Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Milestone

August 27 marked the 10th anniversary of my arrival in the Philippines. Overall despite some bumps in the road, my wife Lydia and I have had a good life here as expatriate retirees.  How this all began was that Lydia had  dreamed of and had actually planned for us to make this move a few years before she  told me about her desire for us to relocate to her native land. Initially I was reluctant to go along with what I considered to be an outlandish idea. But the more I thought about it, the more  I realized how in many ways it made sense. After a while, I was totally on board.

However, we had no guarantee that our plans would succeed. And in order to accomplish our goal, this meant taking risks from which there was no turning back.  Giving up our materially comfortable lives in California and starting over in a foreign environment was not an easy consideration. And dissatisfied as I was with my work, leaving my job with its steady paycheck was a daunting prospect. But once we took these giant leaps and began our lives anew in Metro-Manila, everything more or less fell into place.One thing I will always remember about that time is that  thanks to Lydia, who arrived here nine months earlier in order to pave the way and get us settled in, we were able to establish our lives in this country rather smoothly. And to that end, Lydia's family members were also--and still are very supportive--for which I am most grateful.

Adjusting to retirement itself was no problem at all, even  to the much smaller income that we are now receiving than when we were working. This is because living expenses in the Philippines are for the most part less than that in the U.S. So the  dollar goes a lot further here. And even after all this time, hardly a day goes by that I'm not thankful for the freedom of no longer having to toil for a living.  I've never understood those who dread the prospect of hanging it up because they think they will be condemned to a life of boredom. Personally, during  these last 10 years my life has been much more meaningful  and productive than it was while I was  employed.

And speaking of adjustments, relocating to a different country of course entails challenges such as adapting to cultural differences. One of these in our case was giving up driving and becoming totally dependent on public transpiration to get around. We have not been behind the wheel once in all the time that we've been here.  Motorists in the Philippines, especially  here in Metro-Manila where we reside, are extremely undisciplined. and traffic is chaotic. Lydia and I spent many years driving in California which has more than its share of crazy drivers and traffic problems, but these are not nearly as nightmarish as local conditions.

Another important matter is health care which for seniors like Lydia and me  is an especially important issue. On the whole, we are satisfied with the quality of medical and dental treatment which we've received here . But  a problem  is the attendant expenses which can really mount up. Overall these costs are a lot less than that in the U.S. However, as a percent  to our retirement income, they have had a serious impact. We do carry private health insurance, but its premiums are steep and its benefits inadequate, leaving us to cover a lot of bills out of our pocket. There is a government healthcare program in the Philippines to which we subscribe called Philhealth, but its coverage is also limited. And speaking of government health care, there's talk that that eventually Medicare from the U.S. will become available for American senior citizens living abroad, which of course would be wonderful. However,  I don't see this happening soon.

The biggest and most time consuming issue that we've encountered is an emotionally bruising and ongoing encounter with the  Philippine legal  system which grinds slowly and inefficiently and like other government branches here has a problem with corruption.  Lydia is a plaintiff in three pending civil  cases, involving personal and /or  family land and title matters. The oldest of these has been dragging on since 2009! 

But regardless of the above shortcomings and hassles, my attachment to and Lydia's roots in the Philippines run deep. In fact we  plan to spend the rest of our lives here. And despite our advanced ages, we still  have projects in the works. For example we are currently  in the midst of renovating  a property  that we own in Lydia's hometown for our visits there. Whether eventually this will become more than just an occasional place to crash remains to be seen.

Lydia and I have come a long way since 2005. Through a continuation of the careful planning and good fortune that has brought us this far, we can only hope that we will be able to sustain the same  modest but comfortable lifestyle that we have enjoyed here for the future as well.

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