Island’s in the Sun – Harsh Realities of Life in the Third World

NOTE:  This is intended for those who have not actually been to the Philippines but are dreaming of doing so…

 

Well, seeing as how I haven’t done a blog entry in like FOREVER, I figure it’s time to toss one out.

I actually started this particular post while I was back in the US.  It basically has to do with what I like to (ironically) call the Philippine Dream – the idealized construct of what life in the Philippines is like without having actually faced some of the harsher realities of living here.  You know what I mean – the visions that many of us created of an inexpensive house rental cozied away on a pristine white sand beach, kicking back on a gently swaying hammock whilst sipping fresh margaritas, wooing a beautiful, dusky-skinned island girl and living happily ever after……

Yeah.  Exactly.  That Philippine Dream.

Unfortunately, after some amount of time in country, reality will usually rear its ugly head and all those preconceived dreams we so lovingly crafted get torn asunder upon the cruel rocks of practical experience.

This past year in particular has done a lot to peel the “rose-tinted glasses” from my face.  Why, you might ask?  Well, murders, fatal motorcycles, lost homes, and a bunch of scams, hustles, burglaries and robberies have done much to dull the shine of my own personal Philippine Dream.  Above and beyond the “death by a thousand cuts” that plague any person living in a third world country (the heat, humidity, burning rubbish, chronic inefficiency, piles of trash, etc.), actual crimes happening to actual people you know tend to refocus one’s outlook on life here. From the murder of Phil Prins and Ted Blaszak to three fatal motorcycle accidents involving long-term foreigners to our neighbor losing “his” house (and a few other foreigners acquaintances experiencing this same this year) to a number of folks we know being burglarized and/or robbed due to an uptick in shabu-infused crime, a number of incidents occurred in the last twelve months that put things in perspective.

But enough of that.  Let’s get a bit more into what – for me – was an integral part of my personal Philippine Dream.

Weezer’s Island in the Sun

 

ISLAND IN THE SUN

 

“When you’re on a holiday

You can’t find the words to say

All the things that come to you

And I wanna feel it too

 

On an island in the sun

We’ll be playing and having fun

And it makes me feel so fine

I can’t control my brain..”

                                     

                                                                                                                                                   -Weezer, Island in the Sun

 

If you’ve purchased our book, you’ll know (or should know) that this quote prefaces everything else there contained.  I included that quote when I was first assembling the book and looking back, it was rather prescient. And with all the craziness of this past year, rather apropos as well.

I am a big fan of Weezer.  A huge fan, actually.  Pork and Beans, Hash Pipe and Island in the Sun are always in my playlist.  And whenever I hear the latter, I can’t help but think of the Philippines.  Truth be told, before I even moved to the Philippines, it was a song that listen to a lot and with it’s happy, upbeat tempo, I’d add more and more idealized bits and pieces to my own personal Philippine Dream.  But – as we noted earlier –that dream eventually succumbs to the irresistible tide of reality.

Now, overtly Island in the Sun is an upbeat, melodic tune initially bringing on visions of swaying palms and sun-swept beaches. The song’s idyllic mental imagery is accompanied by sweet, summery strumming but also undercut by the sublimely sad delivery of River Cuomo’s vocals.  For me, there is also a certain level of melancholia that seems to cloud the rays of sun that play along its surface.

What does this have to do with the Philippines?

Well, first off there’s the ostensible imagery of the “island in the sun,” where all one’s cares will gently fade away.  But again, there is also the melancholia.  Oftentimes in life, we have all encountered things that are “too good to be true,” especially when it comes to human longing and dreams.  Our internet sites are called Philippine Dreams, and I am SOOO glad that I (unknowingly) named it that.  Because as time goes on and bad things continue to happen, the dream is slowly – but steadily – losing some of its glow and the unique is turning into the everyday.

That’s actually OK and is just a part of the human experience.   Some might even go as far to bring up the whole “familiarity breeding contempt” aspect but since I haven’t yet gotten to that level, I will abstain.

Even the video of Weezer’s Island in the Sun underscores the effect that reality ultimately has on one’s dreams, hope and aspirations – the original “Mexican wedding” video portrays a fun-filled, sublime wedding where everyone is happy and nothing could possibly go wrong.  But – as many of us know – the reality is that many marriages end in divorce as the cold reality of the mundane settles upon the once-happy couple.

