[Ask Henry] – What’s The ‘Down’ Side of Paradise?

tropical eveningQuestion: Hey Henry, I enjoy reading your articles and the experiences you are having there. Now you may or may not remember me but I’ve said that I have a Filipino wife and am experienced of life in Iloilo, I’ll be there permanently from July.  You paint a very Cinderella story of life in the Philippines and I read very few negative views from you, I do read other blogs and also can add my own experiences. So my question would be to you is what is the most negative thing you have discovered since your move? So be honest! Personally I could give a long list of things, but I would like to read your views.” — From Rob C.

Henry:  Hi there, Rob.. and yes, I do remember you and I see your updates on my Facebook page as well.  Good to hear from you.  I’d have to say that several of my articles and photos try to specifically point out what I often call the ‘gritty’ side of life here.  A few articles that come to mind are ‘Who Do You Trust?’ where I discuss the many different scams that go on here, ‘Hard Lessons Learned My First 6 Months’, ‘Murphys Law of Time in the Philippines’ where I detailed the massive inconvenience I experienced trying to convert my driver’s license here, ‘The Cybercrime Law, HIV/AIDS & Sex in the Philippines’,  as well as an honest look in photos away from the beach areas in my photo collection, ‘City At Night’ and the photos of daily, Philippine life at the local Marketplace in Lapu-Lapu.

Back in July of 2011, when I first began searching online and checking out all the popular blogs about life in the Philippines, I had less interest in photos of nice beaches and was more keenly looking for what sort of things I’d need to prepare for.  I had never been to the Philippines before and was coming as a permanent move, so finding the ‘down’ side was more my objective.  Frankly, most sites I came across gave more of the ‘Cinderella’ (or what I call the ‘Travel Brochure‘) image of life here.  For this reason I share what I experience and show all parts of the city, not just the pretty beaches and big malls.  I cover those too, since that’s also part of life here.. but as you know from living here there’s a wide contrast of living conditions with the only exception being the absence of a middle-class.

But, getting back to your question as to, “What is the most negative thing you’ve discovered since your move?”  I’ll get to that in just a second.  What I’d like to share first is that I sincerely believe, down to my core, that any two people can be placed in the same exact neighborhood and their perceptions of what they consider ‘negative’ can vary quite a bit.  Some people are just Negative, even toxic people and to them every day is full of troubles, inconveniences and stormy, dark clouds.  Other people, on the other hand, have a more positive outlook on life and can find contentment in even the strangest of places.

Me, as I’ve said before here.. I’m something of a minimalist.  Not quite a Buddhist, but close.  I don’t mind luxuries like the mall, a good meal, hot water or even fine dining in a black-tie event (which I used to do once a year for years).  But for years now I simply just don’t need those things to be happy.  While I was living in Basak, Lapu-Lapu, one of my favorite things to do and some of my absolute BEST memories are of going two blocks down the street into a shanty-town area where one of the households had a karaoke machine.  This was not in a nice mall, it wasn’t even along the main road.  It was in theCity At Night (55) midst of ‘homes’ that were self-built from scraps of wood that most of us built as a clubhouse when we were kids.  This was about as low down on the social ladder as you get here apart from being completely homeless wandering the street.  But these people took turns singing with me, laughed, cracked jokes, shared food and I had a blast every time.

To someone else, they might look at that shanty-area as a threatening eye-sore, urban-blight that needed to be bulldozed down for the sake of fostering  a better ‘paradise’ experience for the foreigners.  But to me.. I made some good friends there and I still keep in touch with a few even after moving to Bohol via Facebook.

So.. what have I personally found to be the most negative?  I’d say the first thing that comes to mind is the poverty.  I don’t think a person with a conscience can ever really wrap their mind around it no matter how long they live here.  I mean, after a while you understand it a little better.  You judiciously help some people knowing you can’t help them all.  But at the end of the day you are well aware that the statement, “The poor shall always be with you” is one that still stands true even now.  For those who can’t handle it, they just block it out and see the poor as needy and an inconvenience.  Me, I don’t like to see people suffer but that’s a daily part of life here for many.

Now, not everyone who is ‘poor’ by American standards is necessarily suffering.  Geez, I see more happy families and marriages here than I saw on a daily basis back in the so-called land of milk and honey, the U.S.  If Filipinos have proven anything it is that people can be happy and live a content, joyful life even when they don’t have excess money.  Not all of them, statistically you still have some who are miserable just like anywhere else.  But I’d Marketplace-01 (94)say I’ve seen more people singing and thankful for each day here than the bored malaise I see in the faces of ungrateful people in their teens and even into their 30’s back home in the U.S.

