Saying NO To Her Family

I don’t know why, but many men think marrying a Filipina means they don’t have to work at the marriage like they would if they married a woman from their own country.  Filipina’s are women, just the same as American females or English females. Women. A strange breed to us men and full of surprises.

We choose Filipina’s in the most part because they accept us as we are, more so than the women back home.  Modern American women, for instance, seem hellbent on proving that they are not just our equals, but superior to us mere males.  OK, maybe they are, but the Filipina is more inclined to let us
believe we are in charge!  They are more old fashioned, the kind of woman Dad married and all of that, but they are women all the same. So, after the killer divorce and the cleaning out of your bank account
you turn your attention eastwards and look for solace in the loving arms of a woman maybe 20 years your junior (on average), maybe more.  What have you two got in common?  Why is she willing to accept you, a fat, forty plus foreigner, maybe fifty or sixty plus? She is this exotic, 20 something beauty, why you?

There are as many reasons as there are Filipina’s, but two or three seem pretty constant and recurring.  Firstly, you are the exotic one.  She will want children and the Filipino obsession with fair skin and western features means the offspring will be guaranteed to be beautiful!

Secondly, most Filipina’s either have difficulty judging our age ( a common thing with many Asian women) or prefer a more mature man.  A man less likely to stray and more likely to stay.  And usually more financially secure. Which brings us to reason number three. The majority of western men who marry a Filipina do not marry into money. They do not court and wed a young lady, half their age, from the monied classes.  They marry women from the lower socio-ecoomic strata. That’s pretty much a fact.  What else is a fact is that the rich Filipino’s daughter has everything she needs, money, education, travel potential and thus doesn’t need an average Joe from Hangnail, Iowa to sweep her off her feet and to a life of luxury in the land of plenty.

The girl you are most likely to meet will be lucky if she ever went to college. If she did, I doubt it was the Filipino Ivy League variant.  Her family will be large, extended and some may be looking forward to your largesse, even if the immediate family are not.  Her English may not be as fluent as first thought, there will be numerous opportunities to practise your communication skills in the years to come as she takes your words and interprets them completely about face to how they were intended.

However, despite her humble origins, she will be loving, loyal and dedicated to your well being. Most of them will be, anyway.  There are bad apples in the Filipina barrel the same as there are men you would be ashamed to inflict upon your ex-wife! To her, even a regular working stiff has a life of plenty she has only dreamed  of. If you take her back to the States, she will have a major period of adjustment to get through, and so will you.  Don’t expect her to know the “simplest” things we take for granted, like what goes in the refrigerator and what doesn’t.  Everything will go in there and on a plate covered by another plate, even if you have a saran wrap factory dumping free samples in your

It won’t be long before you are faced with the eternal question: how much do you give to the family back in “da province”, if anything? How do you say enough is enough?  At some stage there will be an emergency and you will want to help.  At other times you may feel like a walking ATM machine with a
neon sign on your head reading “patsy”.  Your mileage will vary as eac marriage is different, but here are a few tips I have gathered from friends and my own experience.

Set a limit to how much she is allowed to remit to her family each month.  A  hundred bucks goes a long way over here and shouldn’t break anyone’s bank, especially if both of you are working.  It helps the family out while not giving anyone an excuse to give up their job and hang around the Western Union office every second day.  (Western Union, by the way, is an expensive but fast and reliable way to send money. I’d advise you find another way as the fees get pretty high.)  Sending too much means family members just might not have any reason to work and support themselves.  Sending too little is stingy and insulting, better to send nothing.  Some couples never send any money on a regular basis
simply to avoid having relatives depend on them for their livelihood. Some people I know only send money when a specific request is made, such as for a funeral, birth, hospital emergency etc. In some families, they lead lives far more exciting than the average soap opera cast and seem to be forever in
dire peril.

Everyone needs to set their own limits, and make sure you do make at least a mental decision to give X and no more.  If your wife works then it is fair enough to let her decide how much of her salary she will send to her family. Some may send all because they are so warm and generous by nature. Others may do the same but only to show off to the family back home. Family ties are strong and not always clear cut, so don’t be in a hurry to apply your homespun American values on your new Filipina bride. Take the time to really learn why she does as she does.

