Living in the Philippines?

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Living in the Philippines

Living in the Philippines, you will experience a fascinating Southeast Asian culture. Influenced by Spanish and US colonialism, the way of life there is truly unique. For a first glimpse of life in the Philippines, read our guide on housing, healthcare, education, and safety for expats.
A low median age and cultural diversity are characteristic of the Philippines.
  • A large part of the population is based in Manila and Cebu.
  • Private healthcare services are increasingly common in the big urban areas, but they come at a price.
  • A variety of international schools are available for expat children — mostly in Manila, though.

Foreign residents and expats living in the Philippines will not only be part of a diverse expat community, but also experience the cultural diversity of local society. Music is a particularly important aspect of Filipino culture and part of daily life in the Philippines, as evidenced by the countless local fiestas. Often religious in nature, these celebrations involve music and dancing, and you would be amiss to not take the opportunity to participate in one!

The Youthful Population of the Philippines

There are about 102 million people living in the Philippines, spread across about 2,000 of the nation’s 7,641 islands. Most of the population is still quite young; the median age is 23.2 years. A quarter of the residents living in the Philippines — amounting to 25.5 million — have settled in the country’s urban center, the Greater Manila metropolitan area. Cebu and its capital, Cebu City, account for a big part of the population as well.

The country’s cultural diversity makes life in the Philippines quite attractive for many. The biggest ethnic groups are Tagalog (28.1%), Cebuano (13.1%), and Ilocano (9%). In terms of religion, the majority of the population is Roman Catholic (81%). The Muslim minority in the Philippines makes up just 5% of the population. These figures are based on the latest census taking ethnic groups and religious affiliation into consideration, which was conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2000.

Along with Filipino, English is an official language in the Philippines and is commonly used, especially in academic and professional settings. As such, a good command of the English language should eliminate any language barriers for expats living in the Philippines. In fact, in 2013 the Economist described the Filipinos as being among the best speakers of business English in the world.

House-Hunting in the Philippines

The country’s 7,641 islands offer plenty of lifestyle choices for expats who want to live there. Rural farmhouses, condominiums, and rooms in shared apartments are all available. As is the case almost everywhere in the world, housing is not as widely available in urban centers. The rent is also higher than in remote rural areas.

The rents are highest in Metro Manila. The best and safest way to find a place to stay during your expat life in the Philippines is through recommendations from friends and colleagues. Internet listings like Philippines Properties and classified ads in local newspapers are also great ways to start. Important national dailies include The Philippine StarThe Daily Tribune, or Manila Bulletin.

The typical lease for upper-end apartments in the Philippines lasts twelve months, and you are usually expected to pay rent for the entire year in advance with postdated checks. Shorter contracts are not common for these types of rentals. If you will be living in the Philippines for only a few months, think about renting a serviced apartment instead.

The Healthcare System in the Philippines

In 1991, a local government code transferred the responsibility for healthcare services to local government units. Now, provincial governments run and administer provincial and district hospitals, and the governments of different municipalities, in turn, run rural health units and barangay (village) health stations. The Department of Health, on the other hand, manages specialty hospitals, regional hospitals, and health centers.

Medical services in the Philippines are offered by both the public and the private sector. Private providers are becoming increasingly common and are predominantly located in big urban areas, offering a wide range of facilities from pharmacies to maternity centers and hospitals. The public sector is made up largely of three main providers:

  • national government providers (hospitals and central as well as regional offices of the Department of Health)
  • provincial government providers (hospitals, provincial blood banks, and provincial health offices)
  • local government providers (of a city or municipality)

Unfortunately, public primary healthcare facilities are of rather low quality, particularly in rural areas. Current reforms aim to improve both quality and availability of essential healthcare for people living in the Philippines.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

Jacques Paillard

"All expatriates in my company joined InterNations because it really helped me get accustomed to my new life in Manila. "

Adriana Rodrigues Zon

"The idea of getting to know other expats in Manila was very appealing to me, and I've greatly expanded my network in the Philippines. "

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