Expatriates in the Philippines

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Male Call: Lucky

I received an email from ‘Lucky” the other day and you can read it in its entirety below. Thanks, Lucky, for joining in ETP’s (Expatriates in The Philippines) attempt to have expatriates jointly contribute information and advice about living in the Philippines.
Lucky, this is exactly what I was hoping for. From my perspective, the best way to teach and to learn is through personal experience; and shared real stories are just the ticket. For some readers of ETP there may be a bit too much personal information, but for me, it’s fine; you let me (and the readers) know about how you came to RP (Republic of the Philippines), and how your personal observations of your interactions with Filipina’s is colored by your earlier experiences with women from other Westernized countries. I feel that the early historical ‘development’ is necessary to get a better insight into how you are seeing and interpreting your experiences in RP. Variety is what this site desires and needs.
The only “Rule” I have for this site is that no one will be allowed to snipe at other writers. ETP will not be a forum for anger, finger-pointing and challenging other’s viewpoints.
I’ll write more at the bottom of Lucky’s letter…

Hi RikSoon after I arrived in Laguna as an expatriate, I discovered your blog. Now I have a few more weeks experience of the place, it is good to have a chance to write to or alongside you.I was really interested to read your material and I learned several new things from it. At the time it did not seem as if your site was very active, but now you are putting fresh things on and getting some responses. Good on you, and I enjoy your writing. Of course we have a lot of differences, and this may add some variety to your blog, but that can only be good I think.It would be good to hear from others in similar situations to yours and now mine. I am an accompanying spouse to my wife from Australia who has a contract here. At this stage we expect to be here for just 3 years, and our conditions are typically ‘Expatriate’ as in having employer-provided housing and transport. We are probably extraordinarily spoilt compared to others who make this their personal choice of permanent residence, apart from those who do so with considerable personal wealth.Also, we have grown offspring living in other places, which means we have to allocate certain holidays to seeing them, which will rob us of some ability to explore these luxuriant islands of the Republic of Philippines.I am in my early 50’s and married to a high skilled scientist just 4 years my junior. We have known each other for just over a year in which time we married and moved countries, accompanied also by my wife’s daughter age 16. I had a small business in Australia which was going to be our second income, since my wife is clearly the principle breadwinner. Incidentally, she was born in New Zealand so has dual Aussie-NZ citizenship and I was born in South Africa, and am still a citizen there, but permanent resident in Australia, and both now temporary (year at a time) foreign worker residents in RP. I wonder some times if it is a worry to not have an embassy of one’s country in this one. South Africa’s nearest commission is in Singapore, I think. The other thing to complete the picture is that we are both of British descent, going way back. But we stand out here, because we are both very white-skinned, tall, slim, and my wife has curly blond hair and blue eyes. You can imagine, Rik, how we stand out in a shopping mall. I often feel like we are a pair of either famous stars, or unfamous freaks, the way people look at us. More positive stuff on this later.I was going to look for formal employment here, but we now feel one main income is adequate, and I am happy to do some freelance and paid writing, some for my wife’s employer. Commuting to Manila from anywhere but Manila is just a nightmare. We are only 60km out, but it can take an hour just to reach the South Luzon Expressway. Then there is the traffic in Manila to negotiate. It would take a lot of Dollars to make that worth doing.So not that my wife has started to like the idea of me being at home, and I am able to assist a lot with housekeeping and driving, and can now at the same time make a few bucks writing, it seems at last that I have landed the right way up for a change!Your views on Western and Filipino women of course are very interesting, and no doubt though-provoking and controversial. My wife fits some of your description, but not all. She is fairly demanding and I had issues initially with the ‘controlling’ that you mention, but we have found that in a new marriage, this probably comes from both sides, so we are both working on this to increase peace and reduce stress. But my wife is extremely loving and our relationship is passionate and intense. Of course there are battles of wills, but we work through these things in quiet voices, even though we say some pretty candid things to each other periodically.Your experience of other women is also something to which I can relate, Rik. I was perhaps really bad compared to you, in that I messed around while married to my first wife of 24 years. You were apparently a single chap, sailing the world, and seeking comfort in ports. I had no need other than that I allowed myself to become addicted to seduction, so went outside my otherwise enjoyable marriage. My marriage eventually broke up when it was revealed that I had cheated, and the breakup