BACK at my golden lair in the Empire State Building after a two-week business related vacation in the country of my birth.

I recall that the last time I visited the country was for one month in 1998.

My grandiose plan then was to establish a business complete with the establishment of a corporation, and the hiring of five inexperienced office workers in an office in Parañaque, Metro Manila.

I did not realize that as an American citizen, the laws of the Philippines have placed restrictions on foreigners engaging in business in the country.

Hence, after spending a bundle in forming a corporation, my dream of entrepreneurship gone, I limped home to my adopted country to continue my work in advertising in the Filipino Reporter.

With a couple of years left before I turn to be an octogenarian, what the heck, why not revisit my old country and see if I can spend the remainder of my golden years in the island.

Welcome at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport

The airport is still teeming with kibitzers, with name tags, at the airport.

Under President Benigno Aquino III’s administration, gone are the mulcters in the airport looking for a quick buck from visiting tourists and Balikbayans.

Navigating the immigration and customs personnel was a breeze.

No unnecessary inspections of the Balikbayan’s bags.

Do not take the taxis in the airport.

Two visiting tourists from Norway who just arrived ended up losing everything they had when the taxis they had flagged at the airport took off while they were alighting from the cabs.

The other tourist, Jabes Kayemba, lost his luggage and P11,000 in cash to a taxi driver when alighting from the taxi to check into a hotel in Ermita when the cab he had hired at the airport sped away with his belongings — a laptop computer, a digital camera, two pairs of shoes and P11,000 in cash.

The smart thing to do by visiting tourists is to request the hotel where they are staying to pick them up at the airport at a cost of P1,200.

Even locals are not spared by the thieving taxi drivers like the 69-year-old former teacher who was held up by the driver in Quezon City by pretending that his cab had developed engine trouble.

The victim said that the driver took her jewelry, cell phone and cash.

Fortunately, she was able to recover her valuables because she kept her wits about her and memorized the name and plate number of the taxi. (Feb. 25, 2011 issue, Philippine Daily Inquirer.)


After more than 15 hours in the air from Kennedy Airport in New York to Manila, I arrived at my hotel in Metro Manila tired and hungry.

With no advance notice, I took the hotel’s car service to take me to the gilded home of my family friends, Dr. Chito Dizon and Connie Dizon, in Old San Juan to rest and recuperate.

I have not seen the Dizon family for 13 years except for their brief visit in New York some years ago, yet I was welcomed like family in their ancestral home.

Cost of living

The average monthly salary of an office worker in Metro Manila is P10,000 (around $232.55).

Today, the highest salary for a Pagasa (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the weather agency) official with a doctorate degree is at the level of P20,000 (around $465.11). (March 4, 2011 issue, Philippine Star.)

Breakfast at McDonald’s is $1.93.

Yes, there is Starbucks in Metro Manila at $3.48 a cup.

Lunch at Rufo’s Restaurant in Makati is only $3 with no drinks.

Hence, a Fil-Am retiree receiving $1,600 to $1,700 a month (around P68,000 to P73,110 on his or her social security pension can live comfortably in Metro Manila or elsewhere in the Philippines.


There are several new casinos in Metro Manila, Tagaytay and Cebu.

Danny Paragas, who has resettled in Metro Manila many years ago, brought me to a new casino in Parañaque where I met two retirees, one aged 78 and the other 86.

Other friends who wined and dined me during my two-week vacation are the following: Mac Caliwara, controller of The Standard Today, who picked me up at the hotel and brought me to a seafood restaurant at Ortigas.

Mac is the son of my former boss at the Philippine Congress where I served as his congressional secretary, congressman and later governor of Quezon Province, Eladio A. Caliwara.

Dr. Chito Dizon and his wife Connie Dizon invited me for dinner, twice, in a restaurant in San Juan, while Larry Ruiz, who used to work at the Filipino Reporter, brought me to Rufo’s Restaurant in Makati.

Overall, after 42 years in the Big Apple, I missed many of my friends, drinking buddies, co-workers and bosses at ANSCOR, and classmates at San Beda College of Law who are either deceased or disabled.

Home away from home

A once vacant lot along busy Shaw Boulevard in Metro Manila now stands an imposing first class hotel, Lancaster Hotel Manila.

As a former advertiser in the Filipino Reporter, I was welcomed warmly by Lorie T. Guion, general cashier; and Marlyn N. Usi, Assistant Vice President of the treasury department of Pacific Concord Properties, developer of Lancaster Hotel, in my two-week stay at Lancaster Hotel.

In my golden years, would this hotel be my home away from home?

My bill for two weeks: P1,000 plus (around $27.90 plus) in a hotel with an average charge of $112 a night.

This is my secret which I will not share with my readers.

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