[Ask Henry] – What Motivated You To Move To The Philippines?

visiting the piggy farm in bogo (1)Question:  “Hi Henry.  Just thought I would shoot you a quick line to let you know that I stumbled upon your website the other day and have been addicted to it ever since.  I still have a lot to catch up on within your website as it has only been about a week or so since I found your site.

I have a bit of an idea as to why you to went to PI…..but was there one specific thing that drove you to drop you life in CA and move to PI?  Was it because you were sick and tired of the rat race in the U.S.? Or did you simply just say to yourself that there must be more to life than the simple 9 to 5 type of living?

In closing I will tell you that I am a retired military guy and I am married to a Filipina (16 years & 2 kids) and so I know a bit about the lifestyle of the Filipino community…… but I must say that your website, articles, and videos have really affected me and I find myself asking the question…..”Is there something better out there”?  Just so you know…..you have really opened my eyes…… and I hope you continue to do what you do.  And continue to share with us your daily thoughts because it is simple outstanding and you are having a very positive impact on your readers (at least for me anyways).  Stay safe…..look forward to your response. — From Mike

Henry:  Hello Mike, thanks for the positive comments and glad to hear from you.

As I kinda covered in my section, “How It All Started”.. the original spark was bumping into a lovely Filipina in California while just going about my business running my PC repair biz in Temecula, CA.  Short story is we became good friends and she returned to the Philippines a month later (she was only there on vacation) but we kept in contact online.

But it wasn’t until about 2 years after that initial meet with her that I gave any serious thought to living anywhere outside the US.  Honestly, the idea never even crossed my mind my whole life.  I’d lived in SoCal all my life and figured Id’ stay there because I like the climate, familiar surroundings and all my family is there.  But as I began to reevaluate my life’s direction I took an honest, practical look at the idea of moving overseas.  I had already made a major change by leaving behind a very good paying job with a medical device company that I’d been doing tech work for the previous 21 years.  I felt stifled and knew I was “missing out” on life in general being in a lab 6 days a week. The pay was awesome, benefits were amazing.. but I wasn’t enjoying my life.  So in 2006 I resigned and started my own business to regain my freedom. Less money, but I was much happier.

Most people do some research on the Philippines and then decide to visit or move here.  I did it all backwards.  On July 4th, after spending the day at an Indian PowWow in Temecula, I went to the nearby casino and decided I would not leave my seat at the lounge until I had made a definitive answer as to whether or not I’d actually be willing to relocate overseas.  I spent over 3 hours there, sitting.. thinking, analyzing the repercussions with family, safety, distance, money, etc.  Finally I made my decision.. I was going to the Philippines to make it my new home.  Sight unseen.

Now, at that moment I had not even visited a single  Philippines travel-blog or anything.  I only had a few anecdotal stories from the Filipina I knew and she always discouraged me from relocating there.  Not strongly, but enough to imply that maybe it’s not the kind of life for just anybody.  I began checking out online blogs looking for ‘real’ information.  Info on how to survive here, what to be careful of, what to expect in terms of lifestyle, loss of comfort, social mores, etc.  Honestly, it was hard to find the real info I wanted.  Photos of pretty beaches, pretty girls and stories about relaxing all day.. those I could find everywhere.  But only after joining some well-monitored forums did I start getting the answers I was looking for.  Even then, I rarely found photos or video to help me envision what to ‘really’ expect apart from tourist locations or special events.

So, when I came here it was after a year of online networking with some expats, lots of reading and getting my ducks in a row before I left.  When I finally did touch down on Mactan.. I just knew I was here to stay, never having ever been here before.  Since then I’ve been striving to present both the positive and.. kinda gritty reality that is real life here in the Philippines.  Just like anywhere else, there is that ying and yang of pros and cons. From that, each person can then make an informed decision if the Philippines is the life for them or not.  Me.. I’m happier than I have ever been with my overall contentment in life being here.  It’s not the place.. it’s the attitude one brings with them.  I’ve seen some guys living here who seem like they hated their home country and hated the Philippines as much or more.  Basically, some people are just miserable no matter where they live because they only have eyes focused on the negatives.

I don’t look at life with rose-colored glasses, but I don’t focus on just the doom and gloom exclusively either.  I’m a realist.  “It is what it is.”  The better I understand what ‘it‘ is.. the better equipped I am to handle it, or even enjoy it to the fullest.