was so bad it brought me to my senses about my addiction. So now after a lot of help I am free of addiction and with a wonderful woman who accepts my past and wants me to be totally faithful as do I in turn and expect the same of her.Which is where your comments about Filipino ladies comes in. My wife has heard a few stories along the lines you wrote about Filipino women going after western men like we were all money bags. So a big job of mine is to allay this insecurity and not do anything that can feed her fear that I will fall prey to the wiles of local women.For starters, we have a home helper who cooks, irons and does some cleaning for us. Of course my wife was terrified I might get interested in this lady. But I find it easy to keep my distance, and it seems she is happily married to someone who I think is also a foreigner, so that would also help. While she is quite lovely, even in her late forties, I am pleased to report that there is no interest between us. Her behavior is totally above board and appropriate, for which I highly commend her.When it comes to strangers, I am having a few experiences that could be flattering at my age, but to know about what you wrote, on top of warnings from others, really put me off wanting these women. Sometimes I can hardly avoid eye-contact with women in malls and shops, because naturally people here look at me as different, and I find them different to look at too. So curious glances may be exchanged. People generally here are intrigued by us, both male and female. Almost whenever we walk into a business, we get greeted by male and female staff with a very friendly ‘Morning Ma’am, morning Sir!’ which makes us feel very welcome. It is wonderful and a great cause of admiration for such friendliness, which can also be rather good for business, since I guess we are expected to spend dollars which go a good distance here. So while again it may be related to perceptions of wealth, it comes across genuinely, and one would want any employee one might engage in commerce to behave like this to customers. So it is really good.Once so far it went a bit off good taste, though, I thought. I was shopping alone in a small shop off a crowded street. Not in a fancy part of town or mall. Mostly there were girls in the shop, some working there, some seemingly just hanging out there, in this stationer, strangely. I was struggling to describe what I needed, as the assistants did not speak English. Eventually a slightly more senior looking girl with some better English asked me what I wanted. Even she battled because like everywhere else where I had enquired about this commodity, it was not in stock. I was looking for a cardboard tube for posting a rolled poster via the mail. My attempts at describing this tube in English were increasingly attracting giggles amongst the girls in the shop. As I went around the shop trying to point out similar objects and look closer at shelves, several of them were eyeing me ever so sweetly, and would have held my gaze, if I had gazed, I am sure. And these were people young enough to be my daughter (a fact which mercifully has always caused me to take no interest). Eventually the young woman said, ‘I have a tube for you, and you can have it at no charge’. It was intentionally ambiguous. The girls all burst out laughing, and naughtily it seemed to me. She went to a dark corner of the store and retrieved a few cardboard tubes in which the shop had received items. They were due for disposal, but she found just the size for my need. I complimented her on the find. She and the girls probably felt that she was making headway with me. To compensate for the item on which there was no price, I decided to purchase a Tagalog-English/English-Tagalog dictionary from them. The assistant just became more and more friendly, asking my name, giving hers, shaking my hand, asking where I lived, and saying I must please come back to the store. All the girls looked on unashamedly in admiration, because her language skills were getting her along with a foreigner.In my addiction days, I might well have sought every opportunity to visit this store, or engineer similar situations elsewhere. The ‘glad eyes’ I received seemed to indicate I could have had my pick. But now I view it as inappropriate behavior, a bit like the unwanted catcalls of prostitutes I once heard on a visit to Paris. I have to be real and realize these young things are just poor and could do with a few dollars in exchange for a few moments of pleasure that can ruin my whole life again.On another occasion, I stepped out of a store, nearly missing a fairly good-looking woman, probably in her 30’s. Immediately she said quite audibly and with a most friendly smile, ‘Hello!’. I just greeted back and walked on, but it would have been an opening to say, ‘Got a moment for a cup of coffee with me?’ Perhaps I am going to have to do what western beauties do, just keep my eyes to the ground and permanently avoid eye-contact. Pity, because I really enjoy looking at different people, I find them interesting, without sexual interest of course. I dare not venture out without my wife to a night spot. This would not normally be my regular practice in Australia but occasionally it is pleasant to go out and meet a few locals and get the low down. Here it seems it would be to set myself up for obvious unwanted attention. It is sad to think that my friendly response could be just the opening a lot of poverty stricken young women would dream of to assist them escapetheir limited opportunities here.

