Top 5 irritations about living in the Philippines

So how is our new life in the Philippines? Is it what we expected? Is it what we hoped for? Are we doing OK? Have we had problems? Are we happy?

Well, I’ll post on some of those subjects in due course, but for now, I want to be totally honest and say that life isn’t perfect here, just like it isn’t perfect anywhere in the world. While there is much to be positive about, there are also irritations. Just small things that get under your skin and can put you in a bad mood if you let them.

At this point I want to make it clear that we’re not moaning for the sake of it, and none of these irritations are show-stoppers or end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it crises. They’re just irritations. There were irritations living in the UK, there were irritations living in Malta, and there are irritations living here. They’re just different irritations, that’s all.

Here is our top 5 list of irritations about living in the Philippines:

1. The Brownouts

You may say that by choosing to live in a rural municipality like Valencia rather than a big city, we’re asking for trouble, and that brownouts (power cuts for us Brits) are just part of Philippines life.

But when there are on average two to three brownouts a week, each usually lasting at least two hours, it’s not funny. And these are not even planned maintenance cuts posted on the electric company’s website – no, these are unscheduled, unpredicted cuts, often with no explanation or apology posted, even after the fact. Calling the customer welfare hotline simply results in someone taking details, promising to call back, then not doing so.

2. The Driving (or should that be riding?)

If there’s one thing Filipinos excel at, it’s pulling out into the road without the slightest backwards glance. If I had a peso for every time I’ve had to swerve over the centre line to avoid hitting a car or motorbike launching itself into the traffic without looking, I’d be a rich man. It’s like everyone has a death wish. Mirror, signal, manoeuvre – how hard can it be?

When I bought my car back in April, the dealer said that they could fit a louder horn to the car if I wanted. At the time I thought “Huh? why would I want that?”. Now I understand. My horn finger is getting even more use than it did in Malta. And that’s saying something.

3. The Hospitals

When a doctor’s appointment has a fee attached to it, you’d expect some level of customer service, right? Here’s how it actually works.

In each hospital in Dumaguete there are a load of doctors of various specialisms, as well as general practitioners. To see one of them, you have to be at the hospital when outpatients opens (7am or 7.30), wait in line to get a ticket for your doctor, then go away and amuse yourself until 10.30 or 11.00 when the doctor starts their hours. If you’re lucky enough to have ticket No.1 you should be seen quite promptly at that time. But if you weren’t early enough and have ticket 5, 10 or even 15, you could be waiting until after lunchtime. And they all take a lunchbreak. So any attempt to see a doctor, even for something minor, generally means reserving the whole day.

“But I have a private health plan” I hear you cry. Makes no difference. All you get for that is the ability to get the doctor’s bill covered afterwards. You still have to queue and wait, queue and wait with everyone else.

However, I’ve now seen that there is a small private clinic in Valencia with three doctors practicing, so next time one of us needs a doctor we’ll try there and see if small town means better service. Here’s hoping.

4. The Bureaucracy

If you need to interact with a government entity (and you will), be prepared for early starts, long waits in multiple queues, getting shuffled from one queue to another to accumulate extra (almost certainly useless) bits of paper, and uncertainty about the whole process and where you are in it. You should also be prepared not to achieve what you want the same day. I’m still waiting for my driving licence ten weeks after applying and having it approved. And now we’ve moved, when I pick it up it will have the wrong address on it.

In our experience this applies to PhilHealth, the Land Transportation Office, the Social Security System, the Bureau of Immigration, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the electric company. The only place where the bureaucracy was minimal and relatively painless was the Post Office (I applied for a Postal ID and was astonished at how easy the process was considering how difficult every other government interaction had been).

5. The Religiosity

Ever been in a supermarket where the staff all stop working at a certain time of the day and say the lord’s prayer, together, out loud, while customers just hang around waiting without complaining? That happens in the Philippines.

Ever seen state entities (transport, infrastructure, government departments etc) post bible verses on their Facebook pages? That happens in the Philippines. And you’ll see variations of “In God We Trust” plastered across the front of most government buildings.

Ever seen Facebook posts about LGBTQ rights or female reproductive rights (i.e. abortion) where 99% of the hundreds of comments are bigoted hate speech with added bible quotations? That happens (and goes unchallenged) in the Philippines. To be fair, it used to happen a lot in Malta, too, but not quite so much these days.

