Category Archives: Accomodation

The Reasons Tourists Stay Away

When it comes to taking a shower, it can be the last thing many people ever do. More accidents occur in the home and within the home, in the bathroom, than anywhere else. All jokes aside, this is a deplorable situation that is all too prevalent in the Philippines today So called hotels and guest houses claiming they offer hot water and instead, present the guest with a dilemma. Do I risk electrocution, or do I take a cold shower? Not a major issue most places but in Baguio, where this shot was taken, it can be a tad chilly.

So my friend asked Reception to provide the hot water he had paid extra for and below you can see the very Pinoy solution. A bucket, tabos (ladle) and a thermos of tepid water! This hotel was not the one where he asked for a 7.30am breakfast followed by an 8.30 am shuttle to the local tourist attraction. That hotel had the times round the wrong way so at 7:25am, expecting whatever passed for breakfast, he was advised he was keeping the shuttle waiting and could he please get a move on? My friend made the common enough mistake of asking the clerk, the same one he had booked the breakfast and shuttle with the night before, why didn’t it seem odd to him to have your breakfast served an hour after you have just departed on the shuttle for a three hour drive? His reply? “You will hab to eat berry pas, sor!’ Totally missed the whole point.

The sad thing is, my friend has come across this incompetence and stupidity at just about every single place he has visited or stayed in the last two weeks. This is what passes for acceptable service in the Philippines. No wonder the tourists are staying away in droves! He has toured Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Mexico and Peru and tells me nowhere is as much of a joke as the Philippines. Fortunately he has a sense of humour and laughs a lot of it off, like being charged  P40 for a blanket in Baguio. He distracted the staff with some fun and banter and silly games until they let him have the blanket free of charge. It was like negotiating with small children, apparently.

When is the Philippines going to get it? They have thousands doing hospitality degrees that prepare them for nothing because the all pervading national culture of pakikisama rules. Forget trying hard or using common sense or thinking, just do it as it has always been done by everyone so that you can’t be blamed if it goes wrong, which it will because not every time is the same. This attitude is everywhere in the country and is probably the biggest chain holding the place back. That and the food, the transport, the corrupt officials, the traffic, the filth and garbage… I could go on. The only redeeming feature is that, ignorance and stupidity aside, the Filipino and Filipina are just really nice people and that has kept them from being swamped while in their own country… and helping them rise and shine the moment they get free and live abroad.

That’s Classified!

There is a new classified ad site for all things Philippines. Philippine Finder is the place to go for real estate, cars,  items anything that is up for sale for the expat or retiree. There is also a personals section where you can find friends, activity partners or seach for romance.  You can advertise there free of charge. Right now it is a little light on for ads, but so was the Yellow Pages the day the first telephone was installed! The more people who use it to advertise and respond to ads, the better a service it will become.

Great Hotel Hideaway In Cebu!

Once you find your Filipina and travel all the way to the Philippines to meet her, you may find you can barely be alone together for five minutes without having half the Barangay hanging on yoru every word! You need an affordable, luxury hideaway hotel that will give you the time you need to get to know her, her family and her culture. But on your own terms!

You need a ‘base’, a place to call your own where you have the back up of trained and friendly staff, a knowledgeable American owner who has been successfully running businesses in the Philippines for over twelve years and you know you are safe. Alta Cebu Garden Resort is owned by friends of mine, Larry and Cherry Quinn. I used to work there as the Director of Studies when it was a ‘Homestay’ English language academy and I have known Larry and Cherry since 2004 and I consider them my friends.

Since those early days they have expanded the resort to its current beautiful state, focused on the hospitality end of the business and developed a first class facility for weddings, conferences and relaxed vacation living. If you are wondering where to get married, how to organize the wedding or arrange the celebrant and the many other details any marriage entails; leave it to Larry and his team.

I was married in northern Cebu in 2002 and let me tell you it was a challenge to arrange the event to a standard I wanted for my bride in the ‘boonies’. What made it even more difficult was the fact my bride to be wasn’t all that worldly wise when it came to western style weddings and how could she be, coming from an honest farming family in the provinces? If any of this is ringing bells, just relax. Buy my eBook ‘Filipina 202 – How To Marry And Migrate Your Dream Filipina’ and then book into the Alta Cebu Garden Resort. Larry will give you your first night FREE when you tell him you bought one of my eBooks, if you book and pay for three nights minimum. All the usual warranties and guaranties apply but we are sure you are going to have a great time.