You’re right, Lucky, about the inactivity of the site. Sometimes I feel like writing, sometimes not. Mostly it has to do with how my lower back feels (pain), and also lethargy that comes from not hearing from anyone for long periods of time. There’s times that I feel like I’m only writing to myself. I know it’s not true and it’s only because it takes time for the site to develop, but even so, I give myself little vacations from my site. My ISP also forces vacations on me. Just today I got service back after four days of no phone or DSL. My phone and DSL are connected through the PLDT (Philippine Telephone Company) and I either get both or nothing. For that matter, I’m still getting nothing mostly as the service is going on and off this morning.
Telling you – and others – that is relevant because you’ll find that sort of service is all too common in RP. In the States, I could connect to the Internet and leave it on, go back and check it a month later and it would still be connected; but not here. And we spoiled Westerners need to understand and accept that living in a third-world country is going to ‘different,’ and although there will be plenty of things that will make your heart sing the praises of the Philippines, there will be a fair share of aggravations to make you grind your teeth. No place is perfect; complaining, in the United States, is a world-class pastime. It will always come down to one’s own ability to be thrilled by and enjoy life in spite of the bumps that will determine who will and can come to the RP and survive and thrive on the experience of expatriate living.
Also, to you, Lucky, and all others who write on my site – I don’t care if you don’t agree with me or have “differences” with my opinion. Each of us is going to have different experiences and our past experiences will color and shade our perceptions of what happens to us in RP. This is an open forum and I won’t be censoring writers, unless they break the above rule of good behavior and start calling other writers idiots, and the like.
About writing: I’ve found that writing on the weblog burns-up a lot of Internet time and so proofing and editing is often passed over. So I first write everything using MS-Word, proof and edit at my leisure, – usually waiting a few hours, then re-reading – then I go to the blog and just copy from Word and paste to the site. That way I’m only on the Internet for a few minutes rather than hours. Just a suggestion for those of you whose ISP charges you by the hour. Blogger.com’s word processing software is really basic and clunky, and doesn’t work very good, as well.
PLDT offers unlimited 150mb high-speed DSL (in some areas) hours for P3000 ($60) a month, and 250mb’s for about P3500.

“Your views on Western and Filipino women of course are very interesting, and no doubt though(t)-provoking and controversial.”
Excellent! I’m doing my job right if I’m creating controversy. I want controversial opinions that provoke other writers to share the differences in their own experiences with both Western and Asian women. I don’t have a monopoly on what is and what isn’t the truth about Filipino culture and society; I can only relate what I have personally experienced, colored and shaded by my own past experiences and relationships.

