Time in the Philippines; More or Less

Back in 2005 I was working my 20th year as a plastics engineering tech for a major company. I was getting good pay, fantastic benefits, huge five-figure bonuses and lots of vacation time. Life in the material sense was pretty darn good. Yet I was unhappy. While 20 years of doing any job can become uninteresting, it wasn’t even the job that bothered me. It was ‘Time’. All my time was spent insid a window-less lab working with machines and usually the same five or six fellow employees. Year after year I saw my life and the irreplaceable time just slipping away like the proverbial sand from the hour-glass, never to return.

It caused me much introspection. On the one hand, if I just ‘hung in there’ and didn’t lose my sanity for another 15 YEARS.. I could retire with a hefty pension and whatever my 401k was doing plus social security. But I’d be over 60 at that point and would have sacrificed my youth to the confines of the same, off-yellow colored walls day after day to the same humming and drone of the machines I worked with. I couldn’t do it. Something had to change and I was the one who had to change it. I decided, quietly and much like a prisoner planning an escape, that the only solution was to get myself back OUT THERE.. california sunsetoutdoors where there are colors and sounds in the arena known as ‘Life’. I wrote a 3-page resignation letter and fixed a date 6 months out to execute my last day at a job many people would have gladly wanted. The one reality of my priorities that kept resounding within me was a cry that said, over and over again, “I want my Time back!“.

What does this have to do with life in the Philippines? It all comes down to ‘Time’. Even after I left my secure job and went into business for myself as a PC Repair Tech.. Time was still an issue. I now had more of it, and it felt GREAT! My time was flexible. I met lots of fantastic new clients every week, many of whom have become very close friends to this day. Yet despite my best efforts at structured time-management.. it seemed I was still running just a bit short of time for the things that mattered to me most.

And then I moved to the Philippines.

Many, if not perhaps most, of the ex-pats who move here are already in their retirement bracket and living from their social security income. That’s many, but not all. On any given day I’ll see a young, 30-ish, American at the malls with his Filipina wife wearing sandals (not shoes) and looking like he’s been here for quite some time. But for the most part it’s an older, matured ex-pat I run into. In my own case, I’m currently 49 and so earning money online is something I need to think about every day. I have a small plentyoftimeamount I can count on from a rental back home, but earning more is still on the agenda if I want to really explore all the Philippines has to offer.

And yet, even in my own case, I suddenly have such an abundance of time. And not in a boring way, mind you. I never sit around bored. Tired, exhausted, maybe.. but never bored. And as I look about me at the many Filipinos going about their daily routine, earning a living, even they seem to have such an abundance of Time. It’s a very subtle thing to pick up on, but back in the States, even when relaxing with friends over the weekend it seems like we’re trying to pack in as much conversation and places as possible into our ‘relaxation’ time because there’s this urgency about the American culture that says, “Time is short and you need to live hard and you gotta play hard!“. That seems like such a distant, crazy concept to me from where I sit now.

I recently made some new friends and they invited me to their home last Sunday. We leisurely had a fantastic lunch. We karaoke’d. We raced RC boats on a small pond nearby. We cracked open coconuts and enjoyed some wine together. It was truly a relaxing enjoyment of an abundance of time. And Sunday is their only day off. Yet there was no rush. Their hospitality was ever so gracious. It was like we had all the time in the world.

Cebu-Airport

Does time slow down here in the Philippines? Einstein stated that Time was flexible, relative to speed and mass. Another theory is that Time is only a concept and does not exist at all, we are ever present in just one ‘moment’ and what we call the ‘past’ is only a memory of previous movements. Either way, all I know is that it isn’t just my own perception. Everyone here seems to live their life with the assurance that there is plenty of ‘Time’ to go around for everybody. There’s always time for family. There’s always time to meet a friend for lunch. Is it the humidity that makes for such a perception, perhaps? When I used to visit Corpus Christi, Texas (where the humidity is in the 80′s and the temp goes over 100*F).. life, for me, was just miserable. I wanted Time to end. I wanted nothing but relief from the heat.

