Survival in the Philippines

by AZ Rookie Prepper

I recently made a trip to the province of Bohol in the Visayan area of the Philippines to visit with my fiancée and her family. Most of the time was spent in a nice little beach resort, but I did go to her family home up “on the mountain” as she says, for a couple of days. For anyone not having been to various third world countries, it is an eye-opener to see how people live out in the country with almost no money.

Many of these people live on what they can scrounge, harvest from the wild, and from garden plots. Much of what I observed will not be applicable in the U.S. due to differences in climate, culture and terrain, however, I do believe there are lessons to be learned from my observations.

My fiancée and her parents, three of her siblings and two children live on about fifteen acres of land. Approximately 5 acres of that is planted in rice and much of the remainder is planted in coconut. Rice is the staple food and if they get in 2 crops in one year (depending on rain) they will have enough to eat all year and to sell some and make some cash. Another sibling lives next door and has another 4 acres of rice that feeds him and his family.

The hardest work in the rice fields is probably the planting of rice shoots, hand harvesting the grown rice, and spending a lot of time cleaning up the edges of the fields to keep rats from eating much of the harvest. A lot of time is also spent keeping free roaming pigs and chickens from devouring the ripe rice grain. Plowing of the fields is done with a carabao (water buffalo) because it is too difficult to get gasoline up the mountain.

The coconuts do not make them much money but serve as a sort of reserve crop if necessary. Additionally the coconuts husks are used as compost and of course, the coconut milk and meat is consumed in their diet also. A stream runs through the farm and could be used for irrigation but currently is not.

The home is a simple concrete block first floor in a t-shape. The front door leads into the living room where they have a small television (can pick up 2 channels from a tall roof mounted antenna), a small boom box radio and some home-made bamboo furniture. To the left of the living room are 2 small bedrooms. As you move to the rear of the living room from the front door is an eating and food prep room.

Off of the left side of that room is a storage area and two rooms used for male/female bathrooms. Off of the right side of the dining room is a cooking room, where all the food is cooked over a grill with heat provided by burning wood. Above the two small first floor bedrooms is the second floor with an additional two rooms used as bedrooms, these rooms are walled in with wood. A front porch has some chairs and a fridge that is locked shut when not being used.

The yard is fenced in by a simple split bamboo fence. My fiancée and her brother recently replaced that fence by climbing up the mountain, harvesting wild grown bamboo, splitting it into smaller pieces to attach to railings that are attached to large posts sunk into the ground. This fence is used as support to various vine type flowers and edible vine crops too. One of the edible vine crops is loufa gourds. The interior of the yard is mostly flowers with free range chickens roaming throughout.

A large kitchen garden is located about 50 meters from the house. The crops grown here are green beans, eggplant, chayote, bitter melon, corn, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet peppers, and spinach. Taro plants are on the outside of the garden along with lots of various fruit trees such as jackfruit, mango, bananas, plantain, papaya and lychee.

Potable water is provided by a large spring up the mountain, with a large PVC pipe bringing the water down the mountain to approximately 500 homes. If a large quantity of people are using the water, obviously those towards the downhill end do not get good water pressure. No one has a water heater, if you need warm or hot water, you boil it yourself and then use it.

The nearby small village (called a barangguy or barrio) has no services at all, no stores, no medical care, etc it consists strictly of homes. Many of these people make their living by cutting firewood (almost everyone cooks with wood), running the rice polishing machine, or raising specialty crops such as malunggay (a highly nutritious edible plant also used for medicinal purposes). Many of the homes consist of bamboo frames covered with rattan with simple tin roofs or even roofs made of natural materials.

Transportation consists solely of pay-to-ride small motorbikes, almost no larger vehicles come up the mountain due to needing 4-W-D to get there. Or you have the option of walking the 18 kilometers (approximately 10 miles) to the town. In order to get to a doctor, its a harrowing one hour ride down the mountain on a motorbike. My future mother-in-law has been to town 3 times in the last 18 months.

Everyone carries a 14-16 inch bolo knife. I even observed school kids carrying a bolo knife to school on Fridays to help do cleanup around the school. Dogs, chickens, and pigs roam freely, no one seems interested in stealing someone else’s livestock. Crime exists, but usually, comes from outsiders coming up the mountain.