Now, please don’t think I am trying to be negative.  I’m not.  I am just trying to objectively convey the changes that some people go through when making what is truly a drastic change like moving to the Philippines. 

Hold onto your dreams.  Clench them tight.  But just be aware that everything in life is not what we think it might be.  Especially when it comes to living one’s life in a foreign land.

Check out the video – It’s rather apropos to the topic at hand….

 

 

 

Photos by Phil Prins – RIP.

 

prins 99

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Comments 49

  1. Nice article! The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. The problem is that once you jump the fence and start walking through it you find the broken bottles and snakes and see that a lot of what you thought was grass are actually weeds. But, for many of us, it’s not so much about what’s on the other side of the fence being better. Just an explorer’s heart that can’t stand the thought of not knowing. It’s like Adam and Eve looking at the tree and wondering…

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  2. God, after reading that I want a large spliff and a shot of Jack…. seriously Ned you have what most of us want… so enjoy. I will buy next time I see you at Bogart’s as long as you are over this shitty mood LOL.

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  3. Brings to mind the old saw, ‘Wherever you go, there you are,’ which to me reflects the fact we are ultimately responsible for our outlook and contentment, sometimes in spite of our surroundings. Look at the Filipino people; they are, for the most part, sublime, happy even though many live in conditions most westerners would abhor.

    In contrast I think of the transition a Filipina goes through upon coming to the states as a new bride, something I’ve witnessed many times as an observer of the large Filipino community in and around Boston. Her reality shifts, another way of saying her expectations and attitudes quickly become those of a westerner, often leading to a break with her husband for the greener pastures and attentions of the many younger western males suddenly available to her. The shift happens quickly in that direction.

    But it’s not so easy shifting your reality in the other direction, casting off expectations established in a western life of relative safety and wealth to find contentment in a simpler and much more raw existence. But there are roses to stop and smell in even the most weeded garden, if you seek them out.

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  4. When I lived there( 1986 -1987) my ex and I were newly married , military couple. I fell in love with the everyday pace, the beauty.. But occasionally I’d face the ugly as well. The poverty, the harsh realities of a nation of young, struggling people. The lack of what we Americans take for granted, sanitation, clean maintained streets, legal recourse, consistent working utilities. When you love something, you want so badly to help, to rectify as best you can the ills that plague it.. It was soul sucking… I loved this country, I mourned circumstances that I felt powerless to fix.. I got to know a few of the ” working girls” some of whose lives, filled me with rage at the unfairness of life. My garbage man and his lovely son, the Amount of poverty they braved every day.. It made it hard to feel happy, knowing I was a very privileged person, living a much higher quality of life.. While all the lovely people I came to know, would never know much more than what they were living..

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  5. “As time goes on and bad things continue to happen, the dream is slowly – but steadily – losing some of its glow/charm, especially when it comes to seeing other expat’s dreams turn into either intermittent night terrors or full-on nightmares.” So Ned..I have been following your channel for a while and I have had phillipine dreams myself, but when i see how my cebuana lives, I dont know if i would want to become a full time expat especially at 62 years old. I will thankyou for sharing realitys but I also see the adventure of life there especially if you have a loving fillipina. Do you like it there enough to live out your life there? Why did you choose Dumagete if bad thing happen to expats there? is Michelle from negros ?

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      Michell is from southern Mindanao. I actually chose Dumaguete after seeing another foreigner’s video on the city. As for you, just come by and visit for a few months. I am not usually “negative” but I feel it is very important for us to show all sides to living, working or studying in the Philippines. I still actually love life here, though – if I ever don’t, I will just leave. 🙂

  6. I agree moving to a third world country is different from vacationing there. When I first went to the phillipines had no idea what to expect, just knew it was not going to be the same as US, but I fell in love with the place especially Dumaguete City where my wife is from. Anyone who goes to the phillipines has to remember it is third world country growing and struggling at times. I love the Dumaguete, the phillipines and we love your work with phillipine dreams and your blog. Hope to meet you guys when we come home. My wife has a house just down from the the cemetary, can’t remember thename right at this moment. Keep up the good work and info.