But getting back to your question as to what motivated me most, I’d say it was a burning desire for a simpler life.  I am a minimalist in my lifestyle by choice.  If I wanted to keep the material stuff I’d have stayed at the medical device company and traded my life’s waking hours for some darn good pay.  I’m not quite a Buddhist or even a full-on Nipa-hut shack with no electricity kind of guy either.  But simply, I don’t ‘need’ lots of material stuff to make me happy.  I’m all for luxury and enjoy nice things, don’t get me wrong.  I just Enjoying the beach life at Alona - Panglaodon’t need them on a daily basis.  I enjoy basic comforts.. electricity, internet, good food, nature, going to the movies, the company of beautiful or interesting women, some nightlife at the nightclubs every so often.  But the whole rat-race, Costco-cookie-cutter lifestyle of SoCal finally left me bored, wanting more.  I’d already been to enough of the same SoCal pleasure spots that I was tired of it.  Disneyland, San Diego, Los Angeles, the beaches (cold water, not warm like here), doing road trips to Mexico and Vegas.. I was tired of the same old, same old.

Here in the Philippines.. it will take me the rest of my life to explore these islands! There are interesting people, both locals and foreigners, that I meet all the time.  I’m discovering new foods, new places, new adventures.   Here in the PH, it is like my brain is ‘ON‘ again. New data, new stimuli for me to process and enjoy.  The lifestyle gives me lots of free time to write and explore.

So, I suppose to answer in summary.. the chief motivation (for me) in choosing to make the move here was that a simpler life could be obtained ‘Now‘.  Not ‘someday‘ after paying a 30 year mortgage or dealing with ongoing auto payments and ever growing taxation on my life from every angle.  Here, I don’t ‘need’ a vehicle.. it’s simply an option for me to consider. That means no car payments, no car insurance, no maintenance, etc.  Here, I wake up in the province surrounded by lush, green jungle and breathe the cleanest air nature can provide as it rolls in fresh from the ocean on an hourly basis.   No big cities, no smog (only in downtown several miles away) and no city noise.  At night.. it’s crickets, fireflies and the occasional salamanders on the wall to keep me company.  I love it here.  Is it all umbrella-drinks and sandy beaches?  No, especially in Manila or even the deepest parts of downtown Cebu.  But a person can choose any one of over 1,000 inhabited islands here to nestle in and find the simpler life they want.  So, what I try to do is present both the positive and not-so-positive aspects of my life here, and let each person decide for themselves.

I hope that’s of some help to you and wish you all the best in whatever your choice may be.  I am a single man so I can kinda ‘wing-it’ with many of my decisions here. Families need to be somewhat near the city, or at least a town, so the kids can go to school and such.  But on that note, here the schools are more “old-school” in a good connotation in regards to teaching respect and good academics in the private schools.  Which, by the way are about the same price most people in the States pay simply for day-care.  Cebu has some very good international schools and other private schools where it’s not uncommon for kids here to learn up to 3 or 4 languages by the time they are 15.   So, just something to consider.

Best wishes, 

Henry “Reekay” V.


Author: Reekay V.

Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat and spent 1999 living in Vietnam.

Share with me my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Hopefully you find my observations helpful in your own adventures.
— Reekay


  1. All good reasons to make a drastic move as you did Henry. I think everyone deserves to live their life to the fullest. I, myself, can hardly wait until my son and I can get there to the Phils. I already Know I am never leaving there to come back to America. And at 66 years old, I hope I will have at least another 20 years of embracing life there. I, like you, have never stepped foot on PI soil but I know it is right for me and my love for living there is deeply embedded in my mind and heart. Some advice for Mike, if you were a single person like Henry and myself, the decision would seem to be a lot easier. but since you have a wife and children, you have everyones interest in mind. your wife and children may not share your same enthusiasm to the move. I dont know what the ages of your kids are, but, keep in mind, the older the children the harder the adjustment for most. I am not saying it cant be done successfully. I am not here to bring negative thoughts to anyone but just some real “food for thought”.

    I believe how you approach this whole thought of moving to the Philippines to your family should be handled carefully. It might be a real “train wreck” if one day you just make the announcement “guess what family…….we are picking up roots and moving to the Philippines.” I think sharing your excitement with your family should be done carefully and with much thought. I dont know how your wife feels about it but I do know most expats say their wives were not crazy about the idea at first and then it took them longer to readjust to living again in the Philippines than it did the expat. If you and your family, have been back to the Phils to visit her family and the kids liked it there, then you have most of the battle whipped. If your kids are secure in themselves and possess a desire for adventure, then it will be easier. also, remember there are lots of good affordable colleges for your kids but they may decide to move back to U S or another country to make a living. But also, consider relocating to the PI before the kids become adults and start families of their own.