“…we stand out in a shopping mall. I often feel like we are a pair of either famous stars”
I have often said that myself. I still do. It happens to every light skinned foreigner who visits or lives here. You can imagine that in a country where there’s virtually only one skin color, brown, (yet, so many different shades) one color of eyes and hair, a fair-complexioned person would definitely stand-out. Filipinos’ take great delight in noticing all of the differences in we Westerners with blue, green, lavender, hazel, etc., eyes; red, blonde, white, brown, chestnut, (green, blue!) etc., hair. We can be tall and skinny, covered with red or orange hair and freckles, or short and barrel-chested, swarthy and covered with thick black hair to the extent that we look more like a bear than a human. We offer an endless variety of shapes and forms for the Asian eye to enjoy.
And there’s the fascination of our own cultures to consider. The Philippines is, both we and they must admit, a third-world country. You’ve no doubt noticed the enormous differences in the standard of living, even though you’ve only been in RP for three weeks. You’ll see a lot more confirmation of the extreme difference of standard of living before your time in RP is over.
When Filipino’s see our cultures through the mediums of music-videos, films magazines and television programming, they see a high-tech modern world of convenience and comfort, self-indulgence and consumerism that has very little to do with their own society and daily life.
In a very real sense to many Filipino’s we foreigners are like the Bird-Gods to some native tribes of Borneo during World War Two who, after American military food supplies, clothes, cigarettes, etc., were mistakenly air-dropped near their villages, began clearing areas on mountain tops and building wooden mock-up airplanes out of tree branches to worship and entice the ‘Gods’ to bring more goods to them. We have so much, and can easily offer so much to them in their dreams and fantasies of life abroad.
I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to do, lucky. However, I can suggest that you might enjoy the ceaseless parade of beauties and flirt to your hearts content. The Filipina's are going to keep flirting with you whether you join in or not. It’s harmless if you don’t succumb to your desires. And be honest with your wife about your flirtations and let her see it's harmless fun in the context of how Filipina’s are going to behave towards you. Your only other real alternative is to be rude to the ladies.
When I’m with Celine and girls flirt with me, I flirt right back. When we walk away we both laugh about it. Honesty is always the best policy. Celine and I discuss the flirtations of the girls and chuckle. She knows – because I told her – that I love to look at women and that the flirting is fun (when the girls start it), but she also knows and trusts me that I will always go home with her only. I don’t drink and I don’t disappear for unexplainable lengths of time, like saying I’m going to the bar to drink or to the library or that I went driving around a drive for hours. I’m always with my woman, and she knows she has nothing to worry about, It also helps that she’s not a jealous woman.

At any rate, we can be very desirable to both Pinoy and Pinay as a way to get a piece of the action. That may mean a Filipina marrying a foreign man and going to the U.S., Europe or Australia, or money or goods from foreign visitors. Because of the rampant poverty in RP there’s a desperation level that creates a good deal of cheating and deception and fraud.
For instance, you could easily become the next, among so many other foreigners, to buy a house or property that either isn’t owned by the seller or which has already been sold four or five times to others. Your ‘trike’ or cab ride may cost ten or more times the normal rate. Buying vegetables, clothes, heck, anything for that matter – and even in a reputable looking store – can cost you far more than it should, because you are a “rich” foreigner. At times it seems as if everyone wants to steal or cheat you out of everything you have – all the while smiling in your face!
Some Pinoy are very friendly, helpful and nice, and people will be smiling at you all of the time. It is flattering, the level of attention we all get. But you will need to learn to wonder why and/or put your hand on your wallet pocket when some get too friendly. All is not what it seems. A great deal of the friendliness is indeed genuine… and a much is not.
The ladies are always going to be overly friendly to you, and many will unabashedly and unashamedly flirt with you in front of your wife. If they can, they will steal you away from your wife. It’s something you and your wife both will have to learn to live with. They want what your wife has; namely you and your lifestyle (money, a (green) work-card or citizenship, a big house, jewelry, a car, ad infinitum), and they’ll do most anything to get it. That would be to your advantage if you hadn’t sworn off sex outside of your marriage. It’s a heady feeling to have gorgeous young girls throwing themselves at you all of the time, and you will have to learn to manage your desires if you want to stay true to your wife.

And, you’re right about me; I never cheated on my American wife. It’s just the way I’m built – I’m a one-woman-at-a-time man. So it’s easy for me to flirt but ignore the come-on’s. However, I’m not blind and I love to look at the endless stream of beautiful Filipina’s. I enjoy flirting with the girls, also, but I always go home to Celine. I was fortunate enough to meet perhaps the best Filipina on all 7800 of the Philippine’s islands – and that’s no overstatement.

