Today is Wednesday, August 30th, 2017, the first day of the rest of our lives… Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift – that’s why they call it the present!
Welcome to the Philippine Dreams weekly Livecast, where I regularly attempt to address issues that could affect foreigners living, studying working, retiring or doing basically anything in the Philippines. I’ll talk about the good, the bad and the occasional downright ugly of day-to-day life in our humble little archipelago.
The Livestream’s comment section is open. Ask questions, goof around but just try to keep it respectful. If you’re gonna be a dickweed, you’re gonna get pulled. As in banned. As in come back under another anonymous username next time.
It’s a bit of light news week – which is usually a good thing, no news being good news and whatnot. Thankfully, a subscriber sent me a message that set up a good talking point for this week’s Livecast.
But first things first…..
This Weeks Corporate Sponsor
This weeks (returning) corporate sponsor is Skyflakes crackers. Since burgeoning into the scene in the 1960’s Skyflakes have cornered the market on the Philippine cracker market. Similar to a Saltine, Skyflakes are a simple snack made of simple ingredients: Wheat flour, shortening, salt, sugar, baking soda and yeast. Skyflakes – keeping crackers politically correct!
I actually snack on Skyflakes quite a bit, and our dog Angel absolutely loves them. When I was sick last week and couldn’t swallow solid food, dipping crispy Skyflakes into my ramen noodle soup turned into quite a comfort food experience. So, thanks, Skyflakes. You rock.
A subscriber noted that PLDT now has fiber optic in Dumaguate. He lives up in Valencia, and PLDT was actually canvassing his neighborhood trying to sign people up. Having dealt with my shitty DSL for far too long (First World Problems!!), I got the salesman’s number and texted him right away, telling him where I lived and asking if they had a fiber link there. He replied to the affirmative and I jumped up and down like a little kid. The salesman came out the next day to “survey” my property, and my initial jubilation turned into absolute despondency when he shook his head and said that the box is about a kilometer away – too far for them to run a line. If it was 500 meters, they could have worked something out but as it was….. Sighing (it might have actually been more of a sob…), I thanked him and asked him to let me know if they ever start getting closer to my house.
Patreon: Shooting and editing video and photos, writing blog articles and responding to subscriber comments and private messages is work. A good deal of work. If you’ve found what I do to be of some value, consider supporting the ongoing efforts on my Patreon site.
And continued thanks once again to everyone who has supported this site – both financially and with continued positive (or constructive negative) feedback. It is much appreciated!
Last week’s trivia question: Five hundred teachers from the United States arrived in the Philippines on August 21st, 1901. After being quarantined in Manila Bay for two days, they went forth across the archipelago to set up schools and establish English as a new national language. The precursors to the modern Peace Corp, these intrepid educators are now known as the WHAT??
Since these intrepid educators arrived on the American transport ship, The USAT Thomas, the correct answer was “the Thomasites” and 1Dir and Dennis C. were sent a free copy of my ebook, Chasing Your Philippine Dream: An Expat’s Guide to the Philippines.
This week’s trivia question: If you watched my last video, name the song that I was working on for Petey Vandever’s new YouTube channel. The first two correct answers emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org gets you a free copy of our book, a $10.95 value at any of your local book retailers.
I got no free stuff for you this week.
The first viewer comment comes from David Dolan who asks:
“Hey Ned. Where did you get the guitar and how much. Last time there I went to Mactan to look at the guitar factories and maybe buy. I wasn’t that impressed and would like to buy something next visit.”
Me: That is actually a cheap guitar that they sell at Lee Plaza. I bought it off another expat who left the country, but I think they retail for a bit over $100 USD. It’s a solid little guitar and is well suited for my limited playing ability. Like yourself, I visited the guitar factories at Mactan and wasn’t all that impressed.
Working Remotely in the Philippines (Or Anywhere Else)
Here’s a message I received over my Facebook page. Since it was a ‘light’ news week here in the Philippines, I made the command decision to use this as the centerpiece of this week’s Livecast. Thanks to Tom for asking the question and giving me something to work with!