Then there will be the time when you simply can’t afford to send what is asked, or you don’t want to.  Everyone has a limit.  The best way to deal with a request for money is to tell whoever is asking that you will think about it. It’s a lot of money and you need time to assess the request.  Then you do nothing.  If they ask again, you can tell them you are still thinking. By now they should have taken your polite hint that the answer is no.  If they ask a third time, either the situation is desperate, or the borrower is. That’s up to you to decide.

Never loan money to relatives, always consider it a gift, even if the arrangement is, on the surface, a loan.  That way if you never see the money again, for whatever reason, you aren’t disappointed.  Another way to handle the request is to tell them that you can’t afford it this month, but you will see if you have enough next month.  If they ask again next month, then repeat the excuse.

The whole secret is to never say “NO” directly.  There is no reason to say the “N” word, Filipino’s don’t.  That is why they will take your order for a drink, knowing full well they are out of stock of whatever it was you ordered. It is more important that they don’t offend you than actually serve you  what you ordered. Get it?  So do the same and nobody will be upset. Simple. More or  less!



If you visit the Philippines for less than ninety days you are entitled to drive a vehicle, similar to what your home license allows, without the need for an International License or to obtain a Philippine Driver’s License.  If you plan to stay, and drive, longer than three months, then I would advise you to
obtain the local document.

Many might wonder why on earth you would want to drive here anyway, given the seeming chaos on the roads and the cheap and available alternatives. Quite frankly, I have only ridden with one or two Filipino driver’s who I would say come close to my skill and experience with a motor vehicle.  Most
drivers here are self taught and haven’t a clue about road safety.  Neither have the pedestrians, dogs, chickens, carabaos, goats etc.

The policing of the road rules is arbitrary at best and everyone does pretty
much what they like, with scant regard for the consequences.  When God is protecting them, they have little need for decent brakes, seat belts or common sense.  The amazing thing is that there are not more accidents than occur.  Don’t believe those who tell you the accident rate here is low. It isn’t! If you drive often enough and in the major cities, you will see plenty of prangs!  Official figures are misleading because few accidents are reported. What keeps the death toll down is that many of the accidents are low speed “fender benders” in heavy traffic.  However, I have seen more than  my share
of higher speed fatal accidents on the major carriageways and country roads, usually involving trucks, buses, jeepneys and other large vehicles carrying multiple passengers.  Another factor is the Filipino attitude is generally much less insistent on “right of way” than it is in the west.  I have often said if you could blend the discipline of the western driver with the attitude of the Filipino, you would have the safest roads in the world.  The best advice is to never be in a hurry and always expect the dumbest, most dangerous option to be the one chosen by Dong in his jeepney.

I once offered the theory of the “Rule of Threes” as to who give way to whom.  If you have three times as many passengers, three axles or more or three times the gross tonnage, you have right of way.  Three times the speed of the rest of the traffic, three quarters of your vehicle or more over the center
line or three times the decibel level from your horn and you are sweet! Number of wheels helps too. Two wheels gives way to three, three to four and four to multiple axled vehicles, with a fudge factor for vehicle width and velocity.  Cost of vehicle plays a part, the more expensive your car, the more
arrogantly you assume everyone must get out of your way.

So if you still insist on driving here and you have gone past ninety days, what do you do?  You go to the LTO, or Land Transportation Office.  Not every LTO issues licenses, make sure it is a larger, regional office.  The main LTO in Cebu now issues the plastic card “permanent license” the same day,
allegedly.  I waited 8 months for mine after being told it would take six at the Danao branch.  In the interim I had a paper “temporary license”.

As a foreigner you can’t have a “professional” license as this is only for those who earn a living driving, like taxi drivers and this and most all land transportation jobs are off limits to foreigners.  So you get a “non-professional” license.  Make sure you specifiy motorcycle and car if you want to ride a
motorbike. Even if your home license isn’t endorsed for a motorbike, they should give you the “restriction” on your Filipino license. (1 and 2)  Once at the LTO, push through the milling crowd and go to the window marked licenses. Ignore the “fixers”, they’ll only cause you grief. Usually your
foreigner face will get you inside asap.  Ask for the form to transfer your license, fill it out, or up, as they say here.  Then you will go for a drug test.  Nearby will be several “Diagnostic Centers” where you will pay P250-300 and pee in a cup. I was told I was drug free but four months pregnant.  Actually,
my sample wasn’t even checked!  Then you need a health check.  At Mandaue there are several doctors offices nearby where you go and have your blood pressure checked, answer some questions, do an eye test and that’s it.

