All you need to know before moving to the Philippines

 

With about 21millions people living in Manila (including suburbs), the Philippine capital is the 11th most populous city in the world. When moving in Philippines you can expect a great variety of living environments from populous cities to deserted islands. Moving companies can help you every step of the way during this time, whether your home is in the middle of the city or the middle of nowhere.

The Philippines is an archipelago with 7,107 islands and the longest coastline in the world. It has three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The Philippine economy ranks 47th in the world and is driven by a flourishing information technology industry, abundant agricultural harvests and robust dollar reserves generated by overseas Filipino workers who account for about 10 percent of the nation's GDP. An emergent business process outsourcing sector has shown great promise and resilience to the global financial crisis while fetching about USD $6 billion in revenues or about 3.6% of the GDP. Expats who have invested in this sector have been impressed by the Filipinos' outstanding performance and have renewed respect for the labor sector of the country. The United States remains the Philippines' largest investor with around USD $6.7 billion in total direct investments, including a trading partnership with The Philippines’ electronics-dominated merchandise exports industry. 

The country is a melting pot of Malay, Chinese, American, Spanish, Japanese and Arab influences due to its rich aboriginal and colonial history. This makes it easier for expats to blend in with locals, who are noted to be hospitable and welcoming to foreigners. Filipinos are also well known for being pious, religious and English-proficient Orientals in the modern society. At least 92% of the population is Catholic, making the Philippines the only Catholic nation in Asia. The remainder comprises Muslims, Buddhists or smaller Christian denominations scattered across the country. 

The Philippines' archipelagic structure has given rise to over a hundred dialects spoken from Luzon to Mindanao. Filipino or Tagalog is considered the national language while English remains the main language used for business.

Foreign tourists are often impressed by the Philippines' rich cultural heritage, but one thing that draws expats to stay for good are nature's magnificent offerings abundant in this country. Its beaches sparkle with fine white sand and its waters are serene, but spirited. One can take a dip in Boracay, Puerto Galera or Panglao in Bohol or simply marvel at the rainbow-colored fish and marine life of Palawan's Tubbatha reef, a Unesco heritage site. Historic shipwrecks dating from colonial Philippines, including the Japanese luxury liner, Oryoku Maru and the 19th-century Spanish gunboat, San Quintin, will take any Subic diver's breath away. More adventure still awaits those who want to swim with whales and transient whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon.

The Philippines, also known as Republic of the Philippines, is a presidential unitary form of government divided into three main branches: the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. The Executive branch consists of the President elected for a six-year-term as head-of-state and commander-in-chief while the Legislative branch is composed of The Senate and The House of Representatives. The Judiciary branch consists of a President appointed Chief Justice, who heads fourteen Associate Justices also appointed by the Executive Officer as nominated by the Judicial and Bar Council. For over ten years, this structure in government has been challenged repeatedly to make way for a federal or parliamentary government. However, no such attempts have been successful so far. 

The Philippine government is known for its active pursuance of healthy international ties that pave the way for the protection of foreigners when they come to live in the Philippines.

 

Essential relocation information

When moving to Manila, you need to know the basics of what to pack.

Get an overseas shipping service if necessary and contact reliable removal companies.

Bring a power converter. Most electric outlets in Manila run on 110 and 220v. Check your appliance that outlet to plug it in; one can purchase a power converter in various big SM Department Stores around the city.

One thing you should consider when relocating to the Philippines is that the weather is either sunny or rainy. Since it is a tropical country, it is advisable that you have an umbrella with you. Lately, due to global warming, it is either too hot, too wet or both. 

As for clothes, wear decent and light fabric outfits. If you want to spend a good amount of time in posh and classy areas like Greenbelt, Rockwell, and Global City, do not wear beach attire. It may be hot in the Philippines, but you still have to dress accordingly.

Filipinos do not use tampons so it can be hard to find these in supermarkets, especially if you are based in the province. If you are not open to the idea of using sanitary napkins, then it is suggested that you bring enough tampons to last your stay. 

If you need medical supplies, go to Mercury Drugs. There are many branches, and you can also check the nearest one near you by going toclickthecity.com.

Finally, do not forget mosquito repellent. Then again, it depends on where you will be in the Philippines. If you will be in the province, then this is a necessity.

Be practical when packing for things you need to bring in Manila. You have to ask yourself whether you need these or not. If you don't think you have any use for the things you are considering to bring, then better leave it behind to save you space.

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How to live like a local

Comprised of 7,641 islands, the Philippines is a south-east Asian archipelago known for its diverse culture and influences. From the Chinese traders to Spanish conquistadors to the presence of Japanese and the Americans during World War 2, it's without a doubt that the Philippines has always been a strong magnet to foreign nationals.

Despite the negative reputation caused by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s war against drugs, the Philippines remain as an ever beautiful country. Here, expats will witness a modernised nation characterised by vibrant mega cities and a rapidly developing economy. Scattered across the thousands of islands are picturesque sceneries and amazing landscapes no outdoor lover can resist. The Philippines never lost its warm-hearted people and unique culture honed by hundreds of years of various influences. There is more to this south-east Asian gem than meets the eye and expats will soon find out that this nation is indeed blessed with tremendous potential, abounding natural resources and of 103.7 million Filipinos whose kindness will make them feel like they finally found a home in a distant land.

