The bad & the good expats in the Philippines

Remote house over water

I’ve both traveled and tried living in the Philippines. Throughout my journals you can see that I have had both a very positive experience, and what I can only call life lessons for this journey.

The Filipino people themselves are very easy going, and it’s hard not to like them.

On the otherhand, I’ve yet to actually say very many nice words about any foreigner I’ve met here.

Why are foreigners not likable in The Philippines?

There are many types of foreigner in the Philippines:  Package holiday makers away for a week or two, couples on honeymoon, the odd wandering backpacker,  an occasional rich movie star, and expats making new lives for themselves.

And, the other kind of foreigner…

The sex tourist foreigner. Mainly North American, and North European. There is however a growing number of Mid Eastern, and African rich types making their way over here too. And yes, they are all male.

I must admit I haven’t come across many foreigners I actually liked in the Philippines during my time here. From drunk foreign men looking for local girls (and the occasional boy). To the rich elite that seem displeased that you also are traveling in the same place as they.

A few exceptions, there are some nice expats in The Philippines:

But under all that, there seems to be a thriving community of genuinely nice expats who are living in the Philippines. Some keep a low profile, while others are a part of huge network.

The people running Nut’s Huts in Bohol are an example of nice foreigner expats. A very friendly couple that were down to earth and easy to talk with.

Mindanao Bob, a great expat living in the Philippines
Mindanao Bob, a great expat living in the Philippines

But, by far the most impressive expat I’ve met is Bob (aka Mindanao Bob) from Davao. I first came across Bob’s name from one of the many websites he runs call Live In The Philippines. I found it when I was searching for some visa information about the Philippines.

Bob’s run’s some great sites:

I left a comment on his website, and he posted back straight away. A few months later, I was looking for more information on the Philippines and again Bob’s website appeared. This time it made it’s way into my bookmarks and I kept on reading.

Then, as I was making my first journey to Davao I took an even closer look at Bob’s site and learned a lot from it. Including a lot about Bob. He has a little section on it about meeting up with him for a coffee. So I sent him an email. He replied and the following week we met up.

Breaking the norm!

I really didn’t know what to expect before meeting Bob. Would he be one of those expats with a younger girlfriend and a constant beer in hand or …

“From website persona to the man himself I am really happy to say Bob is a great guy.”

Married with a son and daughter, Bob’s been living in the Philippines for the over 10 years. He had something better than a beer waiting for me too. He had a freshly brewed coffee from his large collection of coffee beans from around the world.

I was already a bit late in arriving to his beautiful home. And, was worried about missing my bus. But as we sat down and began getting acquainted the time just flew by as did my bus journey. But it was well worth it.

Meet a man who knows more than most expats:

Bob was a wealth of information about the Philippines, and in particular Mindanao. Hence his nickname Mindanao Bob! In fact as I sat there and discussed about meeting other expats in the Philippines, travel, and other things Pinoy I wished that I had met up with Bob a lot sooner.

Bob makes his living through an incredible and well put together colleciton of websites all about the Philippines. He even owns If there was anyone more dedicated to giving the world a more positive and realistic perspective on the Philippines its Mindanao Bob! He also makes a great cup of coffee!

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Coming soon:

The beginning of the End … how much does a Filipino actually earn …

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28 Replies to “The bad & the good expats in the Philippines”

  1. I lived in Cebu, Philippines for almost a year. And yes I think I’ve met most of the expat’s you’ve listed! In fact me and my family were technically ex-pat’s ourselves. And like any where there is a wide gamet of people that end up there, and yes a larger than normal percentage of older men with a constant beer in hand and a 20-40yr younger girlfriend/wife. Some of those guys are sketchy but even in that lot I met a few that were great people. Just have to look around a bit! Great article, I think you hit it on the nail!

  2. i’m not quite sure what’s so bad about expat/foreigners in the Philippines except for the obvious sex tourist ones. Of course, I don’t like that either! I think the rest of them can be quite nice, although maybe the entrepreneurial ones who start businesses might not be to your fancy either? I’m now in Manila. I don’t meet a lot of foreigners though, except for the couple from my program that I live with.. :P But that seems totally different.

  3. I lived in Cebu for 8 months and as a female I could pick out the bad ones right away because they’d never look me in the eye or acknowledge me on the street whereas really nice expats often reached out to say hi or talk.

    To be honest I try to stay away from most expats while traveling, there are some really great ones but most often they’re running away from something or are just plain creepy.