And if you haven’t met ‘Her’ yet, don’t sweat it! Buy ‘Filipina 101 – How To Meet The Filipina Of Your Dreams’ and follow the advice on just going to the Philippines ‘on spec’. Then talk to Larry and he will help you find someone, just try and leave the staff alone as he has had to replace too many of his pretty receptionists already! Let me know how much you enjoyed your stay.

RENTING UPDATE

Looking For An Apartment In The Big City

Although Manila does have a thriving real estate industry, many of whom advertise rentals on weekends in the Manila Bulletin, the tried and tested local method of finding a place to rent is still to wander the streets of your chosen neighbourhood and look for those small signs. Doing this ensures you don’t waste time chasing properties too far from where you work, as the traffic is truly in charge of things in Manila! Additionally, it allows you and the owner to meet and assess one another, something that is vital given the nature of the relationship of landlord/tenant in the Philippines.

The Filipino landlord will generally take things a little more personally regarding the place you rent than would a landlord back home. The tenant often views themselves as being lower on the totem pole in the relationship, rather than as a customer the landlord needs for his business. Consequently, getting anything repaired or changed if you haven’t the right relationship with the landlord can be challenging. Landlords will often cut off their nose to spite their face to show you, the lucky tenant who they have put a roof over your head, how fortunate you are they have allowed you to live there. The tenant will often accept and feed this relationship status because they feel inferior that they don’t own property. Anyone richer than them deserves their obsequiousness, as they expect it from those they see as their economic and social inferiors.

Walking the streets also gives you a good feel for the neighbourhood, although cruising along at walking pace in an air conditioned vehicle is just as telling and far less sweaty! Very often there will be a telephone number and the annoying direction to “look for” someone particular when you call. How you can look for someone over a telephone beats me, just another example of the worsening standard of English in this once literate country.

Once you find a place you may be able to inspect right away. Often the security guard or helper will show you the property. Unprofessional perhaps, but it saves the very important landlord from having to hang around waiting for someone to respond to the obscure minute sign on the gate. After all, that is what the help are there for.

If you can’t get in to view the place, it might pay to have a local call the number and chat with the owner in the first instance. Don’t expect logical questions to be asked or answered. Rather the passage of information might well be more about who you are and who you know and why you are here more than the features of the property and the monthly rental etc. Remember this is Asia and relationships are more important than details! Knowing the place has two C.R.s won’t make them three or only one or cleaner or more modern or suddenly fitted with hot water, will it? Isn’t it more important that the owner knows you know some of the same people or that your Asawa graduated from the same college as the owner’s second cousin’s daughter?

Once the pleasantries are over with it can be down to business and expect it all to be in the favour of the owner. After all, they have the property you want to rent. Forget thinking they may want the income from the rental. Of course they do and they might very well be desperate for it but you must keep things in perspective. They own a property, you don’t, thus they are higher up the socio-economic ladder than you and if you don’t like it then too bad! Owners of rental properties can’t be changing their policies or improving their properties because a potential tenant wants them to! Where would it end? Probably with the tenant thinking they are at least as good as the owner!

I’m not over dramatising this, the attitude is very real and very much a part of the rental scene here. You won’t change it so rail against it in private, then accept it and then turn it to your advantage whenever you can because that is how an Asian would handle the situation. Don’t forget, if you play the game by their rules then they have to do a few things for you, too. Once the right relationship is formed, the owner has a certain obligation towards your welfare, like a “patron” or fatherly (or motherly) figure. You are now one of the family so to speak and like a small child must be looked after and taken care of. Not because you are paying rent which may form a major part of their income. No, it is because a relationship has been formed, there is “utang an loob” involved. (literally “a debt of honour”)

This is why you can hear of people being months and in a few cases I know of personally, even years behind in the rent! Once the relationship is formed then usually you are guaranteed to be well looked after, although don’t expect things to happen with any speed and be careful how you ask for repairs and improvements. Always ask for things by being humble and not wanting to bother them with the trivial details, especially as you are really there to hand over the rent, which of course is more important than any dripping tap or unhinged door. If there is something embarrassing like a bad smell from an overflowing septic tank, invite the owner around for a coffee and let them notice it themselves. Make sure you apologise for the smell as if it is your fault their house is so poorly maintained!

Be aware of the practise of PDC, or Post Dated Check. Most owners will want these for the term of the (usually 12 months) contract. Some ask for a months rent in advance and two months rent as security deposit, others one month each and some demand as much as three months rent as security plus a month or two up front plus PDC for the rest! Like anything and everything in Asia this is negotiable, so negotiate!

