LIVECAST: Balikbayan Box Update and How Things Have Gotten Better and/or Worse for Foreigners in the Philippines

Here’s a transcript of the Livecast that I did this past week on recent goings on in the Philippines.  I’ll be touching on recent balikbayan box shipping changes, Phil Health updates, two foreigners injured during a firefight between the NPA and local police, how life has gotten better/worse for foreigners in the Philippines, and a Scottish national living here who seems to have found himself detained in Manila with no formal charges.

With that it mind, let’s get down to it….

But first….

This Weeks Corporate Sponsor
This week’s corporate sponsor is Toily Toilet Paper.  When it comes to taking care of your most intimate hygienic needs, Toily got you covered. Awarded the Superbrands Philippines Choice award (whatever that is), Toily comes conveniently packaged in 300 2-ply rolls of cloud-soft goodness.  Why two-ply you ask?  Why, simply because life is too short to use one-ply toilet paper.  And remember, “No job is finished until the paperwork is done!” 

So thanks again to Toily for supporting this LIVECAST.  Actually, why does toilet paper even need sponsorship or commercials.  Who’s NOT going to buy it? 

toily toilet paper
Best TP ever!!

If you’ve found what I do to be of some value, consider supporting the ongoing efforts on my Patreon site.   Special thanks to all patrons, past and present including Rico, Dan, Tom, 1Dir, Casey, Dave, Dale and my latest patron, Kevin.

Also thanks to a Curt who made a sizeable donation via my PayPal donation button.  Note that if you are going to donate via the button, try to note if you want the money to go to operating costs (webhosting, WordPress templates, gear like my new $1,300 Mavic Pro and the like) or charitable projects.



Charitable Projects
Speaking of charitable projects, you might have noticed that I haven’t done anything along the lines for a while.  I still have $498 in the donation kitty (the link to the donations is below in the box) and am thinking about switching from doing Spaghettifests (like the ones that Bud Brown and I collaborate on) to helping out some truly needy young folks who need help with college tuition.  A buddy of mine actually knows someone who had to drop out of the NORSU criminology program because the family simply couldn’t afford it.  Tuition in the Philippines is very cheap, and I think this approach might be a better investment into someone’s future than a simple one-day feeding.  Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.

And speaking of food, I’m still kind of conducting my own little weekly feeding programs.  I am down on the boulevard two nights a week and I usually either buy the “peanut kids” dinner or ice creams.  These are the same hard-up street kids that Michell and I both got to know over the past four years.  I don’t take money out of the kitty for that – I just pay out of pocket like a lot of other people do in the Philippines – both Pilipino and porenyer.  

Our Community Support Projects Donation Tracking

And continued thanks once again to everyone who has supported this site. It is sincerely appreciated!

Open Channel and Website
Philippine Dreams is now an open channel.  If you are a smaller channel and are looking for free promotion, shoot me an email at .  This applies to both foreigners living in the Philippines and native Filipinos. If you are a musician, part of a dance crew, possessed of beautifully sublime travel vlogs, knowledgeable on Filipino culture, traditions and mythology, an avid scuba diver or snorkeler – or just about anything and everything to do with the Philippines, this offer is for you.  Same applies to my website:  If you want to guest write an article relating your experiences or expectations of living in the Philippines, just let me know. 

In short, Philippine Dreams is no longer my channel.  It’s our channel.

NOTE: I will have final say on what does and does not get posted.  Gotta try to maintain some semblance of quality…..


Last week’s trivia question:
Filipinos – like people of all nations around the world – are at times guilty of some decidedly odd behaviors.    This week’s trivia question is:  What is the first thing a good number of Filipinos do after stepping off of an escalator or an elevator.  There are actually two possible answers to this question. The answer I was looking for was either stop and/or check their phone.  No one actually got the trivia this week, so no one got a free a free copy of my ebook, Chasing Your Philippine Dream:  An Expat’s Guide to the Philippines.

This week’s trivia question:
From having the world’s largest python and salt water crocodiles, giant mutant hornets and the biggest fish in the Seven Sea’s, the Philippines is home to a bunch of bigly beasts.  This particular animal in the largest that lives in the Philippines and can only be found on the island of Mindoro. 

The first two people to email the name of this particular monstrous beast to get a free copy of our book, a $10.95 value at any of your local book retailers.


Balikbayan Box Update
Finally, some good news on the new BB box shipping rules that went into effect on August 1, 2016.  A subscriber named “Slim Jim” actually gave me the heads up on this one this morning and I was able to corroborate through GMA news.  The new regulations are not popular, especially with the millions of OFW’s living overseas that are trying to send boxes to friends and family.  Bottom line is that the new regultoins have been pushed back to March 31, 2018, and they are currently under review.  I’m not prescient by any means, but I did figure early on that the new regulations weren’t going to last.  If you want to read the GMA News article, you can simply click HERE.

balikbayan box philippines
Balikbayan box goodness!


PhilHealth Update
It’s still going to be some time before we find out whether those who paid up for two years at the ‘old’ PhilHealth rate of $50 USD a year will be billed for the difference on the ‘new’ $340 a year rates.  In speaking with two separate Phil Heath offices, no one seems to be able to provide a definite answer on this, so I guess we’ll just have to bide our time to see.  (For those that don’t know, PhilHealth increased the yearly premium this past July 1 from 50 to 340 dollars a year.)