But not so in the Philippines. I feel relaxed. I don’t feel rushed. And I don’t feel the guilty pangs of procrastination that I used to feel back in the States either. Three days ago I decided to return a power-down transformer to the Mall for an exchange. Three days later (today) I made the exchange. I didn’t want to go in the heat, so I waited for evening. But then I decided to cook at home and.. well, the exchange could wait another day. It might not wait too many days or they could refuse the return, but I knew I had some time to work with.

I’d love to hear from the other, long-term, ex-pats who have lived here what their perception has been. Is an abundance of Time one of the many perks to living here? Is it only perceptional or an actual reality? What do you have time for here that you didn’t back home? I think back to any given day back home and even if I didn’t have to ‘go somewhere’.. there was always a list demanding my attention that it be crammed into THAT day. But.. not so much here. And I could get used to that.

Henry ‘Reekay’
www.LifeBeyondTheSea.com

 


Author: Reekay

After 49 years living in Southern California, USA, I decided to move to the Philippines despite never having been here before. In July, 2012, I took a leap of faith and transplanted myself to the amazing Philippines. I am a single man taking an honest look at all that the islands here have to offer, one day at a time. I hope you find my LBTSea site informative, entertaining and hopefully a bit of each. 🙂 Be sure to visit the Forum and other parts of what the site has to offer. Browse around and be sure to sign up for updates via email. Enjoy!
— Reekay

18 comments

  1. It's definitely a change for the better. If nothing else, the idea that you don't have to be somewhere just because it's expected is what sets everything apart.

  2. I absolutely feel this luxury, and it’s what got me out of a job and working online in the first place. Loving the more frequent updates on your blog !!!!

  3. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry.
    You’re only here for a short visit.
    So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.
    – Walter Hagen, an American professional golfer, 1892-1968 –

  4. I feel you about waiting till you’re in your sixties in the states before you can try the life in the Philippines, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter. In fact, that was my biggest fear of living and working in America all those years and getting stuck, wondering whether or not I’ll live long enough to make it to retirement. And what then after I retire? Will l spend the remainder of my life in a retirement home, swinging a golf club (I don’t even like golf), and spending every afternoon with other retirees till bedtime? I’ll probably engage in the same routine everyday till the day I die. Not much to look forward to.

    This same reason is why I uprooted my family in the states and relocated ourselves to the Philippines with little or no savings. I became a merchant marine to earn a living and left my family in the Philippines periodically. My reasoning was, even I couldn’t be with them in the Philippines full-time, I’d at least have a reason to go back there and have my young family experience what it’s like to live outside of the United States. It was a sacrifice for me and my entire whole family to be separated, but I felt we all needed to break out of the “Rat Race” of living in America if we really want to find the meaning in this short life.

    There were a few regrets from making the move (like lost time with each other), but the idea of my children growing up in their parents’ ethnic culture and consider ourselves as expats and adventurers, were far more rewarding than staying at home in the states with all the creature comfort of the material world, which, at the end of the day, still left us feeling empty inside.

    1. Hi Henry, I am a newbie on your site and very much enjoy listening to your eloquet discussions of your Philippine expat experience. My wife who is pilipino and been married to for 25 wonderful years are planning an early retirement (semi retirement) to Valencia, Bukidnon on Mindanao sometime next year. We had the privilege to purchase her parents home at a bargain price and will have no expenses other than the usual living expenses.Like you, I have also been a tech all my life only in the medical device arena, then later on a telecommunications tech, then a PC service tech. Presently a Certified Apple service tech for a local school district I have also been doing full time computer service as my own side business for many years.; And yes sometimes working 80 hours a week in years past. But those times have long since kind of disappeared probably because of the changing technology.

