From traveling to a new place to opening a business that suits the area Sean Cooney successfully ran 16 different businesses in four different countries before selling everything to settle in the Philippines. After trying his hand on different businesses – from electronics to aerial photography to scuba diving – he currently runs an adventure sports company and two resorts in Puerto Galera. We spoke to him recently and he tells us how he came to the Philippines, about living in the nation and what one can expect should one decide to settle in this Asian Paradise.
When did you decide to settle in Philippines? What went through your mind while making this decision?
Actually, the Philippines kind of chose me. I was going through some upheavals in my personal life, so one fine day I told my travel agent that I needed to go someplace warm right away. The agent said he could get me to the Philippines the next day – probably the greatest piece of good luck in my life. After being in the Philippines for only two weeks I knew I was not going home. Sold the business to my brother over the phone and never looked back. Once in the Philippines, I told myself that I would do only fun stuff here…the place has some much to offer.
Which part of Philippines do you live? Can you give us a small introduction to this location? Is it a major tourist destination in the Philippines?
My resorts, lovely wife and daughter, and I are in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. Truly this is one of the top spots in the Philippines with something that will appeal to anyone that comes. Although it is a tourist destination, you need to travel only a few kilometers to be in the rural Philippines. With a myriad of things to do from scuba diving to rock-climbing and everything in between, it is both a great vacation destination and also the home of many expats.
What is Badladz all about? How are you associated with Badladz Adventure Resort and Badladz Beach Resort? Please give our readers a brief intro to these two places.
My friend, Jake and I started BADLADZ in 2000 as an adventure company. At the time we were both running amok. We met on a treasure hunting expedition to Tablas Island then and the adventure and general hell rising continued for a long time! We would be the original Bad Lads and had no idea at the time that it would turn into a family resort!
Jake sold out and moved on maybe 10 years ago and I was lucky enough to meet and marry Mylene. Today we jointly own these resorts. While I look at the adventure sports requirements of our guests, she has full control over the operational side of the resorts and is the consummate host. When people ask me how to run a successful resort in the Philippines, I always say that it’s better to ask Mylene. Located in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, which is only three hours by road and boat from Manila, we are lucky to have a long list of loyal patrons. For more information on the resorts you can visit our listing here..
For someone to settle in Philippines, what are the things she/ he should consider?
This is actually one of the easiest places to settle in Asia. The country really wants you to come and stay and they make it easy. Tourist and resident visas are easy to get. All business, law and contracts are done in English. The main consideration is that you must know that getting a job here can be a challenge! So be prepared to start a business unless you have an alternative source of income.
How would you rate Philippines as a tourist destination? How would you compare it with other tourist destinations in Asia like Phuket or Bali?
Awesome and undiscovered would be the most apt description of this beautiful country with tourists themselves finding new and wonderful spots for adventure and leisure. However the infrastructure present in other Asian tourist destinations is not evident here so be prepared for the unexpected. I’ve been to many of the Asian tourist destinations and most of them remind me of Western countries with their organized way of running things and enforcement. For people that prefer fewer restrictions, more freedom and hence more fun, then the Philippines is it.
For a visitor coming to the Philippines what are the places he can visit and the activities he can participate here?
Wow, such a simple question, but the answer could run into several paragraphs! You can do anything here that you can do any place else. There is even an ice skating rink! Skydiving and scuba diving the same day if you want! Roller coasters, visiting the many villages where people are still untouched by the modern world and commercialism, casinos and go carting in the mud. You can also learn to fly an ultra light aircraft or a sailing yacht or go for scuba diving. The list is endless. My love for the Philippines is also because of the fact that even in terms of places of interest, the country has a strong point in the adventure and diversity it has to offer. So to speak, the thousands of islands here provide a myriad of possibilities for those who want to step off the beaten path. Truly a sea lover’s paradise there is something to discover everyday! With about 7,000 islands, you’re never far away from the sea wherever you go. So you can go almost anywhere you want and the best part is travelling is safe, easy and cheap.
How is the nightlife of Philippines? Where do you ideally hangout during the weekends?
In certain areas, the nightlife is open 24 hours. Every day is the weekend here! You can find these spots in every city and many tourist destinations. Unfortunately, my day starts about 5 am and finishes at 9 pm, so nightlife is not something I see a lot.
Do you see a lot of expats settling in the Philippines? What is their average age group?
I would have to say the majority are retired males between 45 and 65, but there are more entrepreneurs discovering business possibilities here. There are also younger – both male and female – and doing everything from running fish farms, resorts and bars to web development and working in the outsourcing sector.
Is Philippines more of a retirement destination or you get to see young working expats settling here?
There is an emerging trend towards “Location independent lifestyles” and many Internet entrepreneurs are coming here for the cheap living and the well developed outsourcing industry of the Philippines. Lots of people with pensions are discovering they can have a much more comfortable lifestyle here with their pension than they ever could have at home.
What is the current real estate activity in Philippines? Are there good developments/ developers in the area?
Because Philippines doesn’t allow expats to buy land, many condo developments are being built right now in many parts of the country, especially in the touristy places. Although I will not be able to dwell on the demand side of these condos, probably the demand for property is coming from the expats coming to the country. In addition, land price speculation in developing tourist areas is also a lucrative play that’s driving the growth of the real estate sector.
How is the banking system of Philippines? Can you term it as expat-friendly? For an expat how difficult or easy is it to open an account here?
Well, the country’s financial system is regarded as one of the strongest in Asia, but from my experience in other countries, the banking system as a whole is not yet as competitive as other international banks. Having said that for expats if you have the right papers, it is very easy to open an account and Filipinos being very friendly, one shouldn’t find any difficulty. A foreigner needs an ID card from the Immigration showing their status in the country and a permanent address to open an account. I would say it’s very easy to open an account here.
What about the law-and-order situation of Philippines?
I feel safer here than many other places where I had stayed earlier. The Filipinos are basically non confrontational and there is little violent crime directed at foreigners.
For an expat wanting to retire in Philippines, what are the basic things he should look out for?
GO SLOWLY! Relationships, great deals and opportunities abound the nation. Take your time and there will be more, honestly. As you are aware my blog, Resort Rebel Dotcom, has a lot of articles on all relevant topics for moving to the Philippines and getting organized in this beautiful nation.
Can you briefly tell our readers the rules of expats wanting settle in the Philippines?
It is easy to settle here. You can stay in the country for two years on a tourist visa. Then a quick trip out and back in and it starts all over again. This is the only Asian country like this. There are Investor and Retirement visas as well for permanent residency. A marriage visa comes with permission to work if you want. All these are cheap and easy to process on your own.
Also can you tell us about the rules of expat property ownership in the Philippines?
Basically, you cannot own the land. Foreigners can own condos though and this is a nice option. If you do want to own property and decide to put it in a Filipinos/ Filipinas name then, register a mortgage on the title for more than the value of the property. It cannot be sold without discharging this lien. As an option, you can also still rent or lease property in your own name.
Any tips for expats wanting to settle in Philippines in general and the area where you stay in particular?
Look around for a year before making any decision! Travel, experience, learn, explore, study and research first. Decide what your priorities are for your budget, social, health, business and family needs. I travel constantly in the Philippines, am on a boat now going somewhere new, and after 14 years still discovering new and wonderful locations.
If someone wants to know more details on your resorts or wants to contact you what is the best way to do so?
Interested travelers can take a look at our website: http://badladz.com or take a look at our YouTube videos at: http://www.youtube.com/badladzresort. We also have a blog, http://www.resortrebel.com where you can find articles on all relevant topics related to moving here and getting organized.