The Transition to a Great Life in Dumaguete City - Retire Dumaguete and Siquijor

How was your transition to life in Dumaguete?

We all have interesting stories to share. Each one is unique, but similarities undoubtedly exist in many. Regardless of which county you came from, adapting to life here is an interesting experience. Please write and let me know about your experiences, what challenges you faced, and how you overcame them. The following is my story.

Late in 2016, I woke in my comfortable home in northern California and “Time to move” were my first thoughts. And it wasn’t to another part of the city or state.  That impulsive characteristic has always been present throughout my unconventional life. Back in 1974, while living in Manhattan, I threw a coin along the dusty floor of my neighborhood bar. If it came up heads, I’d go south and live in New Orleans, if tails, I’d head north to Toronto. Let me advise any adventurous spirit out there not to relocate to Toronto in October. It’s literally freezing.

Deciding to abruptly move to a country in another continent was not unusual for me. I’d previously lived in many countries on three continents and one sub continent. When I arrived into Dumaguete late in 2016, the only material possessions I had were in my backpack and, ridiculously, my golf bag and a full set of clubs. Apart from that, I was traveling light and loving it!

I got off the Ocean Jet boat from Cebu and walked along Rizal Boulevard with a light spring in my step. At age sixty five, my transition to life in Dumaguete was new and my latest adventure had begun! Looking back, moving to the Philippines and to a life in Dumaguete in particular, was perhaps the wisest decision I’ve ever made. This was more than simply moving to a new country for a new experience. If it worked out favorably, after a lifetime of international traveling, Dumaguete would be my final destination. I soon discovered it will be.

As those of us already living here know, there were cultural challenges I first needed to become aware of, then learn how to correctly deal with them. A mistake many of us foreigners make arises from our incorrect assumption that because English iswidely spoken, Filipinos would understand what we say, while we also would know what they were saying. Nothing could be further from the truth. That led to many interesting situations before I decided to start asking locals their understanding of what I’d said to them. Overall communication substantially improved after that.

Trying to open a bank account here would make a clever TV comedy sketch. When I first went into a bank and asked who could assist me in this basic transaction, I was given a delightful Filipino smile followed by what I soon learned was the perennial “For a while, Sir” statement. I noticed bewildered foreigners fumbling through the process with confusion written all over their faces and somehow felt reassured knowing I wasn’t alone. I also realized the uncomplicated process would be anything but uncomplicated. That didn’t matter since I wasn’t in any hurry anyway. I learned that “For a while sir” could mean a few minutes, a few hours, or possibly never. When I asked for an approximate time-frame when the person who was going to assist opening my bank account would return from her lunch break, the, by now, familiar “For a while sir” was the repeated smiling response. I decided to leave after waiting another forty five minutes.

This was the first of many important lessons I’d learn during subsequent months. Apparent inefficiencies with processes moving at glacier speed in banks, restaurants, supermarkets, and many other businesses are challenges that almost all foreigners initially struggle with. The solution for me is to never forget that I’m a foreigner, a guest in the country. Regardless of how long I live here, that reality will never change.

Filipinos have a way of doing everything in ways that are diametrically opposed to what we from the Western world were accustomed to. They’ve been doing it their way for centuries, and its worked well for them. That reality is a critical factor I needed to accept, and still occasionally need to remind myself of not only because I need to, but, more importantly, because I want to. The wisdom of acceptance of what is, rather than what I might want, has given me an inner sense of freedom that has released me from frustration that often derailed my day because of seething resentments over trivial matters. What ridiculous, self defeating behavior I chose to make! I have no right to question their way of life which has now become my way off life. And I’m grateful for that.

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Michael O’riordan

michael's life in dumaguete

Shortly after arriving into Dumaguete, Michael  intuitively knew it was the right place for him. Everything seemed to be right. It was and is. In addition to enjoying the way of life, he also met a special Pinay, and is living contentedly with her near the city.

He now operates Veritas Consulting Group, a company dedicated to helping other expats and Returning Filipinos with their transition to life in Dumaguete City and surrounding areas

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