Don’t be afraid to negotiate hard! Be polite and even fawning but stick to your guns! That’s how they do it to us, with that “inscrutable oriental” approach that never stops them smiling but they won’t budge an inch. Well Dorothy you ain’t in Kansas now, you are in Asia so work the angles the Asian way! Smile all the time, keep your voice down and never lose your temper and simply never give an inch. Don’t ever feel sorry for them, they are after all, your socio-economic superiors. You are the poor relation without any property and since they are the rich relation with so much more than you have, they can give you more of it than they may be offering. Hey! We always whine about how we are taken for walking ATM machines, the rich, fat Kano etc! Now turn about is fair play so when in Rome, or Manila…….

If you think you are going to miss out on this one of a kind property that is just so perfect, think of this. In Makati alone there are, at most recent count, over 9,000 vacant residential units. Over 9,000 in Makati alone. The report in the newspaper did say property values, rents and so on would increase as vacancies dropped but it will take a long time to fill 9,000 units! And that is just in Makati! When you include the other nine cities and municipalities that make up Metro Manila, there is always going to be at least one other property that is just perfect!

Emergency Accommodation

Sometimes You Need To Lie Low!

There is even more up to date information on this often never mentioned topic in the new eBook ‘The Philippines Survival Handbook’, OUT NOW!

Some time in your life you may find yourself in need of emergency accommodation, a  place to hide shall we say.  Why you need such a place is irrelevant, all that is important is that you need somewhere to go and you are in a foreign city, what do you do?

Luckily you bought this guide!  You have several options, depending upon who you are hiding from and how much money you have.  If you are on the run from the authorities then you need more money to stay hid. Don’t despair, criminals do it all the time so it can’t be that hard.

First of all avoid anywhere where you have to show ID to register, so keep this in mind if paying with a credit card. Better choice is to use the card to withdraw cash from an ATM and pay cash for your lodging. Even better is if you can stay where you don’t need to pay at all, like with a friend.  Make sure they are a good friend in case there is more incentive for them to turn you in than keep you hidden.

In Cebu you will stand out from the crowd because of who you are.  You can use this and hide in a crowd at a major hotel, be one of many foreign faces.  But you will be recognised by someone and it might be the first place anyone would look for you.  I would stay well away from 5-star hotels.

Right down the other end of the scale you stand out just as much if not more so and you can’t trust the people you’ll meet not to shop you for a few pesos.  I would get a taxi to help me pick up a hooker, then book in to the Queensland Motel, Amihan Motel or Jade Court/ Princes Court Motels and simply fade into the anonymity of rent by the hour short time sex hotels.  You need the hooker for cover, otherwise you will stand out and the first cop who calls in and asks about strange guests will be shown your door.

Another option is to stay away from hotels altogether. Plenty of all night bars around the place, or at least stay open very late. If you end up on the streets at 2am then it is four hours until dawn, head for
Pier 4 or the Airport.  People hanging around there attract much less notice.  A great, secret place to hang out if you need to stay free is St Francis Funeral Home on Cebu South Road, near the South Bus
Terminal.  There are grieving people there all night, every night and even as a foreigner it will be presumed you are related to one of the deceased. Just hang around in the shadows and look sad, this one works!  You can nip over to the bus terminal in the morning and get out of town.

Depending on when you find yourself needing to stay free, you can grab a bus to Manila or just over to Bacolod on Negros. Ceres Liners go via Tabuelan a few times a day and the Manila bus will keep you out of harms way for days.  At least on the bus you have somewhere fairly secure to crash and kill time.

Another excellent option is to take an overnight ferry anywhere you like, then come back whenever you prefer.  This is one of the great things about this country, you can move around pretty freely and there are so many options it is difficult to keep track.  You can take a ferry to Leyte then come back on the night boat and sleep in your cabin from 6 or 7pm (departure is at midnight) and wake up at 5am to find you are back in Cebu.  Clever application of the timetables can save you an arm and a leg in hotel costs, whether you are on the run or just getting from A to B!

There are many small resorts on Mactan and just north or south of the city where you could hide up and nobody would find you for some time, unless they were conducting a very thorough search.  The lovely thing about Cebu is that the climate is so mild that unless it is pouring with rain, you could sleep out under the stars every night and need little other than a mosquito net.  There are plenty of places to curl up and hide in and live a little rough for a while.  You will stand out but keep moving and nobody will bother you.

Concrete Or Compost?

We Discuss The Ground Level Of the Pig Business

concrete or compost

My piggery at Calape, part of the vast family estates, is a five bay (sty) piggery that has flyscreens to keep out the birds and a concrete floor.  The floor slopes downhill allowing the waste to runoff and into a large 12 cubic metre septic tank while the roof slopes the other way allowing rain water to fill the large rain tank at the uphill end of the building.  The stys are seperated by steel bars between each sty and also from the front where there is a walk space between the flyscreen and the front of each sty.

