It has been a while since there was an edition to my expat in the Philippines journal. This was an anxious period for me. It all started when I went to the ATM to withdraw money to pay my bills and to live on. When I tried, it showed my balance was zero but I had just sent a sizeable amount of money to my Philippines BDO bank account. I wrote about that in detail when it happened which you can read here.

I had been up all night and Jessie had been up most of the night too. We headed to the bankDanger in the Philippines to find out what was going on. We found my account had been closed and soon we were told to go to Bogo. I didn’t have any money to go to Bogo City where I opened the account. The bank manager actually gave me money to go. That was above the call of duty. I told him if they resolved it in Bogo City, I would be back to give him the money back. They did not resolve it. It amounted to an eight hour trip for two people that were barely awake with nothing at all accomplished.

They said they closed the account because I had not kept my balance above 10,000 pesos but when I opened the account there was no such requirement. They said it had changed. I think the real reason they closed it was because banks are now required to report accounts held by US citizens to the USA. I had started taking the money out of the account as soon as it came in too. That, I’m sure was part of it.

I was in deep trouble as I had no money and kept getting the run around on how to fix it. Xoom claimed the bank had it and the bank claimed they did not. Xoom did finally step up and took care of the problem. Saying they would refund it even if they did not get the money back. I’m sure they did but it took a little while to get the money back in my bank account.

Expat in the Philippines Watching the LadiesIn the meantime, a kind hearted foreigner that heard of my problems loaned me what I was missing. He has been paid back in full. If not for him, I would have been in dire trouble. I was out of medication and learned fast how much I need Zantac for my stomach. It was hurting in a massive way,

When it did show up in my bank account, I sent half of it for cash pick up at Palawan Pawn Shop. That went without a hitch and a few days later, I sent the other half.

To pour salt in the wound, I had about 10,000 peso disappear during the month. I don’t know where that went but it was the last thing I needed. I guess I had left it in my hotel room. I don’t know. I have left money in there before without any problems. Though I did have about 4000 peso disappear once, I think a female visitor was the likely culprit that time.

That left me tense for the entire month. I was worried about what would happen the following month. The next month, I sent all the money at one time. I went to Palawan Pawn Shop to pick it up and now they wanted two IDs. I have only one valid ID.  That is my Passport as all of my IDs have expired and they wouldn’t accept my USA IDs anyway.

That sent me into ballistic mode because Xoom clearly says one ID is required. But, I went to another “remittance company” and they gave me my money. Since then, I have sent the money in two transactions and picked it up from Palawan Pawn Shop without any issues from that point on.

During these trials and tribulations, someone suggested I change to Remitly and stop using Xoom. I really wanted to do that but Remitly will not allow me to draw on my bank account. They are requiring me to use my credit card for which they charge higher prices. I assume this is because I’m in the Philippines. I do have a new VPN account now that seems to be harder for companies to detect so I might try one more time. They do give a better exchange rate and it would amount to over 1000 pesos a month. Usually the differences are so small, it isn’t worth considering but in the case it is.

Cell Phone Disaster

Seems like everything during this time was fighting me. About a year ago, my SamsungTrouble in Paradise -- Interesting Advertising Galaxy 2 finally keeled over and died. I woke up and it was dead. I ended up with an Oppo 7A. That phone rocks. It is extremely fast and I had no issues with it other than my battery dying. That’s normal. Jessie went to the Oppo service center in Cebu City to get a replacement and they would not sell it to her since she didn’t bring the phone with her. Another “You’ve got to be kidding me” moment. So we went back a few days after and I bought a battery. I think we paid 3000 pesos for it. That’s about $75 USD. The very next day, I dropped my phone and shattered the “Gorilla Glass” screen. I just put it in the drawer as I had no money to fix it.

I waited a couple of months before buying an Asus ZenPad mostly based on its lost cost of 6000 pesos. It is the worst phone I have ever owned. It is a piece of junk and Asus should be ashamed of itself! When I first got it, it would barely run at all. I uninstalled as much of their pre-installed junk and that made it barely usable. I never knew that a device could matter so much in connectivity. The biggest problem with this phone is that it loses connection with other devices stay connected even sitting right next to it. That is still going on with the phone about six months later but I have learned a few tricks to improve its performance so that it is almost usable. The phone might be fine in a country where Internet connections are more stable but I’m in the Philippines and they are unstable here.