It’s More Fun in the Philippines

Expats who want to experience some fun without leaving the bustling metropolitan are up to tonnes exciting places to visit. First stop is the Manila Ocean Park, a marine-themed park in Manila that houses attractions such as jellies exhibit, mermaid swim experience, sharks and rays encounter and aquanaut voyage. Another popular destination is Enchanted Kingdom, an amusement park located in San Lorenzo South, an hour away from Alabang. It stands out because it has seven different zones each with its theme. Exciting rides include an 11-storey Space Shuttle roller coaster and the wild water ride Jungle Log Jam. Water parks can be fun as well. Jed's Island Resort capitalizes on its seaside location, and Splash Island which is the country's largest water park/resort.

There are also several educational venues where children can be entertained and educated at the same time. The Exploratorium 2000 and Missing Links Alive have advanced robotics while the exhibits allow interaction with the children. Science Discovery, Quest Centre for Earth, Lopez Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Manila also has interesting displays. Sun worshippers, on the other hand, will not be disappointed since the Philippines boasts many captivating beaches including Boracay in Visayas which is a prime tourist destination.

A Guide for Expat Drivers

A foreigner may use his valid foreign driver's license within 90 days from the date of his arrival in the Philippines. This license may be converted into a Philippine driver's license with no exam needed. However, if the foreign license is expired, its conversion into a Philippine license will be subject to written and practical examinations. Application for a driver's license is filed at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in East Avenue, Quezon City or any LTO District Office or Licensing Centre nationwide. Some of the required documents that expats must prepare are:

  • Valid Passport
  • Valid Visa or Alien Certificate of Registration
  • Medical Certificate issued by a clinic accredited by the Land Transportation office

One important thing that expat drivers should know is that traffic is notorious in the Philippines, particularly in Metro Manila. The roads are often chaotic and defensive driving is an advantage since many local drivers are quite aggressive. Violations come with different fines/penalties. Some common violations include driving without a license, driving under the influence of liquor, failure to carry a certificate of registration or official receipt of registration, parking and road sign violations. Provinces in the Philippines also have different traffic management arms, which are responsible for the implementation of traffic rules and regulations. Not all rules and procedures are the same, so it is important to know the traffic rules in the province where you intend to stay.

The Filipino Culture

Living in Philippines allows an expat to enjoy life in a unique and endearing way. Filipinos are warm and friendly people who always value their relationships, especially with foreigners. They are jovial, chatty and notably hospitable, and their sense of family is unbeatable. It is typical for a Filipino household to consist of more than one family, and they choose to take care of their elders themselves instead of leaving them in an aged care facility.

When coming to visit a Filipino family at home, it is usual to be served some snacks. But when a guest arrives during mealtime, he is always invited to share the meal. The words "po" and "opo," which mean, 'yes', are very typical ways of showing respect to elders when conversing with them. Raising the hand of an elderly to touch one's forehead is another aspect of the Filipino. An expatriate in Philippines will surely gain more friends just by showing a willingness to learn these unique, Filipino customs.

Those moving to the Philippines should not be surprised to witness one religious celebration after the next as these are all part of the country's culture. These include the Flores de Mayo, a festival of flowers being offered to the Virgin Mary during the month of May, and the cenaculo, a play usually shown during the Holy Week depicting the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Getting along with locals should not be a problem since they are naturally welcoming. They always have a smile on their faces despite the hardships they experience. Expats in the Philippines will be glad to know that their Filipino neighbours are more than glad to help them adjust to the new environment and to share their positive attitude towards life.

  

Cost of Living in the Philippines

The Philippines can be a haven for expatriates, and there's a good reason to believe this. With its affordable cost of living and the warm smiles of locals, it's not difficult to enjoy everything this small, but promising side of Asia has to offer.

Housing/Rent

Housing costs in the Philippines are relatively cheap compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. However, expatriates either have to change their citizenship or marry a Filipino citizen in order to own properties. For most, renting is preferable, and Philippine landlords usually have a fondness for foreigners who are known to be prompt payers. 

The largest number of expats in the Philippines is found in Metro Manila where most multinational companies are headquartered. Due to its fast growing population, first-rate condominium units in the downtown districts have become more favored with monthly rates ranging from 200 - 300 Euros every month. Houses or apartments may cost up to 100 Euros monthly.

"It’s much cheaper for most things, particularly food, alcohol, and transport, but not as cheap as other South East Asian countries like Thailand, etc."- Jonny Lis, Expat in the Philippines

Some real estate companies offer special packages for expats, which provide them with extra privileges like bundled rent for a certain number of months, resulting in helpful discounts. Other urbanized areas in the country are Metro Cebu in the Visayas, and Metro Davao in Mindanao where the cost of living is relatively cheaper. Some expats prefer to live in these southern islands where nature is closer to the city and life is more relaxed. 

