at you like a fool, as will all the other passengers.

Tip #6: If you find a driver you really like for those off the beaten path trips, you might consider getting his phone number. In fact, he might suggest it as well. That way when you want to go back to that unusual area you can call “your guy” and both of you will know what to expect.

Tip #7: Don’t overpay. I know I know, you’re rich, the rates are dirt cheap, and you’re trying to impress your girl. You might even rationalize that you’re helping the poor driver. Stop it! You are only perpetuating the notion that every foreigner is rich and this only leads to drivers wanting to overcharge said rich foreigners. Besides, despite your generosity, the driver will still think you’re an idiot! And so will your girl! So do us all a favor and don’t overpay or overtip.

Tip #8: Unless you are Janet, don’t start arguing with the driver. And for God’s sake, don’t start claiming you’re being taken advantage of because you’re a foreigner or start spitting out “long nose tax.” If you genuinely think the price is excessive, don’t get on the trike. Janet and I have literally had a trike driver pull over if we felt uncomfortable for any reason.

If you look at the rates quoted in the link above, you’ll see that the trip from Dumaguete to Sibulan is 120 pesos, Janet and I generally paid 70 for the two of us from our apartment, which is south of Dumaguete. Knowledge is power. If you know what things are supposed to cost, you will get taken advantage of far less frequently.

As I said at the beginning I generally like the trikes. If you can fit into them, you might also. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Appliance Shopping in the Philippines – Or Comparing a Consumption Culture vs. a Simple One

Today’s blog is about appliance shopping in Dumaguete which let’s face it, is a boring topic unless you are looking for a ref (that’s what they call them here) in the Philippines. Even then it’s boring, if useful. But trust me, I’ll meat it up because the experience reminds me of the difference between the West and the 3rd world. But bare with me in the meantime.

As I’ve talked about before, Janet and I rented a month to month apartment so we could arrive here with a decent place to stay and to ship our stuff to while we looked for a house to lease. The Hermogina Apartments filled the bill if not much more. I figured it would take us a couple months to find a rental house but we were motivated to act quickly. The process was not simple and perhaps I will blog about that later. The bottom line is we found a small house in Valencia (10 minutes west of Duma) that met our needs and signed a one year lease. While many houses for rent come with furniture, ours is unfurnished and the price reflects that. We debated about whether to get a furnished house or spring for furnishings but in the end rationalized that we will have to buy stuff in a year when we will more than likely build a house, so we might as well do it now.

Unfurnished in the Philippines generally means pretty bare bones. Our house actually has an oven/stove; lots of unfurnished houses don’t even have that. It’s got a couple aircon units and 2 water heaters in the showers, but that’s it. There is no refrigerator, for example. So we knew we needed a ref, washing machine, and TV and thus began our journey into appliance hell – or was it hell?

Let me step backwards in time for a moment. Just a few short months ago we sold our house in Portland, preparing to move to the Philippines. The appliances in our home were functional but old. Frankly, I liked them – but I too am functional but old. It became quickly clear that the kitchen itself and its appliances were a stumbling block in our desire to sell the house for the massive killing I imagined. The house was built in ’43 and the kitchen was efficient but small. As a single father (which I was when I bought the house) I liked it; why waste space on a kitchen, I said often. But there was no room in the kitchen for a modern refrigerator; you know the ones the size of an SUV with a price over $1000. Nor was there a breakfast bar or one of those cooking islands. What did I care – I was cooking frozen pizzas most of the time.

Janet and I began to wonder whether there was anything we could do to update the kitchen without spending thousands to blow the whole thing up. We focused on the refrigerator; I’m guessing it was from the 70s or 80s. I liked it. Hell it had an ice cube maker; that is it did until the water line started leaking and I turned the thing off. What, we wondered, would the kitchen look like if we put in a new refrigerator? But here was the problem. Like the rest of the kitchen the refrigerator was white and it was decidedly not the size of an SUV. We went to Home Depot in search of a smallish, white refrigerator. The salesman looked at me like I was a crazy old coot; OK he got that one right. They did actually have one that would fit our space and was white. It was $550. In the end our realtor told us not to bother and the house managed to sell with the old refrigerator.

