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Here is the cost of living data submitted by the members of the Living, Retiring, Traveling and Doing Business in the Philippines for various moderate lifestyles in several cities:
Finding a house in most price ranges is very easy. Most landlords would rather rent to foreigners than locals. They feel they can charge a bit more (but still a bargain) and have more of a chance of getting their rent paid on time. Most of these expats are in Manila, where most international companies have their Philippine headquarters.
This goes for all cities below, Cebu, Angeles, Davao, Olongapo or Subic City. The one for Olongapo is with generator, not really needed any more (now the power is good) and air-conditioning, an expensive necessity for some. The $200 house would probably be a three bedroom two bath house in a safe and upscale neighborhood. There is one for Davao, Mindanao. These people are living moderate lifestyles, which would cost much more in a "developed" country. Ex-pats on "Ex-pat" packages may have spent five or even ten times as much, living lavish lifestyles, at edacious low cost to their companies who pay their living costs. But when the job is over, they often have to go home, while the retirees on pensions stay.
The Cebu neighborhood where I live is mostly professional, upper middle class. This neighborhood is a "compound" (I guess it is called that because it has a fence around it) with about twenty-five houses. There are some rich folks here, I guess, at least by local standards. Everyone seems to have a new car or two. And the houses are so big I still get lost in mine. It is 40 years old, well-built with great character inside and out. The yard is full of foliage and blooming flowers.
Cebu City is near Mactan Island, with its many tourist beach resorts for every budget. Yearly memberships for resort residents are very low, but food prices can be high for here. They will let you bring your own food and drinks though there is a big sign at some that prohibits it. If tourism ever picks up that may change.
I prefer the friendliness of Cebu. When I moved to my new house there, my new next-door neighbor came by and asked why I had rented a truck to move instead of borrowing his.
In a smaller city, you can live in fine style on much less than I am spending. One of the "Living in the Philippines" members rents what may be the nicest house in General Santos City, Mindanao, for about $200 a month.
Questions and answers, Odds and Ends
1. Are Visa, Master Card AND Discover CREDIT cards widely accepted outside Manila and Cebu - especially pertaining to the more rural areas?
2. Are US styled, short sleeve, good, Tee shirts and shorts ACCEPTED (not "tolerated") in the PI - Manila, Cebu, "Country"?
3. When doing business in governmental offices, banks, lawyers, etc. does the PI culture expect one to be appropriately dressed at least a long sleeve shirt and clean pants, socks, shoes? (Here in Panama, one may not enter a government building in shorts = Respect!)
4. Are US brand name cigarettes easily available...and what's the normal price? (yeah - I've had cancer, so please, no lecture from non- smokers! LOL?!!)
5. As to new home construction: Has anyone heard of "M2", or "Covitec" being used in the PI? (It's a huge, up and coming, lower cost construction method found to be excellent for hot, humid Panama.)
6. Banking: I have funds in the states, of course, accessible by ATM cards, etc. I also currently have funds in HSB. However, they have no branches where I will have my "base" San Fernando, La Union. ANY "recommendations" for other banks that do have a branch in SF?
7. Are chickens fight allowed, or practiced, in the PI? If so, is your g/f or wife allowed to attend with you...or might that be a "problem"? (Women are not allowed to attend them here).
8. Are there bullfights - rodeos?
Answers to your questions:
1. Visa and MasterCard: In smaller cities like Iloilo and Bacolod using plastic is not a problem. Once you step out of the city limits, you need cash.
2./3. Dress Code: Bermuda style shorts, T-shirts and Sandals are my uniform of the day here. If I'm going to a nice restaurant for lunch/dinner, I dress appropriately. (Long pants, short-sleeved shirt with a collar and shoes. Same goes for trips to Immigration or any government office. All the government offices here require you dress in appropriate attire.
4. Cigarette: I smoke Marlboro lights. Other U.S. brand names are available for P24-P30 a pack here.
5. Building Materials. I'm building a house here now and nope, never heard of it.
6. ATM with the Cirrus and Star systems work in most places.
7. Cockfights: Every festival they are held locally. There are a couple cockfighting areas in Bacolod where they are held every weekend. People there tend to get drunk and fistfights are not uncommon. I've seen a few woman there, But I wouldn't bring my wife there.
8. Rodeo's: I haven't seen or heard of a regular rodeo like we are used to in the states. I have been to the Fiesta in San Joaquin in January where they have Caribo, Bull and horse fights. More of an oddity than anything else. Besides with no refreshments other than bottled water, popcorn and Ice milk stuck and no smoking, I didn't consider it very entertains after the first hour.