  4. Wow! The comments are really interesting. Looks like the women don’t like the tourist men in the Philippines. Are they really the nasty old perverts you see on tv?

  5. Hi Dave – Thank you very much for your warm words about me! I appreciate it, and I also enjoyed our meeting. I still think back about our conversation regularly. You are welcome to visit any time you are in Davao!

    Keep enjoying your journey!

  6. wow DAVE! this is an awesome encounter. sometimes when you’ve had enough of man’s vile, greedy nature & all that u see day in day out is just people exploiting each other.. there’s a glimmer of hope! I wanna have coffee with Bob too.. sounds like an awesome guy. generous, kind and humble. People like Bob make humanity seem that much less of a lost cause. Tell him, Mei/Ciki thinks he’s cool!

  7. Hi Dave- The Philippines is no different to any other place where there is a large group of Ex-pats. Where ever you go there is good and bad people but I have found living in Cagayan de Oro the majority of Ex-pats are good people it just takes time to find them and make friends.
    Maybe one day when you visit my city I can show you around.
    Kind regards.

  8. I’ve also met the Belgian couple running Nuts Huts 2 years ago =) Such a cool couple!

    It’s really uncomfortable and sad to see those sex tourist foreigner with their very young local girlfriends. I’ve seen a lot of those kind when I was in Puerto Galera, Mindoro.

  9. Great article ,there is a growing number who come here for various reasons,i would like to believe they are all good people but i know better to.Im happy to live here and i hope we arent all thought of as bad .

    1. -Aly- Many thanks for your comment. I think you’ve said it very well with “a larger than normal percentage of older men”. I’ve seen very, very, few men over here traveling solo who still have all their original hair color. I’m far from saying all expats here tour beers, and have young girlfriends. But, from I’ve seen, the majority do. Good to hear there was once a family like yours here!

      -Janet- Yes, there are sex tourists here. But there are also “sex expats” too. People who come out once a year, every year. Hire out a girl, or two, and hide up for a few months, or live here like that. Most of these guys seem to have issues with bad hair too :)

      -ayngelina- “just plain creepy” Yep, that’s a common feeling I get. Maybe since I’ve been traveling fashion trends have changed, but guys in white tanktops, and shin high socks, along with long stringy wet hair would fit into that catagory. Strangely, I’ve notice the not looking you in the eye either trend. I guess that I really don’t want to know what these ones are up too.

      -Renny- I can only speak from my own perspective, and what I’ve seen. “Nasty old Perverts” no. At least not in public. I saw one drunk old man on a street reach out to all “very” young girls once. And in Manila, another with serious mental issues. But, in general, I don’t see them as raving lunatics on the street. Then again, I don’t hang out in bars or dance clubs.

      -MindanaoBob- Hi Bob, nice to see you here! You are very welcome. All the words I spoke of you are true :) As I was editing this and then the comments came in I was thinking I wish I’d just written a separate post about you alone! Ah well, it probably holds you in even higher respect!

      I must touch base again soon!

      ciki- “People like Bob make humanity seem that much less of a lost cause.” I totally agree. He’s a smart guy. I’m sure he’s already read your sentiments!

      -Jim- Hi Jim, thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, I totally agree. There are many places in the world with similar negative groups, and of course positive ones too. Sometimes the oil is all you see though as it rises to the surface, and the pure water remains hidden. Just my perspective on things over here from what I’ve seen. I’m glad to hear you’ve come across some good expats!

      -Marnie Alvez- Glad to hear there are more people that like the Nuts Huts guys. Hopefully they are still there, as last time I was there they were trying to save the area from being overrun by Korean/Chinese tour groups. Sadly, I’ve seen some people with very young girls. It’s very, very disturbing to see this in person on the streets.

      -maynard- Thanks for the comment. Yes, good will and thoughts don’t often reflect on reality. I should really write an article on this as a whole. But feel it might seem a bit too one sided, or anti expat. The again, it’s a reality in The Philippines.

  10. Some very good points here. I wonder if it will ever change? Does the government not do anything?

    1. I don’t think it will, anywhere in the world. I’ve seen the police out and about at night. But I guess just like in many places around the world it’s not the easiest to police.

  11. Just recently there has been two Expat suicides in CdeO and it is a point made as to what the Philippine government is going to do about the duration of tourist type Expat visas and the extention of such.
    I’m sure if there was more control such as proof of means of support for an extended stay or grant one extention only unless they can prove that they have sufficent funding to support themselves. Perhaps this way only genuine Expats would be allowed to remain in the country.
    At the end of an extended stay maybe they should have to leave the country for a period of six months before they can be granted a further visa. Obviously this sugestion is only applicable to tourists. it may prevent or at least reduce the amount of tradgedies that occur here amongst the casual Expat population.

