From Italy to the Philippines: the extraordinary story of Paolo and Juliet
Thinking Nomads is all about showing people how to follow their dreams and what it takes to fulfil them; in this interview we recount the extraordinary adventure of Paolo his wife Juliet, and their 3 children, who moved from the mountains of Trentino, Italy, to the beaches of Philippines, in a tale full of emotions, determination and the desire to find a fulfilling lifestyle for their family.
My name is Paolo, I am 43 years old, born in Trento, Italy. I’m married to Juliet, who is 41 years old from the Philippines. Juliet was not even twenty when she came to live with me in my small village in the Trentino valleys. She had just arrived from Asia and began working as a baby sitter for a doctor in my village. Our relationship blossomed and we lived together for many years before we got married; everyday we had to face people who said our relationship would never work. Twenty years on we have 3 children: Gieselle(20), Kristian(13) and Thomas(6), they are living proof that things worked out for us and continue to do so.
For most of my adult life I worked for myself as an artisan carpenter, I earned good money and gained a lot of satisfaction from my work. However, one day, I decided that I had to change something in my life. I realized that being a good husband and father didn’t mean just bringing a wage into the home and putting family relations in second position. I thought to myself this couldn’t be the only way to live, there must be an alternative better and more fulfilling for the whole family.
In 2002 I closed my company; exhausted from working 12/14 hours days often spending Saturdays and Sundays drawing up estimates and invoices. At the age of 34 I found a job working for someone else and I received the first paycheck of my life: 1300 Euros; including family allowances, in proportion to our cost of living I had never earned such a small wage, not even when I was in my twenty’s. I continued with this job for three long years, everyday thinking about when I would be leaving for the Philippines”.
Juliet also worked a part time job in the mornings then in the afternoon she looked after the house and children; she accepted this willingly, sharing this choice that we made a few years ago to save up and move to the Philippines.
The children spent their days in school/kindergarten and at home, but to me it was like watching my children grow up in a cage, they were always living with constraints, they weren’t carefree as I was at their age. I have such happy and joyful memories of my childhood, always being outside playing. I wanted them to experience all the freedom and the happiness that I had as a child; I thought to myself we will succeed; we all just need to be patient.
Three years after my first paycheck we were all on a plane to Philippines for an indefinite period, even our tiny newcomer Thomas, who was certainly the most exited about moving.
We had visited the Philippines almost every year since 1990, but always as tourists, it very different this time. For the first few months we lived under a weight of uncertainty and with limited funds.
We sold some of the properties in the countryside to local people and reinvested our profits by buying land on the beach. One thing led to another and in 2007 started the adventure of spiaggefilippine.com, our website.
Sales of other properties allowed us to purchase further more valuable land. In 2008 we built our first beach house that we sold quickly. This sale opened our eyes to new business opportunities; promoting new investments and doing other businesses, all the time we were not driven by the will to get rich, but more by the desire to follow our instincts, and enjoy the benefits that followed.
Explaining our lives and how we live now is not easy: currently we are building a tourist resort in Palawan and we have other businesses as well, but still have plenty of free time. We travel often, by plane, boat, ferries and cars for both business and pleasure. Occasionally we live like Robinson Crusoe, sailing between the islands, eating grilled fish we’ve caught, and in the same day we could be shopping in a luxury mall.
We do not live in one place, we have 5 houses in total in 4 different provinces and the only thing that keeps us from living from living a complete nomadic life is the schooling for our children.
We have been through good and bad times, but we have always managed to prevail together. I have so many stories to tell that I could have written a book! I hope our story can be a useful testament to others. I hope people will understand that if we are ever to reach our goals, we all owe to ourselves to make choices in our lives that never veer from our ultimate goal; even if it’s not necessarily the shortest or most convenient path. Furthermore we should always accept our responsibilities; so when we make mistakes, they should just fuel our growth and encourage us to improve.
When did you decide to “change your lifestyle” and leave Italy?
A) My first thoughts about the possibility of living Italy came to me when I was twenty, I was on holiday in Thailand watching some young German guys finish work on their beach bar, they were due to be opening. They got me thinking about the possibilities. By 2001 I had made up my mind that we had to leave Italy, however I had to wait 4 years before I could make the transfer possible, it wasn’t easy to move a family of 5 people.
Did you travel a lot before you decided to settle in the Philippines?
A) I had travelled a little, especially up until the age of 22, then my family and children limited the amount trips I could make. The countries that I had visited are: USA, UK and Ireland, Tunisia, Thailand, Greece, Yugoslavia (when it was still a state) and several other European countries. If I had not travelled I could have never even imagined living elsewhere.
Why did you choose the Philippines as your new home and not another country like Thailand for example?
R) I was familiar with the country; since 1990 we made countless visits there to see relatives and have a vacation. It had the qualities that I was looking for, health services, social aspects and economic benefits. After 1998 the country improved greatly and it became a country where one could have a very good standard of living.
One misconception people often make is to compare the countries in this part of Asia and think they are all similar. To say that Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines are similar is like saying that Russia, Sweden and Italy are similar. Apart from almond-shaped eyes and rice as a common food that is where the similarities stop. These are countries have their own politics, language, currency, culture, traditions, cuisine and religion.
For example the Philippines is the only Asian country with a Catholic majority, which is an important cultural bridge between them and us. With a coastline of 36.000 kilometers of tropical beaches it is the fifth largest in the world. A coastline which is much longer than the United States, China, Brazil and even Australia; in Asia it is the second longest coastline only after Indonesia.
In the Philippines you have created a business: what is it and what do you do?
A) We actually have more than one business: we rent boats to tourists, and in a few months we will be opening a tourist resort. But our main business is to provide assistance to those who want to move from Italy the Philippines; we assist people looking for property and those that would like to start a business.
