Retiring in the Philippines

by Jose Marc Castro on August 6, 2009

FLAGphilippines200A New Life in the Philippines

The Philippines is made up of more than seven thousand islands. The count actually varies, depending on whether it is high tide or low tide. A unique island is typhoon battered and ruggedly beautiful Batanes, where people live in low stone houses without any locks, use homemade lamps to light their homes at night and go fishing in wooden canoes in 20 foot waves. The archipelago has many other wonderful sights and sounds from a country with over a hundred ethnic groups, a cacophony of foreign influences making for a unique nation and character. Expats who decide to make the Philippines their retirement home can explore this and other islands, and find that each one has its own particular charm and delights.

Climate in the PhilippinesGovernment in the PhilippinesMedical Care in the Philippines Tax in the PhilippinesReal Estate in the PhilippinesShopping in the PhilippinesCost of Living in the Philippines

Climate in the Philippines

The Philippines is hot, humid and wet. The mean temperature for the entire year is 26.6 degrees C. The summer capital, Baguio, has a mean temperature of 18.3 degrees C, which is why droves of local tourists head for the mountain city during summer break. The rainy season starts June, the same month that school opens, and lasts till November.  The dry-cool season starts December and ends February while the dry-hot season lasts from March to May, a time of rice harvests, town fiestas and the May festival of flowers (Flores de Mayo).

Those locations in the archipelago that face the Pacific Ocean have frequent rainfall all year round. The summer capital of the country is Baguio, with cooler temperatures as it is located in the mountainous region of the country.

Government in the Philippines

Political commentators call the Philippine political system an “elite democracy” since it is dominated by a number of interrelated families that are both politically and economically powerful.  Age-old social problems are still very much evident despite the 1986 successful People’s Power Revolution that kicked out the dictator Marcos.  Poverty is still prevalent, and the gap between the rich and poor is wider than before. To support their families, millions of Filipino women and men have joined the exodus of Filipino contract workers mainly to the Middle East, other Asian countries, Europe and the U.S.A. The system of governance is by unitary presidential form of government with an autonomous region and a bicameral Congress consisting of a House of Representatives and a Senate.

Philippine agriculture and industry have been hit hard by the increased entry of imported goods.  There is widespread opposition to the present administration and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who was implicated in widespread cheating during the previous election and other anomalies. Her “Strong Republic” is now on its last year and is now preparing for the next presidential elections. There seems to be no immediate threat to government, with the decrease in the strength of the “legal and illegal” left and relative quiet among the ranks of the military.

Medical Care in the Philippines

The quality of medical care in the Philippines varies widely, from world class in Manila’s best-staffed and best equipped hospitals and medical centers, to primitive and downright life threatening in the boondocks.  It is best to have a list of reputable establishments and health professionals inside and outside Manila (if you live there), make your choice of physicians and hospitals, and make arrangements for your care before and not after you get seriously ill.  Friends, patients’ advocates, and local associations of health professionals can help you do this. In the country, medical and dental care is most expensive in Manila but it is still much cheaper than in the U.S. or Europe.  Many Filipino immigrants combine their vacations in the Philippines with medical procedures because of this combination of quality care and affordability. Retirees can also take advantage of relatively low labor costs if they need trained caregivers and nurses.

Real Estate in the Philippines

Foreign nationals cannot acquire land in the Philippines except as an inheritance. Existing investment policies, however, allow foreigners to invest in corporations registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and which may own real property. An expat shared their experience in a post at the Rest of the World Expat Forum last September 1, 2009:

I think you would like it here in the Philippines ,as far as owning land if you are married to a philippina it can be in her name ,but i believe you can get a lifetime lease.

Government and private business are trying to attract Filipinos to return to the Philippines and retire here.  There have been positive results. Half the buyers of condominiums in a retirement project in Subic (former U.S. base) are Filipino-Americans who spend their time in the U.S. and in the Philippines. They have the best of both worlds.   Many homes and apartments (old and new) are available in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao although properties in smaller cities and towns are much cheaper.  You can also build your home from scratch since labor costs are low but it would require close supervision from you or a capable and honest representative.

