Category Archives: Investment

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.


The Biggest Growing Segment Of The Franchise Market Here Today!

I have been watching the steady growth in coffee shops in this country over the past few years with some interest. I do like a good cup of Java and when I first came to these shores 20 years ago it was a hard thing to find. Even today you will be lucky to do better than a sachet of Nescafe Instant, a sachet of creamer and a small cup of tepid water. Why the dumb mongrels don’t put the coffee in to the cup before filling it with water beats me! At least then it would have a chance to blend properly but why am I expecting western standards of civilised behaviour from someone who has never been exposed to such?

The reality is that Filipino’s enjoy a decent cup of coffee too, although maybe more for the fact it sends a message of affluence to others rather than the taste of the brew. At P50-60 and up (my café latte grande is a P100 cup of coffee) not every Dong and Dai out there is rushing to Starbucks, although more than enough are and new stores open all the time.

As well as Starbucks, there are Bo’s Coffee Clubs, Figaro, Seattle’s Best, Moccha Blend, Gloria Jean’s, Coffee Beanery and maybe four or five other franchises to choose from if you want to go into the coffee shop business. They all follow a similar theme, started by Starbucks back in the early eighties and itself modelled on the espresso bars of Italy, relaxed, casual and expensive! I wonder if the first recorded coffee shop, “Kiva Han” in Turkey in 1421 offered a mocchalatte or a frappucino?

In upscale areas they are everywhere and growing. It really is a market niche oriented business, you need lots of A, B and C class Filipino’s willing to spend relatively big money on a drink they really don’t need to get through their day with. At least not the fancy version on offer. Of course most places actually sell more iced drinks than hot versions, although this it is so cute to see Filipino’s wearing coats and jackets and sitting in the (still steamy for me) evening sipping hot coffee and pretending it is cold this time of year.

A decent coffee shop franchise will set you back around P2 million and up. You could get away with less but more will usually be needed. The way things are going though, it looks like a way to print money only a McDonalds franchise could beat. Or a Jollibee!


New Trends In New Business Opportunities!

Last month saw a Franchise Expo at Ayala Mall, hosted by Franchise Agents RK Franchise Consultancy. Rudolf Kotik, the founder of RK wasn’t there, but his Visayan representative Buddy Villasis was. Buddy is an intelligent, personable professional who was very open and forthcoming about the Consultancy and the franchise opportunities they managed and offered to potential franchisees here in Cebu. They have business opportunities going from a little more than US$1000 up to major investments in big name franchises.

I looked at the franchises on offer and noticed how there is a growing number of coffee shop opportunities. To me this proves there is a spreading trend to enjoy what is really a bloody expensive drink when you realise most cappuccino’s and latte’s start around P50 and go up from there! The Coffee Beanery, Indulgence Coffee, The Java Man, and a couple more are all on offer.

Food franchises do take up the majority of those offered but there were also educational and consultancy type franchises offered, as well as service oriented businesses such as massage studios. Wraps!, Rai-Rai-Kan, Kookels’, Ice Castles and others handled the food section. PC Quick Buys were there for computers, House of Praise for religious CDs and lots of other brands on show.

My favourite food franchise that was on offer is Dunkin’ Donuts. Me and the Anonymous Bear both love the Bavarians! We could buy into a franchise in Mindanao somewhere, but sadly everything on Cebu is taken! With Dunkin’ Donuts you can’t just buy a cart or kiosk or open a store, you need to buy the are or regional master franchise and then run things in the region, including setting up your own bakery. Big Money!

Out of all the 20 or so booths on display and the 70 or more franchises RK manage my favourite was the Kuryente Electrical Shop franchise. This is a nice looking concept that really should be looked into further because you could own a shop from around US$10,000 that will do well because light bulbs blow! What I couldn’t believe is they don’t have either a web site or an email address! Now that could be an opening for an intrepid web designer to leap in and make some money. If you want to know more, I would suggest you contact Buddy and ask him about Kuryente, I really think it just might take off! Otherwise, call Daisy Rafal on 0927 916 0565 and ask why they haven’t got a web site in this day and age!