Irritated, huh?

So have all these irritations made us want to throw in the towel and crawl back to Europe with our tails between our legs? No, of course not. They’re just irritations after all. They haven’t actually stopped us doing anything we need to do – they’ve just annoyed us.

But we wanted anyone thinking of moving here to be aware that life in the Philippines has irritations just like anywhere else. Moving here isn’t a golden ticket. It has many bonuses and advantages, and I will post about those in the future, but it does have its frustrations as well.

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Moving to the Philippines part 4 – two months and counting

This is the final article in our series “Moving to the Philippines”, and as with the earlier articles, it consists mainly of a series of observations based on our personal experiences.

First, a summary of where we are now.

It’s hard to believe we’ve only been living in Dumaguete for two months, since arriving in the Philippines from Malta in late January 2019. Somehow it feels like a lot longer – four or five months at least.

We’re living in a rental house but have bought a house of our own which will become ours in about a month, we’ve just bought a new car, we’ve fetched my wife’s older brother from General Santos City to live with us (this was always part of the plan – he has a learning disability and has been living with cousins for the past three years but will get better care with us), and we’ve generally settled into Dumaguete life. My consultancy work continues part-time with the occasional Skype call to clients, and my wife is considering a new venture in the field of health & beauty.

And now for our usual series of observations about the things we’ve experienced since the last article. This time I’ve added headings for ease of reference.

Real Estate

If you’re renting a property and the owner wants a minimum term (e.g. six months or one year), don’t allow the agent (or owner) to insert a term in the contract saying that leaving early means the full term still has to be paid. Under Philippine Law this counts as something called “unjust enrichment” and can be challenged in the courts. The normal penalty for leaving a rental property early is simply forfeiture of the deposit (which is normally two months rent). If you’re interested in knowing which real estate agents in Dumaguete try and pull this one so that you can avoid them, send us a message via our Facebook page and we’ll give you their names.

If you’re buying a property (only possible if one of you is Filipino of course), always, always, always use a lawyer to check the property’s deeds and title before you commit, and then always, always, always use a lawyer to process the entire transaction when you go ahead. Coming from Europe, we naturally hired a lawyer, and came up against all kinds of comments from people saying “why bother with the expense of a lawyer, I’ll do it for you myself for X pesos” – but if we hadn’t used a lawyer, we’d probably own a property with doubtful legal status by now. The Philippine property market is full of sharks (both owners and agents) trying to offload properties with dodgy legal status to unwitting foreigners – maybe not all the land area is recorded in the title, maybe there are hidden joint owners – it could be anything. Beware. If you want to know the name of a decent, honest real estate lawyer who is competent, helpful and charges fairly, again send us a message via our Facebook page and we’ll give you his details.

Balikbayan and Other Visas

If you are moving to the Philippines as a couple where one of you is Filipino, think carefully before opting to request a one year “Balikbayan Visa” on arrival. Sure, it gives you a whole year before you have to renew your right to stay, but it has a downside as well. The downside is that you can’t apply for your Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR-I card) until the Balikbayan Visa expires, one year after you arrive (unless you’re willing to physically go to Intramuros in Manila to apply for a voluntary one and hope it’s granted otherwise it’s a wasted trip). And if you don’t have an ACR-I card, you can’t get a healthcare plan or a local bank account.

However, there is actually another way to get an ACR-I card before your Balikbayan Visa expires, and that is to apply for the 13A Married Person Visa (which will override the Balikbayan Visa), however that takes over two months to be processed and you’ll need to submit a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearance certificate as part of your application, which itself takes a month to come through.

So I’m now waiting for my NBI clearance and then I’ll be applying for the 13A Visa straight away at our local Bureau of Immigration office in Dumaguete. The sooner all this is done, the sooner I can get private health insurance – which I’m sure you’d agree is an important thing to have when there is no free healthcare system.

In the light of all this, a Balikbayan Visa may still be right for you, but I’d advise applying for your NBI clearance and then 13A Married Person Visa as soon as you can after arriving, so that you don’t have to wait too long for your precious ACR-I card.

Converting your Driving Licence

When I arrived in the Philippines I already had an International Driving Permit (issued back in Malta), which the Maltese driving agency said would be valid for one year anywhere in the world. However, shortly after arriving in the Philippines I read somewhere that an International Driving Permit is only valid for three months in the Philippines, hence the need to get a local licence.