Electricity is available but is expensive and frequently goes out several times each week, for seconds, minutes, hours, even days at a time. No one up the mountain has air conditioning and many don’t use electricity at all. Candles are the usual nighttime source of light for many.

These Filipinos and Filipinas live a hard life with almost no money and difficulty obtaining even the most basic of needs, but they live. It was inspirational for me seeing how these people get along. While they might not have much, they do seem happy and healthy and have enough to survive


  1. Goatlover says:

    Did these folks use any methods of food preservation? Dehydrating or salting perhaps? Much of what they grow is included in my little farm here in Florida where summers are long, and very humid.
    It’s amazing how other cultures live and are happy….our culture, on the other hand, has so much yet is discontent most of the time.

    • yes that’s exactely how they do it salt, dried, and smoked. Its dryer in the Philippines than you would expect because the ocean is cooler than the gulf of mexico, so humidity most of the time isn’t a problem, but crime and poverty is !

    • Greg Monger says:

      Goatlover, My in-laws (I wrote this article 5 years ago) do not preserve much of their harvest besides rice. They do purchase dried fish from the ocean (they live way up the mountain). Mostly they either eat vegetables and fruits fresh or they purchase from a farmers market from someone else selling them fresh. They do not have the resources to work on preserving food mostly. Some smoked meat, mostly pork but that is only occasionally.

  2. We know Malunggay as the Moringa oleifera tree. Truly a remarkable plant. Google it to find out it’s uses.

    • Bam Bam says:

      Dang, I had two of these trees growing before the neighbor’s lawn man mowed them over. I grew them easily from seed. In six months, they were more than 6 feet tall.

    • the leaves reduce blood sugar and the guayabano leaves kill cancer. I think you can buy them both on amazon or ebay

    • Greg Monger says:

      Sirius, you are correct. Malangguy is the same as Moringa oleifera. The Japanese think of this plant as a “miracle food/drug” as it is good to eat (very mild flavor) and very very good for your health.

      • Greg,
        Stick around my friend. I’ve missed seeing you around here. The weekends are when the BBQ’s on.

        • Greg Monger says:

          Sirius, you are speaking my language !!! BBQ should be its own food group. As with all of us at times, life gets complex and very busy, not enough time to do all I would like to do.

  3. JP in MT says:

    My neighbor is married to a Philipina and this reminds me I need to have several sitdowns with them. They go back regularly.

  4. Jesse Mathewson says:

    Great article, something to consider, debt to income…those third world persons almost always have no debt…versus usa “rich” who generally carry 4 times their income in debt…

    Who is truly richer?

    I’ll always choose my treasured third world nations, specifically Mexico which I love … regardless what some poor saps tend to believe It is a good country of good hard working people … 🙂 much like what you observed in the Philippines, crime is big city, urban and almost always government related- makes ya wonder, what if dc was gone- better or worse? 😉

    • Bam Bam says:

      What if DC was gone? That depends on what time of day and what day the event happens that wipes out the city. If 9-5 Monday through Friday, then most of the political elite will die. But if it happens on a weekend, a holiday or during non business hours, the ruling class will still be in charge–no one who works in DC lives in DC. The politicians live in Northern Virginia and Southern Marilyn.

    • Greg Monger says:

      Jesse, I wrote this article about 5 years ago, my wife and I have been married 4.5 years now. I agree that the two (Philippines and Mexico) are very similar. I spent quite a bit of time fishing in Mexico (off the coast at Puerto Penasco and up and down the Baja). I like your ideas on Wash D.C…….

  5. Bam Bam says:

    This is the best post I’ve read in a long time. I’ve traveled abroad quite a bit, so the description of ordinary life your fiancee’s family home is not that shocking. You mentioned the taro plant. I’ve read about taro root but I’ve never researched to see what the plant looks like. Now that I’ve done some research I see that we have this plant growing all over the place here. I would only have to walk 10-15 feet to harvest some.