      I am still toying with idea of setting up shop in the Philippines;Either as a apple service/pc repair shop or internet style cybercafe or both. I know already that cybercafes are everywhere and may not be the thing to do. A repair shop might be a more viable option and just start the shop at home and see where it goes. My wife is also very good friends with several owners of the local radio stations, and winning the contest last year for the Queen of Valencia city has made her become somewhat of a celebrity..

      My question to you do you think opening a computer service shop would be a good business there? I have already received some input from family and friends over there that it should be,but wont really know until we check it out after we move there. I figure with your background and you living there already would have better insight on this. I myself have only been to the Philippines 3 time over the years. The first time I was there for 6 weeks when I married her, the 2nd and 3rd time for shorter stays.

      I enjoy your site and keep up the good work.

      Scott. ..

      1. Sorry I’m lagging on responses, I just got my home internet active again 2 days ago. But I left you a more detailed reply in your 2nd comment. In my estimation, 2 adults (no children) is cheaper than living alone in some ways. While living alone is cheaper than having a family, of course. I know guys who have taken an earlier, lesser pension in order to have more years here in the PH. But that is a personal decision each person has to make for themselves.

        1. Of course not everyone in Philippines knows how to repair a PC but there’s a high possibility that a friend a of a friend knows and can do the repair as a favor or for a little amount of money.

  5. Henry Velez What you are experiencing is a place where nothing in nature ever seems to change…always always green. And then there is the food which in essence falls from the trees. It is almost always warm by North American standards and no urgency to put something away for the winter or any other time for that matter …in many minds which is disturbing to the western mind set. I have a couple of Brother in laws and a sister in law who for the most part sit around and do little or nothing, yet they get by…in part because we will not see children go hungry or without proper clothing etc and one can not help the kids without doing the same for the hangers on. Still the positive values of a slow moving society far outweigh the drawbacks. Time is very fluid and it seldom really matters if you get things done an hour late or a week late. Late is just another persons opinion…lol

  6. When I lived there it was definitely the pace of life that changed everything for me. Nothing is ever urgent. Most Americans could never get used to having to wait two or three days for a repair man to show up if something breaks. Later, after figuring out how much time one has there, I discovered it is better to just go down to one of the dozens of little hardware shops on every block and figure out how to do things myself, After all, I have TIME!

    One caution, though, if earning money online is funding your stay. I found that the paradisiacal life and having all that time made me lazy. I didn't keep up with the business as I should have and now I am in China working for a living. I miss PI so much!

  7. I did pretty much as you did packing up and moving there except I already had a Filipina wife and daughter. I lived there for almost two years and loved it. I've never slept so well. I woke up when I wanted and spent my day doing what I wanted to do. Life was always an adventure. My wife eventually drug me back to the states where I now drive 20 miles in traffic to a job I hate at 7 am until usually 5 pm. Every day I miss my life back in the Phils. I'll be 58 next month and definitely feel that most of my life has been spent "burnin daylight". We talk about making our way back when our daughter gets out of high school in 3 years but at my age it seems like an eternity. It's been refreshing to view your videos and read your stories. I hope one day to be back living in paradise.

  8. He tenido la suerte de viajar a lugares del mundo donde he visto la riqueza y la pobreza, lugares donde me he hospedado en hoteles de lujo y otros no. Pero si algo tuve muy claro siempre, es que mi vida diaria no me iba a permitir vivir de una forma lujosa ni de fantasías, que no iba a invertir mi vida en ser un millonario al final de mis días. Por esa razón e decidido jubilarme y emprender un camino similar como el tuyo Henry.
    No quiero abrir negocios, tiendas o restaurantes, simplemente quiero vivir cada minuto que me queda y saborear todas las emociones que he dejado por el camino, sonreír de nuevo como hace años que no hago, volver a sentirme como hace veinte años, porque el tiempo pasa, nos cambia, nos hace madurar y en ese cambio vamos dejando las emociones y la forma de sentir, perder la ilusión porque ya no vemos solución y son tantas las cosas que cambiaron que no ves otra salida, que seguir con la misma dinámica y rutina diaria, simplemente a la espera de sentarte en un balancín y pensar cada día, donde se fue nuestra vida?