A lot of guys go on and on about the cost comparisons between the US and Philippines. While many things are less, they say electronics and appliances are more expensive. Is this true? Yes and no – how’s that for being definitive. If you want the exact same model of something you are likely to pay more in the Philippines than on Amazon. But in many cases, can you find or do you really need the same model. And here finally we come full circle, to appliance shopping in Dumaguete.

We went into Robinson’s Appliances and made a bee line for the refs. For me it was ref heaven; unlike in the US where 90% of the models were those SUV types with prices to match, here 90% of the available models are what I think of as “normal” refs. Most are stainless steel, which Janet loves, and most were major brand names (Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp, even Whirlpool). But most were in the 9-12 cu. ft. size. Most were far less expensive than that lone white ref we saw in Home Depot, back in our former life. We saw several options we liked and moved onto washing machines.

Now, in the Philippines most people who own washing machines (and many many people do not) only own a washing machine. While a few dryers were available, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the function of a dryer naturally exists in the Philippines in the form of 365 days/year of heat. So most people do what your mother or grandmother did; hang the clothes outside to dry. So now we had eliminated one appliance and could focus on what we actually needed, a washing machine for two adults. In the US, washers and dryers have grown larger and larger, their increased capacity paralleling the SUV-like refrigerators. I’m sure there’s a formula to compare food consumption to clothing size. The bottom line is that many washing machines in the Philippines have small capacities and are cheap! Janet liked the Samsung models and the grey (I wonder why). I liked the cheap.

BTW, speaking of cheap, it seems that in the Philippines the price marked on the appliances is not the price you pay. The experience was the same in several stores. The salesman opened a book and quoted the real price. The cash price was significantly less that the listed price but their notion of cash included credit cards. I think all it meant was if you paid, rather than financed, you got a nice discount.

So now I’m getting excited. It looks like we’re going to save money compared to what I was used to in the US, so it came time to look at the TVs. We once again turned to Samsung and looked at a 50″ Smart TV. While I went in with no particular interest in a 4k TV (there is no content broadcast in 4k in the Philippines at this point) the money difference between the 4k set and the 1080p set was small.

Next, I did what I always do: went to the 3 or 4 appliances stores in Dumaguete to compare. In the end we found the best prices at Imperial, a Philippines appliance store chain. I am always reticent to talk about what I spend on stuff (it’s the old guy in me) but I will say that for about the price I would have paid for one of those American SUV refrigerators, we got a Samsung ref, Samsung washing machine, and Samsung 50″ 4k Smart TV. The good price was not because things are cheaper here. They were because we didn’t need the excesses so common in the 1st world. In the US would Janet have accepted the 11 cu. ft. ref or would she have jonesed after the aircraft carrier models? And what would the washer-drier have cost? Even I would have been unlikely to get excited over 50″ when so many have 60+”. So we got what we needed and didn’t break the bank.

We had the same experience with furniture. I love wood and wanted something of a “native”, not Western, style. Janet prefers the quality of rattan over bamboo, so that’s where we focused. In the end we furnished the house with a nice living room set, 6-seat dining room set, 2 queen sized beds with matching foam mattresses. Again, we spent about what we would have spent for one of those aforementioned refrigerators. And again, we didn’t save because things are fundamentally cheaper in the Philippines (though some things are) but because we didn’t need what we would have considered necessary in the US.

Buying a Car in the Philippines

We just bought a car and we’re pretty excited. But I thought I would tell the story of the process and my experience with it. There’s a great possibility of my doing a video on this as well but in the meantime I still think better by writing.

Our decision to buy new rather than used is possibly a story for another day. I had a budget I set and decided that budget would allow me to either buy a cheaper new car or a bit larger 3-4 year old used car. But after moving to Dumaguete I became less inclined to get some SUV or larger “people mover,” like the Toyota Innova. I wanted something nimble and peppy to get around some of the traffic and didn’t want someone else’s used problem. After a few weeks watching the traffic here a warranty and something without miles on it sounded like a good idea.

