Expat In Bacolod

Stephen Bentley - Writer

The Whining Foreigner In The Philippines

The Philippines often gets included in lists of “ideal places to retire.” Among the attractions are the low cost of living and the balmy tropical climate. The Philippines consists of over 7,000 islands and living inexpensively on the coastline of one of them seems like a dream. For nationals of First World countries who grew […]

Source: To the foreigner who wants to retire in the Philippines

This is both a well written article and a cautionary tale!

Of course there are many things to enjoy here in the Philippines. On the other hand many things are …. well …. different.

That should not come as a great surprise. It is not rocket science – it is a different country and culture than back home. Things are done differently. Attitudes are different. It can all be very frustrating at times but the secret is to learn to understand and cherish the differences. Roll with it and go with the flow.

I recently had to have my front end suspension replaced on my car here in Bacolod. Two days after the work was completed I took it back to the workshop. “There are strange noises coming from the front suspension” I said to the foreman. As a matter of routine he simply replied ” didn’t you have it all greased up after you left here?”. Of course I didn’t.  I expected that to be done as a given just as it would be a given back in the UK. But not here.

Staying with the theme of car repairs – can you follow the logic in this? I had a problem with the automatic transmission in my car. Thankfully it was diagnosed correctly as an automatic transmission fluid (ATF) problem. So the mechanic drained off the old contaminated fluid. He also removed the pan cover and did a great job of cleaning the strainer.

When he replaced the pan cover he failed to mention to me that it would need a new gasket. Result – leaking ATF! I now have the same symptoms as I had before. I must buy 3 litres of ATF all over again, plus the gasket, plus labour for the job to be done as it ought to have been done in the first place.

One of the many ironies in life is to be found in the fact that Bacolod is a thriving hub of the call centre industry. The employees here deal with customer service emails and phone calls from all over the English speaking world.  Amazon and Expedia are just two of the multi-national companies to have outsourced their call centres to the Philippines. One would therefore be forgiven for believing that Bacolod is a centre of excellence for customer service.

In my experience, that is far from the truth. I remind you of what happened to the non greasing of my front suspension.  Sky Cable is one of the Philippines’ largest providers of cable TV and broadband. Now, you would think that the most expensive TV package, the Gold package, would be what I was looking for as it contained a vast array of channels.

Yes it is the most expensive but only carries channels in Standard Definition (SD). That’s not much good for my HDTV. But the salesperson did not tell me that. Fortunately, before I signed up for Gold I realised it was SD only, and signed up for the ‘dual def’ package (Filipinos love to shorten words and are fond of acronyms). I managed to save some 300 pesos per month and I still can’t figure out the marketing logic in it.

Whilst still in the Sky Cable sales office, I asked about an add-on channel – Bein Sports. It carries all the English Premier League football – that’s important to me as an avid Liverpool FC fan.  “It is only available in Manila” was the answer to my inquiry. I refrained from pointing out that it is a channel highly promoted in all of the company’s advertising. There is no asterisk pointing out that it is only available in Manila.

“What about broadband then?” I said. “It’s not yet available in your sub-division” came the reply. “Oh OK” I said with a metaphorical shrug.

I needed a faster internet connection so I applied online to PLDT, the largest telecoms company here. I heard nothing. I contacted them via Facebook on Messenger. I finally gave up getting any sense out of them as we were just going around in circles. However, the good news on the PLDT front was that we had it installed in days once a Filipino friend spoke to one of their agents, an old school chum.

That is another lesson to learn about retiring and living here. It isn’t what you know – it is who you know.

If my reader wants to categorise me as a ‘whining foreigner’ then that is his or her prerogative.

The purpose of my article is to enlighten those ‘foreigners’ thinking of retiring here. It is not all a bed of roses. I love it here but that does not prevent me from seeing things through my eyes as a foreigner.

I write from personal experience. They are not complaints. It is NOT whining. I simply point out to potential retirees some of the things they will encounter. If you think you can’t deal with it then my advice is don’t leave home!

I know I prefer to be in the Philippines than back in the UK.  For me, there are more advantages than disadvantages.

I am learning to go with the flow! 🙂

2 Comments

  1. Gregg Thompson

    May 3, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Spot on! Go with the flow and learn to cherish the differences! Luckily I have a bus load of family in the PI and a few of them know someone who can help with most anything. As you said its not what you know its who you know!

    • “Go with the flow” is the only way. If you have half a brain it is normal to make comparisons with ‘back home.’ But the trick is not to let the “differences” get you down, no matter how annoying some of them can be at times.

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