A Beachside Home on an Island Paradise: $180 a Month

Mitchell McCardle’s day begins with an early trip to the market. Riding through the early morning light on his motorbike, he sees the locals start their day. Fishermen casting lines out, women shelling corn on the side of the street and children walking hand in hand to school.

Five years ago, with very little money in his pocket, Mitchell threw up his hands and said, “That’s it—I’m moving to the Philippines.”

“I was feeling like I was at a bit of a loose end, having sold my business manufacturing paint stripper due to business partner difficulties and financial pressures and I had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.”

A trip to the Philippines five years earlier had piqued Mitchell’s interest in the country. “I love the ocean. Swimming and diving are two of my favourite things and the tropical weather of the Philippines makes them possible year-round.” Add to that the fact that the cost of living is low and English is widely spoken and Mitchell decided it was worth a try.

Mitchell moved to the Camotes Islands, three hours off the coast of Cebu City. They are part of one of the three primary geographical divisions of the Philippines called the Visayas. He has “found a little paradise in the heart of the Visayas.” Here, dazzling blue ocean, cascading waterfalls and cool underground pools are abundant, surrounded by palm trees and small villages.

The main town of San Francisco consists of the main market, some food stores, a few bars and, much to Mitchell’s dismay, Karaoke. Though he says it wouldn’t be the Philippines without it.

Mitchell has even turned his hand toward the art of bread-making. He says, “I have always loved cooking and baking but never had the money or the confidence to try running a bakery or restaurant. When I moved here, suddenly something that at home had seemed like a dream, became a real possibility.”

Mitchell says, “My budget of $545 a month covers my necessities and also leaves me with enough money to make some trips to Cebu City or do upgrades on my motorbike, which is always fun.” His one-bedroom beachside bungalow costs only $180, power and water $40, food costs at most $49, including a few nights eating out and petrol at $1.20 per litre or less.

Getting to know the local people has been an important part of Mitchell fitting into island life. After years of hard work, he is now fluent in the local language, Visayan, so he can finally tell them all the jokes he has been desperate to share for past few years. He says, “While I’m not sure the locals understand my jokes, I do get the odd laugh. I worked hard to be able to speak the language, so I am going to speak it every chance I get.”

The expat community is also very welcoming. “We are all similar in that we took a risk on a new adventure.”

Eating out is an everyday activity. A local meal, like rice and vinegar fish or papaya soup costs no more than $3, a Western meal like pizza or a burger no more than $6 and a beer is only $1.80.

“My life in the Philippines is very simple. The hardest choice I have to make each day is where to swim that evening. Now that, to me, is paradise.”

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