Shopping in the Philippines

You can be adventurous and try shopping in the old established markets, namely, Baclaran, Divisoria, and Quiapo.  In Divisoria, you will need three to four hours to explore the sprawling buildings and open markets.  There are good bargains mixed with the bad. Large blankets from China can cost as little as US$2-3. Well-made embroidered cotton blouses are available at US$4-6.  However, there are many items that are shoddy and self-destruct after you wear or wash it once.  Baclaran offers locally made, cheap and durable children’s dresses, jeans, pajamas, cotton underwear, etc.  Again you have to keep looking for the real bargains. Quiapo is famous for handicrafts sold in open stalls located under the bridge and in air-conditioned buildings.  However, if you prefer to shop in comfort and for high-end products, Manila is filled with malls.

Cost of Living in the Philippines

A couple can live quite comfortably on $1,500 a month and luxuriously on $2,000 a month in Metro Manila. In some other cities in the country, an expat shared their experience at the General Expat Discussions last June 27, 2008:

With your $2,400 monthly income you will live like a king in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. You can rent a two-bedroom house in a middle class subdivision for $500.

Utilities will cost another $200 if you use air-conditioning. You can have excellent meals for about $300.  If, on the other hand, you have to be frugal, you can live simply in a small city like San Pablo in Laguna (a 2 ½  hour ride from Manila) for less than $1000 a month ($250 for rent, $200 for food, $100 for utilities, etc.).  The city is clean and cool because of its high elevation.  The people are friendly and laid back. San Pablo is famed for its chain of seven lakes and is a steppingstone to other tourist attractions in the Southern Tagalog area. The cost of living does change and is dependent on your location.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Cecilia April 7, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Foreign individuals may own condominium units, as long as the condominium corporation is not more than 40% foreign owned.


greg rogers April 9, 2010 at 2:49 pm

you can move here if you visitor visa with an american sponcer and we need officers here so i would sponcer your family when you get here you just change your visa to working visa i would be happy to do this for you me and my wife have done this before and we also have 2 children


Barry April 29, 2011 at 11:34 am

Hi Greg your post was a long time time ago. I have a long term relationship with a Philippina. Unfortunately she is separated but not divorced. I have been purchasing a house fopr her in Sorsogon. How could I stay in the Philippines as I am an australian citizen?


candy June 4, 2010 at 1:58 am

can an expat adopt a filipino kid?


george December 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm

hello, i intend to retire in philippines in 2 yrs, also i am getting married to a philipino, what i need to know is what i have to do, to start the ball rolling, also costs, visa's what visa to go out on, and how to change visa for retirement, and marriage, basicaly any information would be of great help, thank you,


Niko Suarez October 3, 2011 at 1:03 am

My name is Niko ..have my sweetie in Bacolod City ,there in Negros occidental. Id like to know really how much would cost me a small car and a small house.


richard June 2, 2014 at 3:57 am

maybe someone can answer this question …….should i get a return ticket or a oneway ticket…..i will retire in the philippines with a philippina lady that i married 8 years ago…….would i have any problems with the immigration coming in to manila……we will first reside in LIPA CITY than move on to LEGAZPI CITY in bicol and i will finish my days there ………thanks again………richard


mike cleary September 10, 2014 at 2:51 am

you will have no probs with your visa as your wife is pinay, so you get a 12 month chop when you enter the phills. I would advise you to get a return air ticket just in case you need to return to oz for any seriuse medical probs , as even the so called best medical attention in Makati is not up to ausy standards, also buy your return air tickets on a credit card so if needed you are covered by medical insurance for the life of you air ticket. B y the way Lipa City is a very quite restfull place, also Legaspi City is more of less a ghost town,, but has some good eating places etc, I guess it depends on what makes you happy,lol. I have lived and worked in the phills for the past 25 years ,so have a bit of experience there,
Good Luck to you and your lady,


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