At Danao I had to tramp around the municipal offices paying for a stamp, then getting a receipt, then being checked etc. Mandaue was much simpler. Once you have the drug test receipt and the health receipt, return to the LTO.  They will then get you to copy the answers for the test onto the back of
your form. Only copy answers 1-40, as 41-60 are for professional licenses. Copying the answers is the authorised procedure, so don’t make a big deal about it.

They don’t have the resources to properly test anyone, which is evident on the roads.  So once you copy the answers, you go and get a photo taken and they print out your temporary license.  You pay P500 and then get another photo taken for the permanent license, ready in six months. Apparently they have to be sent to Manila for some reason, although the LTO offices in Cebu and Davao (not Danao) can issue the same day.  Given Mandaue LTO is about five miles from the Cebu LTO, I wonder why they can’t…..nevermind, this is the Philippines.

So off you go and when you return in six months, hopefully your permanent licenese will be ready to be picked up.  It is valid for two to three years, depending when you had your last birthday, which will be the day used to calculate renewal. All up it should cost around P1000 or so, although the official fees on the LTO website don’t quite match what everyone pays.

Check out the government websites listed in another article this issue for more details and drive safely.  (The author was a Military Police Advanced Driving Instructor, specialising in Defensive and
Protection Driving, as well as having raced, rallied, instructed in off road driving for Land Rover Australia and driven well over a million kilometres accident free. As a Military Policeman he attended numerous fatal and non-fatal traffic accidents. He has also received advanced driving instruction from several civilian schools, driven in Europe, Asia the USA and New Zealand in addition to Australia.  He holds licenses for cars, trucks, forklifts, buses, motorbikes and armoured fighting vehicles, one of which he often wished he owned here in  Cebu.)


Mangoes- The Money Tree


The Philippines currently ranks as the fifth largest producer of Mangoes in the world, and the fourth largest in Asia. India, where mangoes probably originated over 4,000 years ago is by far the largest, but domestic consumption takes most of their crop. Hong Kong and Japan are the biggest buyers of Philippine grown mangoes. The mango tree, a relative of the cashew, pistachio and marula trees, is a
hardy plant that prefers hot and humid conditions and lowland areas. Trees will fruit in 4 to 5 years and continue to do so for decades to come. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to make about P40,000-60,000 a year from each tree according to a mango grower I spoke to last year.  He claimed that each tree, when mature and properly harvested and maintained, can yield up to 2 metric tonnes of fruit, at around P20-30 a kilo.  I would think that these figures can be improved upon and offer them only as a guide.

Each tree requires at least 100 sqm of space, they have a 6m deep tap root and many other roots growing off of that so on my 2000 sqm lot I could plant 20 trees.  Planting from seedlings requires patience and a lot of care. Far better to plant more mature trees. Seedlings go for around P50-100
each, and grafted saplings about P500. There are two main varieties, the Pico and the Carabao.  The Carabao variety is the more popular and by far the one to plant.

The trees need to be sprayed to help flowering and to prevent fungicides and pests from ruining your crop. Cebu pioneered the bagging of fruit in the late 1980’s and today most commercial orchards follow this practise.  Some use newspaper, while others prefer brown paper bags, the baggers being paid a few centavo’s per fruit bagged.

Harvesting usually happens in spring, but of course your final market will have a bearing on when you harvest and how you keep the fruit until it ripens.  If  you are exporting then you will probably harvest earlier and keep the fruit cool (10-13 degrees celsius) to prevent black spots and early ripening.  There are about half a dozen major exporters in the country and the smart money is to sell your crop to them, rather than endure the drama of developing an export market yourself.  Once you are ready to harvest, local buyers will appear magically so don’t sweat that part of the process. What is most important is that you hire at least one experienced local who knows mangos.  On top of that, you can also attend courses held by MIN, the Mango Information Network, and the Department of Agriculture to learn more about this crop.  I would also suggest a “Google” search using “growing mangoes” or similar
and the wealth of information that is produced will keep you reading for days!