So on a Monday morning Janet and I went to three dealerships and test drove 4 cars. Like in many American cities, in Dumaguete the major dealerships are on one road. It’s the national highway in Sibulan, a port town about 15 minutes north of Dumaguete. We went to the local Suzuki, Ford and Toyota dealerships.

Now, I know some of you would love it if I said that I had another in a series of terrible customer service experiences or that all the salesman tried to rip off the poor rich kano. But nothing could be further from the truth. In each dealership we had no problem finding a salesman to help us. Each salesman was respectful, professional, knew their product, and treated us like viable customers. Maybe it was the luck of the draw, but i did have the same positive experience in three different dealerships.

Our first stop was Suzuki, where we drove the Ciaz. It’s a subcompact sedan and a very nice one. I could have easily seen us purchasing this car. Nice looking, conservative, lots of rear leg room, good mileage, and plenty of zip, at an excellent price. The salesman patiently had me drive all the way around the tip of Sibulan and beyond.

Now one thing to know if you ever want to purchase new in the Philippines is that the discounts are small. There is none of this thousands off MSRP like you routinely see in the US. All 4 cars we tested ranged from 30,000 – 40,000 pesos off the listed price; well under $1000. There is no genuine negotiation here. I actually found this kind of refreshing. Having bought maybe 10 new cars in my life I viewed myself as a pretty decent negotiator, but every time I bought a car I wondered whether I had gotten beaten out of some cash somehow. In the modern world you can look online for the average sales price, but back in the day it was hard and frustrating work. There’s none of that in the Philippines. Nor in my experience is there anyone trying to sell you unneeded extras, like Jerry in Fargo forcing you to take the TrueCoat!

The Ford Dumaguete dealership is right next door to Suzuki. I wanted to see the Ecosport, a mini SUV that’s becoming popular here. It’s sold in Europe in some different configurations and will come to the US next year. More on the Ecosport later.

We next went to Toyota and drove the Avanza. The car is popular in the Philippines in a category called “a people mover,” meaning you can in theory fit 7 people; as long as they are 7 small Filipinos. Frankly neither Janet or I liked the car. It didn’t have the quality feeling that I associate with Toyota. And as I drove it I thought the test car was backfiring and told the saleswoman so. At first she thought the rear hatch was rattling but finally admitted that the car was backfiring.

We then drove the Vios, Toyota’s category leader (sub compact sedans) in the Philippines. Now this was a Toyota and it was obvious why they sell so many. It felt solid and Toyota-like. Enough power and decently appointed. Not as much rear leg room as the Ciaz but not bad.

The Ford salesman was smart. While in all the other cars, I mostly drove the national highway, the Ford guy had me drive an off road full of holes, gravel, and some unpaved parts; in short a typical Philippines road. One of the strong points of the Ecosport is high clearance and 16″ wheels. It handled the lousy road a lot better than I suspect most of the sub-compacts would have. That and the fact that our last car in the US, was a Ford Cmax which also rode a bit high off the ground, a feature that Janet and I like. As Janet said, “we will be able to see over the trikes!”

Now unlike in the US, the dealerships here in Dumaguete had little or no inventory. The cars I was interested in had to be ordered. Most cars that come into port are already sold but some are unassigned. Janet picked out a few colors of the Ecosport she liked. Blue wasn’t one of them. Two days later I got a text from the salesman; a blue Ecosport automatic had arrived in the port of Bacolod. Did I want it? Oh, did I mentioned that in none of the dealerships I went to was there any of the typical high pressure salesmanship that is routinely experienced in the US: “If I give you a test ride, are you planning to buy the car today?”

Our salesman did encourage me to talk to my wife, since he knew that wives are often the color deciders. The next day Janet decided she could live with the blue. I texted the salesman and said I wanted to test drive the car again and if I liked it would order the blue.

