Why Retire In The Philippines


Greg B. Macabenta
Business World Online
April 14, 2015 

If your age is past three-fourths of a century, it’s probably time to consider your retirement options. My wife and I have decided to spend most of what remains of our lives in the land of our birth.

We’ve lived in America for nearly 30 years. America is a great country. The subway is efficient. Traffic is disciplined. You don’t have to line up for government services like renewing your driver’s license (they’ll mail you a reminder and you can just send them a check). For government documents, there are no “autographs” to be signed by multiple bureaucrats who expect some “gratitude money.”

We have a nice home in Pinole in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our children are all living independent and fruitful lives of their own. And four grandchildren all born in the US, plus two more coming, are enough reason to believe that our roots are firmly planted in American soil.

But we also have roots in the Philippines. In Manila. In Albay. And in Leyte. I acknowledged that when I joined the very first batch of Fil-Ams to avail themselves of the benefits of the Dual Citizenship Law. In fact, I was among those who actively lobbied Congress and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for its passage.

But, you may ask: Why retire in the Philippines? Why go back to a country that many have severely criticized for every imaginable flaw? Why go back to where EDSA traffic is a mess, the MRT and LRT are like sardine cans (except you don’t risk your life with a can of sardines), you are threatened with apprehension for not having license plates on your car, even while the blasted Land Transportation Office makes you wait months to get the blasted plates? And the airport stinks?

The answer is simple. This country is home. And my friend, Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez, is right. It’s more fun in the Philippines. This is not to say that it’s not fun in America. But my social security pension and that of my wife go a much longer way in Manila, and wherever we choose to travel in the islands.

Ever since our eldest son decided to work in an ad agency in Manila, my wife and I have had reason to come home often. We have thus seen how much farther our funds can go and how much more fun our money can buy.

Some years back, my wife had to pay for minor dental works in Daly City. To say that it nearly cost an arm and a leg, as well as all her molars, is no exaggeration. We soon found out from some in-laws that a trip to Manila for the same kind of services would not only cost so much less, there would still be money left over, even if we added on the cost of air fare. Last year, my wife confirmed it -- savings and excellent dental works and all.

By the way, many of the dentists (as well as doctors and nurses) in America are Pinoys. So, you can expect good dental care and health care from those still practicing in the Philippines.

Of course, health maintenance is superior in the US, especially for those of us who are already on Medicare. But if the Fil-Am community successfully lobbies the US Congress to allow Medicare portability, that could mean enjoying the same benefits we get from Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco from any accredited health facility in the Philippines like St. Luke’s Hospital.

But that’s not the fun part. It’s the lifestyle and it’s enjoying that lifestyle with friends.

On a recent trip to Manila, we treated several friends to dinner at a restaurant at Serendra in Bonifacio Global City. Some of the most delectable Filipino dishes were laid out before us and bottles of fine wine kept pouring endlessly, not to mention great dessert.

For eight people, the bill was less than $200, before our 20% senior citizens’ discount. I immediately recalled how our youngest son and his wife treated us to dinner in downtown San Francisco a month earlier. For the four us, the bill was almost $500 -- and no senior discount, either.

But the most priceless part of all was the company. Being with friends of many years, talking about your youth and sharing corny jokes -- what can be better than that when you are all past 70?

I once wrote a piece entitled, “SM, SL -- So Much for So Little,” which was about how I couldn’t use up $100 at the SM mall in Sucat, Parañaque, after paying for a jeepney ride, buying lunch and snacks, a session at the Internet café, calling on my Smart phone, and a movie. SM’s Tessie Sy-Coson liked the article so much, she asked for it to be reprinted.

For Tessie’s information, I have gone a few times to the new SM City at BF Homes in Sucat. The dining places are excellent. I had lunch at Savory for P130, after the senior citizens’ discount. For comparison, you can’t buy a decent meal at Serramonte Mall in Daly City with $1.50. The only Pinoy restaurant in the mall charges upwards of $7 for a “combo.”

In Manila, with our social security pension, we can afford live-in help and a laundry woman who comes once a week. My shirts and pants are actually pressed and so are my boxer shorts and handkerchiefs! We wake up in the morning to a ready breakfast of sinangag, itlog and daing. There’s fresh fish (still alive and wriggling) to be bought at the nearby palengke, along with fresh fruits and newly butchered meat. And for merienda, there are all sorts of kakanin, plus halo-halo at Chowking. And, oh yes, the magtataho drops by regularly.

While I’m not about to lavish praise on the charges of the utility providers in Manila, for someone like us who are used to paying over $800 a month for electricity, cable, phone and Internet access, as well as water and garbage collection, I must say that our social security pensions can well afford PLDT, Meralco and Maynilad Water.

