My Enchantment

My Enchantment with Tropical Island Life

I always wanted to live on a tropical island. I’m not sure why but it could have all began while growing up watching the Gilligan’s Island television  series. It was not always Ginger or Mary Ann that  captured my imagination as a boy (though I won’t deny that the two  young beauties played a good  part in my cognitive development), as much as it was the beautiful beaches, all the coconut trees, and the turquoise blue lagoons. It was every episode and re-run that Gilligan threw at me that drove my fascination with  discovering and living in my own tropical paradise, wherever it may be.  I knew I needed to get one of those sailor caps that Gilligan used to wear. After graduating high school, me and my best friend immediately migrated to the closest place that we knew had palm trees and warm weather (thanks to  the technology of  television) and we settled in Orlando, Florida. It wasn’t long before I ventured out even further and landed in Key West, where I discovered the famous “Cheeseburger in Paradise” culture of relaxation and peacefulness. Ah, the life in “Margaritaville” and the tropics. I quickly learned however, that without money and some form of sustenance, I was destined to return home to reality – the now even more dreaded snow-belt of North-central Illinois, where I just knew I would live the rest of my life growing up living between a bean field and a corn-stalk.  I needed a plan and it wasn’t long before I placed my bet…I would take my chances and join the U.S. Navy. 

At least I could start with the Gilligan hat!

Where I Once Imagined I Could Live

Where I once imagined I could live…not today though.

After returning to Illinois, it wasn’t long until I was swearing to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution, without any reservations (well, maybe a couple). The Navy guaranteed me photography school but as sure as the world turns, “stuff” happens, and I found myself accepting an assignment to “Weather Observing” school (Lakehurst N.J.) after boot camp. I was going to become an Aerographer! How prophetic this was, as I can remember during my late teen years, my late father quite regularly accused me of walking around with my head in the clouds. And this was the result of my armed forces aptitude test???  Okay I thought, it was a good fit. Whether it was prophecy or irony, I was resigned to a career of watching the clouds AND getting paid to do it. It was more than a good fit, it was perfect! I can remember some of the strangest looks on my friends faces when I told them I was going to get paid for staring at the sky. And, It just kept getting better as my living in the tropics destiny would have it – my first set of orders after “Weather” school landed me in Guam, U.S.A., where America’s day begins! Not only was it lush and tropical, but It was also in the  Domain of the Golden Dragon. Nice beaches, coral reefs, coconut trees, and the Asian fiesta. Many, many fiestas!  Did I mention the tropics?  I figured life couldn’t get any better than that. After I landed there (at the ripe old age of 19) I found myself working a great job all the while getting paid to live in paradise. Eight of the next twelve years found me living, working, or visiting somewhere between the 180th meridian and the Indian Ocean, mostly under the tropical sun. It seemed to always follow me…from Guam to the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong, to Diego Garcia, and back to the Philippines, where I met my match…and my Filipina bride (1984).

House Under Construction in 2012

House Under Construction in 2012

As everybody’s road map in life consists of funky twists and turns, and even an occasional unplanned U-Turn (or three), mine was no different. The bulk of my non-government sponsored lifestyle (after the Navy) found me living and working in the U.S., and like many others in recent years, have been sucked into this working-class rut of a “work-to-live”  lifestyle scheme, all the while being witness to an obvious demise of culture and the once powerful American middle class. Our mutual cognitive dissonance forced us to make a decision…either we work-to-live, and  take our chances with some form of a late [non-guaranteed] retirement, or make a run for it back to the tropics where we could relax and live life to its fullest.

Our choices were:

  •  Keep working hard to pay bills
  •  Shell out much of it to insurance companies
  •  Pay ever-increasing taxes and higher costs of living
  •  Live with increased regulatory compliances
  •  More healthcare complexities
  •  Witness a continued erosion of individual liberties and loss of personal freedoms
  •  Live a life of stress


  • Liquidate all assets and become less materialistic
  • Join the family
  • Enjoy a more stress-free lifestyle
  • No house payment or large monthly obligations
  • Live under the warmth of the tropical sun
  • Enjoy un-crowded beaches with more coconut trees than Gilligan and the professor could count together
  • Retire in the Philippines

This was not an arduous decision. As a matter of fact, once we gave ourselves the green light, it didn’t take me long to pack my complete wardrobe of shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops and like a true sailor, I was ready to get underway on a moment’s notice.  And…believe it or not, I still had my Gilligan hat!

At the time of this writing, it had been just over 6 years since we purchased a corner lot and began construction on our home in a small fishing village outside of Calbayog City, Samar. It suddenly became much easier to make a decision to retire a little earlier than we previously planned, and once that decision was made, our focus then shifted to getting as much of the new house completed as possible before we actually left the U.S.

Shortly after selling our Mississippi home of nearly 18 years, we found a temporary rental. We liquidated all remaining assets and continued to sell all the personal items that we didn’t ship to the Philippines. When we were down to our suitcases and two cats, we departed. I’ve never looked back.