Thinking about smiling Filipino’s, here’s a story for you that happened just three days ago. Celine had to go north to Buena Vista to meet the kapitan of my fishing banca when it came back from a fishing trip. She has to be there every time to keep us from being cheated. The trip takes two days and she gets there by riding the bus or a large jeepney. Celine told me she there was a foreign man with his Filipina girlfriend in the seat in front of her. There were a number of young Pinoy (Filipino men) sitting in the seats around them who began asking questions to the foreigner in Tagalog. Of course he didn’t understand a word of what they were saying, but he knew by the tonal inflection that they were asking him something. He did what most foreigners do; he nodded and smiled and said, “Yes.” So they would laugh and ask more questions, and very politely, always adding, “Sir, (question) Sir?” He just kept smiling and saying “Yes.” More laughter, more questions.
Celine, sitting in the seat just behind him, overheard the man ask his girlfriend, “What are they saying?” And the girlfriend would just smile, but said nothing.
Celine knew what they were saying, however, and it really pissed her off. The men were asking, “Sir, do you like to eat Shit, Sir?”, “Sir, are you stupid, Sir?”, “Sir, are you ignorant, Sir?”, and “Sir, are you and idiot, Sir?” The poor foreigner just smiled and said, “Yes.”
Celine stood up in the isle and went to those men and started yelling at them. “What kind of people are you to say those things to that foreign man? He doesn’t know what you’re saying. And you don’t now him. How would you like it if you went to his country and everyone said those things to you, and treated you with such disrespect? Do you think it’s funny to be disrespectful and inconsiderate to others? You should be ashamed of yourselves!”
Turning on the girlfriend, Celine said, “And you, you’re a stupid and common (lowly) woman to sit there and smile and allow those men to ridicule your man. You’re worse than they are – you’re with him, but you don’t even care about him!”
The man asked his girlfriend why Celine was yelling at everyone, but the woman still said nothing to him – she only turned and gave Celine an angry look.
The foreign man turned ‘round and asked Celine, “Why are you yelling at those men and my woman?”
Celine wouldn't say specifically what the men were saying, but only that they were saying bad words to him. She doesn't like to curse. Even though he persisted and wanted to know, Celine refused to say the words. But, “They’re making fun of you and ridiculing you, and your woman is not only letting them do it, she’s smiling and must find it funny. That woman doesn’t care about you.”
The woman turned and, in Tagalog, told Celine to shut-up and mind her own business, “What do you care what happens to this foreign man? You’re going to get me in trouble!”
Celine just looked to the foreigner and told him. “You ask your girlfriend what they’re saying and see if she tells you, and then ask yourself why she’s smiling. That woman is no good, and she doesn’t care about you.”
The man turned to his “woman” and asked her what was being said and she only told him, “Don’t listen to that woman… Later… Later! (I’ll tell you)” No doubt hoping to buy some time to think up something to tell him.
The moral of the story: you can’t always trust Pinoy just because they’re smiling and behaving courteously towards you. And, I suppose, don’t keep saying, “Yes” to everything.
Having said all that, you will find that a great many Filipino’s are very polite, courteous and will show you the kind of respect that used to exist in Western culture up to 40-50 years ago. I find the both the family and public show of respect refreshing, and I wish it were still that way in America. Before all the myriad ‘revolutions’ and rights controversies of the ‘60s, people mostly treated each other with a high level of respect and the towns and cities were more or less safe and clean places to live.
When I last lived in the States, if I opened a door for a woman I could expect to get a good *ss-reaming, I called people Sir and Ma’am, but everyone would say to me, “Don’t call me Sir! (or ma’am) as if I’d just kicked their favorite child. The Psychiatrist Gods Of The West, the Feminists, the Freedom To Express Myself Any Way I Want At Any Cost Bozo’s have turned Western culture upside down, at the same time turning the people into crass, vulgar, self-indulgent and spoiled, unfeeling and indifferent Brand-name automatons.
I like to hear Sir and Ma’am, and I like that Pinoy are respectful, courteous and polite. It’s a good way to live.

About the mailing tube: You will learn eventually that in the Philippines nothing is wasted, and nothing is thrown away unless there is no possible or conceivable use for it. The Pinoy are the ultimate recyclers. Things are used over and over until being completely worn-out or broken beyond repair.
Have you noticed all of the street shoe-repair stalls yet? In the States, when shoes are scuffed they’re thrown away in favor of pretty new ones. In the RP they’re fixed over and over again. I bought a pair of walking shoes at the Target store in California five years ago, and I’m still wearing them. Two times the soles have fallen off both shoes. Both times I took to a street booth, and for P30 (about .55 cents) the vendor not only made them as good as new, he made them better by gluing the soles and then hand-sewing them on. My sandals have also been like repaired.