Education

Education costs in the Philippines are relatively lower than other countries in Southeast Asia such as Japan, Singapore, and Thailand. Public elementary and secondary schools are free, funded by the national government and foreign donors. In Metro Manila, a private school costs between P 2,000 - 4,000 per month in for average-income families. Gender-exclusive schools can be the most expensive, with tuition and other fees reaching up to P 10,000 per month. In the provinces, the price of education is about 35-50 percent lower. 

Private universities and colleges cost anywhere from 2,500 - 8,800 Euros yearly while state universities collect between 15-20 percent of this range. In general, schools in Metro Manila cost more than those in the provincial areas. School fees are also higher for expats and their children than for locals.

Food 

Food in the Philippines is varied and very affordable. In Metro Manila, upscale restaurants dedicated to a specific country's cuisine can cost anywhere between 15 - 40 Euros for two persons while less expensive ones charge from 9 to 15 Euros. A typical on-the-go meal is very cheap, sometimes costing a mere 1 Euro. Groceries worth 25 - 30 Euros are enough for a week's consumption for two persons. In less urbanized areas, prices can be even cheaper.

Transportation & Utilities

Jeepneys (a major form of transportation, which evolved from surplus US Army Jeeps after World War II), buses and taxis, as well as private vehicles, own the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila and the more urbanized provincial areas. The flag-down rate for a taxi is 50 Euro cents plus 30 Euro cent increments for every 500 meters traveled. Jeepney and Bus fares can be much cheaper.

Utilities, including electricity, water, and telephone cost an average Metro Manila household of four between 99 and 150 Euros, even less in the provincial areas. Expats with appliances brought from their resident country may need an adapter as electrical outlets in the Philippines are programmed for 220 volts. 

Nightlife

Nightlife in the Philippines is world class if you know where to go. Even so, expats end up paying much less than back home. In this country, beer is the drink of choice, and it comes with a large selection of world-famous brands plus a few local names. 

The Philippines could be the next big stop on an expat's journey of discovery. From transportation to nightlife, this country can be an enriching experience for those who seek a new dimension to the world around them. Here, the warm and hospitable locals who are only too glad to welcome expats into their fold make life easier.

 

Working in the Philippines

Rarely is the Philippines considered for career opportunities, for the obvious reason that its economy has remained less than favourable when compared to other nations of the world. However, this country may just prove to be an unexplored, yet promising direction for anyone who seeks a more challenging and exciting path in life as an expat.

Although the Philippines have long been far from being the land of milk and honey, it is now gaining the reputation as a fast-growing industrialised nation. According to the International Monetary Fund statistics released in 2016, the Philippine economy emerged as the 36th largest in the world and the third leading in the ASEAN, tailing Indonesia and Thailand. At first, the Pearl of the Orient was known as an agriculture-reliant country, but during the recent years, it shifted gears to manufacturing and services. The Philippines is also one of the primary exporters of garments, copper, petroleum products and electronic products in Asia. In fact, Texas Instruments, the world’s largest DSP Chips producer has headquarters in the city of Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines.

The Job Market

Most expatriates in the Philippines hold top-level positions in multinational companies. Aside from managerial positions, expats have an advantage in obtaining key positions within the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry where native English skills are an obvious edge. Currently, there are over 930,000 workers in the BPO industry, and some of the top call centre facilities are located in Metro Manila, Baguio, Cebu City, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro.

The demand for foreign teachers with English as their native language has grown rapidly as the International ESL (English as a Second Language) industry expands. It is another lucrative opportunity for expats who have a natural advantage teaching a language that is their own. Other main industries in the Philippines that can offer employment opportunities:

  • Electronics Assembly
  • Aerospace
  • Food Manufacturing
  • Textiles
  • Petroleum Refining
  • Ship Building
  • Automotive
  • Tourism

Average Salary and Work Hours

As with most countries, the range of salary in the Philippines depends on the expatriate’s job qualifications. Minimum wage rates also vary in every region whereas those working in Metro Manila or the National Capital Region have the highest minimum wage which is Php 481 (USD 9.51) for non-agricultural workers. Generally speaking, those who hold top-level positions receive six-digit salaries per month. Entry-level remuneration for BPO jobs is around $390 to $400 base salary (plus medical benefits including maternity and sickness allowance) and unlimited bonuses.

The average working hours in the Philippines is eight hours per day or a maximum of 40 hours per week. All employees are entitled to two rest days which is usually from Saturdays to Sundays. In the Philippines, any excess hours rendered after the eight-hour standard work schedule is considered as overtime and should be paid with 30% of the employee’s hourly rate. Those who will work during a national holiday should also be entitled to ‘double pay’ or twice the amount of their regular daily salary.

Income Tax

Expats may have to pay relatively high taxes in the form of income tax, and value added tax, as well as community and vehicle taxes. Foreign nationals either employed in a local or international company, resident or non-resident are required to file their income tax returns given that they are receiving their source of income from the Philippines. Currently, income tax is levied at 5% to 32%.

Taxable Income (in Pesos)

Total Tax Percent Deductible

0 – 10,000

5%

10, 000 – 30,000

10%

30,000 – 70,000

15%

70,000 – 140,000

20%

140,000 – 250,000

25%

250,000 – 500,00

30%

Over 500,000

32%

 

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