Paradise Found (Part 3 of 3)

[Calif., USA – April 16th, 2012]   Click for ‘Part 1’ or ‘Part 2’..


So.. what, or where exactly is Paradise?  Well, I see it this way.  “You can take the boy outta the country but you can’t take the country outta the boy.”  Same goes for unhappy and happy people.  Despite the poverty, critters, hard life and lack of amenities.. Filipino people AMAZE me at how upbeat and happy they can be.

I mean, they are truly some of the nicest people as a nation you will ever meet.  And not just because you’re “the rich American”.. even among themselves they have strong moral values for family and friendship.  Sure, there’s always a few bad eggs in the bunch.. but no different anywhere else.  Yet overall.. despite the circumstances, many Filipinos find happiness there and are proud of their country.

Likewise, you can take an unhappy, ungrateful, critical person and put him or her in the midst of any form of ‘paradise’ and it won’t be long before they are COMPLAINING.  They compare everything to, “Back in the US..”.  Well, if the US is their paradise, then that’s where they belong.  But I don’t want them mucking up my bliss with their belly-aching.

Now, despite all my research.. and I’ve only shared the tip of the iceberg with you here about the rough edges of ‘paradise’… I know that it will take on a WHOLE new dimension of weirdness when I step off the plane in July.  I can’t change the Philippines into what I know from ‘back home’.  I can’t change their culture, total waste of time.  The critters and weather will be unrelenting.  So how do I plan to survive paradise?

Well, going on past experience in other areas of life, I’ve learned there are TWO things a person must do to survive a drastic change in environment:

“Adapt & Blend”  I will have to let out a deep breath and prepare to empty myself of expectations.  I will have to be ready to adapt, change my mind and my perceptions and my habits to what the environment IS.  Resisting adaptation will only frustrate me into insanity.  (Or turn me into one of those aforementioned cranky & complaining ex-pats.)  I must be willing to change to better suit my surroundings.

I will also have to “blend in”.  Now, not even after 20 years there will I ever pass for a Filipino, not even after learning the language.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about becoming ‘part of’ my surroundings rather than remaining ‘foreign’ to it.  Again, non-resistance.  I am not some champion of “how things are done right” there to save the day.  I am there to learn their way of life.  That means being thankful for the good, rather than spouting off how nothing meets my standards.

They say things move slower in the Philippines.  People take their time so, forget about being in a hurry, nobody’s going to ‘rush’ anything just for your sake.  When I left behind a well paying job with massive benefits and $30,000 bonus checks people asked me, “Why would you leave?!  You’ve been here 21 years at the Company.”  My response to them was, “I want my time back.”  Having my own service business gave me a LOT of my time back.  Time and freedom to pursue my interests and hobbies on my own schedule, not what little the ‘company’ allowed me to have perhaps one day a week.

And for the last 5 years it’s been great to have a big chunk of my time back.  Now, it would seem destiny is offering me a chance to take it to the next level. What is ‘paradise’ for me?  Getting even MORE of my time back.  Practically multiplying it to get back what I lost before.  Less time working because I can provide for my needs much more cheaply.  More time to pursue my writing and photography, not to mention the beauty of some amazing islands in the tropics.  

Paradise is where you make it and what you make of where you are.  A change in locale alone won’t do it.  And, if I’ve conveyed anything in these details, I hope it convinces you that the Philippines version of “Paradise” is NOT for everyone.. not by a long shot.  Online I already have conversed with some cranky, old, retired, ungrateful Americans who moved to the islands and have been bitching since they got there.  All they accomplished was dragging their own personal hell to a more humid climate.  

So, in order to find your own ‘paradise’.. seek your bliss, your joy, your happiness first in your spirit and your values.  Ask yourself what is important to you, and what you’d have to change to make it happen.  Are you going to put it off for another ten years?  You only live once, you know.  (Unless you’re Hindu, but that’s something else entirely.)  But seriously, paradise is not a place.  It is knowing what your priorities are and then being in the center of where those priorities can flourish.  For you, it might be starting your own business, getting a degree, raising children, competing in martial arts, doing missionary work, helping at your church, restoring classic cars or any number of things that life has to offer.  

Define what is important to you and then, it’s my belief that finding Paradise will come much easier.

