All posts by Bruce Silverman

CARING FOR YOUR LOVED ONE IN YOUR ISLAND HOME

The Philippines offers an affordable, compassionate, and caring alternative to an assisted living facility in the First World.

 A fact of life that we all eventually have to face is that at some point, we will have to care for a parent, a spouse, or a loved one who is in need of assistance, be it physical, emotional, or both. The need can be temporary, it can be permanent, or it can be finite, but as sure as dealing with death and taxes, we will one day have to deal with assisting someone we love.

In the First World, the usual course for care would be moving your loved one into an assisted living facility or nursing home. The option of being able to live in your own home, among your own family, and be capably cared for is not usually a feasible one in a First World setting.

In the Philippines, caring for a loved one at home is a way of life. It would never occur to a Filipino to send a loved one outside of the home to be cared for. In the case of a disabled family member, the culture dictates that he or she be cared for at home.

I have known several folks from abroad that have taken the option of moving to the Philippines with a sick spouse rather than go into assisted living. For whatever reasons, moving into such a facility was not an option in their circumstances, so they chose instead to move here, where they can live in their own home together as husband and wife. In this environment, they have been able to avail of the nurses and caregivers who come into the home to live, and to give them the specialty care needed.

 

One gentleman I met, Hugh, had a wife with dementia. She required a full-time caregiver. Hugh did not want his wife in the health care system—a.k.a. senior citizen home—back

in America. He had had some experience before, of coming to the Philippines on business. He also knew of the good reputation of Filipina nurses and caregivers in the United States. His decision was to bring his wife to the Philippines and to set up a home for them here.

Then there are others I have met who have parents who they did not want to put into nursing homes or assisted living; they preferred to have them live with family. Unfortunately, in a First World setting, the family does not have the ability to be with the father or mother every minute of every day. In the cases of these acquaintances of mine, the adult children brought their aging or disabled parents “home” to the Philippines to live with them.

Another scenario I have seen is people who are living and attending to a loved one with a degenerative problem that requires someone watching over them constantly. There are also instances of people who are of sane mind but who have a handicap that limits their personal movement. In the First World, either of these scenarios put tremendous pressure on the family members who are the caregivers of the person who is not well.

In the Philippines, there are wonderful, affordable options to life in a nursing home or assisted living, a life where the person who is disabled can live at home with family. A parent can be with the people who care for them, living at home, and they can have many other advantages as well, such as massage therapy and physical therapy right in one’s family home. Moving an ill family member to live with you if you are retired in the Philippines makes life much easier for the individual or family of the sick person as both the sick person as well as the healthy family members are not strapped into a situation where their time is delegated to purely to caring or being cared for.

It’s a real win-win situation all around. The person who is ill gets to be taken care of with competence and compassion, and they can look forward to cheerful social interaction with their caregivers as well as with family and friends. The family members get the assistance they need to care for their loved ones, but still have the time and opportunity to move forward with their own lives. The caregivers, midwives, and nurses in the Philippines have the advantage of a good, steady job.

Even though in the First World, the cost of a caregiver is usually borne by medical insurance or social services, (which often would not cover the cost of caregivers if one is living overseas) the quality and frequency of care is often limited. In the Philippines, the cost of competent caregivers is very affordable, even without the financial assistance forwarded by insurance companies or social services. Add to this fact that the cost of the extra services, like massage therapy (US$5.00 per hour for home service) and in-home physical therapy is down right cheap by world standards.

Filipinos, particularly those in the medical field, are known around the world for their compassion. In the Philippines, there is no shortage of caring for the elderly, for whom the culture nurtures the greatest respect, or for the ill. You see elderly folks being wheeled around in the mall by attentive helpers, and they seem in general so happy as they have a friend and companion who is also someone who helps them and gives them a degree of independence as well. I do not believe that there is anywhere in the world that the elderly and the ill are treated as well as they are here by the wonderful caregivers of the Philippines.

For someone in a situation where chronic illness requires constant attendance, the option of living in this country—even if only part-time—is an attractive one.

