20 Things I have learned while living in the Philippines.


Fiesta get together in Minglanilla,Cebu,Philippines

1. Filipino friendships normally have long term bonds with school friends and other people they grew up with in they’re lives. At the same time as an outsider married to someone with these bonds the friendships from the people around us extend to us as a couple and even when people develop careers and families the bond of friendship continues for life. It doesn’t need much to get a get together to happen and always an entertaining event as everyone seems to leave with a buzz after spending time with old friends.


Basilica, Cebu,Philippines,st nino

Basilica Cebu,Philippines

2. The Filipino family unit has been heavily corrupted with westernisation and not for the better. I do wonder what the Philippines would have been like without the West and the obsession with money.

Family units are generally good people and try to do things on a daily basis for the good of the family unit at the same time crab mentality and greed can often damage what could be long-term prosperity or an opportunity for the family to develop. Sad to say but things like land often end up in family disputes that out live the family members that started the arguments rather than selling up to one family member or just selling completely to all go their own way. Locking the only assets many have.


Fort San Pedro,Cebu,Philippines















3. Religion is not only in the Philippines its part of everyday life from festivals to regular church going. At the same time I have never felt harassed or compelled to go to a church by others. People have their own way of following religion and generally do “religiously”. At the same time its difficult to get away from the Catholic church as it maintains a strong grip on power. Let’s not forget the ousting of President Erap was mainly assisted by the Church. At the same time the blocking of divorce and the health bill are major issues that will continue to fester in the Philippines and likely to hinder development.

Matt Wilkie,Mark Ababon

Matt Wilkie with basketball player Mark Ababon at a family get together in Minglanilla,Cebu,Philippines

4. Basketball is an obsession in the Philippines which was left by the Americans. Don’t think it was a perfect sport for the country but glad to see that football is now getting its day in the country. I’m a strong believer in sports helping people out of poverty but also to inspire the dreams of others to stay on a straight path away from drink and drugs. Photo is of Mark Ababon my wife’s cousin a local basketball player.


A photo of some habal-habal (motorbike taxi) drivers in Minglanilla,Cebu,Philippines

5. Generally people are friendly, approachable and not bad people. Keeping a low key image and not having any signs of obvious wealth can make life a lot easier and more friendly. People do have the habit with things like transportation in trying to exploit the tourist. But in things like general meeting along the street you seem to find yourself a local celebrity and everyone wanting to talk with you. You will find people offer you a beer and to hangout, culturally people like to talk and part of the reason Filipino’s as a people are welcoming.

Sugbo Museum,Cebu,Philippines

Sugbo Museum,Cebu,Philippines

6. Nothing ever seems to be urgent. Some of this is realistic such as waiting for a car part that may take a couple of weeks to source but other things you get the feeling people just can’t be bothered to do it. Bit of the downside of life when I primarily work in improving things in my work to find that a lot of people are doing the exact opposite here.

Casa Gorordo,Cebu,Philippines,tourist attraction

7. Many people you come across expect you to be an “angry foreigner” as workers in stores for example deal with annoyed customers with one reason or the other. Could be the slow speed at which people often work or that they don’t want to queue. At the same time having manners and a bit of patience goes a long way to improve our image in the Philippines! You have to remember the average white male here is probably a grumpy old 60+ year old guy and if you are one have a bit of reserve when shopping.

Taost Temple,Cebu,Philippines

8. Lots of gay people in the Philippines and probably still a bit of a kept secret as I know very few foreign gays in the country but talking to my wife last night is a typical example where there are more gay members of extended family in her family than I actually know out of everyone I know in the UK! I don’t mind the gay population just trying to understand the numbers in comparison to the UK if you come to the Philippines you will understand what I am talking about as its either people are more open here or that other countries have a lower gay population. On top of that gay is a loose term as it also means cross gender so can be a bit confusing as the term is obviously just a reference to “sex with other men” rather than a more specific type of way of life.

Mountain views Of Cebu,Philippines

9. The media lies about the Philippines internally and externally. Internally you find that television is geared towards entertainment with very little educational or mental development usage as well as very insular nothing really talks about the outside world. In fact I haven’t watched TV at all since I have been here as I don’t even like it switched on. Abroad the media externally makes the Philippines look like a war zone and completely dangerous when in reality the risks here are minimal and I feel safer in Cebu than I have done in Central London. The issues with this is it stops people coming to the Philippines but also means Filipino’s watching TV which for many is their only access to the outside world tells them nothing of importance or relevance. Partly why local movie stars can run as president as simply they have seen them on TV and that is often enough to get you started on your campaign with voters!

