It’s My Life: Philippines

I really do not have any major regrets in my lifetime. I experienced disappoints, had a few heartbreaks when I was younger, made some mistakes along the way but I would not want to go back and do anything differently. I would not be willing trading all the blessings in my life that I have experienced to try to re-plan my life on my own. Everything has worked out for almost 62 years and will continue on that path.

God Has Made a Way

I am not religious but I am a Born Again Christian. Since 1972, I have been on a Purpose Driven Life, with Faith in my Divine Life Plan. When I look back on the disappointments, the few heartbreaks and the mistakes, I realize those were all stepping stones to get me to the right place in Life, where I am destined to be. At that very moment in time. Otherwise, I would have missed the boat or missed my last flight out of Miami. Many times, we have to be at the right place at the right time. If we are not, it can often be a life changing event, which influences our future greatly.

That is the way I see my personal life since 1972. Before that, my parents directed my life and made most of the decisions for me. They did not do badly, either!

My Philippines Connection

I would not trade my life in the Philippines over the past 30 years for all the tea in China or for silver and gold. My experiences are priceless. From Luzon, to Negros Occidental, to Panay Island to Cebu, I’ve had a wonderful life in the Philippines. Yes, I love this life!

Everyday, I engage in discussions about the Philippines on LivinginthePhilippines3 Yahoo Group and in person. Please feel free to join us and post questions about the Philippines. Join us in our daily, lively discussions about this wonderful country with beautiful people.

I think I have several more decades in life and I look forward to seeing what God is going to do for me.

I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

Essential Pantry Items

For me, having a well stocked pantry and ref is not only essential but is like having money in the bank.

A friend recently asked me, what are the essential pantry items available in the Philippines. I told him what is essential to me may not be essential to him. We are all different. I cannot really think of any item I cannot buy in Bacolod, which I enjoy, within reason, of course. I will most likely never see Martha White Flour but the local White King Flour works great for me.

The Basics

There are a few basic items that I keep on hand at all times in the ref. Home Brand Mayonnaise, Crystal and Trappey’s Bull Original Louisiana Hot Sauce, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire, Heinz Chili Sauce, Morehouse Prepared Horseradish, Heinz 57, Morehouse Mustard-The Official Mustard of the LA Dodgers/French’s Mustard as backup, Any brand of deli peppers in a jar, Dona Ellena Olives, Kweichow Chili & Garlic Sauce, Parmesan Cheese, Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Hunt’s Hickory BBQ Sauce and Barrio Fiesta Sweet Bagoong.

We are not big on using salt but sometimes, it is required. Nowadays, I buy McCormick Iodized Salt. I also use Morton’s Kosher Salt but it is not Iodized and I do not use it in pork dishes.

I also keep the more common spices on hand. Black Peppermill, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Italian Seasoning, Chili Powder, Turmeric, Bay Leaves and Cajun Seasoning of any brand. McCormick Cajun Seasoning is usually in stock at SM.

Canned Goods

Every kind of canned beans and peas that I see, I have in my pantry. Garbanzos included. The locally grown Mountain White Beans, famous in Hinoba-An Negros Occidental, and the White Sitao Black Eye Pea are the only dry beans we had much luck with, concerning coming out soft enough to my liking.

Tuna, Salmon, Sardines, imported Corned Beef, Vienna Sausage, Spam, Stewed Tomatoes, Sauerkraut, Imported Spaghetti Sauce in jars, are other items I keep on hand.


Misc Items are several kinds of Vinegar, including Spiced Vinegar, Soy Sauce, Patis Fish Sauce, local Molasses, Brown Sugar, Onions, Garlic, sometimes Ginger, Vegemite, Jif Peanut Butter, Smucker’s Strawberry Jam, Canned Peaches & Pineapple Rings and Corn Meal.

In the freezer, I always have Ground Round Beef and different Sausages. Also Fish Fillets, Wings/Leg Quarters Chicken, Pork Chops/Pork Steaks. Rarely Beef Steak these days.

I buy Marca Leon Vegetable Cooking oil, product of the Philippines but keep a bottle of Dona Ellena Olive Oil on hand.

Although I do not drink Red Wine often, I try to keep one unopened bottle on hand. Of course, cold beer in the ref at wholesale price. I never buy whiskey/spirits to keep on hand but on occasion for friends.

I hope you are also keeping your pantry well stocked. Shopping for food is one of my favorite hobbies.

I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

Recipes Expats Should Know In The Philippines

chinese noodles
How about an EZ noodle dish?

