The Philippines often gets included in lists of “ideal places to retire.” Among the attractions are the low cost of living and the balmy tropical climate. The Philippines consists of over 7,000 islands and living inexpensively on the coastline of one of them seems like a dream. For nationals of First World countries who grew up and grew old with bitter winters, the thought of life where the lowest temperature is the equivalent of a mild summer day in the Northern hemisphere makes the Philippines seem irresistible.
But, dear soon-to-be-a-retiree, expectations don’t always conform with reality.
First of all, where do you want to live? If you want to be where the “action” is like Metro Manila or Metro Cebu, “inexpensive” is an illusion. The farther away from the city, the less expensive it is. Know, however, that the Philippine Constitution does NOT allow foreigners to own land. So, get rid of the dream that you can buy that beachfront property in a very rural area of the country and live out the rest of your life there.
You can, however, legally own condominium units. But that’s probably not what you want if you’re dreaming of retiring in some rustic seaside community where the population is so small that it is possible to be on first-name basis with everyone and everything is just plain inexpensive. If that is your ideal scenario, you have to rent a house. If you want to own the house and the land on which it stands, you have to marry a Filipina and have the property titled in her name.
Problem solved? Really? Think about it. You bought property with money you made or saved probably long before you met your Filipina wife but the title says she and only she owns it. But, you’re probably thinking, Filipinos are such devout Catholics anyway and most still believe in the until-death-do-us-part bit. That should be sufficient insurance that, for the rest of your natural life, you will be king of the house you built on the land you paid for.
Okay, until-death-do-us-part sounds terribly romantic but do you know what it means to be married to a Filipina — to be more specific, a Filipina with meager or no income but who has a family who counts on her for financial support?
Sure, it says everywhere on the web that Filipinas are loving and caring wives and mothers. But they are also daughters. In Filipino culture, children are raised with a deep sense of obligation to support their parents and, when the latter are unable, to provide for her siblings too. In fact, it often devolves upon an eldest child to put his or her siblings through school once he or she has income of her own. In other words, because every bride comes with in-laws, you have to figure out where you will fit in between being a husband, on the one hand, and a provider for her family, on the other. And I’m not just talking about the woman’s mother, father and siblings but her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as well. In this country, a person who comes into good fortune is expected to share it. And a husband with a regular source of funds is considered good fortune. A foreigner husband with dollars or euros is even better.
In short, if you find yourself fortunate enough to marry a good woman and, through her, live in a property by the sea on an island far away from the bustling cities, don’t think that the inexpensive cost of basic goods like food means that you will be able to afford a life of comfort. No siree. Chances are, what you don’t spend in living expenses will go to the support of your wife’s family. You may not mind supporting your aging parents-in-law but are you ready to send your wife’s siblings to school? Are you comfortable with the idea of handing out cash to unemployed uncles on a regular basis?
If it is any consolation to you, do not feel singled out for racial or ethnic reasons, because if it is a Filipino who is working overseas, they will be approached in the same way and thought of as rich, as well.
Once Pinoys are employed abroad, exorbitant requests for help start pouring in by “hapless” friends or relatives for all reasons imaginable. A sister is giving birth, a brother had a nervous breakdown, a cousin needs to buy uniforms for school…
When you have a Filipina gf or wife, and are either living abroad or in the Philippines, often people will beat a path to your door and ask money from both you and her. She is now with a person from abroad, therefore, she has a house stacked with dollars up to the ceiling. What is a few thousand pesos to her?
And guess what happens when you give or loan money? They will come for more and more money (without repaying the firts loan). How to deal with it? Well, do what Filipinos do- tell them that you have a sick uncle that needs money for an operation and you just sent him some. Tell them that your mother needs to repair a roof, and you just sent her some. If that does not help, give them a small amount and tell them that it is all you have got, because you have just sent home $200,000 for your brother’s college tuition. Tell them to come back next time and repeat the procedure several times until they give up.
And if the parasitic relatives don’t give up? Well, these cultural differences can put a strain on any marriage. And if the marriage ends in annulment, what happens to the property you bought? You lose it. Your ex-wife is not legally obliged to reimburse you.