Casa Gorordo,Cebu,Philippines,tourist attractionMinglanilla,beach,cebu,philippines

10. People who write about the Philippines online often do it in a blinkered way only to show the positives. At the same time writing negative you do get a backlash of internet warriors hiding behind fake names and keyboards even though your telling the truth. At the same time many expats are just as bad as locals in doing this which is often misleading and people have and do arrive with high expectations after being told things to find the reality is nothing near what they expected.

beautiful filipinas,April Wilkie,friends

11. The Philippines has an excessive amount of naturally beautiful women who are also approachable and interested in meeting people from other countries. I have yet to meet a Filipino who didn’t want to be my friend or in fact anyone who doesn’t want to hang out. In reality you have some of the most welcoming people you will ever meet on the planet.

12. Corruption is everywhere and goes from schools to high in government offices. Stopping it seems pretty impossible these days when a lot of it gets support from outside sources. Marcos in exile? goes to Hawaii, Aquino’s? Hawaii if outside countries were anti-corruption it wouldn’t be so easy to go to the U.S. in exile!


13. Food is not only cheaper if you go for local produce its often healthier. I know several people who have been cured of diabetes due to eating a more localised diet. Although white rice, dried fish and pork are not the things I am talking about.. Its the abundance of fresh vegetables, fruit and fish.


14. Adapting to a more localised way of life saves a small fortune on expenses. Many people go for a big home when they first move here but in reality that’s a big space you cool and leave a lot of lights on. In reality I find most of my time spent outdoors so better to have a big garden than a big house.

dora, backpack

15. You don’t need as many personal possessions as you would have in the West. Generally I find even clothing is a more simple affair compared to the UK, you rarely find me wearing anything branded. Electronics aren’t as important except for things like a good camera and a computer, nothing on TV much so no point even owning one.

Palm tree,hammock,relax,philippines

16. Learning to relax is something I am still trying to adapt to as I like things done now,today in the next 5 minutes rather than days,hours or weeks. But once mastered its an easier less stressful pace of life in the Philippines.

philippines natural beauty,beach,philippines,white sands

17. The Philippines is full of natural beauty but its often abused. Illegal logging, water pollution either by waste disposal or chemicals from farming, over fishing as well as dynamite/cyanide fishing all do damage to the environment. At the same time with what seems an exodus from provinces to the cities for work hopefully the damage will decline as less people are/will be in the provinces. There is so much to see and even with 10 years in the Philippines its likely you will only experience a parting glimpse of the natural beauty and wildlife.

turning a blind eye

18. Turning a blind eye is something I am not normally a custom to but often have to in the Philippines with things like litter as nobody seems to care. You can shame people by burning the stuff they tip in an empty lot but by tomorrow they will be throwing stuff back over the fence again. Most of the problems in the Philippines cannot change without education and a sense of localised pride in the environment they live. Its why many people see their personal boundaries as the walls around their home as outside of it is beyond they’re control.

Matt Wilkie,Zoei Wilkie

Matt Wilkie and Zoei Wilkie

19. Valuing the small things in life, its about family and the people around you that make things worth while in the Philippines. Everything else is often like reaching for the stars you want to grab it but you physically can’t reach it. Doesn’t mean not to have goals in life but just means your priorities are often different here as things like trying to do business internally is often a problem and easier to do things online or go abroad for a few months of the year than trying to work round corrupt officials or the lack of machinery and materials that you want/need.


20. Enjoying the Philippines is something you need to learn to do as its easy to concentrate on the negatives because coming from a western society they stand out more. You can see when garbage isn’t collected, you can see poverty and beggars in every town. But in reality these are the Filipino’s problems your a guest and as such should be aware you can’t fix any of the long-term issues here. Short term solutions bring short term gains but eventually the problems stay the same as the solutions are in education and government here and abroad. To enjoy life in the Philippines you need to look for what you came here for and take that piece of the pie more than the negatives that can surround it.