It is a neat set up that is easy to keep clean with hosing and scrubbing but it has its liitations.  When we choose a gilt to go with the boar and become a sow (and have piglets) we have to keep her tied
to a tree outside on rough ground for a month beforehand.  This is to ensure she can keep her footing when taken to the boar, who spends his time outdoors on rough ground.  I’m taking Mama Alice’s word for it here that this is necessary, but I wouldn’t want our girl to fall over when the boar is in the middle of the business.

Personally I would prefer to let the vet inseminate her for less than P500, no charge if it doesn’t take.  However, Mama Alice and Papa Jusing prefer the old ways and they have a lot of history with the
owner of the boar, apparently.  So the gilt gets to spend a month under the jackfruit tree, which is not necessarily a bad thing for a pig. Pigs love to root around and they have the snout to do it.  Concrete is pretty hard on their rooting instincts and so they get the urge to do something without getting the pleasure stimulae in return they need.

I am a big fan of doing things as naturally as possible.  My original plan for the piggery called for a courtyard to each sty that came out from the building and offered the pigs some rooting dirt. This idea was canned on the grounds that they had never seen it before and who wants to take a risk etc.  The other traditional Filipino way of building a pig farm is to buy a piece of rope and cut it into shorter lengths, one for each pig they owned.  Then you make sure you also have one tree for each pig and you tie each animal to its own tree and leave them there. It has its health concerns but the method is low cost, low tech and does work.  Losses due to weather and disease can be high though, but for some this isn’t a problem provided they can sell the dying pig before it actually croaks. Then it would be known as “double dead” when it appeared on the chopping blocks at the local market.

When I build my next piggery, I plan to make it ten times the 30 pig capacity farm we now have.  I also plan to have it as “free range”  as I can.  What I plan to do is to have several large, open stys, roofed
over but not fenced into small enclosures.  Have them big enough for groups of 30 or so fatteners.  The floor will be three feet deep of rice hulls, coconut dust and dirt, with lactobacilli generating good
bacteria and aerating the soil.  The pigs can void into the floor and it will be soaked up and do away with the need for an expensive septic tank.  Of the P100,000 or so the current building cost, P14,000 of it was spent on the septic tank alone, mostly due to having to dig by hand into rock and hard soil.

I will also have some pigs in a concrete floored sty and compare which pigs grow better, stay healthier and so on.  My bet is happy pigs will always outshine unhappy pigs and pigs with lots of compost and mulch to roll around in and root through will have to be happier than their cousins on concrete!  I invite anyone with an interest or any knowledge or opinion on this topic to email me at the Philippine dreams Forum and open the topic for discussion.  No times wasted talking piggies, I say!

Another Day In Paradise

paradise

Today was one of those days.  Perfect.  There is a lot that can be fixed about this country, a lot that drives many of us foreigners up the wall, although if it is locally constructed that wall just might collapse on you. But there is so much to appreciate, to cherish and enjoy. Today was one of those days.  We went for a picnic.  Only a small picnic, just six adults and four kids.  Hardly worth cooking the rice by Filipino picnic standards. But we went all the same.

Everybody piled into the Red Terror and Papa Jusing and Vangie followed behind on the Lifan 100cc Super Tourer, minus the side car as the pigs are still too small to take to market.  The women had packed a mighty picnic lunch and lots of drinks and ice and with pots rattling in the boot we were off. Not too far from home we turned off the main road and went along the dirt, barangay road to the sea.  The chosen spot was beautiful!  A lovely bay with a coral beach and clear, azure blue water.  We parked the car next to some fishing bancas, under the shade of a jackfruit tree and got out the stuff.

High tide meant that the water deepened nice and close to the beach. Most of the coast along northern Cebu is mudflat reaching out a long way before the reef drops off into deeper water. It can make finding a decent swimming hole a bit of a lottery.  When you do find one, there is often a“resort” clogging the shore and charging money for a “cottage”.  Cottages are nothing more than a table and bench with a roof over it.  Mama Alice didn’t want to spend the money on something we really didn’t need, so we were “roughing” it.

The girls had gone into Daanbantayan earlier and bought pork, chicken, fish and pancit noodles.  The local jeepneys were on strike so they had to grab a “Habal-Habal” motorcycle taxi to get home.  The rice and pork and pancit were cooked before we left and Papa Jusing handled the BBQ for the chicken
and fish.  I went for a swim with my two daughters. After we enjoyed the water, it was time to eat, so everybody just hooked in with their fingers and enjoyed the sumptious repast.  I sipped a few bourbon and cokes while the others drank soft drinks or beer as the want took them. The kids played on the waters edge and collected more shells than they would be able to carry home in a month of Sundays. Life was good.