I’ve been a YouTube subscriber for quite a while and find your videos generally pretty informative and insightful, especially the series you did on cultural psychology. More recently I purchased your ebook and found that informative as well.
Me: Thanks, Tom and I won’t take (too much) exception to you qualifying your opening statement with “generally pretty informative and insightful.” [Insert Wink emoji here.] As for the cultural psychology stuff, I actually really enjoyed doing the research on that piece – talking to Filipinos how things have changed or stayed the same when it comes to how day-to-day interactions occur here.
Tom: The reason I’m writing today is that I will likely be taking the plunge and moving to the Philippines at the end of this year, most likely Baguio, and wanted to pick your brain a bit.
Me: There ain’t much of a brain left to pick, but feel free. I see that you haven’t mentioned whether you have visited the Philippines before – have you done so? Before “taking the plunge,” I always recommended that people dip their toes into these Philippine waters before jumping in. (And yes, I am a bit hypocritical in maintaining that stance while not having ascribed to it myself.)
Tom: Long story short, I’m 31 about to be 32 and will be working remotely for an IT firm. Finances won’t be an issue as I’ll be making a nice wage, and have a decent amount of dividend income / savings. I’ll be keeping pretty standard hours and have a full day with free evenings. I’m not into the bar scene, so I’m not anticipating getting myself into any trouble in that regard.
Me: Tom here is in a very good position – he’s making US dollars and will be spending pesos. The cost of living in the Philippines is very low, the exchange rate right now is very good and he’s got the savings thing covered for any untoward emergencies that might arise. He also has his day planned and won’t be hanging out in bars. Good plan.
Tom: My interest in this arrangement is a bit more pragmatic – it would mainly be a way to increase my investments at a more aggressive rate. The cultural aspects of being in a new country and all that accompanies it would be my second reason for doing so, which is rewarding in a different but equally fulfilling way I suppose.
Me: Tom brings up something a lot of people don’t think about. If you have the skills to work remotely, you can save A LOT of money by living and working in any nation that has a good exchange rate and is economically structured to have a low cost of living. As such, living and working overseas is actually a GREAT way to increase your investment strategies what with the surplus of cash you will be saving every year. So, if you can teach English as a foreign language,know medical coding, are possessed of writing/editing skills or are a “code monkey,” you can live in many areas of SE Asia, Central and South America and the like and save oodles of dollars as compared to living in the United States (or any other “First World” nation possessed of high costs of living). And as Tom notes, not only will you be saving money, but you’ll also seeing the world and gaining new insights and perspectives on life. Pretty much a win-win all around.
Tom: While all of this looks good on paper, and I’m looking forward to the change, I do realize that there will be challenges.
So, if you’ve made it this far – what I wanted to ask you was several things; if you had any advice based on your own experiences getting started, what would you have done differently? Do you have any advice in general for someone my age and in my situation? Anything else I might have overlooked?
Thanks in advance!
Thanks again for the message, Tom. It’s appreciated. As for things I would have done differently, consider the following:
1 Not purchasing a car: Many parts of the Philippines do not suffer from a protracted rainy season. I purchased a nice Pajero 4×4 when I first arrived on Negros Oriental (the island I live on) as I had heard horror stories about the torrential monsoon rains. Come to find out, there’s not much of a rainy season in this part of the Philippines, so the truck just sat in the car port and gathered dust and cat fur (my feline compatriot found the Pajero to be an ideal cat stand). After a year of sitting idle, I finally power washed off the grime and sold it.