I still have most of the contents of the package of Ma Mon Luk Chinese Egg Noodles. Product of Quezon City. Today, I was looking online for a new recipe. Not much luck with anything earth shattering but I put together a few ideas from what I read. A little bit of this, a little bit of that and that’s no lie! I may have come up with the Perfect Fried Chinese Egg Noodle dish. Well, maybe not a Monster Recipe.

I learned the recommended way to prepare Chinese Egg Noodles from Sun Ting Wong. No joke! It is best to boil the noodles until they are halfway done. Drain the noodles, set aside and toss with a little olive/peanut/vegetable oil to prevent sticking. You choose the oil of your choice. Next, the fun begins, as you get creative. There are really hundreds of ways to go next. There is a sign post ahead and you may be entering the Twilight Zone. Or the No Spin Zone. Regardless, have fun!

I decided to go with shredded pork, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, yellow onion and beaten eggs. I thought about shredded chicken but I do not ever eat scrambled eggs and chicken. Or any kind of eggs and chicken. No Bola Bola Chicken Sio Pao for me, thank you. I enjoy scrambled eggs in most of my noodle dishes.

I prefer stir fried pork with noodles. BBQ pork is also good with noodles.

Take It To The Limit…One More Time

It does not matter if you are listening to the music of the Eagles or listening to the Flying Burrito Brothers, you can do this! The Sky is the limit with your seasoning, herbs and spices. I like ginger, garlic, fish sauce and soy sauce. Stir fry the noodles and add the rest of your ingredients. For kicking it up and turning up the heat, I prefer Kweichow Chili Garlic Sauce from Taiwan. Sriracha will work and so will Red Pepper Flakes. As well as whole Chili Peppers and Jalapeno Peppers. All are available to buy in Bacolod City.  If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! Joke only. Everyone does not like hot & spicy, so forget about it…if that is you.

Nutz! What are the best nuts to add to the noodle dish? I like cashews and fried garlic peanuts. I think just about any nut would work but maybe not redskin peanuts. Beer Nuts are always great! You could also make your own peanut sauce and leave off the whole nuts.

Have fun with your noodles.

I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

Lost Island of the Philippines

I took several Philippines Studies courses at UP years ago and I had never heard of San Juan Island, Philippines, until this week. Some say that the island vanished like Atlantis. Kinda far fetched.

Alex R Castro is a historian and museum curator at Holy Angel University in Angeles City. You do not have to buy a book to read his very interesting story online about the Island that vanished in the Philippines. San Juan Island, aka the Phantom Island, lost for a century, has been rediscovered.

Century old maps of the Spanish, Portuguese and Jesuits clearly show San Juan Island, off the coast of Mindanao. It is too large of an island to just vanish off the face of a map. Alex R Castro, with the help of others, discovered what happened to the Lost Philippines Island of San Juan.

Believe It…Or Not

My interest was sparked and I did a little research for myself. From what I gather, San Juan Island was inhabited by Negritos from the Philippines and Indigenous people from Indonesia. San Juan Island was governed by the Manila based Spanish Captaincy of the Philippines.

To make a long story much shorter and without going into greater detail. San Juan Island was taken over in 1899 by the German Empire. In 1914, the Japanese took over San Juan Island from the Germans, during WWI, and they took over other islands in what is now Palau. During WWII, the USA captured San Juan Island and Palau from the Japanese. Today, San Juan Island is known as Sonsorol of Palau. After a terrible typhoon in 2012 and an evacuation, Sonsorol/San Juan Island is inhabited by only 42 people in one village.

The mystery of Lost San Juan Island of the Philippines is solved.

I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

Expat Complaints: Angry White Guys


Over the years, I’ve heard many expat complaints from guys who are living in the Philippines. Sometimes, they have a valid point and a complaint of merit. Sometimes, their complaint is about something that really bothers them but other times, they seem to be on a witch hunt. Other times, I have wondered if they ever spent any quality amount of time here before making the move. If they had, they would know what they were getting into. No surprises!

Not finding a plumber or an electrician, who measures up to their expat standards, is one common complaint I hear. We have not had any plumbing problems to speak of during the past 7 years, other than an occasional clogged drain, which was easily fixed. We have not had any electrical problems in our houses. Occasional brownouts don’t count, as there is nothing we can do about those and most of us know there are brownouts in the Philippines.


I learned long ago about the Art of Making Noise in the Philippines. Whether you live in the city or in the countryside, there will be noise at one time or another. In some locations, there is constant noise! We are blessed in that there is not normally loud, disturbing noise in the Bacolod subdivision where we live. We know during the Festivals, we will hear music in the distance but it is not disturbing to us.