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      I actually really like the Dumaguete area. It’s got all (or most) of the conveniences while still being easy to get out of on a day trip to the beach or mountains. And yes, it is a Third World country and most of the people here are seriously struggling. Thanks, Keith.

  7. Ned;

    Perhaps this will help your perspective and mine. Check the news feeds on the U>S> election insanity, black lives matter movement, SJW’S, Europe and migration, Britain”s referendum. ……………………

    Then make a few nice cool drinks for you and Michell, sit quietly, look at each other.

    When calm check out this vlogger just for your own interest. Blind Owl Outdoors, He is American married to a Filipina living on Bohol for 12 years now.

    As always my internet adviser and friends, Go Team Dream. Ingat Always.

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  8. Ned: With all due respect for your experience and the sadness and frustration you have felt. I must add that those same things are happening to people everywhere. Crimes of all sorts are happening Back in the Usa . Phil’s death is alarming because IM a nice guy and generally feel safe everywhere, Obviously i am misled in this idea. But as a white guy I wouldent survive a night in the bronx or watts. Cities have crime .
    IN the Philippines expenses are lower and so the opportunity to spend time on a tropical beach with a beautiful brown woman sipping a beverage of your choice is still an available reality. Sadly we cannot control everything but we instead have to cherish and enjoy the good times.

  9. It sounds like the Philippines Dream is beginning to fade. I’m sorry to hear that but can relate. In 1992 my then wife and I moved from upstate NY, Syracuse to Phoenix.AZ. The company she worked for was restructuring and closing smaller sites, hers was one of them. They offered to move us to LA but with the high cost of living, gang and crime problems and other issues we chose not to. When we first arrived it was a welcome change from everything we knew, but a little warm. Then summer arrived, I know “But it’s a dry heat!” Yeah, so is your oven, try crawling into it for seven months straight. Most of the free events and places that we used to go to are now gone. During the housing boom most of southern California move here bringing all of the problems that we were trying to avoid by not moving to LA to begin with. The cost of living skyrocketed during the boom so $400/mo electric bills are common now. After 24 years working construction here I have a bad back and 2 heat strokes to show for it. Public transit is virtually non existent so your stuck having a car and the expenses that entails.
    But with all that said, I have a good stable government job that I can retire from in 2021, only 1818 days!! I was able to buy a nice small house towards the end of the real estate bust for a decent price. Met a gwapa pinay that became my asawa who continually keeps me grounded and never stops helping me see the positive side of things. So my sunny Arizona dreams faded and the negatives of life here have finally outweighed the positives so that as soon as possible we’ll be moving on somewhere, currently Dumaguete seems to be the front runner but I accept that time can change that as well.

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      Thanks for taking the time to write all that up. I actually know someone who did the exact opposite of what you did – he moved from Dumaguete to Arizon about a year and a half ago, and he seems to be liking it. Thanks again!

  10. After living here for a few years, I am leaving for good. Most of the other foreigners I’ve made friends with are also gone, or planning to leave soon. I’ve had enough, nobody cares about anything in these Islands. This could be Hawaii, instead it’s dirty, polluted, loud, and “corrupt” to the bone. I’ve had it with all the daily irritants, lack of common sense, the worst driving in the world after India, and the lack of respect from local. They will play their videoke at 5am, blast their loud motorbikes by your door at 2 in the morning, and put up a rooster farm on your vacant lot next door to your house, while they smile at you! And I let’s not forget all the foreigners who get scammed when buying lots, building house, and doing business, and no it’s nowhere like the western world, the system is set up to make you fail, and pay big $$$. In my book, this journey started out a dream, but in the end it’s a nightmare and I can’t wait to wake up!

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  11. I might not come across right, but it is so refreshing to occasionally see a realistic perspective of life there. But unfortunately, for me anyway, It is like the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know. I know it is not all puppies and rainbows, but the harsh realities warrants me to reconsider… But there is no way anyone can make this decision without boots on the ground.
    Heck, I can’t wait to start. And I am constantly checking out your site for your next video… Regardless of some of the negative realities, it’s still a Philippine Dream for me.

    Hope to see you there in Dumaguete, if your still there in October 2017.