Our Home Today

Our Home Today (2015)

Visit my “Before Paradise” section of this blog to read about the “There-and-Then” chronicled events leading up to our retirement to the Philippines. It should provide a good idea of what it takes to prepare. Visit often as I continue to document the saga of living in paradise, through my own personal perspective, of theHere-and-Now.”

Also visit and Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for some of my Philippines experiences and see what living here has to offer.

Visit my Channel here.

Visit my Channel here.





If you are considering a retirement move to the Philippines, and with some steady-as-she-goes planning, you too could someday find that some coconut tree, on some deserted beach somewhere, has your name on it (you’ll need two for your hammock). You just never know.

Digital drawing commissioned for Retired in Samar by: Jeric Gal, Barangay Tomaligues

45 thoughts on “My Enchantment

  1. You said it Randy. I suppose everyone can’t or won’t make the decision to move here, but they sure are missing out. I guess if everyone comes, then maybe it wouldn’t be so wonderful.

  2. Well Randy, we are both ex-navy, ex-Illinois, married to Filipina’s from Samar, and both expats. I’m here now in Zambales waiting for 2013 and my trip down to Northern Samar. Shoot me an e-mail

  3. Wow! You don’t happen to like digging through dry summer Illinois river bottoms for turtles to make turtle soup, do you? Just kidding. 😉
    To be honest, I’m not surprised of the irony. I could easily live in Zambales too but because the wife’s family is so wonderful and all live in Calbayog City, that is where we have been building. We traveled up to Subic last April to meet with Paul Thompson and his wife and enjoyed several cold ones together. We are just waiting for the house to sell here in Mississippi and we will be on our way. You can connect with me on fb at at your convenience. Thanks for visiting and hope to see you here more often.

  4. Can’t look at Hawaii now. I’ve never been there. I’d like to go for a few days though, or even a week. Maybe someday.

  5. Alright someone else commenting on this blog. You’re moving up Randy. Well Terrence I got 2 of the 5 requirements. I am an expat and I am married to a Filipina, but I’m not ex-Navy (Air Force), not from Illinois (Texas) and my asawa is from Southern Leyte. I do live in Calbayog City though.

  6. Alright, I’m in. Break out the Red Horse, chips, peanuts and chicken wings, let’s party. I wish I had some decent chicken wings anyway. I suppose I could find out how they make them so good and do it myself. That will be my next project after I find an expat, preferably with a blog, in Southern Leyte. In the meantime, I’ll have chicken adobo instead. I love that stuff anyway.

  7. Made some progress in the last two weeks and got rid of a couple big items. Read all about the small steps to packing and moving in the “Dockside” section.

  8. I just found your website. Congratulations on your decision to retire in the Philippines. Should we call you IlliniFil now? Tsk, does not sound good.. either way, commented on a post by a friend of mine. And your reply had your website link. Thanks for trying to motivate ‘boomers’, among others, to retire to an exotic land where the currency has a pic of the American Flag. It’s a secret that’s slowly being let out. Nice home as well, similar to my second home in Bataan. Guess you can call me a BataanBoomer. Just waiting for the day when I am able exercise my ‘exit strategy’ and escape to my own private Idaho. Kudos to you sir, well done.

  9. Hi Jon, Actually I consider myself to be a Texas transplant as I left Ill many years ago. My goal is not so much to motivate anyone as it is to get them to just think outside the box. Many people spend their entire lives not knowing that they have options. For me, you, and many others, the Philippines is an excellent option as it is more westerized than most would think. I’m not sure what you meant about escaping to “private Idaho”, but I do like the idea of escaping! 😉 By the way, my sister in law lives in Marivelles, Bataan and we visit when we can. Thanks for the kudos and thanks for visiting and hoping you will share.

  10. Randy,

    My wife is from Libmanan, Cam Sur (Bicol), where we built our house last year. I am not sure that we will ever retire full time to RP, but we enjoy spending Janaury and February there each year. There are no other expats in Libmanan, and very few in Naga City – the largest town and provincial captitol – so I plan to travel when we are in RP.

    All the best on completing your house; it looks like you have a good start.


  11. Bicol is just up the road from us (and a short ferry ride) and it would be nothing for me and my yak to make a trip north. Our house is finished on the outside and now we move inside where the ceilings are being finished and painted. Once we get there, we will put the finishing touches on the inside and the yard and patio areas. Should be something to look forward to. Later Mike.

  12. I like reading through an article that can make men and women think.

    Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!

  13. nice looking house and great article. know that are house is finished in sorsogon city and we have purchased a 2 hector rice field. we will be selling our house here and making the move to paradise hopefully soon.

  14. Just stumbled across your website. I have a place on Biri Island. Stop by if you’re ever in the neighborhood. Fiesta is June 24&25.

  15. Just found your website. I’ll be working and living in PHL and hoping to make it permanent. I’m not retired but I’m Ex Air Force and my company will be helping TriCare covered Ex Pat’s access Health Care.

  16. Sounds great! Where will you be working from and what company are you with? This could be good news to the thousands of Tricare eligible living in the Philippnes. More details would be appreciated and please keep the updates coming. Thanks.

  17. I will be interested on any info from Doug on his tricare seminar. as i’m sure all retired military that live in the philippines. and one’s planning a move there soon should be interested.