From reading some online articles, it seems that people’s experience of doing this varies quite widely, so I can only speak about Dumaguete in particular.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Dumaguete follows the normal pattern of government and NGO offices around the city – to achieve something, you take a number, wait for your turn, then interact with a clerk, then take another number for the next part of the process, etc etc.

In my case the licence I was trying to convert was a Maltese one, and it took a bit of pointing and explaining for them to realise that underneath each piece of Maltese text there was an English translation – it was quite a relief to us when they accepted that they wouldn’t have to ask us for a translated copy, since I have no idea how we would go about getting one.

Once I had submitted the initial form along with photocopies of my passport and Maltese licence, I was given some papers and told to go and get the doctor’s certificate and drug test. Luckily facilities for both of these exist just round the corner from the LTO, and I suspect this arrangement is true in other cities as well. So I went into the doctor’s office, gave his clerk some details, and they typed up a medical clearance for me. No questions whatsoever about my health, though I grant that they could verify my eyesight when they asked me to check what they’d typed. Fee: PHP300. The drug test was next door and consisted of a urine test and 10 minute wait. Fee: PHP350.

Then I went back into the LTO, queued to pay my PHP850 licence conversion fee, waited some more, got my photo taken, and was told to call the following Monday to see if my licence was ready. It wasn’t. And still isn’t, 3 weeks later. I think it’ll be at least April before I can pick up my shiny new licence card.

However, what I have in the meantime is an official receipt, which shows the number of my new Philippines driving licence, and armed with that I can legally drive (yes, I checked).

Getting a Postal ID

The PHLPost Postal ID card is accepted everywhere in the Philippines as proof of identity and address, and is one of the easiest and most worthwhile IDs to get. All you need, whether local or foreigner, is your passport and some proof of address (e.g. a house rental contract or lease agreement). The post office where you apply will even take your photo for you, so no need to provide any passport photos. The card takes two weeks to come through after applying at any main post office.

Getting a Bank Account

Not much to say here. I don’t yet have an ACR-I card, so I can’t get a local bank account. All I can say is thank goodness for TransferWise, and thank goodness my wife, as a Filipina, was able to get a bank account without any hassle (so we’re treating hers as a joint account for the time being).

Getting a Post-Paid Mobile Phone Contract

If you’re Filipino, you need a local credit card and a local ID with proof of address (e.g. Postal ID or PhilHealth ID). If you’re a foreigner, you need an ACR-I card and passport, and a foreign credit card. See how the ACR-I card creeps in again? It’s essential for a number of things.

Happily one person can have two contracts, so in our case my wife applied for and was granted a local credit card, and then she applied for a mobile plan for her and one for me as well. Both are in her name for billing purposes, but at least it means we now both have cheap mobile data wherever we go, instead of being reliant on cafe wifi or expensive top-ups.

Buying a New Car

Notice I said “New”. We decided against taking the risk of buying a second-hand car, since we don’t know a trustworthy mechanic who could check it over, and we’re not confident of being able to get reliable information about a car that proves it has no outstanding finance payments.

Buying a new car is easy. You need a valid driving licence (or receipt in my case!), and two forms of ID, one of which shows your address. So in my case that was Postal ID and Passport. Just treat it like buying a new car in any country. Which is to say, haggle on price like your life depended on it, and do as long a test drive as they will allow, to make sure the driving position is really comfortable and mirror visibility is good. I managed to get a cash discount, free fully comprehensive insurance for the first year, a freebie rear parking camera and free registration processing for the first three years.

And so on…

That’s all the advice we have for this article. No doubt we’ll have more fun when I apply for my Married Person Visa, and I’ll probably post about it in the future, once the process is done.

But for now, we have a shiny new car (or will have in a couple of days), we have a new bungalow in the countryside to move to in a few weeks, we have home internet, we have Postal IDs, we have a bank account that we can share, we have one local credit card as well as my international ones, and we have the internet on our phones. Who could ask for anything more?

Questions? Comments? Leave a comment here or message us via Facebook.

See you at the beach resorts.

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Moving to the Philippines part 3 – initial thoughts on arrival

We made it!