Christmas time for me in the Philippines is Lonely

Once again, I was feeling the Christmas blues. I have spent too many holidays alone so most of them I completely blow off. Christmas is different. I have tried and tried to blow it off but I just can’t. I remember putting up a sign on my desk at work, “No Christmas Zone.” That just got me more Christmas cards taped to my desk than normal. Honestly, I enjoyed those cards.

Street Child at ChristmasJessie had not been home for a while to see her three boys. I managed to find some extra cash and my Christmas present to her was too make sure she was home for Christmas. Since her father’s birthday is on January 1st and a huge deal for her and the family. So, I knew she would stay until that was over.

On the 23rd of December, I was feeling quite low. Then I saw a teenage boy sleeping on his cardboard box just outside the hotel where I have lived for more than a year. I took his picture and went upstairs to get some coins but he was gone by the time I got back. Mostly though, it caused me to reflect on my situation. I wasn’t as alone as he was. At least I had someone in my life that cared. She was away but she was with me anyway. I couldn’t help but wonder if this boy’s family missed him, wondered where he was. Clearly, his situation was far worse than mine. I have a bed, usually an Internet connection haha, a TV with cable and a bed. He has only a cardboard box. Those do appear to be a prized possession among the street people. My Christmas blues went away after that. I wasn’t in a happy place but I wasn’t on the verge of a major depressive episode any more.

Fine Dining in Cebu City

Ray Shackelford, also known as Santa Claus was in town at Christmas time which is hisSanta Claus in the Philippines usual routine. He wears a full Santa costume and walks around the area giving out fruits and toys. He also makes trips to troubled areas, schools, nursing homes and any other place where there is a need. He was back to continue his work. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any of the Santa events this time.

He invited Jessie and me to a party to celebrate his long time relationship with a local Filipina. I was amazed, almost shocked, to find a place that reminded me of the Beverly Hillbillies’ “Fancy Eating Table.” He took us to a place that I’ve not seen the likes of since I was in Atlanta many years ago.

Fine Dining at Tsay in Cebu CityThe restaurant served mostly sea food, which is always good, but in my mind too much trouble to eat haha.

That’s just me, there was nothing wrong with the place and what I ate that night was very nice. They served lobster but we did not have to break open the shell to get at the meat. It was the first time I ever had lobster. I always declined in the past as it was too much trouble and certainly did not pass my “sight test” haha. I am glad I ate it. It was very good and I might just have to get over the sight test failure part of it should I ever have the chance to eat it again.

Fine dining in Cebu CityI had wondered if there was any place to eat in Cebu City of such high caliber. I suspect there was but I had never been to one nor had I seen any. Now I know that these places can be found here. Kind of late but as one living on a skimpy budget, I don’t have many opportunities to find such places.

Jessie was back on January 2 and my life was back to normal. Things were good for me again. I’m a loner but as a woman pointed out about twenty years ago, “You are a loner as long as you have that one special person.” That always stuck with me because it was at the beginning of an extended time of being alone for me. It was an insight into myself that I had not been aware of up until then. I have been very aware of it ever since she said that.

Tolder Alone Sleeping on the StreetThere were no significant illnesses for me during the last half of the year though that banking episode did put me on the brink. I remember feeling short of breath and my right arm going a little numb. Maybe a minor panic attack.  I was trying so hard to stay calm but when the bank kept giving me different information, I was having great difficulty in staying calm. A couple of times, I was not calm at all.

This period, plagued with problems was not my grandest time in the Philippines. Though

Bantayan Island Cebu Sunrise

Sunrise at Ogtong Cave Resort

some of that had nothing to do with the Philippines and was just life, some of it was clearly something that would “not happen in my country.” Life happens no matter where you are. And “No matter how far you run, you’ll always be there.” I am a fighter, even when I don’t want to be. I always seem to find a way to make things work out. This time, I did need some help from a friend and things could have gone very badly for me had he not stepped in to help. Still, those times are now in the past and things are back to my normally boring life. As long as I have electronics to keep my mind busy and a woman to hold, I am okay.

Please share any of your thoughts in the comments. I love to hear from you.

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