Two days later we drove the Ecosport again. I liked it better than the first time and we confirmed that the blue one was still available. We put down a 10,000 peso deposit (about $200) as is typical in the Philippines and asked our guy when it would arrive. “About a week, Sir,” I was told. I knew from what other guys had said that a week was unlikely. I got updates from my guy every couple of days: “It’s out of the port, Sir;” “They’re inspecting it now, Sir.” But the end of the following week I asked for a status update. “Sometime between next Monday and Wednesday.” To my surprise I got a text Tuesday saying it would arrive Wednesday night and I could get it Thursday.

Let me talk for a moment about price. Are cars in the Philippines less or more expensive than in the US? Both or neither. It’s just not an apples to apples comparison. While most of the major players are in the Philippines many of the models are different from the US. And even if the model is the same it doesn’t mean it is set up the same way. The Ecosport for example is sold in Europe and will be in the US next year. Those countries get a 1.0 liter turbo charged engine or a 2.0 liter engine. My Ecosport is 1.5 liters. I mean, do I need a 2.0 liter engine for 80 mph highway speeds in the Philippines. Let’s get real. Also many appointments which are nearly standard in the US aren’t here. Want cruise control? My Ecosport doesn’t have it. In fact, in Dumaguete the concept of cruise control seems ludicrous. So the Ecosport is a bit less cash here but then you’re losing some features.

One of the other things to talk about is insurance. When you finance a car in the Philippines, the price includes insurance. I am not sure whether the dealership or manufacturer makes the insurance deal but, unless you decided to use a 3rd party insurance company, the dealership handles the insurance. In my case the car cost about 25,000 pesos for the year to insure; that’s about $500. Not bad!

Thursday morning I arrived at the dealership, filled out the remaining paperwork, plopped some cash down, and waited in the waiting room. The salesman said he would deliver the car to me at 1:00 “after lunch.” Since I was at least 30 minutes away from our apartment by trike and there was nowhere to go I spent hours watching TV in the customer waiting room. I got to watch them detail my car and get it ready, which was kind of cool; of course my notion of what’s cool is apparently sort of boring.

As car salesmen do the world over my guy took me through all the features of the car. At the end I thanked him and shook his hand. He sincerely thanked me for being patient. I didn’t feel that I’d needed patience but he explained how often customers reacted badly to any delays. I found the delay minor and besides I am a retiree with plenty of time – yeah right! But he is a good guy and I appreciated his feelings.

All I knew at that moment was that I had wildly conflicting feelings. I was excited to take the car out but was terrified I’d hit some crazed motorcycle rider or a trike would crash into me. I also wasn’t completely confident I knew the way to get back to our apartment. To make matters worse Janet and her sister and cousin were waiting for me at our new rental house and I was even less confident I could find that than our apartment.

Now, while I had a really positive experience there were some glitches. All dealerships include three things for free; mats, seat covers, and tinting. Everyone tints in the Philippines for good reason and Janet and I spent several exciting hours discussing what shade tinting we wanted. This is how thrilling we are in retirement. Anyway, the mats were in the car, the seat covers are back ordered 3 weeks, and the tinting shop can’t get me in until next week. But I am confident in my guy and it will all happen.

Also, in the Philippines the registration and licensing procedure is a bit bizarre. You get a temporary plate of course. I watched the detail guy use a stencil to draw my plate number. I kid you not. Also, while in the US we are used to it taking maybe a month to get our official plates, in the Philippines it takes – well, forever. I knew this and told my guy, “So I hear it takes at least a year to get my plates.” He smiled knowing they’d throw a party if I got the plates in a year.

But the bottom line is we have a car. We didn’t need to take a trike today, which means I didn’t break a trike today 🙂

This is all old hat for Janet; it’s the second new car she’s seen me drive home. But I’m quite confident the kids had never driven in a new car. I mentioned after I’d successfully found the new house and picked them all up that they should enjoy “the new car smell” and they looked at me like I was crazy (buang). They’re right of course!

This Kano Broke a Trike

First thing to tell you is that the trikes in Janet’s hometown of Alcoy, Cebu are very small. They make the trikes in Dumaguete look like SUVs. The main passenger bench can fit two smallish Filipinos or 1 Kano plus his bag. Janet was sitting across from me on the mini seat, which on the Alcoy trikes barely accommodates a child.