    1. You bring up some very good points. I think that tourist visas in the Philippines are quite good, in some respects. I know Pinoy’s looking at Europe or the U.S.A. are faced with mountains to climb. While the other way round people get a free 21 day visa here.

      I think the recent tourist visa fee increase is partly an attempt at weeding out those on the edge. The Philippines tourist visa beyond 21 days is one of the most expensive I’ve come across. I think a 2 month extension is now running at around USD$151. Compare that to Malaysia where your get a 3 month visa for free.

      Either way I think it might be designed to do what you are suggesting. However I also think it can do damage too. Encouraging people to get married for the sake of a visa is not that uncommon, for either side. Likewise in my own case, I would not have been here this long without the Philippines current visa process.

      I do think in any part of society, anywhere in the world there will be suicides. Either locals, or expats. It happens. There’s a whole slue of worse activities going on in places like Cambodia than in The Philippines. The problem with expats in any country, is if they start going under. Very often there is no family support, or a limited circle of friends. And so a downward cycle may start.

      Thanks for your comment, it’s really given me some things to think about.

    2. good idea Jim. I’m a 60yr old aussie with a 52 yr old Pinoy wife who has to travel home after every 3 months,yes 3 mnths in ozz and 9 in the Philippines.saddly your Idea woulld destroy my marrage and and like wise many others who have to come here to visit their wives on tourist visas cos their wives cant get entry to ozz or some other countries.
      cheers,,live and let live.

  12. I have never been to the Philippines thus I can’t make any comment about the foreigners over there. However, I do believe there are lots of good and bad people everywhere (I agree with Jim).

    Sex tourists, it’s everywhere, not only in the Philippines. While it’s very disturbing seeing them around, maybe we have to think on how they can be there at the first place.
    If there’s no this kind of girls or boys around, then those Sex Tourists won’t even be there. Still, why are they(young girls and boys) even be doing this if there are others decent jobs opening? Would anyone ever want to be a prostitute? I don’t think so, well, maybe a very small percentage does. In my opinion, it all goes back to the government. If the government can provide more jobs opening, then less people will be involve in this kind of business.

    In some developing countries, it’s very hard for people to make decent living and there is some sort of image/info being planted into people’s mind that ‘Foreigners’ are always rich. For those who have rough life, it’s understandable if they view foreigner as some kind of ‘God’. Therefore, when they’re being ‘picked’ by those foreigners, it might be an honor to them.

    1. It’s very good to get your insight on this. In the Philippines I’ve seen stickers about reporting child sex suspects, or wrong doings. How enforced this is, I don’t know. But, the information is visible, which must be good.

      I’ve also heard of undercover police patrolling areas at night. I can’t vouch for this, as I don’t frequent bars or the like. However, I would imagine, just like in the developed world sex tourists will have a private circle of contacts. And so, will not be so obvious or out in public. There are exceptions of course.

      Moving off the subject of sex tourism for a moment. I think a lot of expat’s that arrive to the Philippines for long stays come with different expectations. Men in their 50’s + seem to tie into a little of what you say. They have excess cash, the local girls see this as either a few months of having everything they see on TV. A passport to getting into another country. And, inline with what you said they often view the foreigner in a near God or “king” like fashion. Fall in love with different expectations.

      The in’s and outs of this are near endless, as are the reasons.

      What can stop all this. Yes, better government intervention will help. Most likely through education, and increased economic status. Unfortunately, there will still always be a bad element regardless. But it would improve things a lot. However, as I have always stated. Developing countries should look at the mistakes developed countries have made in implementing things to improve. And learn from them.

      These days in the UK or USA you can’t go to a park and photograph kids playing without being accused of being a pedophile. This is taking things to far in world of paranoia.

      My next article will be covering some interesting facts and figures in relation to income within the Philippines. It also corresponds to what you say about how this influences so much in developing countries.

  13. “Some very good points here. I wonder if it will ever change? Does the government not do anything?”

    Keep in mind that the Catholic Church in the Philippines exerts a great deal of influence over the government and the laws. As a result, prostitution and exploitation of minors carry very harsh penalties. However, as mentioned, enforcement is another thing.
    I have to ask though; Why is it the responsibility of the government? Freedom is a messy thing. Additionally, I believe many Filipinos involved in the vice trade are likely desperate to break out of poverty, or simply survive. I also believe if you look closely you will find the central government as the cause of the perpetuation of poverty.
    I have seen all the things described in this article and it’s encouraging to know there are good expats. On my journeys in PI my encounters with expats have not been very positive.
    I am striving to be more like Bob.