Our journey went very smoothly, the jetlag is just about gone, and we’ve now been in Dumaguete for a week and a half. I think we’ve accomplished quite a lot in that time:

  • We’ve found and rented a small partly-furnished house in a nice area, and move in this weekend
  • We’ve signed up to broadband internet and cable TV
  • We’ve got ourselves a PO Box in Dumaguete main post office
  • As well as viewing a number of rental houses before finding a good one, we’ve also viewed some properties for sale, checked some out before rejecting them and are currently investigating one in particular
  • We’ve eaten at an untold number of different restaurants, cafes and street food places, with mainly great experiences
  • We’ve experienced private healthcare (my wife had an eye problem on arrival which was successfully treated by an eye specialist in town for a reasonable price).

Our only negative experiences have been with real estate agents who don’t listen to our requirements, property owners who lie about the legal status of their property in the hope of conning a westerner into a quick purchase, and broadband companies who can’t actually provide what they promise.

As in earlier posts, here is a random set of observations based on our experiences in Dumaguete so far…

Often, real estate agents won’t know the legal history of a property. If you’re interested in a particular property, get the owner to give you photocopies of the legal documentation of the property (deed of absolute sale, transfer certificate of title, tax declarations) and take them to a real estate lawyer (preferably not a lawyer that the seller uses or recommends!). If you want to know the name of a trustworthy lawyer in Dumaguete who will deal fairly and honestly with you, message us via our Facebook page.

If the price of a property seems too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of seemingly bargain price properties in premium locations. There will probably be a legal problem relating to the title, or something else like a flooding problem or adjacent noisy chickens or dogs.

Municipalities can cover huge tracts of land, so just because a property is advertised as being in a particular town, it doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near the town’s urbanised area – it could be several km into the forest or mountains, and the last part of the route to it may be a track.

In theory the property seller should pay the capital gains tax and the buyer should pay the other statutory fees (transfer tax, document stamp, etc). In practice the buyer and seller will normally come to an agreement about who pays what, for example splitting each cost evenly down the middle, with each party paying half. Taxes and other related fees (including lawyer’s fees) will normally add up to about 11% of a property’s price, so factor that in when budgeting.

Real estate agents do not always tell the truth. If a property is presented as having “clean title”, don’t take their word for it. Check it out with a lawyer as noted above. This won’t cost more than a few euros for a one-off consultation.

If the internet is important, check a property location with the providers before renting or buying, to see if they serve that property and what the maximum broadband speed is. The main providers in the Dumaguete area are PLDT, Globe, Smart and Sky. However providers will sometimes refuse you because they have no spare bandwidth capacity (this is the case with PLDT in Valencia at the moment), and you may also find that the connection speed offered when signing up is much lower than what is advertised on the provider’s website (and even then, they have all kinds of disclaimers about not always being able to provide the advertised speed).

While on the subject of broadband, be careful if you’re renting since, depending on the subscription, the provider will often lock you in for 18 months or 2 years, and you have to pay a termination fee if you leave the rental property before that period has elapsed. However, the termination fee may not be excessive by western standards – often only 2 or 3 months’ worth of subscription.

And while talking about technology, don’t expect many businesses to have a good website – or even any website – though more of them have a Facebook page. Facebook is huge in the Philippines – it seems to be much more popular than Twitter or Instagram.

Be very careful about smoking or vaping. In rural areas it’s fine, but many cities including Dumaguete have anti-smoking ordinances and they don’t consider vaping to be an exception. So in cities, don’t smoke or vape in the street or in public buildings. Save it for a cafe or bar’s smoking area or in the comfort of your home or hotel room. Having said that, enforcement officers seem to be pretty thin on the ground and I’ve vaped a number of times while riding in pedicabs (tricycles). I wouldn’t do it in a jeepney though.

Street food (and by that I mean both street vendors and very cheap eating houses) varies in quality. If you have a relatively sensitive western palate you might not like some of the sauce-based and stew-like dishes, since poorer cuts of meat are often used, with plenty of fat and bone. If that puts you off, stick to dishes without sauces where you can see what you’re getting more easily. But in general don’t be afraid to try something once, because a lot of dishes are delicious though the blending of ingredients may be unexpected.

Fast food is readily available – the major chains are Jollibee (fried chicken, spaghetti, burgers), Chow King (Chinese influenced dishes), Mang Inasal (barbecued pork and chicken), and KFC and MacDonalds are also in many locations. There are many other local chains offering a huge variety of food – one particularly good one is Joe’s Chicken Inato. Our favourite fast food place is Chow King, as it offers some reasonably healthy choices at astonishingly low prices.