I’ll go a step further and add in another ‘negative’ since we’re on the subject.  But it’s a negative I already knew about and accepted before I even boarded a flight here;  Lack of Infrastructure.  That’s nothing new to anyone here who has spent time trying to get something done either legally or with immigration.  But I consider it a lesser negative because it only affects me once in a great while and I can usually get mentally prepared for it before dealing with the LTO, Immigration or filing a police complaint.

Likewise, the bugs.. I’d love the Philippines even more without the mosquitoes and cockroaches but.. not gonna happen anytime soon so the best thing to do is simply adapt, keep Baygon around the house and find bliss in all the other good things that I love about living here.  Currently my ISP is upgrading their network so, for the time being the excruciatingly slow internet speeds that hearken almost back to my dial-up days have been driving me nuts.  But.. this too shall pass.  Hopefully soon.

Just this morning I wrote to a friend in Hawaii, “I love living here in the Philippines.. but it’s not for everybody.”  That about sums it up to me.  If a person is already of a negative mindset then just about everything from the weather to the clerks at the mall is going to drive them nuts here.  But for a positive-minded person.. paradise can be had on a daily basis here.

Henry “Reekay” V.

Boost Your Tech Skills Fast!

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. Well said and thanks for the quick answer, I'm definitely with you on the infrastructure, where I live in the uk a 100km drive can be done in 1hour, on a previous occasion in Iloilo a 100km drive took me the best part of a day. But the positive to look at was that I had nothing else to do that day so just chill and go with it. On the subject of poverty I've accepted there is much poverty in the Philippines and as one person I can't change this, so I've learned to accept a more open personality and not try to ignore it or the causes. I think no matter where you live, USA, UK or Philippines the glass will never be 100% full.

  2. One of the best facets of life in the Philippines is being married to a Filipina. I can let her deal with the day to day difficulties while I enjoy the paradise side of things. Life can definitely be more enjoyable that way. 😉

    1. I hear what you’re saying. I suppose I’ll consider getting married someday. For now, Delia’s gone the extra 10 miles smoothing the path ahead of me at critical points. It sure makes a big difference to have someone on your side.

  3. Good day Henry and as usual another good article. Thanks for these and keep them coming. It boosts my spirits for the next 3 months till I move to be with my gf. As I have said in the past I have been to the Philippines a number of times in the last 6 years.When I first went I used to get upset about things as I thought they should be not as how they were. My gf has trained me not to react but to understand thats the way it has been and is in Phil. Now I just let her do the negotiating and with her charm and good looks we seem to get to the head of the line a little faster. When I land and we make our way to Cebu or Bohol I will contact you. Would love to visit Bohol and see the beautiful beaches.
    Again, a well thought out article and I too love those out of the way neighbourhood as my gf calls them videoke bars.
    Take care and keep the Baygon handy.
    Mark from Vancouver

    1. Be sure to email me via the ‘Ask Henry’ page when you’re close to getting here and we can meet up. I can give you my cell number then and we can chat over a beer or some food. 🙂

  4. Hi Henry. I'm in Manila right now and i will be here for 10 more days. The thing that is most negative for me about Phil is the heat. It's almost unbearable. But just like everyone else I've learned to adjust. I go out early in the morning or late in the evening to escape the intense heat. My fiancé does the same thing. Peace

    1. Yah, depending on where a person is from the heat alone can be a deal-breaker for some people. Me, I can’t take the cold so you won’t find me in Alaska or Europe, although an Italian summer in Florence is on my bucket-list. Me, I was born in Texas and spent my life in the SoCal desert areas where the dry heat got up to 105*F at times. In Palm Springs where I worked a while, up to 113*F.. it was like an oven. So by comparison.. yah, the muggy 82*F heat and humidity here can be sweltering.. I take 2-4 showers a day just to cool down and as you said, stay inside during the midday and.. I do love the evenings here! Warm nights.. it’s like a dream come true for me. 🙂

    2. Yah, depending on where a person is from the heat alone can be a deal-breaker for some people. Me, I can’t take the cold so you won’t find me in Alaska or Europe, although an Italian summer in Florence is on my bucket-list. Me, I was born in Texas and spent my life in the SoCal desert areas where the dry heat got up to 105*F at times. In Palm Springs where I worked a while, up to 113*F.. it was like an oven. So by comparison.. yah, the muggy 82*F heat and humidity here can be sweltering.. I take 2-4 showers a day just to cool down and as you said, stay inside during the midday and.. I do love the evenings here! Warm nights.. it’s like a dream come true for me.