It’s the simple things in life like a family picnic by the sea that makes living here so worthwhile.  I never have to worry about some psycho abducting one of my kids and abusing them, it just doesn’t happen here.  At school they may have to learn the National Anthem and salute the flag, but nobody
frisks them for firearms or checks their bags for drugs. We lit a fire on the sea shore and nobody came along to tell us to put it out or to move on.  We minded our business and everyone else minded theirs. Driving back to the city we passed no radar traps, no speed cameras, no highway cops.  Nobody to tell me how to drive, how to live, how to enjoy my life.  Common sense rules.  If someone oversteps the mark, it gets dealt with sooner or later, usually permanently.  Few step over the mark, we all know what is right and what isn’t, nobody has to play Big Brother.

Back home we are legislated into a false sense of security.  We think we are safer because there are rules, regulations, ordinances, standards.  But are we really that much better off?  Workplace safety is definitely better back home, but most regulations just save the stupid from their own stupidity. When there is no social security safety net you tend to look after yourself a little more.

Where I came from if there was any risk, we screamed until the government legislated against it.  Then we relaxed and felt safer, knowing there are laws and rules to protect us; mostly from ourselves.  We lost touch with the reality that life is an inherently risky undertaking, even in this modern age. The Filipino’s haven’t lost that sense of reality.  They live with it every day, they just choose not to let it get them down.  How they keep on smiling, day after day with little of what we would consider hope for the future, is an inspiration to me.  Life here is at a slower pace.  It is a pace where you can take the time to smell the coffee, the roses, the buwad, the garbage, but also take the time to enjoy your life, and your family.  OK, it might not be paradise, nowhere is.  But since happiness is a choice, I choose to think it is, indeed, a paradise. At least for me and my own.

SENSIBLE PRECAUTIONS

We Live In Nature, It’s Not A Theme Park.

If we were truthful with ourselves then I am sure we would acknowledge that we live a pretty safe life compared to many others in the world and even more so when compared to our forefathers and ancestors.  Thereisn’t a war raging at the moment that really threatens our lives, despite what some vested interests may try and convince us of to the contrary.  Unless you are living in Iraq or on Basilan Island, the odds of you falling afoul of a war on terrorism related atrocity are pretty low.

However, we do live in a world where nature still rules supreme. Especially here in the Philippines.  In Cebu we are pretty lucky to be sheltered by the surrounding Visayan islands of Leyte, Samar, Negros
and Bohol.  Their protection means the typhoons that do strike this far south usually just produce a lot of rain and some wind and nothing like the maelstrom those up in Luzon often face.

The Philippines is a collection of islands, volcanic islands and we lie on the Pacific Rim Ring of Fire, according to the National Geograp documentary I saw last year.  Very dramatic but also very apt as anyone who witnessed Mt Pinatubo erupt can attest.  There are several active and numerous dormant (or allegedly dormant) volcanoes making up the very land upon which we stand.  The perfect cone of the Mayon Volcano in Bicol has been making noises for some time or late, and Mt Pinatubo is also giving hints she is restless.

On top of all that, there are earthquakes to consider and their oceanographic cousins, Tsunamis, or tidal waves.  Most of us live fairly close to the sea and so this is something to consider.  Can you
imagine a major earthquake hitting your barangay? The mind boggles how our local, antiquated and amateur fire department would cope.

Besides nature and her extremes, there are also the results of average weather events to think about.  Storms can lead to losing your roof, or land slides or flooding, even on a relatively minor scale.  Nothing lethal or life threatening most of the time, but at the very least disconcerting and annoying.  If you had to evacuate your home due to a flood, would you expect your possessions to be there when you return, albeit a little soggy?  I wouldn’t.

I will look at events involving human antagonists another time, like riots and so on.  This time, lets just focus on natural catastrophes and what we can do to prepare for them and live through them.  First of all, don’t get paranoid but don’t ignore the fact that nature does bite some times.  A simple storm could leave you without power for several hours or even several days, how will you cope?

Firstly there will be no light, no internet and no refrigeration. There may be no water if the local supply relies on being pumped andthe pump is on the same grid that is affected by the storm. Two years ago in Bogo we had a “brownout” that lasted for nearly three days. The local water supply was reliant on the electricity grid to power the pump to get it to our taps.  No power meant no water.  Nothing to drink, wash, launder or cook with.  After the first day in the heat and humidity the novelty wore off and bottled water supplies were already stretched as people bought up “gallons” wherever they could for drinking water.