It’s an option that sure does make sense, considering that for a basic salary of between US$100.00 (outside of Metro Manila) to US$300.00 (within Metro Manila) a month one can have a full-time caregiver or midwife living in at home. If the caregiver, who is often a nursing school graduate, is young, just starting out, and with a bare minimum of experience, the salary would be on the lower side, maybe US$100.00 to US$150.00. A more experienced nurse or licensed midwife would cost about US$300.00- US$400.00 per month in salary. Free room and board (cost of both borne by you; usually housed in a spare room at your home, with access to a dedicated bathroom or “CR” (short for “comfort room”) rather than in the maid’s quarters, and “board” would run about US$20.00 per person per week as a very substantial allowance for food/drink/minor toiletries) is the norm, as is one 24-hour period of “day off” per week.

What Filipinos do for someone who needs around the clock care is to spread the work around. Usually there are several people attending to the disabled person—not just caregivers, but also (depending on need) midwives and/or nurses qualified to insert IV lines, give injections, and the like. Often, there are also “watchers” who can be hired inexpensively, and who have no particular qualifications other than attending to the needs of the patient or providing companionship. Often the watcher is a regular maid on your household staff. The “watchers” will, when needed, call in the pros (caregiver, midwife, nurse) who might be in another room, doing something else, or taking a break.

In any event, caring for someone who is ill is a team effort within the house hold, and the afflicted person is taken care of with respect and one thing for sure is that the caregivers and nurses here give elderly folks dignity and the tender loving care that is needed to enjoy their lives.

(For qualified nurses, midwives, or caregivers, take a look at the ELRAP Index of Professionals. If you have a service or person in this field you would like to recommend, please send the information to ELRAP at elrap101@gmail.com and we will vet your recommendation for inclusion on our Index.)

 

How The Amenities in the Philippines Have Changed So Radically Over the Years

I’ve lived in the Philippines for a long time.  In the old days, amenities such as the variety and quality of goods you could find in the grocery store, clothes that fit you, a nice restaurant to eat in, books to read, movies to watch, were pretty limited.  Manila had the best selection of amenities available, and as you went out into the provincial cities the amenities became less and less amenable.  I remember in those days every trip home to the US meant a few suitcases full of goods of every kind that my family and I would bring back to the Philippines since there was really not much available here.

Now, every time I go out the door it seems like a new business offering some sort of new product or service has opened!

The major evolution in the quality and variety of amenities here in the Philippines– and we must give credit where credit is due—came about because of Mr. Henry Sy, the brilliant “Chinoy” (CHInese piNOY, meaning Chinese-Filipino) businessman who established major-league shopping malls in the Philippines.  He started his career (after emigrating to the Philippines from China) by buying and selling overruns of shoes out of a small shoe store he called Shoe Mart, in Manila, which gradually became a department store, which then morphed into the SM malls.

SM malls are now all over the country.

They have put big-time entertainment, like movies and restaurants and shopping, into the cities as well as into the remote provincial areas, and they have established a “mall culture” which has changed the social dynamic of the Philippines.

Take into consideration the SM department store, the cornerstone of every SM mall.

Really, that store is just amazing!  Although it caters to a mid-range customer base, it has a tremendous selection of goods in every department.  It is the “go-to” store, not just for its targeted market, but for everyone!

The service and attention the customer gets from the store’s attendants is just impossible to find in the First World.  Wherever you turn, there is a sales person waiting to attend to you, and they usually know the goods and products in their assigned area extremely well.

Big two thumbs up there!

To drive my point across about how the number and variety of amenities have changed here so radically over the years, let’s consult a list some of the stores in the SM malls.  There are cellular phone stores in abundance.  There are many stores where you can buy a good computer including the beloved brands like Apple (from an official reseller) and Sony. Of course, there are clothing stores galore selling both high-end and mid-end quality clothes, and brands that are familiar to the Western customer, like GAP, Forever 21, and Guess.

In addition to the stores, there is a huge selection of restaurants of every variety, from food-courts, to American fast food chains, to local favorites.