Mid-range there are many cafes and restaurants around Dumaguete that offer good Filipino cuisine in modest or plain surroundings, and you can eat really well for about €5 to €8 per person including soft drinks. We just ate at an open-air place in town called AA BBQ and had a selection of really great local dishes. Total cost €12 for the two of us.

At the higher end, local chains such as Gerry’s Grill and Cafe Laguna offer traditional Filipino dishes made with better quality ingredients, and a price to match (but still cheaper than Europe). Gerry’s is good for a once-in-a-while treat.

Pedicabs in Dumaguete (photo from Google)
The pedicab (tricycle) system in Dumaguete is a life-saver. Made from a motorcycle with additional wheel, reinforced suspension and steel frame, they seat 4 to 6 people depending on waistline, and can be flagged down at any time. In the city almost every other vehicle is a pedicab, though they’re thinner on the ground in the suburbs. A 1km ride costs about 18 euro cents per person with longer rides priced by negotiating with the driver. They take you exactly where you want to go and although some of them pollute quite badly, they are a huge time-saver when you have a lot of errands around town. Often they’ll pick up extra people along the way and you may get diverted to drop someone off, but considering how handy they are it’s no big deal.

There are also a number of jeepney routes in and around Dumaguete. I don’t need to describe a jeepney since the photo below tells you everything – except, be careful not to bang your head on the roof! They have fixed routes, they’re dirt cheap and stop on request. They leave their terminus when full – and I mean full. Be prepared to pile your bags on your lap – or possibly hold someone’s baby for them – and breathe in.

Dumaguete Jeepney (photo from Google)
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Moving to the Philippines part 2 – some final considerations

A brief update…

One thing I hadn’t fully understood when planning our move was just how stressed we would end up getting, in the final weeks and days leading up to the move (which is happening in a few days).

I suspect our stress has been bubbling under the surface for quite some time, and as the big day gets closer, it doesn’t take much to bring it to the boil. We’re still very committed to the move and I know things will be better once we’re there, but last-minute nerves are probably inevitable given a life change of this scale.

So here’s a little more advice born of hard experience to make an emigration to the Philippines a little smoother:

If you’re moving with suitcases (after sending cargo ahead), make sure you do a dry run with the suitcases to make sure everything fits, before the last deadline day for sending an extra Balikbayan box (LBC, the main Balikbayan box shipping agent, has a fixed monthly schedule for box collection in many countries). So this means all your clothes, footwear, toiletry bags, documents, nick-nacks. Empty your cupboards and wardrobes and check every room in the house.

While you’re doing that, check the weight of each case and work out how much excess baggage you’ll have to buy. Be prepared for that monetary total to be considerable – it’s normally charged per kilo and will almost certainly be more than you thought. And for goodness’ sake buy more than you need. If you’ve worked out that you need an additional 20kg, buy 23 or 24 – your home weighing scales may not be accurate.

At least two weeks before travelling, open your suitcases in a spare room and gradually pack, a few items a day that you don’t immediately need, so that by the end all you’re packing is overnight stuff and there’s no last minute rush.

If you’re selling or giving away computer gear like printer and scanner, make sure you still have a way to print boarding passes the day before you travel.

If you have to clean your current residence before leaving it vacant (which is very likely), do it quite a few days ahead, so that you’re not rushing at the last minute. You’re not that dirty, are you? Better still, hire someone to save you the effort. This will also probably end up revealing more items that need to be packed or dumped.

If you’re giving away things that you don’t want to take with you, make the recipients come to you to pick them up. Don’t get caught up driving all over town to make drop-offs a couple of days before you travel. And all those unused food packets and jars in the back of your kitchen cupboard? Just chuck ’em. It’s really not a big deal.

And if you work for an employer, try and make your last day at work at least one week before you’re due to travel, or take some leave if you’re continuing to work for them after moving. There are always more last minute things to do than you think, and you’ll need some time here and there to destress and relax.

Before you go, friends will want to see you to say bon voyage. That’s nice, but try and leave the last few days free of appointments. And it’s probably best not to have a send-off crowd at the airport – they’ll only distract you and you could end up forgetting a case or something.