Be wary of sites that detail mango information applicable to Australia, South Africa or anywhere other than the Philippines.  There is more than enough local info available to use as a guide, although some of the other countries may well be further ahead in the application of technology.  However, you are
growing in the Philippines and it will pay not to be too radical at first.  Keep the overseas methods for the years ahead, when you are already making a decent living doing it the same way the locals do, tried and tested.

Other tips to consider are that you should keep the dead branch material around the base of the trees under control.  The same can be said for pruning to assist spraying and also sunlight penetration.  Most pests prefer to eat your trees in the dark, well pruned trees will make life harder for them.
So too will planting bamboo nearby as there is a beetle that lives in bamboo that loves the pest that eats mango trees!  Nature at work, chemical free! Man farmers also cross plant other crops between the trees to help with fertilization of the soil and to increase the yield from their land.

Mangoes are a great cash crop and safer than many other choices, but they do take time to mature and produce a harvest.  They take work, care and effort, like any other crop but they can give you a nice little earner as the years go by.



Finding a place to rent here in the Philippines can be a challenge in some areas.  While in Manila, Cebu, Davao and other big cities there are rentals advertised in the newspapers, in the provinces it is often a case of word of mouth.  Luckily there are lots of mouths to pass the word around and you will probably be inundated with properties once the word is out.

We found our last two rentals by driving around the area we were interested in living in and looking for signs posted on telegraph poles.  The down side of this is that very often the signs are well out of date.  Like political posters, they are quick to post and slow to remove them.  If you have a Filipina
wife, have her make the call, at least until the price is established.  Hearing a foreigner on the other end might tempt the landlord to offer the American Discount, usually four times the local price!

You can enlist “professional” help in finding a place to live. There are some people who could be loosely termed “real estate agents”.  Different to a broker, who is licensed, many agents are merely people with a desire to make a buck on the side by introducing you to a home owner looking for a
tenant. This doesn’t mean they won’t find you a home, just that they will show you everything they can that makes them the most commission first, before actually finding you something that might be closer to what you want and specified.

Once you find some properties to inspect, take your time to study the local area.  Are there KTV machines going at full distortion all hours of the day and night?  The houses either side, are they permanent or squatter shanties? What about vehicular access? Many places here are off the road and
accessible only on foot down an alleyway.  This is due to the original Lot being divided among many siblings and without regard to how you are going to get your furniture in there, let alone park a car off the street every day.

Water supply in many places, even more upmarket areas and sub-divisions, can be erratic at best.  Water pressure may be very weak and delivery limited to only a few hours a day.  This is inconvenient and having to remember to fill buckets every day at 11am or whenever will get old very quickly.  Ask
about the water pressure and if it is available 24 hours.  Then turn on a tap and check!

Power supplies may be billed to you, or to the landlord, who will give you the bill to go and pay, or you pay him.  You could be in for a surprise and end up paying for his aircon and lighting without knowing it.  You might also have an illegal connection that can bring you grief and aggravation when the power company charges you with being responsible!  If the house is inside the family compound, then make sure you get the bill in your name if you can. Check the meter and cabling yourself to see where it goes from the power pole on  the street to your house.

Our power is in the name of the landlord’s son.  The water is in his daughter’s name.  We get the bills the day they are due or just after, on average. We have had to pay for his slow attendance to reported leaks when it took him weeks to fix a leaking tap and overflowing septic tank.  Our electricity was almost cut off because he forgot to hand us our bill.  Be aware of these things and ask lots of questions when you inspect.  This is a business arrangement after all, so be polite, but get the answers you need to make a sensible decision.

A friend of mine was living in an apartment attached to the landladies’ house. She was murdered and now the heir to the estate wants him out, despite his having a lease and having paid two months rent in advance.  Unforeseen  things do happen and it’s important not to let yourself get pushed around.  If you have a lease then make sure you read it!  Don’t be afraid to stand up for your rights, you do have some, despite the common belief to the contrary here.

Don’t be in a hurry to rent.  The seller needs the buyer here more than the other way around.  There is no shortage of properties for rent, just not enough proper advertising to help you find what is on offer.  The situation is improving as more people adopt the ways we are used to in the west, but so much here is done through third parties, relatives and intermediaries, that changing the old habits is taking time. I have had some landlords, particularly Chinese Filipino’s, demand six months rent up front as a bond, plus the first month in advance! Then they want a twelve month lease with post dated checks to cover the rent, exclusive of the six months already paid as a bond!  The lease said if we moved out before the 12 months were up, we lost the six months bond!  The general practise is to
pay one month in advance and one or two months up front as a bond. Most landlords prefer a twelve month lease but you can negotiate shorter periods.