On our website, spiaggefilippine.com we also offer beachfront properties, resorts, beaches and entire islands for sale or rent. We offer assistance to those who purchase property ranging from obtaining a permanent visa to planning and building permits. As well as carrying out the requirements for opening a business like customs clearance for containers, obtaining a driving license in the Philippines and much more.
We offer a year of post-purchase support (a unique service in this part of the world) we help untie all the bureaucratic knots. This is a totally secure service that includes a wealth of information and the knowledge to get the best way to communicate with this proud and hospitable people.
It is a customized service tailored to each person’s requirements. Enabling people to change their lives in a relaxing, risk-free, error-free and stress free way. We have created it like this to give the people the certainty of improving their standard of living and lifestyle without the feeling of risking their entire future.
What has been your most difficult moment since you left Italy and best moment since leaving Italy?
A) The first months were very difficult; they were mixed with unconscious joy over the new life and total uncertainty of what we were going to do. This question that came to us whilst living in Manila and watching our children play was, “… and now what?”. I felt like someone who was in a huge empty parking lot and but I didn’t know where to put my car. These feeling were not good; especially when you have a family to take care of. But you can still find happiness in life, even in those moments when you feel like a trapeze artist. In those moments after deep concentration the right solution always emerges.
We didn’t have the benefit of a website or service like Spiaggefilipine.com to help us. This was one of the reasons we started the website, to help others avoid the hardships that we had. Also to ensure people start in the right direction. There are too many good moments to count, the most beautiful moments, I hope are yet to come.
What do you like most about your new life in the Philippines?
A) Freedom, in the fullest sense of the word. It’s a bit like being back in the huge empty parking lot, but having no doubts anymore about where to park the car. A thousand doors open with a thousand new and different opportunities. For each project we accomplish many more arise.
What sporting activities can you do in the Philippines?
A) There are no limits for sporting activities, you can do everything from surfing, rafting, trekking, climbing, amazing Scuba dives or just sun bathing on the beach. You can take a horse ride along the green paddy fields or swim alongside a whale, go fishing or bird watching. It’s a country which is full of surprises.
What do you miss most about Italy? Do you plan to go back one day?
A) Personally the only thing that makes me a little nostalgic are the mountains of Trentino, the rest; Italian food is found here too. We have no intention of returning to Italy except as tourists, and to show our children the country of their birth. Our youngest does not remember Italy he was a baby when we left. I think it will be a few years before we go back. Italy today, in all honesty makes me feel scared. If I were to go back I would feel like a fish out of water.
What suggestions would you give to people who would like to change their lives but do not have the courage to do it?
A) To stay where they are. If you do not have the courage for such a change is better not to do it. What I mean is that “the will to change your life” is usually not supported by reasoning or logic. It takes above all determination and the strength not to look back. It takes strong convictions, otherwise you will fail at the first hurdle and go back home.
The decisions we make to leave our old life behind in search of something new and different, shouldn’t be taken lightly, with that decision comes unexpected difficulties, uncertainty, the sun isn’t always shining, there isn’t always the beautiful beach, and revenue to live on. Those who want to make the tropics their home must be aware and see both sides of the coin. Those that just expect the beautiful side, should not even think about living abroad, because they are in for a big disappointment.
Quick Fire questions on the Philippines:
1) Best place to visit:
A) For me, it is the small uninhabited islands of Calamian, but I have to say it’s not for all tastes. From the rice terraces in the mountainous area of Banawe to the majestic volcano called Mayon.
2) One place unknown to mass tourism:
A) There are many, the tourists always go to the same places, few divert from the classic routes. I can recommend hundreds and hundreds of islands scattered across the archipelago, a paradise for those who love peace and the wild beauty of nature, or Juliet’s native land located in the far province of Quezon. A village that opens up to the ocean and which can only be reached by travelling by boat.
3) The most touristy place to visit.
A) Definitely Boracay, one of the most famous beaches in the world with more than half a million tourists visiting per year.
4) best time of year to visit the Philippines
A) In the Philippines all year I good, but for those who do not like to use an umbrella, it’s better to come from November to June. The peak of the season is March / April / May which coincides with school holidays.
Paulo & Juliet
Manila – Philippines
Cost of living: With a house(for food, clothing, fixed costs of the house and outside) 500 Euros per month to live well, from 1,000 to live in luxury. 400 Euros correspond to about 1,200 Euros in Italy.
Homes for sale: Small apartment: 40,000 Euros; Mini-apartment in a skyscraper in Manila: 50,000 Euros; Villa with pool and garden (land included): between 100,000 and 200,000 Euros; Land with wooden house on the beach: from 60,000 Euros. Important! These prices are valid only as an example to give no more than an idea. The prices of the properties are not subject to any restrictions just at the sole discretion of the vendor.
Houses for rent: apartments in the city: 300 Euros; apartments on the beach: between 400 and 600 Euro; villas: from 800 Euros per month.
Cost of a meal at a fast food: 1 or 2 Euros; restaurant: mid-level from 4 to 7 Euros per person, high level: 15-20 Euros per person.
Cost of fuel: Gasoline: 70 cents per liter; Diesel: 50 cents per liter.
Auto Insurance: Mandatory: 50 Euros per year. Comprehensive insurance for new high-powered car, about 500 Euros per year.
Language: Filipino. Second language: English.
Currency: Philippine Peso (1 euro is about 60 Php).
Time zone: +7 (+6 with daylight saving time).
Religion: Catholic 83%.
Climate: Tropical. Dry season from December to June, rainy season from July to November. Average temperature: 29 degrees.
Vaccinations: No compulsory. Recommended: Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tetanus coverage.
Visas: Not required up to 21 days stay. You can extend your stay with visa renewals every two months, up to a maximum of one year.