It didn’t take too long to check out the entire expo, but what I saw was promising. There are much larger trade shows I Manila, but it was good to see someone trying something here in Cebu. I would suggest anyone with the intention of getting into a small business, either for themselves, their Asawa or an inlaw, contact Buddy and tell him you heard it here first!

Investment Gem Or Potential Rip-Off? Part 2

NOTE: This Investment Scheme report was originally published in April 2005 and then followed up in November 2005. The scheme is still going strong, paying the dividends and interest and making money for all involved! You can learn more by visiting Dave Whittal’s Blog: Tell Dave Perry sent you!

And here is the update from the Investor himself. I have taken the liberty, at his request, to omit specific amounts of money, that are not relevant to the basic news value of the update and of course are the personal details of the Investor. I would like to thank the Investor for his candor in sharing this detail with us so we can all better decide whether this is a viable option for our own investment and retirement plans.

I am well pleased with the deposits in Bank of East Asia (who arranged to pay into my account with EastWestBank for the Car Loan repayments) and Pilipino Rural Bank (who credit my ATM Account with Land Bank, with withdrawals at HSBC and BPI ATM’s also).

So much so that having received a Pension Lump Sum from 2 of my 3 Pension Providers, I wanted to avail of another 6 year deposit, like I did with PRB.  Trouble is that scheme was closed at PRB and only available in Bacolod.  Marhlan & Nestor of Legacy Group managed to speak to the chairman, and this is what they reported back to me:-

Good news!!! Luckily, the Chairman of Legacy Group has just recently advised this morning to grant the 1 year advance interest of 20%, plus monthly crediting of interest on 6 years CTD for the following banks: PCRB, Rural Bank of Carmen, PRB, and BEA. This will be effective however until the end of October (Oct.31? 05). This means that after October 31, only Nation Bank Bacolod will be allowed to grant this offer.

So I am closely watching the GBP-USD Exchange Rate to see if it climbs since this seems to directly affect the GBP-PHP Rate (almost exactly GBP->USD->PHP) is a good free ‘Tool’ to see how the Exchange rate changes during the day.  It has climbed to a peak of 1.778, which is where it was 08:00 on 21st, and on 7th October early in the day,  and on 24th September.  However at 22:00 on 21st October it was up at 1.8125, or better still 5th Sept when it was 1.8501 – why could my funds not have come through by then!

The Foreign Exchange Rates as quoted by HSBC On-Line Banking seem to be lower, and lag behind what the FOREX Rate actually is.  Trouble is their Buy/Sell spread is 2.5%, so not much chance to capitalize on this lag. All day their Rate for buying Pound Sterling(GBP) has been 0.0103684

(96.447), when that FOREX Chart showed GBP-USD @ 05:00 to be 1.7688 .  So in this basis, HSBC should be offering 97.774, or there about, in the morning?

This might not seem a lot (less than 1%) but when you are considering changing £X,000+,  that’s nearly Php10,000 extra!

I owe PhpX.xM with my HSBC AssetLink loan against PhpXM on Deposit.  My first thoughts were to repay as much of this loan as I could possibly afford and then be able to borrow with less than 24 hours notice again.  Became aware of the needs for fairly large sums when Mama got sick and had to be admitted to Hospital – and more so with Harry Carter.

However, being able to avail of that 6 year plan means putting 4 deposits of PhpxK (A, B, A/B, A/C where A is say Bob, B is Mary and C is Child) means getting PhpxK back as soon as my PhpXM cleared.  Will use that to pay off on AssetLink Loan then use the PhpxK a month interest to repay more of loan each month.  This means I would be able to ‘borrow’ PhpxK in an emergency and this amount increases by PhpxK each month.  I may well be able to pay off more of my loan, especially when funds from my 3rd Pension Provider come through.  I could of course deposit another xK in the 6 Year scheme and get PhpxK advance and PhpxK a month.

To give you an idea of the amounts: if one was to take in Php1.5M deposit in ‘Cash’, one could get the Php300K advance interest the same day, and use that as a 6 Year deposit and get Php60K cash back from that and be receiving Php25,000 a month interest!