    It is very hard to not be there for those baby grandchildren. Henry is right about his insight on not being able to find out all the truths about living in the RP. I have researched deeply for 2 years and could not find answers to the many questions I had. Henry is really on the track for helping people to see things there through his eyes. He is showing us and teaching us and he is not just there trying to reel us in to buy a bunch of overpriced ebook information. There are many expats living in the Philippines with their Filipina wives and I am sure you can gain lots of information from many of them. Everyone’s situation is a little different than the next so you take all the little bits of information from a lot of people and put them all together to fit in your situation. To me Henry has one of the most reliable blogs and the most interesting videos of any I have viewed. You need to connect with some married expats and their families too. and it isn’t hard. There are plenty out there. Good article Henry and Good luck to you Mike as you seek out the information you are looking for to make your decision.

    1. Thanks, Donna, for giving some thoughts on the family aspect of it. There’s more to consider when with a wife and children but, as you mentioned, lots of other expats have moved their whole families here and made it their new home.

      Any of you married expats who have done this, any advice you could pass on to Mike here is greatly appreciated.

  2. I thought maybe I should weigh in on this subject as more perspectives are always better. I have been a union crane operator all my life. I have lived the rat race working lots of overtime and with the mortgage, the bills and food never was really able to get ahead. Every time my bank account started to get a nice balance going, it seemed something major would break. the engine in my truck, blew, a new refrigerator, so on and so on. After about twenty years of this I finally found a Mexican girl that thought like me, and soon we were married. She was a good wife (all my ideas were good ideas to her) But her teenage children from another marriage never accepted me and eventually were the reason for us to go our separate ways. But while married to her I had decided to move to the beach in Rosarito Mexico and stayed in Mexico for years even after our divorce. I still worked in San Diego working a crane, but I could afford a nice beach house and the life (when I was not working) was much more laid back.i dated many girls there, but none really were what I was looking for. So I decided to try an online chat from the Philippines just to see what it was all about. I never thought I could really find what I was looking for there, but tried it for something to pass the time (talking to pretty girls) and always thought only losers could ever fall in love on line. I talked to many girls, most would eventually ask for money so I would have to delete them. (Never send money to someone you have not met in person). But there was one who did not even have a picture that I had contacted and she always had a way to make me laugh. We talked for almost a year, (of course on a web cam by now so I new what she looked like) before I finally decided to come and visit her. Luckily she was exactly as she had said and we had a great time together for the month of my vacation. There were a few who tried to break us up, ( a couple even came to me to tell me she was already married with children) But we got through their lies and wanted to have a long distance relationship, which is never easy. After working two more years and visiting three more times it came time I could take my pension early and receive only half my worked for pension. We talked about the pros and cons of me staying there and working, or her coming to the states and we came to the conclusion we would be better off living on less but living a good life together here. my pension is not a lot, but it is plenty for my family here and I do not miss the stress of L A traffic or of my very stressful job. After living eight years in Mexico there was no culture shock for me as they are very similar as both are catholic nations. the cost of living is even cheaper than Mexico and the people here are more friendly than any where I have been. Sorry I know you did not want my whole life story but it hard to say in one easy sentence. But to sum things up I came here to be able to have the time to raise my family away demands of my job, for the easier life style, but mainly for my girl who is more than my lover, or my children"s mother as she is my beat friend.

    1. I understand Rusty…….you have an interesting story with a very happy ending. I am hoping Mikes children will realize the financial and emotional value of living on the islands. since my son and I have not a vehicle for over two years now, we tried riding a public transportation bus that would take us shopping once a week. the driver and the passengers bullied my son so bad about having online filipina gfs that we finally had to stop riding the bus. now we only have a way for shopping twice a month when my oldest son takes us. but it is worth it not be be harassed by people who have stupid opinions about how things really are. You have showed it does work.

    2. Rusty so close to my story…amazing…I did the same thing with early retirement but we live comfortable and we are happy…have 5 year old daughter who keeps me young…still eat mostly American food but gradually coming around to Filipino food…but by and large a good experience.

    3. It is a sad thing that people would pick on your son because he has an online filipina girl friend, as it really is none of their business what he chooses to do with his life, So many are wanting to hate each other just because you are the slightest bit different, now days even if you voted different than them. But tell your son to hang in there, and when he gets here the hatred all americans seem to have for everyone will fade away into a memory. And also I am thinking the guy who harrass your son might just be jealous, and he does not have the balls to do the same as your son. tell him to hold his head high and be proud to be with a Pinay because they really are the best girls in the world.

    4. I really had to think hard about retiring early, because if I had done 12 more years I would have received three times more money monthly. But my choices were to continue the rat race there and bring my family to the states (my wife did not want to leave the Philippines) or work and spend my vacations here. if I would have chose the later my boy would be nearly grown by the time i could retire. Then there was always my dad in the back of my mind who retired at 62 and died one year later. So i think i made the right choice as i am able to enjoy my life more than I have since I was a teenager racing motorcycles. And god willing if I live long enough my pension will double when I reach age for social security.