The power and water came back on at one stage and I rushed around filling every container I could with water.  Others thought I was being silly, the power was back on, the water was flowing again, why fill all those containers? Well the power went out again after just forty minutes and didn’t come back for another two days.  Two more days of no fans, no aircon, no television, no karaoke (always a silver lining in any dark cloud) no cold drinks, no fresh food, no ice etc.

Most brownouts last only a few hours, often less.  This one was a three day mongrel.  I was fortunate in that I could afford to put my family in the Red Terror and drive them to Cebu, where we stayed at the Kiwi Lodge for a couple of days until friends rang to say the power was back on.  We could have survived the two more days with no power or water because we were prepared but with the Asawa pregnant there really was no reason not to find a solution such as staying at an hotel.  Of course, that solution may not always be available.

We keep at least three days water supply on hand at all times and regularly cycle through it. Our bottled water supplier brings three “gallons” every week but we use only two, so there is always one
there in case of an emergency.  I just line them up and go through them so the water is never more than a week “old” when drank. I also have another “gallon” kept in a cupboard out of direct sunlight which I swap with a fresh bottle every month or so as I remember to do so.

We have a battery back up and surge protector for the computer, it will give you about 15-20 minutes once the power goes out to save your work and switch off.  Then if it is dark a standing lamp also plugged in will carry on for about the same amount of time giving us light to see by as we get the candles and torches (flashlights) out.

My wife now realizes why I insist on keeping the torches in the same places around the house, along with spare batteries and strict instructions the kids are not allowed to play with any torch except the
one specifically designated as the “one the kids will play with and use up the batteries so it won’t work when you need it” torch.  Keeping them in the same places means they are easy to find in the sudden darkness of a brownout.  Keeping the spare batteries with them and insisting on a little discipline regarding their use pays off when the torch is needed in an emergency and is worth the extra effort required to instil on the average Fil-Am family. (Or Fil-Aus in our case).

We don’t store a lot of food for emergencies, although we do have a cupboard with tinned goods that I make an effort to rotate through every couple of months.  Since we live in the city now we don’t worry
quite as much as what was prudent when we were way up in the province.

My first aid kit, or kits as I have one in the car, one with my dive gear and two around the house, are checked every year or so specifically and given a cursory going over whenever they are used.  I always check these things just around my birthday.  It is an annual event I never forget and reminds me to check the things that may have lain dormant for most of the year and can do with a little attention.

The secret is to get into a routine and stick to it, take a few precautions and not get too carried away.  If I was in the province or felt the threat justified the action I would look at safe rooms in the house, firearms and communications with the outside world etc.  Living in Talisay we have a fire evacuation plan (this is important as many houses here have bars on the windows and doors) and two cell phones to supplement the landline.  Emergency phone numbers are stored in the phone memories and also handy to the landline on a card.

As far as firearms are concerned, my proactive approach to getting on with my neighbours should erase any need to keep a gun around for protection.  Besides which, enough of my friendly neighbours have their own guns so there’ll always be someone around to make noise if needed!

Don’t get paranoid, but don’t get lethargic.  I took the same precautions when I lived in metropolitan Sydney as I take here in Cebu, nature can come calling with an attitude anywhere, anytime.  Keep that
in mind and then get on with living the dream!

A New Lease On Life, Literally!

An Alternative To Buying A Property To Call Your Own.

Many of us expats who head over to the Philippines to settle down and live would love to own our own piece of paradise.  Except for condominiums, we can’t own land, simple as that!

If you have an asawa you trust, then you can always buy the land in her name.  For many, though, the reason they are in the PI is because a female of the species has taken them apart emotionally, financially and in virtually every other way possible.  How then to trust again?  For some it is getting too late in life to pay off another swag of debts from a divorce, start building the wealth again and see out the rest of ones days in comfort.

If you find you just can’t bring yourself to trust your loved one with the rest of your life’s savings, yet you still want more than a condo, what can you do?’  You can move to Panama where I believe you are able to buy land, or Sri Lanka or somewhere else.  But if you wish to remain in the Philippines then you actually have a few decent options you can explore.

Without going into complicated corporate holdings and offshore set ups, the simplest way for a foreigner to own land here is to lease it.

Leasing confers all the rights of ownership, but for a set period. The  maximum period currently allowed is fifty years, WITH A TWENTY FIVE YEAR OPTION TO EXTEND!  Like who is going to be around in 75 years?  If you are, lets be generous, 30 now, you will be 105 when the time comes to vacate the property!