Even though I have not lived at the farm full time in 5 years, the crowing of roosters do not disturb me. For others, it may well be a disturbance. Chickens are most everywhere, even in some city subdivisions.

Get With The Program

Some complaints are attempts to change the Filipino Culture to suit the expat and that’s not realistically going to happen. At least not over the long haul. Such complaints will often fuel ill feelings and resentment from our Filipino family and friends. I am not here to change anyone and Filipinos are not trying to change me. We have mutual respect. They have their way of doing things and I have my way of doing things. Both sides with mutual respect.

Some expats do not know the taboos in Filipino Culture and some Filipinos do not know the taboos of various Western Cultures. I think for those living in the Philippines, it should be asked about, after all…this is the Philippines. Even if our wives never lived in our home countries, those who have been married to us for some time know about our Cultures. My wife has spoken up several times and said, “Don’t ask him that. It’s not polite.”

Just sharing recent and long time expat complaints I have heard. Some expat complaints are the same as they were 30 years ago. “Why are they speaking their language?”

I hope to see you one day, somewhere….all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

What’s For Breakfast?

Expats living in our area still enjoy their Fruit Loops, Cherrios and other breakfast cereals with milk. I do not remember eating those past being a teenager. As I got into young adulthood, that type of breakfast no longer appealed to me. Our son eats several brands of the American style breakfast cereals but he prefers the ones made locally, by Milo and Nestles. He is 10 years old.

I like variety at every meal but I know some people, foreigners included, who can eat the same thing day in and day out for breakfast. I am not the traditionalist who must have ham or bacon and eggs for breakfast. Unless we are traveling, breakfast is always at home.

The cover photo of my article is Biscuits and Gravy. My all time favorite breakfast and brunch. I sometimes make Sausage Gravy to eat over biscuits but plain gravy is fine with me! Anytime.

I keep tortillas in the freezer and I enjoy a breakfast burrito but not every morning. I do not always include meat in the burrito. I am fine with scrambled egg, cheddar cheese, onion and tomato, with salsa.

SOS is another old time favorite that my dad taught me how to prepare many years ago. My version in the Philippines includes deli corned beef because I have not run across chipped beef. Sometimes, I follow the World’s Greatest Navy Recipe and I use ground beef, tomatoes and onions to make SOS.

Rolled Oats is a simple stand by, with fruit. I pay less than P100 per bag for Australian Harvest Rolled Oats at SM and at Lopues. Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats are now almost P300 per bag. Forget that. When they were first introduced at Metro, they were much cheaper. I recently bought a bag of Golden Oats for P48. I tired it once and did not like it. At least it came with a free plastic drinking glass with a lid.

Avocado with an egg and toast is a good breakfast to me.

We have a 2 sided waffle iron and we can make both pancakes and waffles on it.

I have not completely shut out the Filipino style breakfast. The only fish I like for breakfast is fried catfish with grits.

Arroz Caldo, Lugaw, Pan de sal with Peanut Butter or Pineapple Jelly, Corned Beef with over EZ egg on rice, Tapa or Tocino with egg and rice, all work for me…but not everyday. I do not really care for the local Chorizo or Longaniza that I have tried. Not very much but I will eat it. It seems like the sweet Longaniza I used to buy in Manila was much better. In our area, the Negrense Chorizo is more popular than Longaniza. Often times, it contains too much fat for my liking. The Chinoy Longaniza is too hard and too salty for my taste.

I am no stranger to eating chili or fried chicken or pizza for breakfast. Tuna Salad on Toast was today’s breakfast.

Potatoes for breakfast is a favorite! Hash Browns, Home Fries, Rosti, Potato Rounds with fried Onions. I like them all. Tater Tots have been out of stock at K-Mart for several years now. I like them as well but I doubt I will ever see them again.

While growing up, my Mom would sometimes prepare breakfast food for supper. I thought it was cool. We had to be the only family who ate scrambled eggs, bacon, fried potatoes and biscuits for supper. That was my thinking back then.

Regardless of what we eat for breakfast, it is best not to skip it.

If you have any unusual or unique breakfast dishes that you enjoy eating, I would like to hear about it. I am always looking for new things to eat for breakfast. Or anytime for that matter.

Don’t forget…eat your breakfast.

I hope to see you one day, somewhere….all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

A Filipino Way of Life

Last weekend, we headed south about 25 km from Bacolod. One of my brothers in law had contacted us about fresh live sea crabs for P250 per kilo. He helps his girlfriend operate her restaurant in a fisher folk village. They buy their seafood direct from fishermen. A number of people go to the restaurant because it has a good view of the sea and Guimaras Island, which looks like a large crocodile in the distance. They also have some of the cheapest prices for ice cold beer.