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      Thanks, Alan. I feel the same way – the more I think I am starting to figure things out, the more lost I realize I am. It’s definitely a learning experience. And like you said, people really need to be here to get an actual grasp about what day to day life in the Philippines is like. Mostly great, but other times not so much. 🙂

  12. Ned, I am an appreciative follower of Philippine Dreams living quietly in Luzon. The reality of life in the Philippines from my perspective when it comes to the potential/actual sad and bad things that occur is not really much different from the good old USA. Two of my very best life long friends lost their lives in accidents…one auto and one motorcycle on US highways. My place in Cheyenne, WY was broken into at 10 AM in the morning while I was at work and I lost thousands! Anytime and anywhere when things like that happen I think we feel vulnerable and our thoughts reflect on how fragile life really is.

    The Philippines like anywhere is not without these possibilities. On the other hand I feel like people sometimes set themselves up for problems. I have no idea of the circumstances of those you mention so please don’t think I am pointing this out regarding them. Here in Angeles foreigners go out till all hours to the bars and then get robbed. I see foreigners and locals riding their scooters/motorbikes so aggressively that it is just a matter of time before something bad is bound to happen. I ride my Yamaha everywhere and caution is always the rule of the day. I would be stupid to think I will never be involved in an accident but I also think common sense along with, as mentioned, caution can significantly limit the odds for something bad. Slow down, give others who are in a big hurry to kill themselves the right of way. I avoid riding after dark for three main reasons….robberies, drunks and all those crazy people who ride around with no lights taking chances like passing to gain 20 feet and then pull in someplace saving an entire second! Riding a motorbike here is like being in a video game as you know. So bottom line there are things here in “Paradise” that can be disastrous. Just like driving that crazy Interstate that goes around the perimeter of Boston, caution is needed. Or Route 3 that goes north into New Hampshire. I have been stopped in bumper to bumper traffic and have seen someone going 60 passing everyone in the breakdown lane! Scary!!! I’ve been here in Angeles over a year and a half now and have had to adjust my mindset to the circumstances. So always alert, cautious and common sense when riding. Expect the unexpected!

    Overall I enjoy my life here in the Philippines. In spite of the aforementioned negatives life here is really quite stress free. I have my “speedy”…lol….internet, my cable, Netflix and best of all “GamePass” during beloved NFL season. There are beautiful malls to shop in and great prices with exceptions of course. There are actually people in the stores here who will assist you unlike searching for someone in the States. At the public market negotiating is always an option and fun! I never have to drive in ice or snow here! I enjoy playing chess and Filipinos in general are great chess players. If I want a game I just walk down to the local trike station and get my butt handed to me! My place is very “Western” like with aircon, hot shower, furnished and over all very cheap compared to something similar in the States! If I want junk food (who can resist a Big Mac or Whopper now and then?) with my senior discount I can get a “Go Large” meal for 140 pesos or about 3 bucks USD. My girlfriend who I have known for over two years lives close by. We hang out together, cook together, run our errands together and may even get married eventually. And I can live comfortable on my SS which would be next to impossible in the States.

    I also think being friendly to the locals, smiling, chatting , even bringing people you know things like a Quarter Pounder meal, or sharing something you cooked goes a long way in not only enjoying the people and culture but in being accepted and not stereotyped as most foreigners are. And treating them with respect. I commonly start conversations everywhere, even sitting in traffic and get smiles from otherwise poker faces. The people here are one of the big positives as long as you treat them as you want to be treated. Some foreigners though have a mindset that they are somehow better, they look down their arrogant noses at the people here, they think they are smarter and they are not willing to adapt to the culture here in any way. Of course I am and always will be an American but just as when people from other countries come to the States we expect them to adapt to the culture we have grown up with, it seems we should to an extent do the same here.

    Wow Ned! You thought you could go on and on sometimes? I am guilty also as can be seen! Ok so my bottom line here to others whether here or considering coming to the Philippines is use common sense, be friendly, don’t put yourself in situations that could be dangerous, if you ride a motorcycle learn about the crazy things people do and be extremely cautious and try to understand the culture. But most of all…Don’t give up on the Philippine Dream…just be realistic in your expectation because it does exist and my Kudos to Ned and what he does!!!!!!

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      Wow. Thanks for taking the time to write all that out. Our experiences and adjustments seem to have been very similar. There are many things that are done differently here and getting used to them can take some doing. And like you said, most of the time it is us getting in our own way. If you ever want to write an article for the site, Steve, just let me know! myphilippinedreams@gmail.com.

