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Sad Story of One Expat

What follows is one sad story of one expat here in the Philippines. I reproduce the tale unedited. I know him and he will remain anonymous. He’s a good man and deserves better. It is a cautionary tale for any who move here. I thank God I chose wisely and have a wife who ensures I am not exposed to any of the shenanigans you will read below. 

For your information, one British Pound equals about 70 Philippines Pesos (PHP) at the time of writing. One dollar will get you about 50 PHP.

I have been here in the Philippines for almost 3 years and can honestly say it is a stunningly beautiful country. We bought land, designed and built our own house in an idyllic location. I intend to spend the rest of my life here.
The experience has been spoilt by Filipinos constantly asking for money, from children to priests to relatives to complete strangers. As of today we are owed just under P200,000 that we lent various relatives in good faith, without interest and to be repaid at their own schedule and amount and yet constantly we are not paid our money. This week one relative said he was not going to pay us back P100,000, money that would pay for our two daughters college education plus complete the work on our house. This seems to be normal practice here. No apology, just constant broken promises and face to face lies.
In the past two weeks alone one of our daughters has been verbally abused by a drunk guest at a party at our house. A motor tricycle taxi driver crashed into the back of our car and I have to pay for the damage to our car despite the police saying I am blameless (he’s too poor and no insurance). One of our fences, to keep our dogs in and safe, has been totally destroyed by a boat (no apology from the known owner despite being told that his boat is damaging the fence twice previously). A relative, as previously stated, who owes us P100,000 has decided not to pay us back after almost two years of promising to do so. To cap it all off the bank has fiddled me out of P10,000 and the chances of getting it back are slim to zero here.
I had the nieve [sic] intention of trying to help my new relatives
through interest free micro financing to get them clear of huge interest repayments on debt and the money they saved easily covered the repayments to me, but they don’t repay money here. We also made donations to various community causes which appear to have been, in at least one case, abused.
The negative personal experiences have far, far outweighed the positive ones. It seems Filipinos are very fast to ask and take money and good will but then treat one with great disrespect. There is a total lack of empathy, morals or ethics throughout society and commerce despite it saying it is such a religious country. I have never experienced this intensity of ignorance, overt corruption, blatant face to face lying, incompetence and personal disrespect and vandalism to private property.
I came here fully expecting and prepared to change my lifestyle, attitudes and social norms, in fact I was relishing the new challenges, experiences and possibilities, especially the interactions with people. That has all been crushed to death.
After much thought and lots of soul searching I have decided, very sadly and with huge regret, to greatly reduce my interaction with all Filipinos, including relatives, for the sake of my immediate family, my mental health and our bank balance.
To the too few who are decent, honest and respectful Filipinos I wish I had met more of you.
Despite being constantly warned by expats prior to living here, I was nieve [sic] and must take some responsibility, I really thought I was, in a small way helping those less fortunate but all I have done is destroy my own faith in my fellow man and become extremely depressed.
Tomorrow is another day.

Feature Image Courtesy of Alexander Vlasvov CC) Public Domain Licence

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Published inRetiring To The Philippines


  1. Eric D Phillips Eric D Phillips

    There are Always children or strangers in the Philippines who will greatly benefit from any assistance while some of the poorest have the highest moral standards; with such a high population density and wealth gaps, there is as stated above a learned ability to remove one from their funds if disposed to not consider the situation(s).

    • Thanks, Eric. I tend to agree with the first part of your comment but I don’t know what you mean by the last part after “a learned ability.” Care to elaborate?

  2. Phil Phil

    This is indeed a sad story. However, what’s also sad is that the writer went into this endeavor with unrealistic expectations.

    You go as a westerner into a third world country, you are going to be seen as a money tree. There is no other way around this. You can go there, dress poor, act poor… but Filipinos are not naive. They know you got money. Maybe not a lot, but enough, and definitely more than they got. You can tell them in and out that you are broke, and they will never believe you.

    I been through all this. Letting relatives “borrow” money thinking they are going to make good on it. Even immediate family like brother in laws never pay you back. This should be expected! However no one expects this going in at first of course.

    The best way to cope with this issue, if you choose continue on there, is to accept the fact that you are going to never get paid back when you let a Filipino borrow money. That isn’t to say it can never happen, but it’s hard enough getting Americans to pay you back let alone Filipinos! So what I basically do is give, I don’t lend, I just give, and call it good. I only give what I can afford, and not worry about. If you can’t handle this way of thinking, you really should reconsider living in the Philippines.

    • Hi Phil, wise words and sound advice. I’m just lucky in that my wife’s family are not at all like that. They have never asked to borrow a penny. Like the guy in the story, I know many who have been in the same position. It’s a sad reflection on the reality of life as an expat here or indeed, in many Asian countries.