We left home in Bacolod around 1pm. When we arrived at the fishing village, the fisherman was just going out to check his crab nets in his motor boat. I got a cold one and watched the fisherman from a distance. He went out in his boat about 1 1/2 km and he began checking 8 or 10 crab nets he has. It took him a couple of hours to get his catch of crabs and re-bait his nets.

fishing boat philippines
Several children were playing a game in the sand, using the larger bottle tops from soft drinks, placed in a drawn square in the sand with a stick, and smaller crowns from beer and soft drink bottles. Each larger bottle top children were able to hit, after throwing their crowns at them was theirs. At the end of the game, whoever had collected the most large bottle tops was the winner.

I also watched our son playing tag with two girls on the beach. They ran around for about an hour. One girl is about our son’s age and the other one was about 6 years old but she could run fast! We had to ask them to take a break long enough to drink bottled water. They were having a blast!

When the fisherman returned to shore, a number of children ran up to his boat to see what he had. A number of adults also walked out to take a look. He had a mess of crabs!

There were 6 of us and my wife boiled the crabs in the restaurant kitchen. She used the Zatarain’s Crab Boil that I took along. Everyone compliment the flavor of the craps that was enhanced by Zatarain’s, which is a little spicy. I had fresh boiled sweet corn with the crabs and others had rice, of course. I had forgotten to bring the Sweet Chili Sauce but the crabs were still very good. Others used coconut vinegar as dipping sauce for the crabs.

I really enjoy going to the fishing village on Sunday afternoons and we go as often as we can. My wife, our son and our best friend Randy also enjoy it. Randy has to drive back to Bacolod because it is usually dark when we return home. I do not drive at night.

We are friends with a number of people who live in and around the fishing village. I enjoy the atmosphere very much. Cool sea breeze and watching life going on with the Filipinos who live there. It is about as laid back as it comes! The people do not complain about anything and they are really happy every time we see them. They do not create cares or create worries that do not exist or fret over things they can never change. They have the wisdom to know the difference!

The people in the fishing village eat from the sea, they have free range chickens and there is always rice. There are a number of cashew trees right there in the village and many more coconut trees. The children do not spend hours with electronic gadgets but they know how to really play together. They create their own games. In my opinion, the people, young/old/middle age know how to really live and be happy. Their happiness is contagious to those who can really see and who are open minded. I already know this and I have for years. I only wish more expats and visiting foreigners can experience it.

I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

While I Was Away

cebu pacific
A little time has passed since my last article but I have not forgotten about you. I have not left the Philippines but I had to take 2 trips within the Philippines.

If you live outside Metro Manila, there will be times you must travel to other areas of the Philippines. Especially when dealing with government agencies, such as BI, Bureau of Immigration. Within the Philippines, I normally fly Cebu Pacific Airlines and they still use prop planes on shorter trips within the country.

Life is still great in the Bacolod area! My family and I are in great health and everyday still unfolds a new adventure in the Philippine.

Traveling for Fun and Business

My first recent trip was to Cebu City to visit an American friend. Cebu City has a vibrant nightlife and great shopping but the city traffic is getting to be a real nightmare. There is also a large expat community in Cebu City. The flight from Bacolod to Cebu City is only a 25 minute flight, even though it is listed a little longer on the Cebu Pacific Airlines website. If you watch the promos on their website and book your ticket online, you can buy a RT ticket for as little as P994. Even without a promo, a flight from Bacolod City to Cebu City is about P2,300 on average, if you book online.

I had to travel to Iloilo to renew my 13a Visa ACR I-Card but that was a day trip. I had a little time to kill before I returned to Bacolod City that afternoon. I decided to hang out at Robinsons Mall until time to return home.

At Robinsons Mall, I did not see too many interesting places to eat but I decided upon lunch at Irish Potatoes. I ordered the Irish Potatoes with Chili and Sour Cream. I also ordered an ice cold San Miguel Pale Pilsen. Total cost was less than P130.

New Articles

I was unable to access the other photos from our trip to Sipalay, so I am unable to write another article about our trip there in March 2016.

I will be writing more interesting articles in June and moving forward. Our son will soon be back in school and I will have more free time to write more.

Until then…I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

Fila-Terranean Menu

The heat index is certainly up there this summer. Before going to the supermarkets 2 days ago, I checked online at Chow Hound to kick start my memory and to get some fresh ideas for cold foods during hot weather. All the ingredients to make these dishes below, can be purchased in Bacolod City.