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. You have gained a large amount of information from doing your research. I spent a year doing the same thing yet nothing I read prepared me for what I saw. You heard of the expression your not in Kansas anymore? Well you better believe it.

    I have spent 6 years here, my first 6 months were hell but you get used to it.
    At the end of the day you learn to love it here.

    Rule 1- Don’t drink the tap water ( include ice ).
    I did that by accident a few days ago and I paid dearly for it.

    Rule 2 – Have a Plan B, always have a Plan B.

    Rule 3 – learn to live like a Philippino quickly.
    The quicker you forget your Kano ways the happier you will be.

    Rule 4 – Money, protect it and spend it wisely.
    Or you will be back in Kansas quick smart.

    Rule 5 – Location, Location, Location.
    Your choice of abode will determine how happy you will be, you can bet on this.

    Rule 6 – Choose your woman wisely and your “friends”.
    This is self explanatory. Similar to “buyer beware”.

    Rule 7 – Theft, Don’t Flash The Cash.
    If you think you won’t be pick pocketed, then think again. Also be aware of people with cell phones near ATMs. Gaisano have cashier “checkers” for a reason.

    Rule 8 – Food be selective and adopt healthy eating habits.
    The locals love their food but eating it will ensure your lifespan will be as long as theirs.

    Rule 9 – Buy the best Aircon you can afford.
    With charcoalers and dirty kitchens and rubbish being burnt as first choice of removal, a great Aircon wiill be your best friend. Also will be a break from the heat.

    Rule 10- When You Talk Keep Your Ears Open.
    But don’t talk too loud, you never know whose listening.

    Barking chained dogs (24/7), Rabid dogs, roosters, fire ants, mosquitos, flies, cockroaches, rats the size of cats, snakes, cats.
    All these problems can be eradicated with the appropriate medicines, just don’t tell anyone. Pollution, water, air it’s part of the life here, like friggin sand, it’s everywhere just deal with it.

    Beggars, give them a bag and tell them to fill it with rubbish, then pay them as much as you want.

    Travel. Do it often and you get to discover the gems the Philippines hides.

    It’s More Fun In The Philippines.

    1. Thank you for the detailed, and very helpful, insights from your experiences there. That was very kind of you. If you would, could you elaborate on the reason to be suspicious of cell phone users near the ATM’s? Are they hacking the signal to get into your account, videoing the password or ?? Of all the things there, I think it will be the critters/pests and knowing I cannot fully trust even the people who are ‘nice’ to me. I’ve known my g/f for two years and she’s proven she is the only person I can trust in Cebu. I’ve spent time in Mexico, don’t plan on carrying much cash at any given time and I’m usually trying to piece together a ‘Plan B’ as I walk down the street. Thanks again and hope to get more feedback from you in future articles!

  2. I am sure you will enjoy yourself immensely in the Philippines Henry. Life in the big cities like Manila, Cebu and Davao are more modern and the infrastructure is in place. On the flip side they are more expensive to live in. The Provinces are what you would call “basic living” or just the “simple life”. Ie you want to buy an iPhone? Most people would not have even heard of it. Water and power are more of a privilege rather than a right. The plus side is that it is cheap to live in the province.
    In terms of safety, I feel safer in the Philippines than in Australia. Having said that, taking precautions where ever you go will pay dividends.
    Regarding Rule 7, yes I have been picked 3 times with the knowledge that something was not right on each occasion, but they were so skillful it was embarrassing.
    ATMs, guys act like cockatoos and use the cell phone to inform other accomplices on a motor bike that a large amount of money has been withdrawn. The helmetted biker may either shoot you point blank in the head or just snatch the bag fom you. I have seen it happen on two occasions, it is a very real possibility. It is NOT common but when you witness it, it is chilling. I get all my money through western union from a busy mall rather than a bank.
    Everyone has different experiences when they come here, it is the little things that can be annoying for me. Overall the people here are magic – most of them.

    1. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the ‘raw’ non-tourist, poverty areas of Mexico.. so in one sense I kind of know what you mean. In Mexico I’m VERY careful to never be seen with my money and dress fairly casual. Aside from some pesos in my pocket for the day, I plan to use debit card occasionally. My basic rule is; “Desperate people will do desperate things.”