But the most important reason for coming home is because we owe a debt of gratitude to our Motherland. And we would like to spend the last years of our lives trying to pay her back.

For the Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora held in Manila in September 2011, Commission on Filipinos Overseas Chairman Mely Nicolas asked me to write a response of overseas Filipinos to the call of the Motherland (expressed in “A Gathering of Heroes -- Pagbabalik ng mga Bayani”, a poem I had also written). Allow me to share that response with you, entitled “We Hear Our Motherland Calling”:

Yes, here we are, your children, the fruits of all your dreams.
We have come home from distant lands, from deserts, fields and streams.
We are your daughters and your sons, we hearken to your call.
We are the youth you scarce have known. We offer you our all.

We cannot boast of honors won nor celebrate our wealth,
When you to whom we owe our lives must suffer failing health.
How can we talk of how we walk the high and might road
When many of our siblings live like serfs and slaves abroad?

Yes, we have heard you calling us, beloved Motherland.
With gratitude we come to you to humbly kiss your hand.
You cared for us, you nurtured us, you bore us in your womb,
And you will love us selflessly, from cradle to the tomb.

But from your arms we sailed away, in foreign lands to toil;
Unsure that we could grow our dreams upon our native soil.
Yet, there is something lacking from the honors that we gain.
How can we savor our success while you are wracked with pain?

We solemnly commit today, our treasures, talent, time;
And we the youth before you stand to make this vow sublime.
The fruits of all our labors and the prize of blood and sweat,
We offer at your altar, though they hardly pay our debt.

For anywhere our path may lead, wherever we may roam,
‘Tis only in your bossom that we’ll feel the warmth of home.
When age sets in and health has gone and stripped our spirits bare,
We know that you will welcome us, when no one else will care.
And in the winter of our lives, when mournful bells will ring,
The Philippines will always be our summer and our spring.

Greg B. Macabenta is an advertising and communications man shuttling between San Francisco and Manila and providing unique insights on issues from both perspectives.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Greg B. Macabenta
Business World Online
April 14, 2015 



Hawaii Medical Team Returns from PH; Served Over 8,000


Philippine Daily Inquirer
INQUIRER.net US Bureau

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A previous OMM medical mission to the Philippines. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

HONOLULU – More than 50 volunteer physicians, nurses, medical personnel and non-professional volunteers recently returned from a medical mission to the Philippines from February 14- 21, 2015.

The Ohana Medical Mission (OMM) team provided over 12,600 surgical, dental and other medical services to nearly 8,700 individuals deemed “the poorest of the poor” in select regions of the Philippines, namely Bagong Silang, Caloocan City; Gawad Mandaluyong; Gerona, Tarlac; Naga City, Kalinga-Aloha Village in Agudo, Legaspi City and Bacacay, Albay of the Bicol region, reports Hawaii’s The Filipino Chronicle.

Mission co-chair and OMM president Dr. Russell S. Kelly says many patients in desperate need were able to receive vital medical care.

“The mission as usual presented us with many challenges but we were able to successfully perform the charitable works we had planned,” says Dr. Russell S. Kelly. “The people involved in this mission were all wonderful, generous and talented people who donated from their hearts and made this mission very successful.”

Other volunteer physicians were Dr. Romeo Perez, a retired U.S. military OB-Gynecologist specialist, and Dr. Carol Davide, president of the Philippine Medical Association of Hawaii (PMAH) which is the parent organization of OMM.


Philippine Daily Inquirer
INQUIRER.net US Bureau


Undocumented California Youth Can Get Health Care, But Many Don’t Know It


Philippine Daily Inquirer
by Allyson Escobar

undocandunafraid 300x150
Many undocumented youth don’t know they have the legal right to health care access in California.

LOS ANGELES — A California-wide study on health care access conducted by undocumented immigrant youth for their peers shows real-life barriers and challenges that undocumented people in the US face in trying to get access to health care coverage.

The report, “Undocumented and Uninsured,” recently released by the University of California, Los Angeles’ Dream Resource Center (DRC) revealed that many undocumented youth do not get needed medical attention because they cannot afford to buy insurance or they do not want to reveal their undocumented status. Many young immigrants, however, do not realize that they have the lawful right to receive medical care.

Since January 2014, California recipients of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, who meet certain income requirements, are eligible to enroll in Medi-Cal, California’s health insurance and medical assistance program that serves individuals and families with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

However, many immigrants who qualify for these benefits do not realize it, or don’t know how to apply—resulting in a low turnout, especially among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Step-by-step guide

In partnership with The California Endowment, the DRC’s “Your Health Matters: Enrolling in Medi-Cal as a California DACA Recipient” report is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to Medi-Cal eligibility and enrollment.