Rental properties may be offered either furnished or unfurnished, or both but don’t expect much with furnished.  Sometimes they really are fully furnished but often it means just a bed, dining table and chairs and a sofa of sorts. On average, renting furnished will add about P2000 a month to the average
place going for P5000-P15000.  There are some terrific places available at very low rates and with wonderful landlords, you just have to be lucky or look long and hard. Off street parking is important but often what is advertised as “with garage” is just a car port or even nothing more than a space behind the front gate.  We think of a garage as a fully enclosed building in which you park your car and no-one can see in.  Here, if it is outside the house and has a roof of sorts then it is a garage!  Renting in a guarded sub-division may incur extra costs for admin fees, the guard and so on.  Make sure you negotiate that the rent is all inclusive and that any other expenses are carried by the landlord. Like anything in business, it is all open to negotiation and it is up to you to negotiate BEFORE you sign the contract and pay your money!  Double check claims that the phone is already in place and just needs connection.  Connection here could mean running a cable in from miles away!  Double check everything, not just because there is a chance you might be getting duped, it happens, but mainly because even if your potential landlord speaks excellent English, same words can mean very different things.  This is, after all, the Philippines!

Money Matters

A Few Tips For New (and Old) Players


Extracted from StreetWise Cebu, first in a new series of in-depth guides to popular Philippine locations by Perry Gamsby.

I no longer waste my time and money with travellers checks, haven’t bothered with them for nearly a decade or more.  It is far easier to carry a credit card and an ATM card as there are ATM machines all over Cebu and growing in number in the provinces.  Those with Cirrus, Plus, Banc Net symbols on them, or Visa or MasterCard DEBIT cards, can be used at just about any ATM.

If you are coming to live, you may want to T/T your money to a bank account opened with a philippines bank in case you need to access large sums for car and house purchases.  Otherwise, just leave it in your home account and use the ATM to withdraw money when you need it.

Most banks allow you to withdraw up to your home banks limit, for me that is AUD$1000 per 24 hours.  However, some ATMs will only release Php4000 per transaction, and then only up to Php25,000 per 24 hours. Others will allow Php10,000 per transaction and this is important as you are being charged every time you perform a transaction. A transaction means inserting your ATM card, punching in your PIN and selecting withdrawal etc. With my EquitablePCI Bank ATM this means I have to take out P4000, six times in a row to get my maximum daily withdrawal limit of P25,000.  No fun if a long line of people are breathing down your neck wanting to use the ATM!

Each bank is different but I have found HSBC to be one of the more generous in daily withdrawal amounts, although they ask for more money held on deposit if you wish to open an account with them.  BPI, Bank of the Philippine Islands also allows larger withdrawals than MetroBank, EquitablePCI, PNB Philippine National Bank and ChinaBank or others.

Philippine banking allows just about anyone with enough clout and cash to open a bank, either a rural or a savings bank.  Some smaller banks are specifically for a certain group or community and should be avoided.  These local banks often go under taking everybody’s money with them.  Most banks advertise they are covered by the statutory government insurance of depositors funds, but this has a limit of Php100,000 or less than US$2000.  US Dollar accounts often don’t have any protection whatsoever.

You can open a US Dollar account with a few hundred dollars, depending on the bank you choose.  They vary from time to time so check out the banks with links at the end of the manual for the latest details.  Most say you need to keep a minimum amount of a few hundred dollars in them to keep them open but I have an open account with less than two bucks in it. Interest paid on these deposits is negligible and not worth my time to research who offers the best rate.  US Dollar accounts are simply a place to keep your US Dollars where a buck is worth a buck and exchange fluctuations can’t hurt its value.

I also have a savings account with an ATM card in a Peso account.  To open an account you need to show ID and often an ACR, although many banks don’t ask for this document.  You may have to provide one or two ID photos, although EquitablePCI Bank didn’t require photos when I opened my account with them last year.

All transactions of US Dollars are noted, even down to the serial numbers of each and every bill, depositing and withdrawing.  Depositing large sums of money can cause headaches as the US has laws that require notification of any transaction of US$10,000 or more per transaction. You also need to declare if you are taking that kind of currency out of the country and if you are bringing it into the Philippines.