For active fun and entertainment, SM malls have ice skating rinks in selected locations.  All of the malls have bowling alleys and arcades with lots of play places for kids. These play places have bouncy castles and thousands and thousands of Lego blocks to play with, and some of the malls even have Universal Studios 4D Max Rider, a state-of-the-art virtual reality simulation ride, on offer.  There are movie theaters with highest quality technology; there are even a few SM malls with IMAX theaters.

For an idea of what amenities are available at a typical SM mall, just go through the store directory of my Baguio SM mall and see what is available: http://mallstoresdirectory.com/sm-city-baguio.  Bear in mind that the Manila malls are more than twice the size of our provincial mall here.

The average Filipino regularly spends time in a mall, not just to be entertained, but also to escape the heat or the rainy weather.  SM has 45 malls (and growing) all over the islands, followed by Robinson’s malls (http://www.robinsonsmalls.com/#) with 35 locations nationwide as of this writing. Ayala Malls (http://www.ayalamalls.com.ph/malls), can also be found nationwide, but with fewer locations.  They are more upscale then SM or Robinson’s malls and they cater to a more elite clientele.

There are many small businesses owned by individuals or a small number of partners that have opened up as well, such as a local pizza place here in Baguio called Amare

(https://www.facebook.com/amarelacucina1).  Wow!  It’s amazing that we can get pizza from a wood burning pizza oven in Baguio!  That’s something that you never would have found in the old days!

These new little businesses tend to have a real “local” flavor as well since in many cases they are owned and run by young entrepreneurs, and their businesses are beautifully micro-managed.

Now we have a new doughnut chain that is the Asian version of Krispy Kreme, called JCO Donuts (http://www.jcodonuts.com/) that are so delicious there is almost always a long line of customers that snakes out the door.

The variety and quality of restaurants has improved drastically also—even in the provincial cities.  We all complained ten or fifteen years ago, especially those of us who live outside of Manila, about how much we missed being able to go to a restaurant that served the type of food we would go out for in our homeland.  Now, even in the provincial cities like Baguio, we have a great choice of restaurants serving international food.

I personally am underwhelmed when I go to a restaurant back in America nowadays.  I have become so spoiled in the Philippines, not just with the ability to enjoy going out to have a meal of my choice of food, but also with the fact that here, that meal is served with much more tender loving care by the restaurant staff, which to me is not the case back home.

Seafood in the Philippines is slightly different than in the First World, mainly because of the lack of “cold water” seafood and the abundance of “warm water” seafood, and the manner of cooking is more Asian than Western.  That being said, though, with an open mind, you will find excellent seafood almost anywhere in the country.  I really like the “ihaw” (on the grill) type of seafood at a popular chain called Gerry’s Grill (http://www.gerrysgrill.com/ph/ )  that serves a variety of different food in addition to their seafood, all cooked on the grill, Filipino style.

All over the country, even in some of the most out-of-the-way places, you will find small restaurants owned and managed by people who have been in the culinary industry internationally—former hotel chefs or chefs who have worked in restaurants under world-renowned cookery idols like Mario Batalli, Gordon Ramsay, or Heston Blumenthal. These folks have come to live in the Philippines, for a variety of reasons, and they have set up their own little restaurants that offer fabulous fare.

Another amenity that has absolutely blossomed all over the country are the spas and massage clinics.  They are just everywhere, and they offer so many choices for relaxing and rejuvenating, not just massages which are great for the sore muscles.  They have different treatments, like facials and body wraps, and they have atmosphere, with sprinkled

rose petals and candles.  Some of the spas have saunas and jacuzzis. They use scented oils and offer a variety of massages which range from warm stone massage to Thai massage (which is very physical) to specialized foot massage, and on and on.  And massage is so cheap here, usually less then US$10.00 for an hour and half from a well trained experienced masseuse.  There are more basic spas that are clean, but not fancy, and in those a massage can run as low as US$3.00 to US$4.00 for the same hour and a half massage.  The are associations of blind masseuses that give work to the disabled, and they offer massage services all over the place; even home service. You can have a massage every day, and live your life in a euphoric state!