    1. Yes, many people do whatever it takes to try and make for themselves a better life. No one ever said it as all going to be easy. And, indeed. It is interesting to note the the majority of people state they have not seen good expats. That’s not to say there are none. Maybe the “bad” ones are just more obvious!

  14. today I came across your “longestwayhome”. I started reading one then found myself engrossed reading more clicking here, clicking got me hooked! I bookmarked it! …I still can’t seem to find your name and a picture – just wondering how young of a traveller are you with all the guts and the glory, the fun beyond’re amazing!…have a safe journey- God speed!

  15. I am a fan of Bobs articles in a local newspaper here in Davao. Good to know you have met him. And good to know there are people like Bob who sees the good side of Mindanao other than just war and kidnappings which only happened in some Muslim areas and oftenly misinterpreted as the whole place.

    1. Yes, indeed Bob’s one of the good guys. I whole heartedly recommend people thinking of relocating to the Philippines to seek out his sites for an honest look at living in the Philippines!

  16. Hi I’m an expat living just outside Davao City, if you travel 50km north you will find Tagum we have a expat community here and I would say that 90% are very friendly I myself run a business here with my wife I have lived here for almost 3 years.
    Tagum is also a very safe city, ok I wouldn’t call it a hub of night life and clubs but there is always somewhere to go and people to meet.

    1. Hi Andy,

      It’s always good to know where there are clusters of good expats! :)

      Well done to the renovations on your place, if I pass through I’m very tempted to stop off at your place. WIFI and the pool look good :)

  17. Hi Again, It seems I am one of the invisible Expats here, I came here 5 years ago to meet a lady, who became my wife. I am 70 she is 41, YES, quite and age difference, but we make up in many ways, she is very mature and I am still a big kid. sort of levels us. I am a non-drinker, so I dont associate too much with the drunks, and there are many. I can honestly say, I have twice as many Filipino friends than I have foreigners, Having said that, I am a member of five Expat groups, there are men here who work very hard to help the local children get education, they supply books papers and all school requirements Problem as you will know, there are thousands of these children and only one or two can be helped, nevertheless it is the thought that counts. For most of us we have enough pension to live reasonably comfortable, and be able to help our own extended families. I think the filipinos are extremely inventive and talented people, but they can never get just reward for their efforts. Maybe thats why some ” hire ” out their children to some dirty old (more rich than they) men. I am sure you know just how far 500php can go in the right hands. Thanks for your writings, you certainly have learned a lot in only 2 years, I think you are very obsevant, much more than I. I have visited 31 countries, but lived in only three, England, Australia and Philippines. I think CDO is the most livable place for Expats and the Immigration people are nuts, and thats a compliment as far as I am concerned. Take care keep sending your emails, I love them. John

  18. Interesting post.. and to be honest there are a lot more in the box than appeared in it. The number of what I would class as alcoholics and mental cases has increased as no doubt they are escaping the West to a new world yet they are the problem not the enviroment they left. Also another thing you did do on your post that is something most expats forget to do when they get help is say THANK YOU. I myself answer at least 5 – 30 emails a day and its only a small portion who will thank you for things you have sorted out. Made a lot of friends over the years at the same time met a lot of people I wish i never meet again and would happily of never met in the first place. But i agree things are changing and i think its creating problems for the Sexpats as real communities form which aren’t there to exploit the sex trade. Where the issues lie though are the blend between them as the newcomers are internet savy while the sexpats don’t see an issue with what they are doing which is why a quiet conflict has started between the different groups between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

  19. I was interested to see that the labels being applied to the more…ahem…elderly visitors had as much to do with the ‘beer in hand’ and with the ‘girl in arm’. I see older guys with younger girls but do not know the basis of their relationship. I would not want to jump to conclusions here. What I do hear tho is that it goes both ways; ie girls exploiting the guys.
    Its the beer thing that interests me since I quit alcohol since coming to Philippines and it seems that Dave did too. I’d suggest to any guys thinking of retirement here to condition themselves out of the image or relaxing in paradise with cold beer in hand. In an environment such as this it can be utterly destructive. My advise is to come here expecting hard work and challenges. It’s a wonderful country offering amazing opportunities and rewards, but like all in life, you get out what you put in.


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