About Me

I am often asked what brought us to the Philippines. Plenty of single, older gentlemen relocate to the Philippines to enjoy the lower cost of living and the company of a beautiful Filipina. “Back-packers” and dive enthusiasts constantly make their way through to enjoy brief vacations and experience some of the world’s best dive sites – but there are not many married couples that have made the Philippines their home.

So how did we get here?  Grab a cup of coffee, a cold beer or glass of wine now — this is not a short story — but I hope you enjoy it!

It all began in the spring of 2007, when my husband and his best friend of 20+ years decided to take a well-deserved, tropical vacation – a “Boys’ Trip” for two men that had worked hard, raised their children and were ready to enjoy something a bit more “exotic” than the Jersey Shore or Ocean City.

Predisposed to an Asian adventure, my husband narrowed it down to three places: Thailand, The Philippines or Vietnam. For whatever reason (I cannot explain why, even to this day) I answered “The Philippines!” when he asked me to choose, and his destination was set. Within the week I came home with two travel books and a map, and he began organizing his itinerary.

Their two-week journey would start from Manila; from there they would go to Pampanga, Tacloban and Catbalogan. The day of their departure, his friend called him at Kennedy Airport in New York to tell him he was unable to make the trip. My husband, who had not done any international travel, bravely decided to forge ahead on his own. When he returned home 16 days later, with incredible stories and hundreds of photographs, it was obvious he had fallen in love with this country and its people. Embarking on a journey of this magnitude all alone was a life-changing experience for him (whose life wouldn’t change after successfully climbing Mt. Pinatubo?), and he hasn’t been the same man since.

He made it very clear that he, just like General MacArthur, would return.  We started talking about our own “early retirement” possibilities – after all, the kids were grown and gone, and we were both still under 50, young enough to enjoy travel and adventure. The more we talked, and the more he reminisced, it became clear that the Philippines was our goal.  We read numerous books on both goal-setting and income generation through freelancing (we both credit “The Four-Hour Work Week” as our major motivator [and if you haven’t read this book, you should]).

Early in the spring of 2009 we both fell victim to corporate layoffs and were let go from our jobs. Receiving somewhat generous severance packages, we took this as a positive sign and decided it was now or never.  We set out our plan and began unloading our excess, “material” things – cars, furniture, winter clothing, big-screen televisions, desktop computers – donating to charity, giving to friends or selling privately – and reduced our physical belongings to (summer) clothing. We even found a new home for our puppy, Zach (which was the hardest thing for me to lose!).  We confirmed arrangements for an extended stay at a local “resort” (which was really more like a motel) to allow us time for on-site house hunting. By the time we left, we carried only two suitcases each (how’s that for cleaning house?). My husband flew to Dumaguete the last week of July; I stayed at home, wrapping up loose ends and then made my solo trip the first week of August. Having never been to the Philippines before, I was extremely anxious, not knowing what to expect (even after my husband’s stories and photographs).

My flight left Washington, D.C., at 6:55am for Chicago, where I was to have a two- or three-hour layover before my long flight to Tokyo. This turned into nine hours – I hadn’t even left the country yet and was already exhausted (and had a few beers at the bar with fellow, distressed passengers). Due to the delay from Chicago, I landed in Tokyo too late to make my connection to Manila, so off I went on a shuttle bus to a beautiful hotel in downtown Tokyo. However, not going through Immigration at the airport, the passengers could not leave the hotel, so I just looked around the hotel and the souvenir shop, purchased the mandatory “Tokyo” tourist T-shirt for my husband and a pretty silk fan for me and headed for bed. Early the next morning, it was off to the airport for my flight to Manila. This flight, however, was also delayed, and I landed too late in Manila to make the final flight connection to Dumaguete. I called my husband in tears, ready to collapse, dragging my two suitcases through the airport, frantically trying to just get outside. Bless his heart, he said he’d take care of it and would call me back. About three minutes later, my phone rang, he told me to look outside for a driver holding a sign with my name on it, and I would be taken to a nearby airport hotel, where he’d already made my reservation. I checked into the hotel, got to my room, drank a cold beer and calmed down.

I then took my first real walk outside since leaving Chicago nearly two days before – my first walk in the Philippines.  Even though it was about 1:00am, it was incredibly hot.  Searching for a store, I passed by an outdoor pool hall, where a dozen or so Filipino men – shirtless, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, shooting pool and having a great time – greeted me with waves, “hello’s” and big smiles. I found a tiny store, bought a six-pack of the Philippines’ famous San Miguel beer, picked out some “fake” Ray-Bans (for $3.00 USD) and went back to unwind at the hotel. Following a quick night’s sleep and a cup of coffee, I was met outside by the hotel’s driver,  so excited for my final flight. This plane actually left on time, and 45 minutes later I was descending over Dumaguete, “The City of Gentle People.” The view was absolutely spectacular; I remember pinching myself, thinking this is my new home, not just a vacation. Our small plane landed, and a metal ladder was brought up to the exit door. We climbed down the outside of the plane and made our way across the steamy tarmac to the one-room “terminal.” Locals ran up and offered to collect and carry my bags for just few pesos. 

I headed outside, and there was my husband! We walked across the parking lot and directly into “Happy Fred’s” for an icy cold San Miguel to celebrate our new beginning.

… and from August 6, 2009, our adventure began…

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. ohiophinphan
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 03:35:50

    very nice story. I am glad you found your “happy place”. Best to both of you.

    Reply

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