Steve and Eve, a delightful couple from the United Kingdom, decided to leave their home in the land of misty moors, cricket pitches, and fish & chip shops and head to the tropical environs of Laoag, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines to make it their retirement home. They made the move to the Philippines a little over a year ago, and I had the pleasure of catching up with them just recently to find out how it has all been going.
Steve hails from foggy, soggy England, where Eve, a Filipina originally from Laoag, went to carry out her career as a nurse. They met and married, and then raised a family. Their children, now grown, jumped the coop and when the couple found themselves emptily nesting, thoughts turned to relocating to the Philippines where the climate was more hospitable and the cost of living significantly lower than in the U.K.
When asked specifically, “Why the Philippines?” Steve’s reply was, “Well, I’d been here (to the Philippines, the country of Eve’s birth) about three times, and we’d been married for about thirty odd years, and I thought, well, if it comes to a point where we couldn’t do anything for ourselvesalone, and we could make our money last a bit longer, we could do it in the Philippines…”
Good point, Steve. But then we asked the question on many retiree’s minds: what about medical issues? Unlike in the U.K., the Philippines hasn’t any National Health to speak of. So for Steve and Eve, although it’s all free in England, in Laoag, doctor visits, medicines, surgeries and the like are all on them. But this didn’t seem to bother them. Steve pointed out that there were two hospitals nearby, including Batac General Hospital, should they ever need a doctor, and if anything big should happen, they always have the option of hopping a plane back to the UK for treatment. On top of that, Laoag City Hospital is being upgraded and modernized drastically over the next year or two. And the cherry on the cake, Eve pointed out, as she is a Filipino senior citizen, she can get senior citizen discounts on her hospital bills, pharmacies, and doctors’ offices. Unfortunately, senior citizen discount cards are limited to Filipino senior citizens, but the fact is that the cost of medical treatment is significantly lower in the Philippines than it is in the First World, so in most cases, medical care is affordable. There also exist several medical insurance policies that can be purchased in order to cover expenses in the Philippines—go to the Retireology section of this website and click on Medical Insurance and Health Care Information to read the policies and contact the brokers directly with any questions you may have.
But what about friends? Eve’s family all live in Laoag, so they’re walking on sunshine as far as family dinners go. But sometimes, siblings and in-laws just don’t cut it. Occasionally you want to chat with someone who won’t comment on the fact that you’re balding or the fact that: “Hoy! You’re getting fat.” Both Steve and Eve reassured us that this wasn’t a problem. In fact, Laoag has a growing international community: Americans, Germans, Dutch…even a few other Brits – people from all over—have made their homes here alongside Steve and Eve. Many of them live within a thirty minute radius of their home by bike, their chosen mode of transportation.
Day to day life is just as easy going. As Steve so wonderfully put it, they “just get out there in the morning and see what comes.” When they don’t feel like spending the day with friends and family, they listen to music, read books, or visit the beaches nearby—coincidentally, these are some of the most beautiful beaches in the country—and hardly any people on them. Ex-groundskeeper Steve tends his garden. “Tropical farming is a big kick for me!” They eat out. We asked if any of this got boring over time, considering the two have lived in Laoag for a year at this point, and the answer was a resounding ‘no!’ There’s always something to keep you busy – or not busy, if that’s what you prefer.
Next, we asked about the inconveniences of living in a provincial town. There had to be downsides. Food came to mind here. In a big, sophisticated city like Metro Manila or Cebu, you can get practically anything by way of food. In Laoag? We assumed not. So did they find themselves trekking down to the big city every few months, packing supplies into boxes and dragging them home like refugees? The answer again was ‘no’. According to them, they’ve got everything they need! The freshest fruits, fish right out of the ocean, and it’s cheaper here by half than it is in Manila. On the contrary actually; their friends visit them and stock up on goodies! They hit the nail on the head when they said: “You’ll never starve here!”
Life isn’t all sugar sweet and sunshine in the province though. Steve and Eve do have a list of complaints. Mosquitos, red ants, and toads. Necessary evils when you live on the equator! But overall, life is pretty good!!