  5. as usual, Henry, I so much enjoyed your article. actually, it brought tears to my eyes as some days it feels so hopeless I will ever get to the Philippines to relax and take in all that is new. I read a lot of articles from expats and many comments are just too negative for me. I dont want to catch that “bug” so your upbeat but realistic article was good medicine for my saddened heart. I want my life there to be Paradise and I will make it as such and I always thought my favorite place there would be “not on easy street” cause I look at those survivors as my idols. I want to be among them sometimes and feel their strength and fortitude. something people here in america are losing. I think anyone can learn a lot of valuable lifes lessons if we can keep and open mind and heart. I dont judge people by where they live, the car they drive or the things the possess. I judge them by their character and their heart. thanks again, Henry, for bringing some brightness to my life through your words.

    1. You’re an admirable woman. I remember in high school I used to read about the Great Depression and hear stories from my Gramma about how they had to just be creative and find ways to ‘do without’ and survive week-by-week, sometimes day-by-day. When I would hear those things I used to think to myself, “I don’t think my generation could handle that sort of thing.” I’m likewise amazed at how full of hope the people I’ve met here can be. It’s entirely illogical to my analytical mind, yet they do it.. they are happy despite the relentless struggles. My friend, Kristine, is my closest new friend here and through her I’ve met her family and neighbors and friends who live this life.. yet with a hope and joy that utterly astounds me. I wish you quick and safe travels here!

  6. Hi Henry, I have watched most of your videos in youtube for your journey in the philippines. I hope you can post more of your videos on youtube. My name is Alain and my native home town is Cebu City. But currently living and working in Singapore.

  7. I like your simplistic Buddhist like attitude regarding living in Php. I have also come to the understanding that life in excess carries few rewards, and that by learning to live in the present we add a fuller, more meaningful and enjoyable experience to our daily lives. When my Filipina wife and I retire to Bohol, it will be in a simple nipa/cinder block house with a big garden, some chickens…a native "banka" for fishing and all the time necessary to go about life in an unhurried manner…siestas and a good book every afternoon! Ahhh Nirvrana! 😉

    1. Now.. that’s the way to do it! 🙂 The only thing I’d be sure to add is a hammock. ha! I just love my hammock, especially on lazy afternoons just before dinner time. Fireflies come out in the evening, it’s wonderful. I’m glad you see the benefit in “wanting what you have” versus “having to have everything”. It takes so much stress off of life, it just does. Looking forward to you expanding your bliss out here so we can tip a few cold ones.

  8. Being of the “prepper” mindset, I can see the potential for the PH as a home base. #1 water, #2 food (raising your own veggies and livestock), #3 protection/defense (firearms) and at the same time have a decent life while awaiting for normalcy to arrive. What think you?

    1. You cannot own a registered licensed firearm here unless you are Filipino citizen. Penalty for a foreigner caught in possession of a firearm varies but you are looking a several years in prison at least and spending a lot of money for legal fees for your defense.

  9. Hi Henry,

    Thank you for sharing your stories and experiences with us here on your website and on You Tube. I discovered your You Tube channel a few weeks ago. Great job!

    I have a question for you, but I’m not sure if this message will be automatically posted on your website. I prefer not to have this my situation published. Please contact me at my email address so I can ask my question.


      1. Hi Henry,I can really relate to what you’re saying.I have been to the Philippines 4 times now.And there is something about that place and the people which is hard to describe.The Philippines can be beautiful and sad at the same time.There is something special about the people there and the way they have treated me.I think I am one of those people that does not expect all the conveniences and comforts of a plush home to be happy.Maybe because I spent a lot of my youth camping outside.
        Something I found a little funny while I was there.I had a US $50.00 bill that had a rip in one corner.So I tried to exchange it at the money exchange,but the girl would not accept it.I then asked for some tape so I could repair the bill,she gave me some tape and I fixed it,but she still would not take the bill.I tried to explain to her that in America,,so long as both serial numbers are on the bill,,it is a good bill.She then said “You are not in America” hahaha,,I smiled and said “you’re right! thanks anyway” So I then made it my mission to find someone who would accept that bill.But no luck.I finally unloaded that bill when I got back to America at the airport parking lot ,to pay my parking fee.That was the first place I tried with success.My point is like you said,you can be negative or just go with the flow,and not the little things bother you.So if some of your readers go there,don’t expect some of the same things that you get from your home country.Some of the rules there are a little picky,and some are very un-picky.One rule is,,No more then 5 people in a taxi.But at the same time,,I have seen 4 people and a goat riding on a motorcycle.Wish I took a picture of that.I am sure I will get another chance.It is very common to see that there.
        Another thing I get a kick out of is the way the ladies that work at stores say “Thank you sirrrrrr” They are so cute the way they say that..Did you ever notice that?
        Ok Henry,,I’m done! Take care,,

  10. Hi Henry,
    I enjoy your articles, videos and pictures. Even though most of have been there and may be living there now, it seems that your outlook is more analytical and realistic that puts everything in perspective. keep up the good work. my Filipina wife, and kids are coming there soon (in a few months). I like to meet up with you and keep in contact.

Comments are closed.