Drone purchase
I was on the fence for a while on this one, but I finally bit the bullet and got myself a DJI Mavic Pro Flymore package.  An amigo offered to pick it up in Cebu for me and I actually got it last night.  This morning was spent updating the firmware on the drone, remote controller and three batteries, and I will probably be taking it on its maiden flight later this afternoon.  My mom actually recommened that I give it a name, so I just did that.  So, my fellow dreamers, please welcome Vanguard One to the Philippine Dream Team.  And for anyone who can figure out where I got the inspiration to call it “Vanguard One,” please leave the answer in the comment section and I will send you a free copy of my ebook.

mavic pro philippines
crashing into the ocean any minute now


DSLR lens fungus
Here’s another case of Don’t Do What I Do.  I purchased a cool DSLR this past May in the US and didn’t do the necessary homework on how to maintain it in the tropics.  So, sure enough, the humidity here beat down on the lens and I know have a cute little colony of white fungus growing on the outer glass of my Tamron 18-200 lens.  I purchased some silica gel and am now keeping the camera in a big gallon bag along with a sock full of silica and a hygrometer. So far, it has worked really well and the humidity level in the bag is hovering just south of 50% while the outside level is 85% or above.  The next step is to get a Tupperware container and store both the Mavic and my DSLR in it along with either silicon gel or calcium carbonate.  So, if you are coming to the Philippines (or anywhere in the tropics), be sure to have a way to keep your expensive lens safe from the oppressive moisture!

dslr lens fungus
Bad, bad fungus!!


Slow video week
I say slow, but it’s actually been non-existent.  Been busy with other projects.


Have things gotten better or worse for foreigners in the Philippines?
I had a little chat on the Livecast about how things have gotten better and worse for foreigners living, working or studying in the Philippines over the past four years.  In total, it looked something like this:

SRRV Visas: 
Some changes have been made to these permanent residency visas, mainly in lowering the amount of how much money has to be deposited in a Philippine Bank.  The Military Courtesy Visa in particular is an EXCELLENT deal and is the one that I will probably be getting now that I have turned 50.

Visa Prices Lowered:  The BI recently got rid of the ‘fast lane’ and ‘legal fee’ hustle, saving foreigners about 10 bucks or so a month.  Not a huge savings, but at least its something.

Infrastructure Improvements: The internet has improved over the past four years; not vastly but noticeably.  We actually have fiber optic being installed in and around the country now, and its coming at the same price as the tempermental DSL/cable connections are presently going for.  Roads and other public works have also improved noticeably, with long-lasting concrete roads replacing the crumbling asphalt thoroughfares. 

Exchange Rate:  This one is a biggie!!  The exchange rate as 44 p to the dollar when I first arrived four years ago, and it’s now hovering at around 51 to the dollar.  Other national currencies around the world have also benefited from the weakening of the peso, so Aussies, Brits and everyone else has seen improvements to the exchange rates.  As an example, when I first moved into “Pink House” – which runs 10,000 pesos a month – my monthly rent was equal to $230 USD.  Now – with the improved exchange rate – it is down to a but under $200.  Not a huge savings, but it’s noticeable.

fighting in mawari, mindanao

Drivers Licenses:  I am still getting continued if intermittent reports of some LTO offices not issuing Philippines drivers licenses unless they can prove they will be here for a year.  Not all LTO offices are following the regulation but an annoying number of them are.

PhilHeath:  The Philippines decided that foreigners would no longer get a free ride with PhilHealth.  On July 1, 2016, the cost of PhilHeath popped from $50 dollars a year to $340.  What medical conditions actually covered by PhilHealth were also limited.

Balikbayan Boxes:  On August 1, the BB box regulations changed for the worse for anyone who isn’t a Filipino – or a direct relative of a Filipino.  Basically, you would now be charged tariffs of the stuff that you send (if the total value is over $200).  Now, most foreigners send over at least a few BB boxes when moving to the Philippines, so this change was bad news.  Thankfully, enough pressure was placed on the Bureau of Customs and they are now pushing its enforcement back to March of 2018 and are reviewing it for further action.

ISIS:  The insurgency still stutters on down in Mindanao, with the city of Mawari basically being leveled during the fighting and tens of thousands of refugees seeking shelter and sustenance.  ISIS has formally declared its presence and many of the Maute fighters are wearing the insignia of the Islamic State.  Not. Good.

Foreign Businesses:  A recent series of articles noted that a good number of Korean businesses are pulling out of the Philippines and heading to Vietnam.  Citing the cost of doing business, these businesses are taking thousands of jobs with them. Cost of doing business has increased – Korean businesses moving to Vietnam

The Drug War:  The killing of thousands of Filipino citizens by governmental and non-governmental entities is definitely having an effect on the nation, and it’s not a good one.  Nuff said.

So, I just realized that this has already run to over 2,000 words.  I still have to cover the foreigners injured during a crossfire incident with the NPA and police and the Scotsman who is being held without charges in Manila.  I’m frikken tired and I need to get my drone stuff together, so I will just cover those two nuggets in the next blog entry.

Take care everyone.

I still love you, Philippines!


  1. Really good news about the Balikbayan Boxes. I have a few jumbo ones one the way & was expecting to get crucified. Phew!

  2. I don’t know why people still bother with this Balikbayan box business. Most everything available in the U.S of A. can be purchased in the Philippines. All the crap I’ve seen loaded in them BB boxes… can all be had at the modern mall. I know, I’ve seen it, touched it, purchased it myself in any of the modern air-conditioned malls around metro Manila.

    And therein, lies the majority of the problems (armed political conflict, “out of stock sir”, inadequate health care, odd customs, etc.) blogged about in this website. It isn’t that it is the Philippines per se, but that you are choosing to live in the primitive boonies of the country instead of the major & modern city like Manila, especially in the Makati or Bonifacio district.

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