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Living in the Philippines?

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The Philippines at a Glance

Living in the Philippines

Living in the Philippines, you will experience a fascinating Southeast-Asian culture. Influenced by Spanish and US colonialism, the way of life there is truly unique. For a first glimpse of life in the Philippines, read our guide on housing, healthcare, education, and safety for expats.


Dear readers,

Due to the catastrophic damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Eastern Visayas region in November 2013, which might take years to rebuild, we cannot ensure that the factual information in this article series is up-to-date for the entire country. The current version of this guide was accurate in autumn 2013, before the disaster, but it is yet unclear for how long, or in which way, issues like health and safety, transport, or the national economy will be affected. Thank you for your understanding!

InterNations Editorial Office

Foreign residents living in the Philippines will not only find a diverse expat community, but they will also experience the cultural diversity of the Philippine society. Music is a particularly important aspect of Filipino culture and part of daily life in the Philippines, a fact that is expressed in countless local fiestas. Often with a religious background, these celebrations are characterized by music and dancing, and you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to participate in one!

The Population of the Philippines

There are about 105 million people living in the Philippines, on 7107 islands. Most of them are still quite young; the median age is 23 years. A high percentage (49%) of residents living in the Philippines has settled in the country’s urban centers like Manila or Cebu. This number is constantly growing as more and more people migrate to the cities each year.

The cultural diversity makes life in the Philippines quite attractive for many. The biggest ethnic groups are Tagalog (28.1%), followed by Cebuano (13.1%), Ilocano (9%), Bisaya (7.6%), Hiligayon Ilonggo (7.5%), Bikol (6%) and Waray (3.4%).

In terms of religion, the majority of the population is Roman Catholic. The Muslim minority in the Philippines makes up 5% of the population. While Filipino is the official language in the Philippines, English is also commonly used, especially in academic or professional settings. With a good command of English, you should not come across any language barriers while living in the Philippines as an expat.

The Housing Search

The country’s over 7,000 islands offer plenty of life-style choices for expats. Rural farmhouses, condominiums and rooms in shared apartments are all available. As is the case everywhere in the world, housing is not as widely available in urban centers. The rent is also higher than in remote rural areas.

The rents are highest in Metro Manila. The best and safest way to find a place to stay during your expat life in the Philippines is by recommendations from friends and colleagues. Internet listings and classified ads in local newspapers are also a great way to start. Important national dailies include The Philippine StarThe Daily Tribune, or Manila Bulletin.

The typical lease in the Philippines has a duration of 12 months, after which the contract can be extended. When you rent a place, you are expected to pay the first month’s rent and hand out 11 pre-dated cheques to your landlord to cover the rent of the entire lease. Shorter contracts are not common. If you are living in the Philippines for only a few months, think about renting a serviced apartment instead.

The Health System in the Philippines

Under the local government code of 1991, the responsibility for healthcare services was transferred to local government units. Now, provincial governments run and administer provincial and district hospitals. The governments of different municipalities in turn run rural health units and barangay (village) health stations. The Department of Health, on the other hand, manages specialty hospitals, regional hospitals, and health centers.

Health services in the Philippines are offered both by the public and the private sector. Private providers are predominantly located in big urban areas where they offer a wide range of facilities from pharmacies to maternity centers and hospitals. The public sector is made up largely of three main providers:

Unfortunately, public primary health facilities are of rather low quality, especial in rural areas. Current reforms aim to improve the quality as well as the availability of essential healthcare for people living in the Philippines.

InterNations Expat Magazine