At the public market, my wife loaded up on pineapples, mangoes, avocados, pears and apples. We are set to fly with our Fila-Terranean Menu.

Let’s Begin The Good Food!

My wife did most of the preparation but I threw out a few ideas, such as adding raisins to the cold Macaroni Salad. I prepared Ham Salad, using leftover Ham from an imported canned Ham, which I had actually forgotten about being in the freezer.

Chickpea & Pasta Salad is another good idea that I found, served chilled.

Cold Chicken Salad is always good to me on a hot summer day. I was reminded about this one when I read an article on the Bacolod Food Hunters about Roli’s Restaurant is open again in Bacolod. Roli’s first opened in the 1940s and their Chicken Salad Sandwich on toast is the best found in a restaurant in our area. Thank you for the tip, Martin!

I have yet to see fresh artichoke in our area but the canned version is available. Cold Pasta Salad with Artichoke is another great idea to beat the heat.

Filipinos may not like this one but it works for me. Cold Tuna and Rice Salad. Yes, the rice is cold, right from the ref. Throw in a few green olives and sliced tomatoes to kick it up a few notches!

How in the world could I forget about Gazpacho, the ultimate cold soup? This is a great one.

Salmon Salad. I have 1 can of Bumble Bee Pink Salmon on hand. Add chopped celery, chopped red onion and chopped dill pickles.

There isn’t a type of noodle that I recall, which cannot be made and served cold. Robin Hood Noodle Manufacturing Company is in Bacolod City. I buy their Hokkein Noodles at Metro, which are already in their ref showcase. These are fresh noodles, not the instant style, also called wet noodles.

The first time I had a cold noodle dish was in the airport in Tokyo, about 30 years ago. It was either Soba or Udon Noodles. At first, I was turned off because I was expecting a hot noodle dish but the more I ate, the more I liked it.

Have fun with your hot summer cold menu!

I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

Actually Living in the Philippines

One of our late American friends made a comment about me and another good American friend, Bob from Texas, several years ago. We have both lived in the Bacolod area for 7 years. Our late friend said, “those 2 guys are so laid back, they have to lean forward to walk!”

That is one of the keys to our success and happiness in our area of the Philippines. No, we do not see 3rd World where we live, either!

While others are banging their heads against a wall and crying out for other expats to get on their soap box, we are enjoying life in the Philippines. Bob and I are also still alive. Stress kills. Too many expats put life sapping stress on themselves. Over trivial things. Over nit picking things and about things which do not amount to a hill of beans. Yet, they make it out to be a life ending crisis. There may be inconveniences but nothing life threatening.

Don’t Change A Thing

Some of the same people who complain about immigrants going to the USA and trying to change the very fabric of American Culture fit the same mold here in the Philippines.They want to teach Filipinos how to do things correctly! Some foreigners say they feel like strangers in their own country due to the influx of refugees or other immigrants and their way of doing things differently from the American way, or the UK way or the Australian way, etc. Then, why come to the Philippines and try to make Filipinos feel like strangers in their own country?

I agree 100% with my best foreign friend in the Philippines, Don. He has lived here 25 years. “Learn how to learn from your hosts, not teach them.”

Keep On Rollin’ With The Flow

Despite the current advice we often give nowadays, I did not have any real experience or quality time in the Philippines before I moved here for one year in 1986. There was no internet in the those days, no Yahoo Groups or Forums about the Philippines. I left my American logic back in the States and I enjoyed my new life in the Philippines very well. I was not looking to find Monday Night Football, Budweiser, Louisiana Hot Sauce, Krystal Hamburgers, Waffle House or the other things commonly found in the USA. I had that much figured out before I arrived. I was not going to find it and I had already accepted that aspect of life in the Philippines. I was not even looking for those things, as I was on a new adventure in life. I enjoyed every second of it!

In 2016, it is a great bonus that I can buy Louisiana Hot Sauce, Heinz Chili Sauce, Horseradish and many other food products that I enjoy in Bacolod. However, I lived here and enjoyed life very much before any of those were available. I was still happy in the Philippines. Of course, I am happy that I can buy things in our area of the Philippines that I enjoyed in the States but my happiness is not based upon that. My happiness does not revolve around trying to find America in the Philippines.

In the land of the blind, even a one eyed man is King. An old saying. Well, I have 2 eyes and I can see clearly. It seems there are some in the expat community in the Philippines who are blind. They haven’t actually seen and fully realized where they are. They are now in the Philippines. I do not think anyone put a gun to their heads and made them move here, di ba?

I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

PS I still plan to post the article soon about Day 2 in Sipalay City.