  3. Well researched and written article about life in the Philippines. Welcome to the Philippines and enjoy life to the fullest..Bob Martin is a lucky guy to recruit you as a writer for his magazine.

  4. damn, u all make it sound so scary living there. Makes me want to change my mind about moving there in a year or two
    Boss, where u located coz that is not where i want to live.

    Henry, this Mactan place u moved to….I see u love it. Question: Can u ever just walk around and be left alone? U have told a couple of stories where people want to “help U for pay” without u asking for help. U ever feel threatened ?

    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of weeks (prob read everything so far). I have sooo many questions. Looks like you and Boss tell it like it is

    I know your current situation is dealing with people repeatedly asking for money. That is going to be my biggest problem coz it is hard for me to say NO.

    U say u will use delbit card instead of carrying cash. Do most every businesses accept it? What about credit cards?

    I really enjoy reading your blog / stories here and at LIP. U have balls to make the move to the Philippines the way U did it. I will visit b4 I decide. Keep up the blog, video’s pictures and life stories. Thank you for always keeping it real


    Kevin K

    1. Hi Kevin.. I”m not sure what area Boss lives in, he’ll have to inform you on that. All I know is the smaller cities and province areas are more relaxed and safe than the ‘big cities’ such as downtown Cebu, Manila and Angeles City. You can get lots of photos here on my site of the downtown area of Lapu Lapu Marketplace, just use the links at the top-right of this page.

      Now that I’ve been here two months I’ll tell you what it’s like here on Mactan Isle. Yes, you can walk around, even late at night and people leave you alone. Even in the daytime I’ve not once been hit up by a beggar, ever. Most people here just work their jobs. In fact, I’m writing this at 3:30am and I just got home half an hour ago.. was walking the streets at 3am, I’m a night-creature sort of person. No problems and still food to be found out on the street.

      As for bugs, that Baygon stuff they sell here really does the trick. Get the Orange Oil version, smells good and kills everything even days after spraying. Do it once a week along floorboard and you’ll be fine.

      As for people wanting you to pay for their stuff, that mainly happens either at the bars or discos when suddenly a bunch of strangers want to be ‘your friend’. Pretty soon they’re ordering drinks on your tab. So, you just gotta fade off when people try to pull that scam. Otherwise, people pretty much leave me alone.

      Privacy.. forgettaboutit. Here on Mactan I’m surprised how many people keep track of me, people I barely know like the waitress at a restaurant. They comment, “Oh.. I saw you with a woman yesterday at 3pm, she your wife?”. The barber, “I see you pass by all week, where you live exactly? Nearby here? Where?” Everybody is into everybody’s business and everybody knows everybody. I saw a hot looking girl while walking down the street.. A few hours later I’m having some chicken skewers and that same girl stops by.. turns out she’s the niece of the woman cooking my food. I’m telling you, everybody knows everybody here and they’ll even text each other about what they see. Texting ‘gossip’ is like the national sport here.

      I’ve found it actually easier to carry Pesos in cash rather than my debit card. But that’s me, since I eat off the street alot and they only take cash. At the malls is where I use the ATM’s.. never in an isolated place, always at public malls with security nearby. I also never carry more than 3,000 Pesos (max) on me and that’s only when out drinking. (equal to about $75) You will want to get a BDO or other local bank account here right away. Using your Stateside credit card you’ll get hit with all kinds of international fees. Better to use a local Banco de Oro debit card instead of credit card. Forget about traveler’s checks.. good luck cashing them anywhere.

      Also, use to transfer money from U.S. to Philippines. Most transfers only take about 1 hour. If you write a personal check to your account here, expect to wait 2 weeks for it to clear. Better to use Xoom.

      Mactan is small, kinda gritty but there are nicer places as well. More expensive, but nicer. Be sure to have someone here show you the Province areas.. it’s just beautiful to be surrounded by jungle everywhere.. and everything is dirt cheap as well. 🙂

      1. thanks for the reply, Henry

        I will be following your blog and try to determine if the Phils is where i want to retire to in a year or 2. I am early 50’s and SINGLE so I can go anywhere i choose lol Like you, my kids are grown 🙂


        1. In that case, you can easily find a nice, small town near a big city to enjoy the beaches (and ladies) with no problem. It just takes getting here, settling somewhere temporary and then exploring around. Every island has a little bit of city, towns and province so it’s easy to visit a little of each.