    • Tye Beavers says:

      Beware! There’s at least one poisonous look-alike plant called the “arrow arum plant”. Here’s an article about the arrowroot, but there’s a section about the arrow arum plant at the bottom of the page:

    • Greg Monger says:

      Bam Bam, thank you for the great compliment. I actually wrote this 5 years ago and M.D. re-posted it. Tye Beavers is absolutely correct, be very careful about your local “taro” plants. They could be the arrow arum plant. American Indians supposedly ate the arrow arum plant but it had to be cooked for hours to make it safe. Also, with taro, it MUST be cooked, do not attempt to eat it raw. It will make you quite sick eaten raw. Probably the biggest difference is taro grows out of water and arrow arum lives in water/marshy areas.

  6. anonymous says:

    Isn’t it funny that the people who live humble lives are so able to get along with each other without complaint. I’m betting that the line to receive ‘free government benefits’ is a short line indeed, if it even exists.

    Thank you for the article – some great content here !

    • Greg Monger says:

      anonymous, I wrote this article about 5 years ago, M.D. re-posted it. The Philippines has very little in “free govt. benefits”….you don’t work, you don’t eat over there. Thank you for commenting, I am going to post another Philippine oriented article in the next couple of months on barter and trade.

    • one of the tribes speaks perfect Spanish, cant remember which one

      • no! many people receive govt aid now but its not much! best thing I have ever seen in the Philippines !

        • Greg Monger says:

          bill, actually you are correct, they do get some aid but not much. My mother and father in-laws get very inexpensive govt subsidized health care. I think that is about all they get. My bro and sis in-laws do not get anything.

  7. Ronald Beal says:


    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Ronald, is your entire purpose on earth to be a troll? If so, you are insanely terrible at it. 🙂 It is enjoyable seeing you make your name trash everywhere- 🙂

  8. Ronald Beal says:

    I wrote a comment, was then instructed to reload the page, which I did. The reload wiped out my comment. What gives- is that a new procedure for each post? Should the page be reloaded prior to writing?


    • Bam Bam says:

      Ronald, the same thing happened to me. You don’t reload the page; you want for the website to reload the page. This seems to be part of the new “check the box if you are not spammer”. Just click “reply” and wait about 10 seconds.

  9. Nobody knows or even begins to understand the Philippines until they have spent years there. There are approximately 150 languages and various tribes including Muslims. When you pick a woman or a wife anywhere you should read proverbs written by Solomon in the old testament. The same things hold true today in every culture. Find a honorable respected family. The woman in many cases but not always will be as honorable as her family is. Extreme poverty will make people go to great lengths to come here or get out of there. Most survivalists could not make it in the Philippines without philippino help. Stay out of the southern Philippines.

  10. Ronald Beal says:

    A good article- thanks! Much of the world lives from day to day, without excess food or a backup plan. Every day, if there is work, one works to buy food for energy to go to work the next day. Many do not eat every day, but when food is available. The first meal of the day is leftovers from the night before. I am not bitter, and live as comfortable as anyone needs to be- but reality is that America is the most gluttonous nation on the planet. The typical middle class family throws away every day enough foot to support another family of four in another country. You will notice, we prep to maintain our standard of living- our way of life. There will be a great change in our mind set when survival is the goal.

    • Ronald Beal says:

      correction: “…enough food to support…”

    • Greg Monger says:

      Ronald Beal, You are absolutely correct sir. Most of the world struggles for daily rations while we Americans are fairly spoiled, not all of us but many. Our U.S. “poor” do not really know what the rest of the world calls “poor”. Thank you for writing.

  11. Bam Bam says:

    What was the name of our Filipino guy who posted here until there was that big tropical cyclone that hit the Philippines? I really liked him. He talked about how his village had one source of water, a pipe made of PCV that was fed by a mountain stream.

    • Greg Monger says:

      Bam Bam, I don’t remember his name either but I remember who you are talking about. That cyclone was Typhoon Heiyan and it hit my in-laws too. Tore all the leaves off their coconut trees and severely damaged their rice fields. It damaged their house by breaking off a bunch of coconuts that crashed through their roof.

  12. Centurion_Cornelius says:

    Great read–THANK YOU! For the second time, I am reading Wm. Manchester’s book: “American Caesar–Douglas MacArthur,” and I am truly impressed by the Philippines and its people. Gen. MacArthur’s father, as well as himself, spent considerable time there, and Douglas absolutely loved them and their culture.