I don’t want to invest more in Rural Banks than I have in HSBC particularly, but the 6 Year scheme is very attractive. The 8.3% I am getting on the 5 Year HSBC Term Deposit is no longer available.

Please don’t quote the amounts I am depositing, but feel free to say I am particularly pleased with the Rural Banks affiliated to the Legacy Group, especially the 6 Year Special Deposit, and will be investing more here in Cebu, by the end of October.  If it were not for the PDIC scheme I would not be putting even Php100K deposit (the old PDIC limit)! (Editor: Philippines Deposit Insurance Council)

The fact that Joint accounts carry separate Php250K from Single Accounts (* as stated in PDIC web site) makes a big difference also, otherwise I would have run out of Rural Banks here in Cebu and be having to consider Bacolod and other places outside Cebu – not so convenient!

Thanks again, sounds like the investment is paying off. I hope you never have to test the PDIC but overall it seems like a relatively safe yet profitable investment strategy. Nobody has ever gotten rich playing it too safe and risk is relative, I think this is so far a good thing. We’ll hopefully be able to keep tabs on the progress of this investment over the next few years. If you are thinking of following suit, this guy found the deal, so can you. Just check out your local Rural bank and have the goolies to give it a go


Is This The Way To Go For Those With The Cash?

There are over 400 Franchises in the Philippines that the budding entrepeneur can choose from.  Some of these are international brands or franchises known in the USA like McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and so on. The majority though are home grown and that really isn’t all that surprising.

Firstly Filipino’s love to do things in groups so being a frenchisee means you are one of a group operating the same, identical business as many others.  Comforting to anyone brought up in a culture that promotes the group at the expense of the individual in so many ways.

Yet the individual, or couple, may still want the independence and financial benefits of being one’s own boss and running your own business.  It is a statistic that 95% of franchises succeed whereas
only 5% of new, start up businesses last as long as 5 years.  More than half will collapse within the first twelve months and the main reason is under capitalisation, usually followed by poor location.

The beauty of a franchise is that you are given a model to follow that is working for others and providing you follow the guidelines your business should prosper, too.  All of the expensive trial and error has been finished with a long time ago and by the time someone prepares their business for franchising, you can be fairly sure it will work. When starting abusiness from scratch, nobody plans to fail, but many fail to plan or plan sufficiently and buying a franchise erases a lot of these risks.

A good franchise will have a comprehensive operations manual, pre-selection process and a good marketing plan.  Many franchise agreements have you paying a monthly fee for the adverising and
marketing so make sure the franchisor is doing the right thing by the business in the local media.  On top of that there could be ongoing Royalties that are paid monthly.  Make sure you are getting something in return for these!

There are good franchises and bad ones, same as anything.  The bad ones take your money and give you a badly written operations manual and prety much leave you to get on with it.  The good ones will usually charge more as the franchise is worth more and will earn more) and they will also give you more.  More assistance with location sourcing, staff trianing, ongoing training and supervision, innovative marketing and advertising and lots more.  You will get some thing in return for you fees.

When choosing a franchise you should ask the hard questions, although there is no harm in asking them politely.  Really investigate what you get and what the franchiser will do for you and for how long.  Make sure you fully understand every aspect of the franchise agreement, before you sign and hand over your cash!

Buying a franchise can cost as little as Php27,000  (US$500 approx) (NachoKing Taco cart!) or well into the millions, McDonalds go for around Php15-30 million, which is serious money in any currency.
Anyone looking at investing that kind of money is probably not reading this newsletter, so don’t be surprised if we keep to the under US$30,000 mark when we look at individual businesses and franchises in future issues.

If you want to know more about this great way to get into business, visit the website of the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc, or try the RK Franchise Consultancy site at Here are some other links to franchisers you may want to surf into and check them out: NachoKing, carts starting at only Php 27,000! Figaro Coffee Shops Laundry and Dry Cleaners

Philippine Dreams does not endorse any of these specific franchisers but includes them here for information purposes only.