And remember: you’re (hopefully) making a positive life change for some carefully considered reasons. Try to see it as an adventure not an ordeal.

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Moving to the Philippines part 1 – some observations while planning

For a background perspective to this post, please see our last post: A new perspective for this blog

It’s now mid-December, and our big move is just about a month away. I’m obviously not going to publish our exact moving date or flight routes or times for security reasons.

We’ve sent most of our belongings via Balikbayan boxes, we’ve booked our one-way flights, we’ve arranged a hotel for the first two weeks after arrival, we’ve acquired extra suitcases, we’ve (hopefully) got hold of all the paperwork we’ll need, and pretty much all that’s left to do is sell my car.

Here are some thoughts and musings (practical and otherwise) on moving from Europe to the Philippines:

If there are documents you need from the country you’re leaving, you’ll probably have to get them “red-ribboned” (authenticated) by the embassy or consulate of the Philippines in your country. For example, even though I’m British and my wife is Filipina, our marriage certificate is a Maltese document, because we got married in Malta. So we had to get it authenticated by the Honorary Consul for the Philippines in Malta, which basically entails paying a small fee to get a signed cover page stapled to it with some official language and – you guessed it – a nice red ribbon.

Know your visas, and make sure you have a plan for establishing your residency status. In our case, because I’m travelling with my Filipina wife, I will be requesting a Balikbayan Privilege Visa on arrival at Manila airport, which (assuming it’s granted – they normally are) will give me a year’s residency – plenty of time for me to assemble the documents required for longer term residency based on our marital status (a “13A” visa) or my savings (the special retirement visa).

If you plan on opening bank accounts in the Philippines (probably essential), make sure you have some bank statements from your existing home bank, to show that you have a banking history. I’m going to take a complete set of 2018 statements when we move in early 2019. My wife won’t have the same issue, being a Philippines national.

If you have significant savings in a bank in your home country or elsewhere in Europe, make sure they know you’re moving, so that when you log on to internet banking to make transfers, they don’t try to lock you out of your account.

If you plan on driving a car or riding a motorcycle in the Philippines, get an International Driving Permit from your home country before you move. They’re usually valid for one year which gives plenty of time to get a Philippines licence after you arrive.

If you have an “interesting” medical history (which I do), get a letter from your GP or consultant summarising your conditions, and make copies of it. This will be needed when subscribing to a private healthcare plan in the Philippines.

Try and find some ex-pat Facebook groups relating to the location you’re moving to. For instance, I joined a couple of Facebook groups set up for foreigners living in and around Dumaguete, and they’ve already proved to be useful sources of information. See below this post for some links.

Most things you sign up for (Alien Certificate of Registration, bank account, post-paid mobile phone plan, etc) will need a postal address, so one of the first things you’ll need to do is get some rental accommodation and then make photocopies of your tenancy or lease agreement. Again, Facebook groups are useful here – find some groups concerned with property rentals in the location you’re moving to, and make some contacts. See below this post for some groups. We are lucky enough to have a friend in Dumaguete who’s a licensed real estate agent, but we’ll be using the groups as well.

When travelling day arrives, make sure you carry enough cash in your home currency (Euros in our case) to cover initial expenses, like rent deposit, transport, food & drink, enough to tide you over until you can open a bank account and transfer funds into it. In the case of the Philippines, the best place to convert your currency into Pesos is the BDO Bank counter in the Terminal 3 arrivals hall at Manila airport. Their rates are far more competitive than buying Pesos back in Europe. But be careful to stash your Pesos safely before leaving the counter, and don’t try to be ‘clever’ by carrying more currency on the journey than you’re allowed to under customs regulations. Alternatively you could do everything via ATMs using your debit or credit card, but make sure your daily withdrawal limits won’t cause problems.

And finally, go with an open mind and your patience setting on ‘max’. Based on my experience of moving from the UK to Malta in 2006, there will always be some unexpected paperwork to complete, some unexpected hoops to jump through, and at times it might feel quite stressful. Keep in mind that you’re effectively a guest in the Philippines, and remain as respectful as you can (while still being politely assertive if that’s called for).

I’ll post again after we arrive, unless I think of anything else interesting before we go.

Useful Links (if moving to Dumaguete or Negros Oriental)

Ex-Pat Connections
Finding a Property
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