That is the maximum period of lease, you can of course lease for much shorter periods.  Too short a period, say 1 to 5 years and you may as well just rent the property.  The difference between renting and leasing is one has you as a tenant and the other way a virtual owner for a set period of time.  I would say the ideal lease period would be ten to fifteen years with a further ten to fifteen year extension.

Say Jim is 50 and he’s taken an early retirement from moving widgets in Wisconsin.  If he takes out a 15/10 Lease, he will be 65 when it comes time to extend, and 75 when the lease runs out.  At that time he invokes the clause that has him reimbursed for the capital improvements on the land (perhaps he built a dream house?) and he shuffles off to a condo closer to his heart specialist.  Or maybe he negotiates a new lease.

If he died during the lease, Maycelle his asawa and some 25 years his junior, decides she doesn’t want to remain there all alone and heads back to her family in the province.  Jim was smart enough to negotiate a lease that had money pumped in up front to cover the possibility of his bowing out early.  Maycelle was covered if she wanted to remain on the property but she also had the option to vacate.  Perhaps the improvements were left as payment for early termination, or maybe the lessor reimburses Jim’s widow a pro-rata amount for the house they built.  It is up to the parties at the time of negotiating the lease to agree on these things.

This is the beauty of leasing.  You can negotiate the terms to suit both parties.  Let’s look at an example.  Pete has a Lot up for lease.  It is 3000sqm, quite a big piece of dirt.  He offers it for lease but Jim doesn’t need all of it, so they agree on Jim leasing 1000sqm in the west corner. Lovely! If Pete was to sell his lot he could realise, say P200 per sqm (rural lot, nice and cheap!) The 1000sqm he is leasing to Jim is therefore worth P200,000 if he were to sell it.  If he leases it at P1000 per month over 20 years, he will earn P240,000; P40,000 more than if he sold it.

Of course by the time he receives the final payment that P240,000 won’t be worth then what P200,000 is worth now, but at least he still has the land.

A better plan for Pete is to lease the 1000sqm to Jim this way.  Jim pays P100,000 up front and has the first 12 months lease of the land free of further charges.  This keeps his cash flowing for the building of the house he wants to live in.  After the first 12 months he starts paying lease fees of P1000 per month for the next 14 years. At the end of the 15 years initial lease he has paid P100,000 in a lump initial payment and a total of P168,000 in monthly payments.  Pete was able to use the lump sum to buy some other property he had his eye on and the monthly fees kept his fridge full of beer.

Jim now has the option to extend a further 10 years.  If he does then he can either keep paying the P1000 a month lease fee (P120,000) or he pays nothing more and at the end of the lease vacates the land and leaves the house he built for Pete to take over, demolish or whatever. They had agreed on a basic standard of house when it was being built so Pete is happy with the improvements to the lot and Jim saves a lot of cash.  By the end of the lease he is pretty close to spending his days dozing in a hammock oblivious to the world and unable to even spell Alzheimers.

Pete gets his money, plus a little extra and a house he can now live in or rent out and Jim and his asawa have spent 25 of the best years of their lives together, the last 10 absolutely rent free which allowed him to save a fair amount of his retirement income each month.  Jim lived there happy in the knowledge that if he were to pass away, Maycelle was allowed to live on in the house for a further 2 years if she chose, rent free no matter where in the lease period they were when Jim died.  How come? Because Pete and Jim agreed on everything when they negotiated the lease, wrote it in plain English and had it notarised by a Notary Public at the local courthouse.  Simple and understood by all parties.

You can take advantage of the benefits of leasing over owning.  Anytime you see a Lot for Sale, consider asking if the vendor would like to keep hold of their property and negotiate a lease?  If you can offer close to the purchase price and then moderate monthly lease payments then there is every chance a vendor may prefer to lease you their land.

Leasing is a handy vehicle if you want to operate a resort. You lease the land as a foreigner, then sub-let it to a corporation put together to run the resort.  You hold 40% of the corporation and make sure at least another 40% is held by a Filipino you trust, or the other four incorporators hold 15% each only.  The corporation then operates the resort on the land it sub leases from you, using buildings you have built and therefore own.  If any of the Filipino partners in the corporation running the resort play funny games, you as the lease holder can terminate the contract to operate the resort with the corporation.  You would have it renewable year to year anyway to protect yourself.  You recover your 40% invested in the corporation but you retain the buildings and the lease on the land.  At the end of the lease period you are reimbursed for any improvements made to the land as provided by Philippine Law!