It covers all of the basics of applying for Medi-Cal, taking the confusing language of health care coverage and making it easier for people to understand.

It breaks down each step of the process, from gathering documents to applying online to using the healthcare benefits, and makes everything look less daunting.

The Dream Resource Center (DRC), through the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, aims to promote the education and leadership of immigrant youth nationwide. Since its founding, the center has emerged as a national source for innovative research, education and policy on immigration issues.

In light of administrative relief and the debates on Obamacare, the DRC’s current focus is on health care—most importantly, getting everyone access to coverage, regardless of their status.

The California Immigrant Policy Center and Educators for Fair Consideration organization also released “Take Control of Your Health,” a guide that addresses frequently asked questions that often arise for low-income DACA recipients navigating the Medi-Cal process often for the first time.


“Many DACA recipients are being unfairly denied Medi-Cal coverage, are fearful or hesitant when enrolling into Medi-Cal, or don’t know that they may qualify,” said Carlos Juarez, a DACA recipient and Medi-Cal Enrollment Counselor from UMMA Community Clinic in South Los Angeles, who helped put together the report.

There is a lack of knowledge among both immigrants and enrollees about the program, Juarez said.

People are being unlawfully denied Medi-Cal because enrollment counselors are also told the wrong information without understanding that DACA recipients do qualify.

A lot of the confusion and barriers stem from inconsistency between the federal and state laws, providing misleading information to both counselors and patients.

“Everyone is entitled to receiving healthcare,” Seth Ronquillo, the communications coordinator at the Dream Resource Center, also commented. “There are so many stories of immigrants who have just had to wait out their sickness, either because they are too afraid to get help or they simply cannot afford it.”

Ronquillo, a DACA recipient whose family immigrated from the Philippines, has been involved with the DRC since participating in the Dream Summer Internship program in 2011 as well as ASPIRE – Los Angeles.

An outspoken activist and recent UCLA graduate in film and linguistics, Ronquillo believes it is important for people like him to feel safe, welcomed, and not alone. In 2014, he released a short documentary titled “Us,” which highlights his own family’s immigration story, depicting the intimate and very real narrative of the life of an undocumented immigrant.

“History has proven that being involved and active has paved the way for future leaders to make lasting change and be empowered, regardless of their race or color or status,” he said.

“Undocumented and Uninsured” is the first study about and by immigrant youth, from interns to people who have been involved with the immigrant rights movement for years.

Researchers surveyed over 500 immigrant young people between ages 18 and 32 throughout California, including undocumented youth, students, and DACA grantees (known as “DAcAmented” immigrants).

The five-part report highlights important issues that undocumented immigrants face regarding health care; such as the lack of knowledge, constantly living in fear, and having to “suck up” their pain because they do not have access to health insurance—a practice known as “Band-Aid Care.”

According to the study, 74 percent of immigrant youth report that they have received basic health care from cheaper public safety-net programs, such as emergency Medi-Cal, public hospitals and county health clinics.

Cheap resources

While these services provide some pain relief, they are often understaffed, underfunded, overcrowded and unable to meet patients’ needs. In the absence of formal care, many youth have been forced to pull resources together and find their own ways to care for one another, a dangerous practice of delaying crucial formal care.

One of the unique aspects of the new reports are the focus on people affected by this serious issue are also the ones doing the research themselves, as a way to educate and empower their own community.

“These reports took extensive time and research tailored to the audience they were written for,” said Nidia De Leon, a former Dream Summer intern and Covered California enrollment counselor, and one of the authors of the Your Health Matters report. “People are living in fear of their status being revealed—we are here to tell them not to be afraid, and to know their rights.”

“These reports have opened up a dialogue about such an important issue, allowing us to develop different strategies, and making people aware of the lack of access to institutionalized health care,” Juarez added. “People should know that there are options, ways for them to access health insurance through a safety net, without having to worry.”

All of the research, the first two reports, and a list of resources and ways to get involved are available on the Undocumented and Uninsured website, www.undocumentedanduninsured.org.


Philippine Daily Inquirer
by Allyson Escobar


Essay-writing Contest on Overseas Filipinos Attracts 250 Plus Entries, UP Student Wins Top Prize


The Filipino Australian
Posted by the TFA Staff
February 24, 2015

More than 250 students from across eight countries shared their research findings, insights and in some cases personal experiences in the recently concluded international essay-writing contest on “The Overseas Filipinos and their Impact on the Philippines.”