The Good Things

Some Of The Reasons We Live Here.

the good things

NOTE: I wrote this in September 2004.  It was how I felt at the time. I still believe what I felt then was true. What do you think?  Feel free to email me directly at or post a comment to this blog using the link included below.  Perry April 2008.

You could be forgiven in thinking that this country is a nightmare, badly run and full of people just waiting to rob you of every penny you have. Not true. The Philippines is the Philippines, simple as that.

This is a great country with many wonderful people and customs, its just very different from the USA, Canada, Australia,New Zealand, UK,and Europe. Very different. If it was identical then there would be no reason to come here, would there?

There are so many good things to living here, not just having your retirement or vacation dollar stretching farther. There is still a freedom to do as you wish that is being legislated out of all existence back home. I believe many well intentioned pieces of legislation have been amended well out of their original context and now add to the problems they were implemented to correct.

The Philippines is still growing and developing, finding its place in the modern world, eager to advance yet proud of her history and hero’s. Justly proud, I feel.

There is corruption, incompetence and ignorance in every aspect of life, but it is tempered with an approach to life and living that is simple and refreshing. It is a fact of life here so accept it and focus
on your own problems, don’t try and save the world or at least the Philippines from theirs.

As a foreigner you have the luxury of being able to leave any time you choose and go virtually anywhere you wish. Not so the Filipino. So if they seem unaware of the “failings” of their country, who can blame them? If your own country didn’t have failings then you wouldn’t be reading this now.

Living here is a humbling experience and  for me, an empowering one. It builds your self confidence and self respect, it makes you appreciate the simple things in life we have taken for granted for too long.  You will only get out of a trip here what you are willing to put in.

Keep your mind open to new ways of doing things. Just because it is done a certain way back home does not mean it is right for the Philippines or Filipinos. Far better than I can say it, the words of
Lord Curzon, Viscount of India, express the love I have for this country and its people, while often wondering why they do it the way they do!

‘We must remember that the ways of Orientals are not our ways, nor their  thoughts our thoughts.  Often when we think them backward and stupid, they think us meddlesome and absurd.  The loom of time moves slowly with them, and they care not for high pressure and the roaring of the wheels.  Our
system may be good for us; but it is neither equally, nor altogether good,  for them.  Satan found it better to reign in hell than serve in heaven; and the normal Asiatic would sooner be misgoverned by Asiatics than well governed by Europeans.’

Powerful words as true today about the Philippines as they were about India over a hundred years ago.  Manual Quezon himself said he would prefer a “Philippines” run like hell by Filipino’s than run like heaven by foreigners.  Cynics might argue he got his wish but at least their destiny is in their own hands, more or less.

I may be among the first to rail against the almost feudal system prevailing here but there is so much good to balance against the bad. Having spent three  months now away from my Cebu home and back amongst my own countrymen, I must admit I see things differently.  My time in the Philippines mellowed me in many ways, it changed my perspectives and altered what was once considered important to a status less imperative.

I look at my countrymen, striving to live the great “Aussie Dream” of owning their own home, having two cars in the driveway and sending the kids off to university. The reality is that the homes are getting bigger while the land they stand upon is shrinking.  Everyone wants MacMansions yet the cost of land is too high to leave any room for a garden for the kids to play in.  But then kids don’t play outside anymore, its all Nintendo and computers and cable tv and who has the time in their busy lives to keep a garden in shape?

As for the cars, the government slugs you coming and going with taxes and duties and fees and fines and yet you still need to have the latest model and lots of space.  By the time your kids get to university they will probably hold little regard for you other than contempt given the media, their peers and society as a whole.  You owe them everything for bringing them into this world and the world owes them the rest. That’s not how it is in the Philippines.

I want my wife to visit Australia and see my country.  Hopefully hang around just long enough to get over the WOW! Factor and pick up on the reality, then be happy to return to the Philippines.  I have little to no faith my retirement superannuation dollars will be around when I reach the age the government have decreed I can touch them.  Instead I will look to having as many rental properties in the Philippines to live off as I can acquire between now and then.  In other words, like the Filipino, I will be looking after Number One, and the immediate family.  Charity does start at home, and my home is in the Philippines.

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!


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.


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!