We were on our way to the local fiesta; actually it was the band performances and competition part of the fiesta activities. Because of this the National Hwy. was blocked off and the trike driver, along with everyone else, was forced to take a dirt and stone road detour. He must have been annoyed because he was driving along the dirt road at the same speed he would have been driving along the highway. He hit every rock and bump and Janet and I were bouncing pretty good. But we were close to our destination and it is after all a trike – so I wasn’t complaining. Finally the driver hit one hard bump. I levitated a couple inches and landed on the bench pretty hard. Now these benches are sort of upholstered; there’s a little padding but not much. As we stuck the landing the bench seat sagged and I knew something had broken; I figured a spring. I told Janet that my seat was broken. She translated to the driver who tried to feel what was wrong with the bench, while still flying down the dirt road. Finally he pulled over just at the place we were going to get off. He pulled up the bench. All that was holding the thing in place was one rusted pipe welded at either end. The left weld had given up the ghost and the pipe has separated from its connecting piece. I was amazed that only one pipe held the trike seat in place. There was a conversation between the driver and Janet in Visayan. I just pulled out some change and gave the driver the normal fare.

Later Janet told me that the driver looked at us saying “My trike is broken. What am I going to do?” While he didn’t state it directly, Janet was under the impression that he was implying that the great big kano was responsible and we should share in the cost of the repair.

Now for those of you who don’t know me personally one of the advantages I have in the Philippines is that I am somewhat vertically challenged. I used to be 5’6″ tall. I say used to be because at my last physical exam, I stretched myself as tall as I could and managed to get measured at 5’5 1/2″. Apparently we do shrink with age. And while I am not as svelte as I was in my youth I am not one of those huge guys who break chairs and benches just by sitting on them. As I say one of my advantages in the Philippines is that I am small enough to be only a little bit taller than the average Filipino and thus can fit in most things here. This includes the faux leather chairs in our apartment, which wouldn’t handle many American butts (loboot in Visayan). My size also means I can fit into a trike without causing damage – that is up until now.

Since in the Philippines all information is passed though an extensive grapevine, I am worried that all the Alcoy drivers will soon know that I am the huge kano who broke the trike seat. I might have to take out insurance!

Dollars vs. Pesos

The first thing you have to know is that I am pretty darn good at math. No, I am not talking about Boolean Trigonometry or Differential Calculus or some such crap. I mean basic addition and subtraction. I can even manage multiplication and division if I really have to. I grew up long before calculators replaced that nasty rote memorization we had in school. My point of all this is that I can pretty quickly convert dollars to pesos and visa versa. It’s even made easier at this point in time since currently a dollar is worth close to 50 pesos.

When Janet and I traveled to the Philippines in the past, I just brought with me my human calculator skills and could tell her “Hey that taxi ride only cost $3.” We eat out fairly often and rarely pay more than 500 pesos for the two of us for dinner (including my ceremonial one San Miguel). The 500 pesos sounds like at lot but its $10 equivalent sounds dirt cheap.

A couple years ago while visiting the Philippines I got into a conversation with the Filipina girlfriend of a friend. She said that I had to “stop thinking dollars and start thinking pesos.” I agreed with her in principal but it was hard to turn off the human calculator. Janet and I on our travels occasionally argued about what we had spent, particularly when it involved services. In one particularly famous and humorous occasion we felt that we got beat out of 300 pesos for a trike ride and did a lot of finger pointing at each other. Using my human calculator skills, I finally reminded her that “Hey, it’s only $6. We’d pay many times that for a cab in Portland.” But the truth is that at a certain level, that’s not the point. You are talking apples to oranges if you’re comparing prices between the Philippines and the US. In the end the Filipina girlfriend was right and I have to learn to take the 300 pesos for what it was – a bit of an overcharge. Today we have at times argued with trike drivers over an extra 5 or 10 pesos. It sounds ridiculously petty (which sometimes I am) but in the end sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