To give you an idea of what typical spas are like, take a look at the website of a spa company called Bioessence

(http://bioessence.ph/branches.php) which is a popular chain of spas here in the islands. Between living with domestic help at home (who do all the laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc.) which makes life a breeze, and the massage clinic or spa, I live a life that is so happy and healthy, and feel great in this Disneyland of a country.

Another thing that has changed for the better are our gas stations.  These days, we have modern gas stations where we can enjoy the convenience of a quick stop at a well stocked convenience store while the attendants fill up the tank! Even the whole convenience-store concept has evolved—there are 7/11’s on every other block so it seems.

Another amenity that has become commonplace even in the provincial cities during the last decade or so are first class gyms, including the world famous Gold’s Gym (http://www.goldsgym.com.ph/) which has branches nationwide.

If you are a gym rat you will find many to choose from.

My gym in Baguio, Fitness Edge, offers a variety of classes (http://www.fitnessedgebaguio.com/classes/), and the workout facility is all window with frontage toward the spectacular mountain views. It has the most modern machines and free weights, and any kind of aerobic classes that are available in the First World are available here.

Grocery stores and the goods they offer have evolved too, but you can still enjoy the mayhem of a neighborhood Chinese-style grocery that was the norm back in the day.  They are well stocked with basic goods and cater to lower income folks. Usually there is only space for one cart at a time down their narrow aisles, and I have a lot of fun invariably bumping into other people’s carts while I try to do my shopping!

In any neighborhood, blue collar or elite, there is always the “sari-sari” store that is usually very small native-style nook where the customer goes to the storefront window to look over the goods on offer by peeking through the bars to see what is enticing.  A sari-sari store is a place to get a bag of local chips (squid and shrimp chips being among the favorites), or a coke, or a beer, or cigarettes, sold either by the “stick” (an individual cigarette) or by the pack, as well as a variety of very basic canned goods, such as the poor man’s lunch, canned sardines.

These stores are usually not so nice looking, but they are the original “convenience store” of the Philippines.

Getting into the “new” trend in grocery shopping, I want to mention that Rustan’s (http://www.rustansfresh.com/our-stores/) in addition to being a department store, also has an upscale supermarket offering a wide variety of imported as well as local goods.  They are rapidly branching out into the provincial cities, bringing those upscale goods with them to those markets. SM, of course, also has their supermarket in every one of their malls.

In the old days, it would have been completely unimaginable to be able to live in a provincial city, like Cebu or Davao, and run out to the store to buy, say, manchego cheese and air-dried beef along with a bottle of nice wine.  These days there are specialty stores, such as Santi’s (http://www.santis-deli.com/ ) all over the country—even in small provincial cities—that make buying those sorts of luxuries a reality.

There are grocery shopping “clubs” such as S&R (http://www.snrshopping.com/ ) and Pure Gold (http://puregold.com.ph/store_locator.do), that specialize in bulk shopping, a new craze which has swept the country.  Here at this link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_supermarket_chains_in_the_Philippines) is a list of some of the grocery and convenience store chains in the Philippines.

In sum, amenities in the Philippines are pretty amenable!  Just about any product or service that is available to make life more comfortable in the First World is now within arm’s reach in the Philippines, almost anywhere in the country!  That concept may not be a big deal to people who come from developed nations, but for a developing country like ours, it is really amazing!

 

Opening a Retirement Business in the Philippines

Whether or not you are married to a Filipino can impact on your approach to opening a retirement business in the Philippines. If your spouse is Filipino, opening up a business is easier; if you are single or not married to a Filipino, opening a business can be a bit more challenging, but it is still quite do-able nonetheless…

Popular types of retirement businesses among foreign baby boomers who retire to the Philippines are usually a retail business or an exporting business.