      • Phil Phil

        Hi Stephen. One part of me says I envy you. It would be great to not have to be the “cash cow” for all my needy extended family. But another part of me am glad that I have been , and continue to go through these trials as it teaches me lessons and puts me through experiences which helps garner wisdom for the future. I have accepted the fact that everyone has been dealt a set of cards that must be played somehow, and what seems like a burden now can seem like a great learning experience in hindsight.

        • Hi Phil! Thanks for dropping by. This story about “one expat” is not about me. I posted it in order to show those who don’t know just how us foreigners can be perceived by many Filipinos. Not all by any means. It’s a mentality that doesn’t only apply to the Phils. I encountered a similar attitude when I lived in Thailand.
          You make some very good points especially the part about a “great learning experience.” As a former work colleague used to say many years ago, “it’s all part of life’s rich pattern.” 🙂

    • Dan Dan

      “They know you got money.”

      Wish you could tell that to my bosses. Seems like they always pay us less. How is it you make so many racist comments that anyone who is white just gets handed free money?

      • Hey Dan! Sounds to me you have some kind of problem. You, and I’m assuming you are Filipino (correct me if I’m wrong) get paid less as you put it because the standard and cost of living is so different here than in say the UK or US. Things are far more expensive there so there are higher wages. Those wages are not “free money.” Many foreigners have worked hard for many years after educating themselves in order to earn good wages and a decent pension.
        We do make a contribution to the economy of the Philippines if we choose to live here by spending that hard-earned money.
        As for your comment about “racist comments,” I have no idea what you are talking about. Check out your fellow Filipino’s comments (below from fsotomill) for a balanced and truthful view of some, not all, of his fellow Filipinos.
        Your “just gets handed free money” typifies what is wrong with the mentality of certain Filipinos. Thank God I don’t mix with those who hold such incorrect, unenlightened points of view.

        • Dan Dan

          I have the problem? I am not the one making racist comments. And how can I be a white Filipino expat? I did not know you were Filipino. You must be naturalized? What does the US or the UK have to do with anything? Or your educational level? I have an MA and have worked for 40 years. You are saying it is OK to be racist to me, because I am white? But then you guys are also saying whites get paid more. You are contradicting yourself.

          • Dan. First off I don’t see any racist comments at all. I have no idea what colour you are or where you are from. None of that matters to me.You are simply not making any sense at all. It would help if you could enlighten me as to what your angle is. Sounds to me like you want to pick an argument with someone. Go somewhere else and do it, please. You add nothing to this comment thread whatsoever.
            Furthermore, please note you are blocked from further comment in light of your last foul-mouthed response which I have chosen not to display. I believe in free speech but I certainly do not have to put up with foul-mouthed insults based on no facts whatsoever. Bye!

      • Phil Phil

        Hi Dan,

        Sorry I don’t know where the racist remarks are. I actually love filipinos, poor or rich. I have a great admiration for their work ethic, generosity, and loving nature. Please accept my apology if anything I said was racist. It was not intended that way. I was simply stating facts based on my own personal experiences. I didn’t mean to make it sound so general. Take care.

        • Sorry, Phil. Dan may see your reply but he can’t respond. I blocked him owing to his last foul-mouthed comments which I obviously chose not to publish.
          I can assure you that I did not see or read any racist comments from you or anyone else for that matter.

  3. Hi there!,

    I myself am a Filipino from Silay (near Bacolod) and sadly, I have to agree with this, there are a lot of Filipinos who are a poor reflection of the ideal Image we’d like to have. Even most of my friends from abroad can attest to this. Often times they are seen as a “walking atm” or most people expect them to have a sh** load of cash, it’s sad really, I tend to apologize to them for the behavior of my fellow country men, especially here in the province. Most of them were even in shock when I paid the bill at the restaurants that we ate at, saying that, “This rarely or never happens to us here” But there are also good Filipinos here, a lot of them really, but the trick to it is finding them. I hope the owner of this story is well and I apologize in behalf of my fellow Filipinos.

    • Hi! Thanks for the most sensible comments. You are 100% correct. The trick is, as you say, finding the “good Filipinos.” Luckily, for me, I managed that trick and I hope the “owner of this story” in good time will also pull off the same trick. There are many good Filipinos including yourself, sir!

  4. My father used to say when he taught me to drive: if you hit a jeepney or pedicab, even if it’s not your fault you’ll be footing the bill for your car repairs. And you’ll probably even end up giving the old guy some money out of pity coz his only means of livelihood got busted up and he has 10+ mouths to feed. So it’s always better to do everything possible not to get into an accident in the first place.

  5. kate G kate G

    I definitely agree with this note. I mean people (in general) doesn’t care less if the money is not theirs. They spend it the way they want it and then they forget (ignore) to pay, because again, its not their money so they don’t care. This doesn’t only happen in Philippines, but to other 3rd world countries, even worse.

    And to Dan, I am also a Filipina, and I dont find this post racist. This is actually a very good piece. There are a lot of things that can be learned in this like, 1. Pay debts, 2. live only by your means and 3. is to not abusive the person who offers you help. You should lighten up and have a more open minded attitude.


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