  18. retiredinsamar.
    What I’am looking for is an amount figure that I can start with. I keep working but like you said, not getting anywhere. Kids are married and moved on and I want to take it a little easy. My mom was from Northern Samar. Last time I was there was in the early 70’s.

  19. What do you mean by “start with?” If you are asking what it will take to get settled here, it all depends on whether you will be renting, living with relatives, or building your own home. As far as income goes, and to live comfortably, you will need an established income of about $1,400 per month… and that will not be a lavish lifestyle. Life is definitely more laid back here.

  20. That’s what I was looking for, thank you for providing the info. I was thinking of just renting to begin with. Don’t want to stay in Potong with relatives. Want to start anew so to speak. Again, I appreciate the time you took in answering my questions. Take care.

  21. Depending on amount of rent, $1,400 means rice will likely be your main staple ( you can make a lot of different meals using rice as your base food). And luxuries like aircon, maybe in the bedroom only. We made it for over 3 years on about $1,400 and lived well, but we have no housing costs other than electricity and water.

  22. Depending on your rent costs, you can live okay on $1,400 but rice will be your main staple food (you can create a lot of different meals using rice as your base food). We lived comfortably on $1,400 for over 3 years and was still able to add to our savings, but then again, we have no housing costs other than electricity and water!

  23. Just got back from northern samar …mondragon … 5 months .. i want to rellocate the gf to eastern samar …i wont be back till september …just like to know lot prices or small houses there …surf in northern samar not the best …

  24. Can’t help you with pricing but I’m guessing property in E. Samar should be cheap. Want better surf, head to SE Samar!

  25. Hello! I love your blog! Just found it right now because I googled building a home in Samar. My husband and I are talking about retiring in the Philippines early.

  26. Hi Kyna, glad you found the blog. You might also like my YouTube channel. Just look for the “Videos” link on the blog menu. Enjoy!

  27. Randy just found your blog and I have to say it has been eye opening for sure. I was planning on coming first for a visit, and then moving there. Now I am rethinking my decision. I have no connection to the Philippines except 8 months spent there back in the 80’s with the USMC and loved every part of my adventure there. And no not talking about Angeles City adventures. Anyways keep up the good work on educating those interested in coming there. Good luck and god Bless.

  28. My wife (Ilocano from San Felipe, Zambales) Nina and I are enjoying your vligs on YouTube. We like your humor. No thought of retiring to the Philippines but it is interesting to see your clips. I am retired army officer of military intel. We live in Southgate Michigan. I am an amatuer photographer and think you are doing a great job with your cameras. Where do you get your music for the vids?

  29. Sorry Dennis for such a late reply. Music in my vids is usually taken from royalty free selections offered by YouTube or my video editing software. Also, you can find royalty free music online. As a photographer, you should consider joining the “Steemit” community where you can post your photos and get paid. Here is the link:

  30. Dear Friend,
    My name is Nerissa and I am Filipino and Italian. I am an expat, a traveler, and a mother. I have just created a website called to talk about the stories of people that for different reasons live or travel around the world.
    I hope you could contribute with your personal story to this website. I would also appreciate if you can also publish some of your best articles that are currently on your blog/website also on (obviously, I will give you credits for your posts).
    I thank you for your precious time and, whatever your belief is, I wish you a peaceful time for Christmas.
    All the best,

  31. Shipmate, found your blog while searching expat sites, I read your story and am seeing myself in your tale, but just a few years behind you. I was a USS MIDWAY Sailor back in ‘87 and then to Cubi Point and stayed there until the bases closed and retired in 2016. I am now in that “working to live” mode you wrote about. My asawa of 28 years and I are currently living and working in Okinawa and planning out our exit strategy to Legazpi City. Looking forward to checking out more of you site and videos

  32. Good to see you found my site. I have had comments turned off for some time now because of all the trolls and spammers inundating the site with crap. Anyway, your comment found it’s way. Good to know we will have neighbors in Bicol. Don’t settle too close to Mt. Mayon, she’s been real tempermental of late. Make sure you connect with me on my facebook page.

  33. After five years, I am beginning to revise my “living in paradise” outlook. I still love the Philippines but there are certain things that will get under your skin the longer you stay. Check out my blog on

  34. I enjoy your blogs,We r from Rockford,il, I grew up around Chicago.We decide to move too the Philippines about 5 or 10 years.My Beautiful Wife is from Danao, Bohol.We bought land near the Beach in Dauis,Bohol.I knew I wanted to live there,Simple Life,Fresh fish from the Sea.I want to thank you for your blogs.It show me that We r doing the right move. thank u very much.

  35. Hi Dale, sorry for the late reply. Also from the Chicago area… never going back for sure! After spending nearly 5 years in Samar, we have decided to come to Guam and plant some stakes (or steaks – not usually in stock in PI). We will treat our home in Calbayog as our retreat and travel back and forth. A long stint of time there tends to change one’s outlook on things. Some more than others. We have travelled to Bohol and while it reminds me a lot of Samar, it is also just as isolated. I will agree with you on the points of a more simple and organic life for sure. Thanks for visiting.

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