    We owe a great debt to the “Philippine Scouts,” legally a part of the U.S. Army, for their courage and bravery in WW2, defending their homeland and fighting the Imperial Japanese forces. They were some of the very first units to be in combat in WW2.

    They are a great nation, full of brave and honorable people, 93% of which are professed Christians.

    We wish you and your future wife great happiness, health, wealth, and a loving family.

    As my Padre told me, when we were married 50 years ago:
    “Ang mabigat ay gumagaan, kung pinagtutulungan.”
    (Anything that is heavy can be light if we put our resources together; your joy will now be doubled, while your sorrows will be halved!”)

    • Greg Monger says:

      Centurion_Cornelius, Actually, I wrote this article five years ago and M.D. re-posted it. It still applies. My wife and I have been married 4.5 years and while we have our ups and downs, it is mostly ups and I will be with her forever. I really enjoy history too and read the American Caesar book a couple of months ago. You are correct, the Philippine people overall are pretty good people to have as a friend and militarily. I really like your Padre’s words, great words to live by. Thanks for your response to my post.

  13. Molino Lou says:

    Wonderful description of the Philippines, one of the very best countries in the world. My Filipina wife of 44 years still helps her family members when they need it and I support her in this 100%. The Filipinos are a friendly folk and most of them even like Americans – imagine that! Thanks again for your wonderful article.

    • Greg Monger says:

      Molino Lou, Thank you sir for the compliment. I wrote this article 5 years ago and M.D. re-posted it. My wife and I have been married 4.5 years ago and we too help her family. She is talking with them on the phone as I write this reply !!!

  14. Arche N. says:

    Dwarf moringa (malunggay) trees can be grown successfully in some U.S. hardiness zones–in containers if one needs to bring them indoors in a northern winter. It is truly a miracle plant to my mind; do try it if you can!
    Western-style allopathic medical care is indeed difficult to access for rural villagers, and there are several types of healers, some using medicinal herbs, prayer, and/or other rituals.
    I, too, would recommend not going to the south as an outsider because of ongoing conflict and serious risks, including urban crime in some areas. Also make sure you take antimalarial medicine or TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) herbs against malaria in many areas.

    • Greg Monger says:

      Archie N., you are correct sir. The island of Mindanao is quite dangerous. Most of the other islands have their problems, my wife’s island was invaded by some muslim terrorists a few weeks ago and they killed one police officer and three soldiers. All of the terrorists were hunted down and killed. Obviously big cities have higher crime rates all over the world, the Philippines is no exception.

  15. Good people around us, promotes happiness. Stuff, often enslaves us, and leaves us feeling empty.

  16. good article! my filipina wife and i lived in philippines for 8 months in 2015 and 2016. her family is in badian and does does not have electricity. her uncle earns pesos by pedaling his bicycle with side car attached taking people places localy and hauling jobs. we support his 5 children with school supplies and send things to them by ship. also support her mon and dad with $300 us each month. that pays the SSS so she can get retirement in about 10 years. she hurt her back while working at Timex many years ago. also paying wifes and her mothers burial insurance, which is fully paid next year, it is transferable so wife can give it to someone it only covers the burial expences as the grave yard is family owned that i
    we would still be living there except i can not take the heat there because i had a heat stroke in 1980’s while working as a roofer in minnesota.

    • Greg Monger says:

      leonard, It does get hot in the Philippines. Fortunately my in-laws live “up the mountain” and it is a little cooler there than at sea level.

  17. Molino Lou says:

    After showing this GREAT article to my “asawa” of 44 years,
    she asked me why I had not mentioned that I, too, had gone up her mountain to bring her down to get married. Well, I did, and boy, am I ever so happy to have done so. More on that later.

    • Greg Monger says:

      Molino Lou, I would say you are well aware of the life of those who live in the remote areas of the Philippines. I think that much of what they go through day-to-day is a good lesson or lessons for those of us that want to prepare for life and potential catastrophes or economic collapse or any other problem. Please do share your experiences with us all.