  13. ‘Enough with the negative waves Moriarity, woof, woof’
    Crime against Expats in the Philippines. Yes.
    Crime in Expats home countries. Yes.
    Are Expats safer living in their home countries? Yes.
    Do Expats want to live in their home countries? No.
    Face it crime against Expats everywhere is higher and not just in the Philippines.
    What are your choices, if you want to live as an Expat?
    Choose your country carefully and choose your life style carefully and be prepared to say FU to the country and its people if they treat you badly.
    You can always take your money and spend it else where.
    The Philippines has foreign money coming in from various sources the largest of these are OFWs, Tourists and Expats and they probably drive a lot of the investment in the Philippines..
    If the Philippines becomes really unsafe the Tourists will stop coming and the Expats will leave, just look at what has happened in Mindanao because it is not as safe as the rest of the Philippines..
    Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam Malaysia, Indonesia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Singapore are only a short flight away.
    Next time any of you talk to your landlord or meet a politician from Baranguay Captain, Mayor, Senator or the President Mr Duterte just quietly remind them of this fact and what your options are if it becomes too unsafe.

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      1. Hi Ned,

        Feel the need to leave a comment. Prins was not a random murder, someone jumped by unknown assailants. He broke all the rules: in a sleazy nightclub at 4.00am after a heavy session of drinking, altercation with Philippines staff, who were possibly trying to get him to leave…..everything wrong.
        The CCTV footage of the killing shows him coming out of the nightclub, clearly enraged, and possibly trying to sort things out with the staff, physically. There is suggestion of mental instability on the part of Prins…PTSD. Apparently the FBI were on to it as Prins had some sort of security clearance. A very messy situation.

        Perhaps you knew Prins personally, and have some insights?

        I don’t think the killing of Prins Has much relevance for foreigners in Dumaguete, unless you feel otherwise. I have only passed through Dumaguete a few times in my travels and have felt perfectly comfortable, always. Nice town and surroundings.

        Lee

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          I like Dumaguete as well, but as someone recently noted, I might be a case of Stockholm Syndrome. As for Prins, he was a foreigner killed in Dumaguete, so he is on the list. And I think his case in particular (drinking and getting drunk alone here) is relevant to the discussion. Thanks, Lee.

  14. Ned I came to the states in 1982 with just a dream and a few hundred bucks. Now after a failed marriage of 26years. I’m ready for a change and a challenge. I enjoy challenges and PH seems like a great place to meet my next challenge. The way u describe life there reminds me of when I was a kid in England. It seems like a rerun of my youth. I’m certain I can handle it. As before….I’m looking for a new challenge.
    I hope to see u soon. ????

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  15. Ned,
    in reality, you are living life through your heart with Mitchell. You are fortunate. Consider life without her: sticks, stones, puddles, quickies and sand. Paradise without heart is not your cup of tea. You realize the value and it is a challenge at times to work and share the pace, together. Everything else going on can be managed or avoided.
    Third world living is more raw, a primitive sensation, a wilder play; whereas back home we are more comfortable in our vanilla maze of day to day sameness. You want a change…you got it.
    You don’t have to watch your back as much in Thailand; it’s safer in general.
    However the Philippine people, land and ocean, have greater spirit. The people are hungry for more, ocean is cleaner, hills and prairies are wetter, greener. The women are more curious of the western man, and the connection is better, with both speaking English.
    I could go on, and others will disagree with my comments. No problem, we all have the power to create positive reality in all places.
    I am much older and the challenge never stops, especially when ageing kicks in after 60. You continue to fight inner pain against the constant change in relationship to the world.

    I suggest simplification in lifestyle management, live with less stress and focus on what makes u happy.

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      Very well said, Dave and thanks for taking the time to write all that out. And I have heard others say the same thing about the Thailand/Philippines comparison (although not as eloquently put). You are a true wordsmith! If you want to write up something for our site at any time, let me know! I think that would make for a great article.

  16. Ned
    thanks for the wordsmith compliment, I’m an amateur at best, even though I just published an eBook on Amazon. Writing is a new discovery for me, I love putting words to logic. I am new at the game.

    A rebel of sorts, I have lived outside the box or western culture, most of my life. Myself…I am way too smart or over educated… which doesn’t help me much in “living the moment.”