2. Purchased an automatic scooter: I’m American, so I like motorcycles. Scooters initially seemed very lame to me (big mopeds), so the first motorbike I got here was a ‘full frame’ Yamaha YBR 125. It was a good bike and treated me well, but wanting more power and coolness, I purchased a much more sexxay Kawasaki Rouser 200NS. At that time, I also had a RUSI Yamaha Mio clone automatic scooter, and a short while after getting the powerful Rouser 200NS, I realized that I was riding the little automatic Mio clone A LOT more than the big and sexxay Rouser. Basically, it came down to the type of riding I do, which is mostly in and out of town, running shopping errands and taking short jags around the island. The bigger bikes are not as practical as smaller scooters when it comes to this type of riding – bigger bikes are heavier, awkward in traffic, have horrible turning radiuses and are a pain in the butt to climb up and off of. Automatic scooters, on the other hand, suffer from none of those same shortcomings and now with fuel injection, are possessed of good power and very good gas mileage. Long story short, I sold the Rouser 200NS and purchased a Honda Click 125 – an automatic, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled scooter that fits me juuuuuuust right!!!
3. Bought a used Honda or Yamaha instead of the RUSI as the second bike: I should have listened to everyone else when they noted the poor quality of ‘local unit’ motorcycles, namely those assembled by RUSI, Racal and Motorstar. I have had nothing but problems with the RUSI Yamaha Mio clone and have basically had to replace the whole electrical system, with some components having been replaced twice. In short, I should have spent more money and got a decent used Yamaha or Honda.
4. Paid more attention to shading/coolness of potential rentals: I didn’t pay any attention to this, and the house I rented and moved into initially had ZERO shade and no insulation. There was also no cover over the carport and temperatures of the concrete slabs and walls would regularly reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit (laser measured). In short, it was brutally hot in the house – 92 degrees or more each and every day. Since initially moving in, I have had a nipa roof installed over the carport, installed 10 mm polystyrene insulation atop the ceiling panels (with reflective barrier facing up) and a veritable jungle of trees and bushes have sprouted around the yard proving near-total shade around the compound. Now, temperatures in the house rarely rise above 85 degrees. A massive improvement. So, if you are house are apartment hunting, keep an eye on shade, sun exposure and – for apartments – what floor the particular unit is on.
5. Found sources of cheap fresh vegetables sooner than I did. Sounds corny, but it’s true. I depended on sub-standard and overly-expensive vegetables from supermarkets (Hypermart and Robinsons), and it took me a long time to find a really good produce market. In my case, it was the Daro Market in Dumagute that is open on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. The market is regulated by the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources and all items sold there must be organically grown and locally sourced (only on the island of Negros). Once I discovered the Daro Produce Market, my whole diet changed for the better. It was something I should have looked into a lot sooner than I did.
As for your age-related questions, I can’t help you much there as I am 20 years older than you. (Dang, there’s was actually a bit of resentment there as I typed that….) In short, Tom, I think you are in a really good position. Just enjoy your time here and know that you don’t have to limit yourself to the Philippines. Being able to work remotely, the world is your oyster.
Kian delos Santos and the Drug War
The Philippines continued efforts to kill its way out of a drug problem carry on. An operation against drug pushers in Luzon a few weeks back resulted in the deaths of over 80 Philippine citizens who were reportedly killed resisting arrest. Among the dead was a 17 year old high school student by the name of Kian delos Santos. His name – and the circumstances of his death – have now become synonymous with increasing resistance against the government’s hard-line drug interdiction efforts.
According to police, Kian was armed when they approached him and fired at the officers before making his attempted escape down a side alley. CCTV footage retrieved from the scene and testimony from witnesses, however, showed plain clothes policemen dragging him into a “dark, trash-filled alley.” The young man’s body later showed two bullet entry wounds just behind his left ear and – at this point – there is still uncertainty as to a bullet wound in his back. President Duterte was reportedly enraged by the CCTV footage and now two police officers and the police superintendent are under investigation for both murder and torture.
Hundreds of Philippine citizens took part in Kian’s funeral procession and thousands more stood along the miles-long processional route. Many carried signs stating “Justice for Kian” and expressing their rage over the continued war against drugs/the poor.
All told, the drug war has resulted in thousands of deaths across the nation, the vast majority of them from among the poorest of the Philippine people.
And finally, the battle against ISIS in Mindanao still sputters on, North Korea is having a ball testing its ballistic missiles, and god only knows what’s going on in ‘Murica.
Time to get another Pilsen delivery….