Janet has been recently trying to convince me that I need a coin pouch for going around Dumaguete; that pulling out my wallet all the time looking for change or small bills is cumbersome and potentially dangerous. We went into Robinson’s to look for a coin pouch. I saw a few for 50 pesos but they didn’t speak to me lol. Then I saw one for 59 pesos that I liked better. But we had to decide whether it was worth the extra 9 pesos. There’s no point in saying that 9 pesos is only – well, you figure it out – it’s only 9 damn pesos. The point still was that it was 9 pesos more and was it worth it? In the end I decided it was; and so did Janet. She wanted one too. So now I was shelling out more than double, when I could have just bought the crappy 50 pesos coin pouch. This is what we get for having too many pesos 🙂

All expats say that there is a big difference between being in vacation mode and living in the Philippines and this is one of the differences. I am retired, living on a modest fixed income and I have to learn to work with my finite amount of pesos and not think “ooo that’s so cheap compared to the US.” While it is cheaper, it’s cheap compared to a life in another country where I had a job that paid a hell of a lot more pesos than my Social Security check.

We have recently rented a house and will move there in September and it’s unfurnished. So we spent some time looking at the appliances we will need. We want decent quality since they will eventually move over to a permanent location when we buy a house. So we looked at a Samsung refrigerator in Janet’s favorite stainless steel and a Samsung washing machine. The salesman told us of the big discounts we will get because we are rich Americans using a rich American’s credit card. I tried not to calculate but I couldn’t help it; the prices sounded good even in US dollars. And remember these were not cheap Chinese appliances – they were cheap Korean appliances – or wherever Samsung makes their stuff. So now the salesman takes us to the most important item – the TV. He shows us a 49″ 1080p Samsung set – nice and again a nice price. But next to it is a 55″, 4k Smart TV and with an even fatter discount and in the end it’s really not that much more. I quickly calculated what we had saved on the fridge and washer, and looked at Janet who nodded her approval.

Oh and have I mentioned we recently ordered a car? That story will come later.

It’s possible I am not totally in cheapassed retirement mode just yet.

Has it Only Been Two Weeks?

Janet and I have been in our new home in Dumaguete for a little more than two weeks. As reported before we’ve been busy little bees. Here’s my report and some observations:

We spent over two years getting rid of all our stuff in Portland and have spent much of the past two weeks trying to get it all back. A lot of that is necessary. Janet has done a great job outfitting the kitchen here. While we wait for our balikbayan boxes with more kitchen supplies, multiple trips to the mall have given us the basics. She’s also gotten everything needed for hand washing clothes, since there is no washer here and it makes no sense buying one until we get settled in a more permanent home.

Speaking of which, we have spent several days looking for a rental home. It’s been hit and miss as I am sure it is everywhere when looking for a rental. There is always something missing. For example we saw a large house on an equally large, well manicured lot. The only problem? The showers in the two bathrooms were little more than a shower head mounted over the toilet. Now, if you want to shower while pooping this works well, but it’s not up to my American standards. Another house we saw was two stories, brand new and decently built. But there were no aircons in the house and not even a hole cut out and proper electrical to accommodate the aircon unit. That too ain’t gonna fly with this American.

Nonetheless we have found a couple nice houses for rent and are “negotiating.” And what we have found for sure is that there are a great number of nice, quiet neighborhoods outside of Dumaguete where we think we can happily live. We’ve also seen plenty of decently priced properties to buy when we get to that point. Rental prices are inexpensive and unlike in the US can be negotiated. This is something to definitely remember in the Philippines; outside of malls and car dealerships, most anything is negotiable.

Speaking of car dealerships, we spent most of today looking for a car. Did the normal thing of going to dealers and taking a test drive. Except I had never driven in the Philippines and – well the driving is different here. Dumaguete is a mixture of hundreds of trikes, thousands of motorcycles, as well as plenty of cars, buses and trucks. There are no stop lights here; you heard that right – not a one. Therefore the way people negotiate the traffic (what we would call right of way) is unique and complex. But hell, I drove in NYC, so I can drive here, right? The salesman sat in the passenger seat and Janet sat in the back of the car, allegedly to check the leg room. She was terrified and there was a certain amount of backseat driving going on. I reminded her that I’d driven for nearly 50 years and hadn’t killed anyone yet. This did not allay her fears.