Thanks again for the input, Lucky. I hope you’ll continue to add insight and advice to ETP. Feel free to just write stories of your experiences. If you want to post photographs of the Philippines and/or you and your family, or you and your girlfriend, please let me know and give me your email address and I’ll arrange for you to send the photo’s to my email address and I’ll post them for you.
And please tell others to visit and to contribute.
Ah, yes, to Lucky and all others who write; please let me know how you discovered ETP. Did you just surf in accidentally, or were you directed by a search engine? If so, what engine, and what words did you type in the search pane?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

For The Good Life

Look below at the next five pictures - that's Celine, my beautiful and loving Filipina. There's all the reason you need to move to the Philippines to live. Filipina's are the most loving women in the world. I wouldn't trade Celine for any American woman in the Continental United States, no matter how rich or beautiful. The qualities Celine and other Filipina's offer can't be duplicated by Western women... like real happiness without all of the mind-games and head-hassles.
There's your incentive - now, what are you going to do about it?
Come to the Philippines.

Celine: Find your own beautiful Filipina - She's mine. Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Celine: My lovely Filipina on my banca Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Celine cruising in my banca - Ulogan Bay, Palawan Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Celine: A night on the town Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

PhotoShop play: Float On The Water Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Celine: On vacation in Mindinao Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

There's Lots Of Photo's...

A reminder
There are plenty of photographs throughout this site, so look all the way to the beginning. Also, there's lots of information for those of you who may be thinking of moving to the Philippines to retire and live here with your Filipina, or if you're thinking of taking your Filipina sweetheart back home with you.
For you expatriates who already live here, please join in with advice for living in the Philippines; happy stories, horror stories, tales of adventure, photo's, or whatever you think might be of help or interest.
The point of this weblog is for the existing expatriates to help each other in the learning process, but especially to help those who are considering the expatriate life or marrying a Filipina.

Old way-new way: Angeles City Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Small lagoon in Palawan Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Snorkling at El Nido, Palawan Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Sunken graveyard, Camiguin Island Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Star and sunset - El Nido, Palawan Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Boracay Island - sunset Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Tarsier's Posted by Hello Click to enlarge

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Information For Wannabe's (Arthur)

Hi Arthur, and thanks for visiting ETP. I'm always pleased to hear from anyone who visits. I could use feedback, what people like, and also what they would like to see, read or learn about living in the Philippines.

Arthur said...
"Hey Rik, it sounds great out there, just wondering how easy is it to obtain visas to live in the country, and could you explain how easily you were able to obtain one. Furthermore, are they're expatriate protestst churches in the country? I know you mentioned that the catholics dominate the country, just wondering if protestst churchs with expatriates exist out there."


Arthur, the first thing I want to say is that you - and everyone else - should give me your email address(es) if you want personalized information. ETP isn't the place for that. I'm only too happy to help you and others but, please, add your email address(es) when you need specific information. And while I'm thinking of it, please tell and direct others who're interested in learning about the Philippines and, perhaps more importantly, Filipina's, about ETP. In the long run, I'm hoping other Expatriates will discover this site and share experiences, advice, and so forth.
Since I'm here, however... Yes, the Philippines is a great place to live, if you accept what I've written previously about how the Philippines is not America or Europe and understand that you won't be living the way you are used to. But then, you may find things much better! As far as Filipina's go, once you find the right Honey Ko, you'll discover a kind of love and relationship you only dreamed about in your home (Western) country.