    I have chosen… simple living among those “mostly” innocent smiles of third world mindsets for many years- off and on.
    I have written u a few times already and have watched your site, plus you tube. I favor yours and Reekay’s site the best. You both think it through: well thought out, rounded opinion.

    I just visited Philippines again last week for 8 days. Dumaguete has always been on my mind but the town itself…is not my dream. Although I haven’t been to Dumaguete, I know it from your sense of comment on line.
    Of course I would prefer an edge of beach, swaying palms, turquoise and white sand, with a frickin sunset. Why is it most towns sit on eastern coasts with only moon rise. I consider a warming seat to sunset…. a glorious affair in fondling nature.
    I think I should cast a spell upon Boracay, to remove all the misfits, to make room for my soul to breathe in peace.
    I am now ready to purchase your $10 95 book and get serious. Not sure when I will come to PI …sometime this summer.
    I would love to write something for you or anyone for that matter. I enjoy the process of creating, I was an artist, painter, photographer, and health educator in my working life.

    One curious note which I find quite interesting, and refreshing, living around Thailand and some third world countries….no girlfriends, men friends, young and old….could care less about who I am or what I did in the past. In the beginning I would attempt to share my personal thoughts or art work on line with the locals.

    It’s definitely different….It’s strange, ….now what I do to share with a simple minded lady in relationship is relate-able only to the present moment. To leave the present moment, whatever that be, is an unusual act for the natives, outside the present time moments we are living, as u might say “in the now.”
    Confrontation, reflection, or rational regurgitation takes one outside of the present moment. Most locals like to be in the here and now.
    I still get kicked out of my mind… approaching confrontation in relationship and hearing her say, why are u bringing up something now, that make me feel bad in past. It is then that I am reminded, again and again, we think to much…all I can say is they may have a point. They are smiling and I am asking them to be sad.?
    So they care less of who I am, as they like me only to make laugh…. and care not to make them sad.

  17. Hi, Ned been viewing your site for some time. Remember the video about the 1st year in PI. Seems some things have changed, but be positive in whatever you do, and where you are. I was in Seattle for 9 months but am now back in China teaching. (Guangzhou). Been here 11 years. Hope to come to PI in future . They block face book and you tube here so can not view your videos. Think you could do a pod cast. Life beyond the sea started one. If you have time. My gf is from PI Leyte so I have been to PI alot. Anyway hope you get a cooler house. Douglas

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      Thanks for that, Douglas. I wasn’t trying to be negative, but one has to note some of the negatives – especially for those who haven’t been here before. As for a podcast, I don’t think that will happen. Henry seems to be a much better talker than I am. 🙂

  18. I think you need to remember the reasons you moved there. I could probably recite them for you because I have a very similar list of reasons that fuel my desire to move there as well. While there is no paradise on this planet there are places that allow you to live a life that is more suitable to you. America is filled with people who believe they have it tough and there is no way they can better themselves or suceed. So they live life like Tigger. The Filipinos realize how difficult life can be and their attitudes rise above it.

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  19. Thank you for all the usefull info on Myphilippinedream. Its so inspirering to follow your life and what you experience there. Especially that you point out both the good but also the things that are not so god. The last three years I spent about nine months in Philippines, since my plan is to move there in late 2017. Been traveling around as much as possible to try to find a place where I and My filipina fiance would like to live (she’s from Pampanga in Luzon). So far I like Dumaguette best. But I also must say that in many ways I find Thailand an “easier” country to move to if you think of safety, less crime, traffic, maybe even less scams. But since Im engaged to My wonderful filipina it will be Philippines, and propably somewhere around Dumaguette. That most people speak english is also of cource a huge advantage. Thats all really, just wanted to thank you and Michelle for all this extremly usefull information and of cource also the entertaining way you present it. If I see you in Dumaguette next winter the drinks are definitly on me. (If there are some misspelling or corny way of using the language, its due to Im swedish and english is not my native).

    Best Regards

    Mats

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  20. I’m coming to check out the Philippines end of August 2016 .
    I definitely need a change of pace and scenery . Ned definitely and makes the Philippines look interesting . I’ve been following on YouTube for about a year . After last winter in Central Pennsylvania it’s time to look at some warm territory .

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