    5. actually i was bullied by the female driver and some old women.but the driver instigated most of it.after some negative comments one day i had finally had enough and told mom im not riding the bus anymore.when mom tried to defend me,the driver jumped all over her and made it seem as if SHE was the one with a problem.so that was the end of us ever going on the bus again.anyways,that's how people are now days..just hateful for no reason.really looking forward to leaving here and leaving all these rude,arrogant people to their own misery.i don't need it.

    6. Chiming in here Rusty. I have had a online relationship going on for 3 years now. He lives in Australia. After considering the high inflation, low wages here in the U.S. and the outlook for America's future gets worst every year, I am going to move to the Central Coast in NSW Australia. He lives 15 mins from the beach and 1 hour 30 mins north of Sydney. I love the laid back culture there and they actually promote training and hiring people over 50 in which here in the states they have made it that over 50 you should be put out to pasture for you are a burden in the workforce. I am happy you found your place in this world where you are happy. God bless you always…xxx

    7. well there you go Brady, that explains alot as these women are obviously jealous you could find happiness with someone that is not like them. if I were you i would ride the bus daily just to rub it in even if you do not need to go anywhere.

    8. Great story Rusty, thanks for sharing. I too have a great job in IT, but I also,to summarize want what you want in life. It’s great to hear people of like mind in this respect. Wish you and family the most happiness.

    1. I was under the impression there’d be monkeys.. my own monkey, more specifically. Not in the house or a cage.. just a monkey in the yard to keep me company. 357 days later.. still no monkey.

  3. You’re in the wrong island to see monkeys. They’re all over the jungles of Palawan, Mindoro, Samar, Mindanao, Luzon just to name a few. They’re not good pets because they learned from what they see from their owners. They will burn your house to the ground if you’re not careful with them.

  4. Rusty, thanks for your words of wisdom….sounds like we think alike….hopefully someday sooner rather than later we will be in PI enjoying what your enjoying now.

  5. How do you make a living in the Philippines? I noticed in your, "How It All Started." This was a big concern, but you never mentioned how you overcame this problem.

    1. Some people like the city. I like the city just for short 2 or 3 day visits, such as Cebu downtown. But for the most part, I personally prefer smaller towns, smaller islands because there’s less of the urban sprawl and crime to deal with. People tend to really know each other so it’s more community oriented. That’s been my experience so far, so I’m happy on a small island and living in the province.

  6. How do you handle the visa runnings ? Do you have a permanent resident ? I know Cebu and was several months also in Tacloban / Leyte. Because of learning and speaking Tagalog I deceided to move in a Tagalog speaking area. Most liked place for me was Davao and Talikud Island.(But not my language)
    I also like Samar very much, but they speak Waray or Cebuano.
    For me it´s of course learning Filipino and speak in their own language, also knowing about the culture, history and about politics and economics there.
    “If you speak to a man in any languagae, it may goes to his head, but if you speak to a person in his own language, it goes to his heart “. And this will help any foreigner very much in the Philippines.
    So it´s worth to take time one year and learn the language spoken in the place you want living.
    I am still looking for the right place to living. It should be in the province and 100% pinoy style.
    I don´t want western comfort anymore.
    I lived a time in Zambales near Subic. A simple nipa hut, no electric and water on a pump..that was right.
    And it was really very cheap.

  7. I am a Filipino-American who has been in the U.S. for 21 years. Last year I went to the Philippines for a 5 and a half month vacation. Took some videos to document my travel and started posting some of them in You Tube. Technically, these are not what you would describe as professionally done since this was my first attempt to do videos. But still, some people might find these helpful in giving them a glimpse of what they can expect to see and experience once they get to the Philippines.
    The You Tube videos can be seen under the title ‘The Philippine Travels of Lolo Butch – May/Oct. 2012″.
    I will still be adding more videos but some of these might be of little help to those who are not familiar with the language, specifically Tagalog.

  8. Hello Henry,
    I just saw you in your channel saying that you are in your way to Dumaguite. If you could please, visit my cousin there because I have not seen her since 2001. Her name is Mila this is her e-mail address [email protected]. Thank you for your time.

  9. Hi Henry,
    How are you? I just spook to my cousin, she told me that her email address has been change. She says that she will have new one coming soon. Anyway, I asked my sister if I can gave you her e-mail address, she says ok, By the way, my sister is 47 years old and like you she is single. She finish her Nursing school 2003 in Cebu. This is her email address d.babor@yahoo. com

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