Visa's: You can can enter the country and stay for 29-days without a visa (you'll need a passport, however). You can get an extended visa good for 59-days from your local Philippine Embassy if you want to stay a little longer. On the west coast the Embassy is in San Francisco. The best way to locate Embassy addresses, phone numbers, etc., is - golly! - by using an Internet search engine (search: Philippine Embassies in the U.S.) and request a 59-day visa.
If you have the time and money, I recommend coming on an 59-day visa so you have plenty of time to move around the country (7800+ islands!). You can always return home early, but you can't stay longer without going through a lot of hassle - and get an extended visa in Manila only.
There are plenty of foreigners who live in places like Angeles City who have been living here for years on a 59-day visa. But they have to either go themselves or send a surrogate Filipino - easily done - to Manila every two months to get a renewal.
Or you can marry a Filipina and get a Permanent Residence Visa(13A) and live here for the rest of your life and only have to go to the local immigration office every January, check-in and pay a 400 peso (about $3.85) processing fee. If you want to get a (13A) visa, I recommend getting it before you make your permanent move to the Philippines. You can get it quickly - probably within 30-days - and hundreds of dollars cheaper in the States.
I got mine in San Francisco. You'll have to make an appearance at the Embassy in person. It took two weeks and only cost me about $60. If you try to get it once you're here it could take 1-2 years and cost many hundreds of dollars. It's your choice which way to go. For me, the hassle of driving 120 miles one way (times two trips) to S.F. was a cake-walk compared to trying to get anything at all done here where it can take up to 3-years just to get a property title.

Churches: Just as in the southern U.S. one can't walk ten feet in any direction, it seems, without bumping into a church. The country's teeming with them, in all denominations - Protestant, 7th Day Adventist, Mormon, Baptist this, Baptist that, ad infinitum. Most are run by Foreigners competing to convert the 'natives.' There's plenty of visiting foreigners who travel and evangalize. I can't say that there's a church just for Expatriates; I doubt it. Oddly, the Philippines is mostly filled with Filipino's (humor). Seriously, you can have your choice of churches to go to until you find the one you're comfortable with.
That's the best information I can offer on Christian churches, as I'm a Buddhist. I've been to a few Christian churches with girlfriend's early on. At every visit there were foreigners in the audience and on the stage as traveling preachers.
I guess I should add, since I mentioned girlfriends, that although I did marry a Filipina then moved over here, it didn't work out since she was only interested in moving to America and living the high-life, whereas I had no intention of returning to the States. She left hastily when she realized she wasn't going to get to live in a big American house and walk on the streets of gold. Live and learn. That's all too common here, You need to be very careful about who you marry. Most Filipina's see we foreigners as walking banks. And I can't say enough about not believing even 10% of what you read on the Internet love personals. You should ONLY marry someone you've spent time with. My personal advice is to come here and live on multiple 59-day visa's until you are absolutely sure about your Honey Ko. It may cost extra, but it won't cost as much as years of court sessions and support.
Remember, also, that there's no divorce in the Philippines - only Anullment. My anullment case has been on-going for almost 3 1/2 years. Who knows when it will be over? The only good part is that attorney's are dirt cheap here - as opposed to expensive dirt in the States. A court appearance costs only 500-800 pesos ($10-15).
After being here for two years, and after going through a number of gold-diggers, I was fortunate to meet Celine - in the picture below. Celine is every man's dream; she doesn't care about money or jewelry or big houses or big cars. She does care about me, and she takes care of me in every way. We've been together for two years now and we have yet to have even a minor disagreement. She's always happy and giving and we spend most of our time laughing and playing together. She's not a westernized girl, which is becoming more and more common; she comes from the forest and lives in the old traditions. She believes the man is the master and decision-maker and it's her place to follow. And although she's only had a 3rd-grade formal education, she's more wise and smarter - in the School of Life - than any woman I ever met in America. Does she make me happy? You bet, like I've never been happy before. I wouldn't trade Celine for any woman in the entire United States.
Lastly, Arthur, if you come to the Philippines to look for a place to live I highly recommend you to come to Palawan and have a look around. If you're rich you might be interested in one of the westernized security protected planned-housing-golf-course kinds of places on other islands. There's nothing like that here, but it's probably the safest island - check the maps - because it sits alone, divided from the rest of the country. You can have a huge house built for around $25,000. And there's lots of American and other foreigner's if you are the type that wants to talk about and keep a taste of home.
Puerto Princesa is rapidly growing - we have a Dunkin Donuts store, now, and an American just opened a place called Lil' Jacks Texas Barbecue. The food's delicious.
I have to go be with Celine, now - my favorite thing.
Good fortune to you, Arthur. If you need more info, write again to ETP with your questions. But, give me your email address next time so I can give you more direct and longer answers if need be.