“Export” nowadays has become an explosion in the outsourcing industry, which ranges from call centres to businesses as diverse as medical transcription, web development, or even teaching English online. Essentially, an “export business” covers anything that can be outsourced from a foreign country. The Philippines is now the number one country in Asia when it comes to call center seats, so this type of export business is definitely worth exploring. As to outsourcing and the boom in the Philippines, it best to have some experience in knowing how to build infrastructure. If this industry fits your abilities, then pick a specific area of outsourcing. My family business has been very successful selling custom web sites to the US market. Another guy who I personally know is handling tech support for a utility company in Canada. Another person is handling sales for companies in America for merchandise like smokeless cigarettes as well as skin care products, and whatever else he finds saleable with telemarketing agents. Koreans needing to learn to speak read, and write in English in order to get into universities in English-speaking countries in the West are a big market in the Philippines. I know folks who have made successful businesses of teaching English online to the Korean market. Some do this as individuals, on a one-to-one tutorial basis, and others have set up small call centers to teach English using Filipino talent as teachers. This is one of the more difficult businesses to be involved in as there is a lot of competition in this field. If you prefer to go “old school” for export products, there are plenty of folks in “old school” products like the furniture export business, and there are still some garment exporters around (most garment manufacturing has moved to China though). These are mostly extinct business here, but there are some manufacturers around who make a highly specialized product and who still do well. The point that I am trying to get across is that the range of products that can be marketed from the Philippines within the scope of a retirement export business is vast.

Retail covers pretty much anything that can be sold to the general public, and if this is what you want to do, I suggest that it is best to stick to something you know. I know an American fellow married to a Filipina who opened a shawarma business with his “secret ingredients” and he has done very well for many years now. He has expanded from one to several kiosks in major malls. I know another guy who buys overruns from garment factories. He buys the overruns cheaply and in volume, and then turns around and sells the overruns to wholesalers abroad. I know another retired foreign gentleman who owns a retail/wholesale chocolate business in the heart of the Makati financial district, and does very well. Many foreigners open bars and restaurants, but in my opinion this is a tough business unless you have experience in it. I would suggest that any foreigner stay away from doing business–club, restaurant, or whatever–in a red light district unless you are prepared for the havoc it may cause in your life. This country is now number two in the world in regards to franchise businesses, so purchasing a local or a foreign franchise business and then operating it could be another option for a retirement business.

Remember that the big plus in setting up and running a retirement business here is that labor costs are much, much lower than they are in the First World. Labor laws can be difficult to comply with, but issues are certainly surmountable. There is quality talent available here, but despite the “Western” mindset in the Philippines, the foreign employer must realize that there are massive cultural differences that must be understood in order to succeed. These differences that can be easily learned by the foreigner wanting to set up a retirement business as long as that person is open minded, is respectful, and is, of course willing to be very fair about salaries and merit-based incentives.

Of course, the very FIRST thing you should do, if you are serious about starting a retirement business in the Philippines, is to consult a competent attorney, and to get yourself an equally competent auditor/accountant. You can go to the ELRAP INDEXES (Index of Professionals; see tool bar), for a list of professionals you might want to interview in the town you are thinking to do business in. These professionals come recommended to us either first-hand (because we have done business with them directly) or else by recommendation from a trusted source known either to Betsy or to myself.

Lots more discussion on this topic to be covered, so feel free to ask away! If you have any comments or questions about setting up and operating a retirement business as a baby boomer–foreign or “balikbayan” (formerly Filipino)–I would be delighted to hear from you! Send me your thoughts (remember that ELRAP is a friendly website–on our pages please–no vulgarity, and no politics or religion discussed!) via the “REPLY” button on this blog and I will do my best, relying on my years of experience of living and doing business here in the Philippines–to help you out…
Better yet, come here and check the place out yourself by taking an ELRAP tour (see TOURS on the tool bar). Betsy and I lead the tours personally, usually together, and she being a Filipina, and me being a “foreign” resident of over three decades, we can, between us, answer pretty much any question you may have, not just about business, but about life in the Philippines.

In closing let me say that I have been doing business here for 33 years. I did business here as a foreigner “permanent resident” long before I was married to my beautiful wife, and I have continued to do business here since my marriage. I have lived and worked in many countries–both First and Third World, and I say that this is the easiest place in the world to do business, as long as one follows and operates within cultural parameters.
Come on over to the Philippines, and see for yourself if–and why–life here really is more FUN!