Big City Living With a Laidback Island Vibe

“Laidback the way Hawaii is, but at a fraction of the cost,” is how Andy Wazer, 51, describes his new life in the Philippine city of Cebu.

His love affair with his new home is understandable. For Andy, the tropical climate, the beaches, the locals’ friendly, hospitable nature and the low cost of living make it a dream come true. He lives in a big city, but still has the typical “island lifestyle” that you’d expect from the Philippines. “If you ask me for just one thing I love about the place, it would be the people,” Andy says, “Their seemingly never-ending smiles brighten each and every day.”

Andy, who got the travel bug at an early age, spent years living and working all over the world in places like Hong Kong, France and Jordan. In 2001, while working in Korea, Andy met his wife, Rosie. The two spent some time travelling before settling in Rosie’s hometown of Cebu.

Cebu is the capital city of the central Philippines island of Cebu. The city is a modern metropolis with a population of over 800,000 people, making it one of the country’s largest cities. Cebu is also the oldest city in the Philippines, and, as the country’s first Spanish settlement, it’s a great spot for history buffs. But the lifestyle is definitely one of modern conveniences. Here you wouldn’t miss any of the comforts of home: Cebu has movie theatres, golf courses, hundreds of international restaurants and plenty of expats to mingle with. Plus, it’s only 30 minutes away from the Philippines’ famous white-sand beaches. Mactan Island, right over the bridge, has calm waters and white sand, and colourful fish dart all around.

“I love Cebu; it suits me,” says Andy. “I’m so glad my wife is from here and this is where we ended up.”

The overall cost of living in Cebu is very low. “It is possible to find any type of accommodation you want,” says Andy. “You can live in a very basic home or build a huge, fancy place—whatever suits your needs. It really depends on what you are looking for, but prices in the area start as low as $235 a month.”

Andy and Rosie live in a single-family, detached home, spread out over three floors, with five bedrooms and over 510 square metres. That’s plenty of space for their three boys, the dog, cat, Koi fish and turtles. And it only costs them about $1,000 a month.

Food costs depend on whether you buy the same imported brands you’d see back home or local brands, which are less expensive. The most cost-efficient way to shop is at local markets, where fresh vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood are abundant and inexpensive. “Another thing I like is that you still have people coming to your neighbourhood selling fresh bread, seafood, corn on the cob and other products, usually on foot or bicycle. Even the ice-cream man still roams the neighbourhoods,” says Andy.

“The low cost of domestic helpers is another perk of living in the Philippines. They can be live-in or not, and the cost per month ranges from about $75 to $120. All this means you’ll spend more time here doing the things you want. The people here, both local and foreign, know how to enjoy life. Even if you are working here, you can enjoy your off time, because just about everybody has house help, which frees you up to enjoy your down time.”

Andy’s life is now easy, social and totally laidback. Most days are pretty mellow, his biggest decisions are whether to work from his home office (he edits a mini-magazine guide for tourists) or find a place with a view where he can work remotely on the computer to earn a little extra income while still living the island lifestyle. It’s some work with a lot of socialising in between. And that suits Andy just perfectly.

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