Obviously the excuse is they are trying to control money laundering by drug gangs and terrorists but the truth is these criminals use the regular banking facilities to move their money around.  I would suggest you T/T amounts of US$5000 a day until you get it all here, or keep it in the States and draw what you need from the ATM as you need it.  If you have to bring in a large amount of cash, I’d do it the old fashioned way and line my shoes, clothes and carry on bag.  Of course you can declare it, its not a crime they just want to know what you are doing.

You could get sneaky and buy Bearer Bonds and other negotiable instruments, even convert everything to gold jewellery and then cash it in but I am sure you would lose out on the deal.  I wouldn’t know
where to buy a Bearer Bond, or where to cash one in.

For everyday people the simple answer is the ATM card.  If you are going to the province for a visit to her family, just make sure you have cash in small bills before you go.  Few places in the city can change P1000 bills and some even struggle with the P500.  In the province a P100 bill is big money, so have lots of P20 and P50. Unless going for a while or donating most of it to her family, US$200
would take a lot of spending in the province.

Credit cards can be a problem as the merchant is hit by high charges from his bank, so the protocol is to pass these onto the card holder. Expect up to 8% charged to your card for using it to buy accommodation, meals or cash advances from merchants.  Few shops outside of the big department stores or those in the city malls will accept your card and getting a cash advance at a bank can take half a day but at least an hour the first time you try.

Not every branch will give over the counter cash advances on credit cards, even some of the big Cebu City branches won’t do it.  You will need your passport and a lot of patience as they double and triple check every little detail.  Equitable PCI across  the road from SM Mall will do it, go to the New Accounts counter and start the ball  rolling there.  Have your passport with you!  Modern electronic banking is only slowly happening and nobody really trusts the system yet, so be prepared for funny looks and lots of waiting.

If you bring cash, then exchange it at one of the kiosks in Ayala Mall, Mango Square Mall or at Robinsons on Fuentes Osmena.  Forget changing it in SM Department store, they only take crisp perfect notes and expect you to write down all the serial numbers.  Be wary of anyone coming up to you on the street offering rates even a peso per dollar more than what everyone else is offering (except major hotels).  The margins are razor thin with forex and the kiosks mentioned consistently
give the best rates and are straightforward genuine businesses.  Major hotels, in my opinion, get greedy and try to rake in extra money a they know their guests are usually unfamiliar with where else to go. Anyone who can afford their rates usually doesn’t flinch at losing a few cents per transaction in exchange for the convenience and security of doing it in the hotel lobby.

No matter where you exchange, always count it out yourself, even if you followed the clerk as she or he counted it into your hand.  Never be rushed or feel rushed by other people waiting for service.  If the person getting agitated is a Filipino, then you are getting scammed. Filipinos would rarely be exchanging money in the same place as you but if they are, there is no way they would show their impatience and irritation at you for taking too long.  It is not the Filipino way and it means they are a part of the scam.  You have been short changed and they will pressure you into accepting the clerks count and moving away from the window.  Once you do if there is any money short there is no way you will be able to correct the problem or prove the error.  STAY AT THE WINDOW UNTIL YOU COUNT THE MONEY YOURSELF AND ARE SATISFIED.

For big purchases such as cars and property, you should get a Managers Check from the bank.  Never carry cash around in large amounts, no matter how short the journey.  The car seller may have a relative ambush you on your way back from the bank with the money to buy the car. He keeps the car and a share of the money and you are none the wiser.  If both parties meet at the bank and exchange Managers  Checks, then there is no opening for a problem to occur.  It is the way Filipinos do it here and so it has to be the safest way for both parties.

I carry my money in a wallet in my back pocket. Unless I am using jeepneys or carrying more than a few hundred pesos.  Then I carry the wallet in a front pocket. I once had to carry a payroll off Php30,000 in small bills for the workers on our bar. I laid the wads of money along my left forearm and bandaged the arm up.  It looked like I had a broken arm in a cast and the money travelled safely from Cebu to Malapascua with nobody the wiser and the men were all paid on time.  Be aware who is watching when you withdraw or exchange any amount of money, to a starving peasant, even twenty bucks is a fortune.