In the interview with USP4GG Essay Writing Ad-Hoc Committee chairperson Dr Celia Lamkin, TFA also gathered that the eight countries with students participation are Philippines, United States, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, China, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Greece. Philippine-based students are from schools in Nueva Viscaya, Benguet, Central and Western Luzon, National Capital Region, Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.The contest, divided into two divisions: college and high school, was sponsored by US Pinoys For Good Governance (USP4GG) in conjunction with the Third Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora (February 25-27) in Manila.

The list of winners was released on Tuesday February 24.

UP Diliman student Justin Keith Baquisal was First Place in the College division with his winning entry, “Saviors and Spectators: Overseas Filipinos and the Politics of Continuity and Change in the Philippines.”

In the High School division, the First Place position was a tie between Patrick Duane Noche (Calayan Educational Foundation, Inc., Lucena City) for his essay, “Mockingjay”, and Eugenie Marie Pranada (Phil School of Bahrain, Bahrain) who entered an essay titled “Overseas Filipino Workers: The Scattered Stars”.

College students Dia Marmi Bazar (Misamis University, Misamis Occidental) and Jeremy Mosquito (Saint Mary’s University, Nueva Viscaya) were second and third place, respectively. Hazel Ivy Jeremias (The Lewis College, Sorsogon) and Yvone Dayne Luis (Durat Al Sharq International School, Jeddah KSA) were declared second and third place, respectively, in the High School division.


College Division: Justin Keith Baquisal, Dia Marmi Bazar, Jeremy Mosquito, Clark Arthur Robles (National University Manila), Jasper Alcalas (University of Sto Tomas), Guillian Mecate (Lyceum of the Philippines University), Jericho Concepcion (De La Salle University), Argie Sumiguin (Malayan Colleges Manila), Alfonso Manalastas (Fr Saturnina Urios University Butuan City), and Christine Joan Din (The Lewis College Sorsogon City).

High School Division: Patrick Duane Noche, Eugenie Marie Pranada, Hazel Ivy Jeremias, Yvonne Dayne Luis, Patricia Mae Dacanay (Lagro High School Caloocan City), Jeni Ruth Olarte (The Lewis College Sorsogon City), Hannah Mimbisa (Dural Al Bhara International School, Jeddah KSA), Ezekiel Gumaru (Taj International School, Riyadh KSA), Julie Ann Asuncion (Philippine School of Bahrain, Bahrain), Samantha Mae Jeanine Sacdalan (Philippine School of Bahrain, Bahrain), Rex Meynard Cervales (Capiz National High School, Roxas City), Ericka Lacsamana Pare (Philippine Emirates Private School, United Arab Emirates), and Trischa Sheen Dumanjug (Ozamiz City National High School, Misamis Occidental).

The winners will receive their awards on Thursday February 26.

Panel of Judges

The judging panel comprised of:

Dr. Josefina G Tayag DPA – retired Vice chancellor of UP Manila;

Ferth Vandensteen Manaysay – grand winner of 2013 Essay Contest on West Philippine Sea and a community reporter of Sunstar;

Romy Cayabyab – multi-award winning publisher-editor of the Filipino Australian Online News;

George Chua – CEO and President of Bayan Automotive Manufacturing, and Chairman of the Philippine Association Manufacturing Industries;

Atty Lolita Farmer OAM – immigration lawyer in Australia;

Mithi Aquino-Thomas – a Hospitality and Human Resources specialist, wife of former US Ambassador to the Philippines Mr Harry Thomas;

Nimfa Gamez – CEO and President of California USA-based hospital and health-care provider Mission-Hope Developmental Services, Inc.

Gene Alcantara – Chair of ENFID and an immigration consultant in the United Kingdom;

Zaldy Dandan – Editor of Marianas Variety newspaper on Saipan; and

Dr. Celia Lamkin MD – retired Physician, chair of USP4GG Marianas chapter CNMI and Guam and chair of Global Filipino Diaspora Marianas and chair of Ad Hoc Committee of Essay Contest on Overseas Filipinos.

Impressive Turnout and Quality

The contest is the second international contest sponsored by USP4GG. The first contest on “The West Philippine Sea and Its Impact on the Philippines” was conducted in February 2013 during the Second Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora held in Makati.

“The turnout and quality of the entries are very impressive, excellent and have met the focus of the theme,” said Dr Lamkin in the interview with TFA.

Dr Lamkin also said that during the judging, her email provider’s spam-filters mistakenly blocked her bulk transmissions to the judges and she had to send her messages with attachments in small batches which delayed the judging process.

“We encountered technical problems, but I am glad we overcame those hurdles”, Dr Lamkin said adding that she would like to acknowledge the support of CFO Secretary Imelda Nicolas, Atty Ted Laguatan, Atty Loida Nicolas-Lewis and many others including those in the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Education.



The Filipino Australian
Posted by the TFA Staff
February 24, 2015


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