  18. Molino Lou says:

    For any single guys out there reading these posts, I encourage you to fine your own Filipina and see how wonderful and interesting life can become. For example, when you marry a Filipina, you marry the whole family, parents, siblings, cousins, etc. and she is gonna want to stay in touch with them all the time. So, you will need to subscribe to Direct TV for The Filipino Channel and get Startec for all the calls she will be making to the Philippines. More on this later….

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Molino, I found myself a sweet lil Mexican 🙂 and love her as well- very similar cultures really -family oriented – etc ,

      • Greg Monger says:

        Jesse, You are correct in that the two cultures are very similar. I spent many weeks in Mexico in various locations, mostly camping and fishing. The two cultures have the Spanish commonality and even have some of the same foods. The Philippine people do not speak much spanish, but do use some of the nouns and some phrases.

        • Jesse Mathewson says:

          Yes, language differences, as Phillipinos retained much of their tribal heritage, however, very very similar culturally. Quite nice actually.

    • Greg Monger says:

      Molino Lou, I agree with your assessment. I actually wrote this article 5 years ago and M.D. reposted it. My wife and I have been married for 4.5 years now and while we have had our troubles as all couples do, mostly it is a great partnership.

      • Jesse Mathewson says:

        Greg, love It! Very nice!

        • Jesse Mathewson says:

          Together 10, married 6 now- quite happily, and yes she is born Tucson, but retains all values- huge!

          Interestingly, she does not speak Spanish, but does speak Japanese/English while I speak Spanish (passable good accenting) English/ and a bit of others

          • Greg Monger says:

            Jesse, I speak Korean (Army taught me) and bits and phrases of a few other languages, while the wife speaks Visayan, Tagalog, a little Chinese and English. Of course I speak English too, and bad English LOL…..

  19. Molino Lou says:

    How to find a Filipina, you say? Well, there are all those “Pen Pal” sites, but I’d suggest having a Filipino friend or family who can recommend a friend or family member to make the introduction – after that its up to you. And if you eventually want to get married, you will have to go to the Philippines to do so and lucky YOU! Any of you interested in this delightful outcome and want to ask us, we’d be happy to oblige. Good Luck to you!

  20. Do the rules for finding a good Filipina wife hold true for finding a good Filipino husband as well?

    • Greg Monger says:

      B, I would say the rules for finding a good husband or wife are fairly universal. What is important is what is in the heart and mind of the individual. Regardless of nationality, a good soul is the first priority.

      • you cant know whats in the heart and mind until you have lived there long enough to really understand the culture there. I saw it so many times I lost count, guy comes over for a month or two or even a couple years and gets eaten alive. you better have at least 5 years on the ground and a prenuptial !

      • Jesse Mathewson says:

        Greg, so very correct!

        Bill, study the art, seriously-if you want to know a culture, art- including but not limited too poetry/song/drawing-painting-ink / tattoos- outside of language which Filipinos have many actual – art is everything and I’ve never seen it fail as an accurate descriptor of cultural approaches.

        Perfect example, modern American art is chaotic, undecided and childlike- (look at our society as a general whole)

        While Ukrainian artistic expression has evolved but remains quite demur (sic, spll) in contrast-

        Eg., Ukrainian people are generally more trustworthy and steadfast in many but not all areas…

        Filipino art in some areas retains tribal leanings with a mix of religious/eg., Catholic or Islamic leaning as does Mexican art, musically for instance both cultures are quite “boring” when compared to USA, with some changes and shifts with time, but overall…

        Lending to a more affable and stable home life, and less interest in commercialization-

        (Changing in Mexico recent years but mainly border and large cities – and thanks again to imperial USA ) 🙂

        • yes I have been to ukraine twice also*did meet some honest people but mostly felt it was a scam), 10 years in phils, 1 year plus in korea, 5 or 6 years in uk, many countries in asia and Europe. stay out of muslims countries, always carry ear plugs and if you can a water filter. you cant find a place with no roosters in phils, and if you are near muslims the laws, people and prayer towers will drive you nuts. 1st wife Korean, second phil, god mother Japanese and best friend growing up was Chinese, so I have been to many countries there so much so I can usually tell where the people are from by their looks or language.

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!

Speak Your Mind