RT Cunningham

Why did I Choose to Live in the Philippines? Was it the Right Choice?

sunset Philippines Why would any American choose to live in the Philippines? For the average American, it probably wouldn’t make any sense. For an American married to a Filipino, however, it may make perfect sense. Of course, it wouldn’t be a good idea in every circumstance. For a retiree like me, it was a great idea.

Living in the Philippines requires more than just the ability to move and live here. Financial security is an absolute requirement. Things like welfare and food stamps don’t exist in the Philippines. If they did, I doubt foreigners would qualify for them. Even if you are financially secure, you need an escape plan if things don’t go the way they should.

Why do I Live in the Philippines?

One of the most annoying questions I’ve been asked by my friends and relatives living in the United States is “Why are you living in the Philippines?” It’s usually asked like I’m being accused of something. It’s usually followed by a dozen other questions designed to make me feel like a traitor. My answer is usually something like “because I can”.

Since I’m married to a Filipino woman (“Filipina”), the reason I want to live in the Philippines shouldn’t even be questioned. It’s incredibly arrogant to think all Filipinos married to Americans want to live in the United States. It’s also incredibly arrogant to assume they’re better off living there.

For me and my wife (Josie), living in the Philippines makes a lot more sense than living in the United States. Both of our children are grown and able to lead their own lives. The two of us can’t live in the United States without one of us working full-time or both of us working part-time. We can live comfortably in the Philippines without working at all.

We own our home in the Philippines (no payments) and the property tax is only around $150 USD per year. We’re making payments on a car (for three more years) that we only need to use a few times a month. I get a monthly pension from the United States government. In 2023, both of us will be eligible for social security benefits from the United States government.

Our Escape Plan

We’ve already lived in the Philippines for eleven years and we haven’t experienced severe financial problems yet. My pension is more than enough for us to live comfortably since we own our home. The car isn’t even an issue because there’s plenty of transportation options that are cheaper than owning a car. Renting a home is cheap enough that owning a home isn’t really an issue either. I doubt we could afford paying rent while buying a car.

We couldn’t afford to live in the United States on my pension alone (unless we owned a home without any remaining mortgage payments). It would be difficult when drawing social security benefits, but it would be possible.

The only reason we would be forced to leave the Philippines would be due to some sort of civil conflict or war. As each year passes, it becomes less and less likely that something like that could even happen. It could happen, however, and we’re taking steps for when it does.

There are factions always fighting on the island of Mindanao. It doesn’t affect the people like us living on the island of Luzon. At least, not yet.

Was it the Right Choice?

It was the right choice in 2006, when we moved here. It would probably be the right choice today. There are some things I should have done differently upon arrival, but that’s water under the bridge now.

I probably wouldn’t change a thing even if I could, despite some of the things I’ve experienced here. I get depressed and I get frustrated. And then I get over it. Josie goes through the same things I do and it takes her longer to get over it.

Things happen. It may not be the right choice someday and I hope that day is far away.

Originally published in August of 2013. Updated for multiple reasons.


RT Cunningham
September 5, 2017