Leases can be a wonderful tool for a foreigner in the Philippines.  The trick is to negotiate up front all the clauses you need.  You can sub-let, so long as you include that in the original lease and the lessor agrees at that time  You can write anything in and it is binding so long as it isn’t illegal per se and the lessor agrees of their own free will.

Naturally, a smart investor would have the lease properly checked by a trusted attorney, unless they trust the lessor totally or more than they trust their attorney!  Keep everything written in plain English
and keep it simple and leasing should prove a viable alternative for those who really want their own block of dirt to do with as they wish, yet can’t legally own it.  Make sure the lease is fair to both parties and there is little chance of any dispute, even if it reached court, favouring one party over another purely because the lease itself is too heavily weighted in the other party’s favour.

For more information on real estate get our Philippines Property Primer e-guide

New Release from Streetwise Philippines

With over 20 years hands-on experience in the Philippines, Perry Gamsby is considered an authority on the facts of expatriate life in this fascinating archipelago.  As well as having a Filipina wife, four children and the requisite extended Filipino family, Perry is a teacher of Filipino Martial Arts and a former travel editor of the country’s leading map and travel atlas publisher. Five years ago he created Streetwise Philippines Inc. publishing eBook guides to the Philippines for expat readers.

His first book and to date, still the best seller, is “Philippine Dreams” (also sold in some markets as “StreetWise Philippines”). This comprehensive examination of the phenomenon of Filipinas, the Philippines and his own decision to move to the Philippines and pursue his dream of living in a tropical paradise strikes a chord with all who read it.  Written in an entertaining yet informative style, the eBook explores life and living in the Philippines in a special way: “This is what happens, this is why it happens, this is what you as an expat can do to understand what happens.” You can read more about Philippines Dreams at http://www.philippine-dreams.com/

“Philippine Dreams” created a demand for more information, especially about the four most important topics of the matrix:  meeting a Filipina, marrying and migrating a Filipina, putting a roof over your head if you decided to live in the Philippines and finding ways to pay for all of this!  The results were “Filipina 101-How To Meet The Filipina of Your Dreams” (co-written with his Filipina wife, Amelita) and “Filipina 202 – How To Marry And Migrate Your Dream Filipina”. These valuable guides dismiss the misinformation and stereotyping of the Filipina on the many online dating/matchmaking sites and provide a balanced and informative guide to men looking for Filipina wives.   You can read more about these guides at  http://www.filipina101.com and http://www.filipina202.com

Perry has completed ‘Filipina 303 – Making The Magic Last’ although at this stage it has not been decided if the eBook will be released separately or as part of a three volume compilation of the ‘Filipina’ series.

Perry then released “The Philippines Property Primer – The StreetWise Guide to Buying, Renting or Leasing Property”.  This is a ‘first read’ real estate guide for anyone contemplating buying, renting or leasing property in the Philippines.  Over the years, as well as buying, leasing and renting several properties himself in the Philippines, Perry has observed many people lose large amounts of money in property here; most of the time because they are not dealing with legitimate sellers or they have not protected their investment by taking the simple precautions listed in the eBook.  The Philippines Property Primer has all of the basic information you need to assist you in making a more informed decision.  You can read more about The Philippines Property Primer at http://www.philippinespropertyprimer.com/

THE LATEST RELEASE FROM STREETWISE PHILIPPINES

Although the topic of how to make a living in the Philippines was covered in brief in “Philippine Dreams”, the response from readers was so insistent that a new, updated and more in depth guide on how to support yourself and your family in the Philippines has been released.  “MAKING A LIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES – The StreetWise Guide To Business, Employment and Investing”, will tell you what you need to know to operate a small business, get a job or invest in a tightly regulated, highly competitive and immensely volatile marketplace.  It has been written with the average guy in mind; the everyday guy without the big retirement income set-up or pre-arranged ‘fatcat’ expat job contract who wants to escape to the Philippines and live every day with the Filipina of his dreams but still needs to make a living!

You can read more about “Making A Living In The Philippines” at http://www.makingalivinginthephilippines.com/ or check out all the Streetwise Philippines publications at http://www.streetwisephilippines.com/ The eBook, contains a wealth of information otherwise impossible to glean without having been there, done that.  In the safety of your own home you can learn first hand what is required to survive in a third world economy and be better equipped to decide if you should risk selling up and making that life changing move!

This E-Book will explain to you everything you need to know to start up a small business, get a job or invest in the Philippines!

The very latest publication is ‘Philippines Survival Handbook’ which takes a very holistic and comprehensive view of the things that can give you grief in the Philippines. From bent coppers to under-age girl scams, snakes and sea creatures to dangerous bus rides!