As I took four different cars out for a spin I found myself getting more and more comfortable driving in the Philippines madness. It was kinda fun and I realized I just might like driving again; I had grown to hate my daily commute over the last few years. I won’t say that Janet’s fears disappeared but she did stop yelling in terror. The biggest thing I have to learn driving here is how to use the horn. Filipinos don’t use it the same way as Americans do. We use the horn to tell some idiot that he’s driving like – an idiot. We use it in anger and sometimes when real risk requires us to warn the other driver – that he’s driving like an idiot. In the Philippines the horn is used as a warning to let people know that you’re coming. No driver will stop in the Philippines but they are polite enough to warn you they’re about to run you over. And since there are many blind, narrow curves here, a quick honk is necessary to let the other guy know you’re entering the curve. But even this I began to learn and by the end was honking like a Pinoy; I’m very proud.

It’s unscientific but we were at 3 different dealerships and were well treated and well served at each one. Everyone happily wanted my business which was no surprise to me, were knowledgeable and professional. I can’t say that I would have had the same three for three batting average in the US, where in my experience at least one of the three would have ignored me or it just would have been difficult to arrange a test drive. “Are you ready to buy today,” they often ask. “How would I know until I test drive the car,” I would respond. Here in Dumaguete no one expected me to guarantee I was buying today.

While most of the normal players in the car industry are in the Philippines, many of the models are different. I drove a Toyota Vios, which is the market leader in the Philippines, the Toyota Avanza, sort of a people mover, a Suzuki Ciaz (definitely a nice car) and a Ford Ecosport, very similar to the Ford I just leased in the US, and with high ground clearance that might be very practical here in the Philippines.

In other news we have some family members coming to visit this weekend. I don’t think anyone in the family has ever been to the island of Negros and the kids seem pretty excited to see the place or see how we live or maybe just get to eat at Jollibees (look it up – it’s the Philippines answer to McDonalds).

A few observations based on my two+ weeks as an expat:

1. It’s no secret that there are a lot of expats here. And while I don’t want to offend anyone – so how do I put this – there are quite a few sketchy looking expats here 🙂 And again how should I put this; I was concerned that I would be kinda old for the Philippines but man some of these expats make me look like a kid lol. There’s an “old” joke here somewhere but I can’t think of it so please insert your favorite. “He was so old that…”

2. Looking for houses is different here. We hired a trike driver to show us around the town of Valencia. Every street we went on he’d stop, talk to some friend of his who would tell him about a rental house. In the US getting ahead is based on “who you know.” In the Philippines it’s based on just asking anyone and they’re likely to know.

3. Everywhere we go when people meet us they ask if we have children and when we say no ask if we intend to and when. Just today we were on a trike and 2 women struck up a conversation in Visayan with Janet. Suddenly they were all giggling. Despite not speaking Visayan I knew exactly what they are laughing about. It’s sort of refreshing because we get treated like a “normal” married couple here. We have experienced this every time I have been to the Philippines.

4. Speaking of not knowing Visayan, while I do know a sprinkling of words and because many Visayan words are based on Spanish, know some more because of my four years of high school Spanish taught by Mrs. Juliano, who I think was trying to use the classroom to recreate the Spanish Inquisition. The point I am laboring to make is I realize more than ever that I need to learn more. I try to keep the expectations down but I intend to do my best to learn more. The truth is I usually have a general idea of the conversation but the details get lost. My inlaws express disappointment that we cannot really speak to each other and I hope to remedy that at least a little bit (gamay).

5. I am sleeping better than I have in years; frankly I am sleeping like the dead. I suspect this is a combination of our being busy every day and the heat. By 9:00 or 10:00 at the latest my head hits the pillow and I am out. We both seem to be sleeping much better than we did in Portland. Hope it continues.

Well that’s all for now. From Dumaguete, the City of Gentle People, I’m out.