  9. Hola de nuevo Henry! Podrías facilitarme información para alquilar una casita o apartamento por Cebú o Mactan? O facilitarme una web donde alquilas apartamentos o casas. Es una de las cosas que ya debo mirar.
    Gracias 🙂

  10. I have to say your story is amazing. I am 46yrs old and don't want to work into my 60's either. I am a Letter Carrier for the USPS and will be eligible for retirement in 10yrs (even that seems an eternity). My coworkers reassure me that time will pass quickly…lol. I want to start taking trips and explore the Philippines so I have an idea where to settle in at. My retirement plus my 401k will net me roughly $2,000 a month, and my military pension kicks in when I turn 59 ( add another $1,000). I am hoping that is enough for a simple life of beaches and relaxation. By doing what you do you have inspired many to give up those crazy jobs and enjoy life.

  11. I have spent plenty of time in the Philippines, years in fact, and agree with you that time seems to move rather slowly there. Not only that, but the Filipinos have different priorities on their time. Here in the U.S., we stress about not having enough time, and prioritize responsibilities over leisure and even quality time with family and friends. When we finally do get to spend time with those we enjoy, we fret of it not being enough, and somehow feel rushed to ‘take it all in.’ We even feel guilty of not maximizing the return on our time, sticking to rigid schedules to advance a career or build a nest egg big enough to live comfortably on before we die. While the U.S. offers us great opportunity, in terms of a living and security, it holds hostage our free-time.

    My story began years ago, and after spending a year and a half exploring the Philippines, and absolutely falling in love with the country’s landscape and people, I, like many young foreigners (I was just 29 at the time) ran out of cash and had to go home, cozying back up with corporate America, pledging my allegiance to productivity and endless hard work. That was nine months ago, and while I’ve built back up a reserve that would last me for a couple years in the Philippines again, I am also mindful of my 401k and retirement one day, not to mention providing for my two young kids (my wife is Filipina).

    However, the itch is getting stronger, and my time here belongs to my company and the safe, rigid and orderly American lifestyle. I’m ready for adventure, freedom from time constraints, and that laid-back island feel. Fortunately, my better half (Filipina wife) feels the same way. The question now is whether or not we’re brave enough to give up the U.S. security for the relaxed and abundance of time Philippines offers.

    Time will tell…

  12. You are top in my list as a favorite youtube go-to person for expats’ issues and an eloquent writer/blogger with a writing style that’s very accessible to everyone. Please continue your mission of helping and guiding those who want to live their lives in a more meaningful and deeply-gratifying way.

  13. In relation to giving up the western lifestyle for a more simple life in the Philippines could be more of a fantasy than reality,and before many of you get on your front foot to disagree with me I will give you my opinion why for what it’s worth.
    I am in the Philippines at the moment for 1 month arriving from Melbourne Australia.
    My reasons for my opinion is that the one major point that I have never heard anyone mention is INFLATION,in the western world once you are living the relaxed life in some tropical island in the Philippines.
    What will happen IF one day for whatever reason you decide/must return to the western world after a number of years laying on your hammock.
    The most important thing to do before you decide to move to the Philippines permanently is to have an asset back home that will keep up with inflation,this way you never get left behind in a financial sense.
    You don’t want to be living day to day for the rest of your life,you could live well into your 80’s and that’s a lot of time to just living day to day because your financial situation doesn’t allow you to anything more.
    As much as I love being here in the Philippines I am a realist and I know that I would never make the money I make back home which will allow me to enjoy my time here.
    My advice is to take advantage of being able to secure your future working in the western world where you can earn a good income.remember,most Filipinos/filipinas would kill to be in you position.
    This is only my opinion after traveling the world for many years,
    Good luck to all you travellers and god bless you all.

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