  5. Kevin, i have lived in Manila, Cebu and now Mindanao. Everyone who visits here are subject to their own unique experiences. Mostly and touch wood, to date most of my time here is problem free. Its like living in any new environment, firstly check things out and keep your eyes open and mouth closed. Get a feel for things and explore the areas. Just use your head and you’ll will be fine. Oh yeah, if your intolerant to the alternative Christisn religion, don’t come to Mindanao.

  6. OK Boss, guve up. What is “The Alternative Christian Religion?” The Philippines is 80% Roman Catholic, 10% Pagan, 5% Muslim, and 5% Christian. I went to a Baptist church yesterday and heard the same sermon I have heard many times back in the States. Here in Mindanao 20% of the population is Muslim. They are nice folks but like everyplace else there are a few bad ones. The NPA is more of a problem then the Muslims.

  7. Another great article Henry. You are right that paradise follows you wherever you go but it seems easier to enjoy it more in some physical places than others. I guess a select few would feel living in a 640 sq foot home on a $100 a month rented lot in rural South Central Missouri without a car or much contact with other people would be paradise. And I am not complaining, but I feel there is a better paradise to spend my retirement years in. A place where I can interact with people and see and learn new things. I am stalemated here and I am still too young at heart to just sit here and finish out my life surrounded with the comforts of familiarity. And I have spent much of my life here facing fear that I had just reason to feel. When I pack my bags to come to the Phils I want to leave my fear behind. I want to live my life there in emotional comfort and security. Money is not important to me as long as my physical needs are met. and I dont ask for much. leaving your insecurities, fear and stress behind will get you off to a good start in enjoying Paradise in your new location. One might just say, “well why not just dump those emotions and stay living where you are?” well sometimes that is not easy. Sometimes you just lose hope it could ever change and a change of scenery can be “just what the doctor ordered.” I have felt for years of my life that people spend way too much of their lives chasing after money. They give so much of themselves to earn it and then spend it recklessly. It makes more sense to relax more and live a more reasonable lifestyle in what i call the “saving money mode”. i dont mean physically putting money in the bank or burying it in your backyard. I mean not having to spend it. live in a smaller house, drive an older car, dont dine out only when necessary, dont waste your money on junk and do-dads and raise some of your own food if possible. there are so many ways to save money that most Americans are not not aware of. They find emotional comfort from the stresses of work and everyday life here in America, by buying, buying and buying. And it isnt the answer. You are a wise man, Henry, to have made the choice to throw aside a job that consumed you. I wish more people could do as you did. A job that consumes us can be a prison and life is too short to be behind emotional bars. it will take a great emotional and physical toll on you. If I had money, Henry, I would be there on the Islands in a minute but I have to wait to sell what I own here to make the move and the time isnt quite right yet. I hope it is soon cause I wanna little piece of that island paradise you speak of.

    1. Something I touched on before is that, aside from meeting a lovely Filipina in the States and wanting to devote more time to writing.. another motivating factor on the negative end was that I was no longer ‘inspired’ or curious about my familiar surroundings. Some people find comfort in the familiarity of an area they’ve grown up in. I’m not one of those people. Despite all that Southern California has to offer.. I’d done about all I was interested in, several times, and didn’t feel challenged in any way. Here.. my brain has been forced to be back ‘ON’ in learning mode. And with several thousand islands to explore, plus Thailand.. I’m gonna be busy and challenged for quite some time. 🙂

  8. Well put , Five years ago , I met a Filipina and was so impressed that within months we bought a house in Manila. ( in her name of course ) Then we went to meet her brothers & sisters in Tuburan , wound up loving the province and bought a beautiful farm , 1200 coconut trees , 51 mango trees 120 banana trees. And so many fruits I can not name them or pronounce them , ( the brain thing as you mention ) Then we were married , to date , we built a small 2 bed room house and a bunkhouse with a dirty kitchen , added a 30 sow piggery and built a oven now cooking copra. My wife manages everything. I spend about 5 month a year in Bliss. This year I will sell out here in Canada and am on my way to Bliss found retirement . I am 70 and my wife is 62 , we still have a lot of fire in the furnace . Just beginning life. Some day I would like to meet you Henry.

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