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A Kind of Death

By David Haldane

July 26, 2018

It feels like a kind of death.

Everywhere I go, I wonder whether it’s the last time I’ll ever be there. Each thing I do seems like something I may never do again. A friend recently wondered whether I realized that this could be my “last and final move.” Another spoke somewhat more directly: “Do you think you’ll die there?” she soberly asked.

What they were referring to, of course, is our imminent move to the Philippines. By the time you read this, in fact, it will no longer be imminent but an established fact; this life will be over and the first throes of a new life in a strange and faraway place will have begun.

For now, though, I am still here and therefore focused more on what I’m leaving behind than on any promise the future may hold. For the future, after all, is still shrouded in fog while the past is quite clear and bright.

We’ve had a good life in the U.S.A. Both Ivy and I have engaged in meaningful work. The community to which we moved three years ago has embraced us with open hearts. And what once was an empty house in the California desert has become a much-loved home.

So why are we doing this anyway? The plan to move to Ivy’s home province of Surigao del Norte was first conceived several years ago. Our world was quite different then; I had tumbled from a career position I loved into a job I hated and toiled at for half the pay. Ivy’s career as a medical lab scientist had not yet blossomed. And living in coastal Southern California had become more expensive than we could bear.

So, looking to the country of her origin, we hatched a plan of escape. First, we bought some land there and started building a house. And then, to minimize the burning of bridges, we moved to the desert where it’s a whole lot cheaper to live. So cheap, in fact, that – aided by rental income – we fully expect to be able to keep our little desert abode even when we are no longer its primary inhabitants.

As I’ve said before, it was an exceedingly long-range plan. But even long ranges eventually end, and we have finally come to the end of ours. Both of us have given notice at our jobs. I’ve obtained a 13A visa and purchased airline tickets. We have begun packing what we think we can carry and sending the rest ahead. And soon we will be hosting a farewell party to bid adieu to our friends.

All of which should be very exciting, of course, but here’s the thing; the tickets are one-way. And so, between bouts of excitement, I am experiencing the pangs of loss. Sometimes they are pervasive enough to tug at my heart and moisten my eyes. At other times, I’m sure, they make me irritable and difficult to live with for the people I love.

There’s only one antidote, of course, and that is time. Enough of it must pass so that I am more involved in the rebirth of the future than the death of the past, more focused on what is ahead than on what is behind and so busy creating a new life that there is no time left to mourn the passing of the old.

I pray and expect that it will all happen soon.






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A former Los Angeles Times staff writer and winner of a 2018 Golden Mike award in radio broadcast journalism, David Haldane fell in love with the Philippines on his first visit there in 2003. A few visits later, he also fell in love with the beautiful young Filipina to whom he is now married and, with whom, he has returned many times. David has written extensively about his experiences in the Philippines for several publications including Orange Coast and Islands Magazine. Today he and Ivy, along with their eight-year-old son, Isaac, divide their time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Surigao City, Philippines. His award-winning memoir, Nazis & Nudists, recounts, among other things, the courtship of Ivy and finding a place to call home. For David that turned out to be at the tip of a peninsula marking the gateway to Mindanao where he and Ivy are building their dream home next to a lighthouse overlooking the sea. This blog is the ongoing chronicle of that adventure.






  1. As a note, being married to a Filipina, you automatically get a 1 year Balakbayan visa when you enter together. You will want to use that instead of the 9a since then you won’t need to renew your tourist visa every few months. Balakbayan means returning home. In this case, your Pinay wife.

    The visa-free stay privilege is extended to the balikbayan’s non-Filipino spouse and children, on the two conditions that (1) they enter the Philippines with the balikbayan and (2) they are citizens of a country listed below.Former Filipino balikbayans traveling to the Philippines are advised to bring either their old Philippine passport or copy of Philippine birth certificate as proof of their former Philippine citizenship. Accompanying family members of the balikbayan can bring appropriate supporting documents:
    For the spouse: copy of marriage certificate
    For each child: copy of birth certificate
    For adopted children: copy of adoption papers

  2. Rob Ashley says:

    David: I too bought a one-way ticket in 2011 after quitting my university job and moved to Cebu. My two klds in the US, though both adults, were both mad at me, but have come to accept that I have moved to the Philippines. I just needed to change my life from the grind I had been living in the US. And though I miss some people sometimes, there’s not a lot I miss about the US; life is pretty good here; it is definitely simpler, and I guess I won’t do some things I’ve done ever again, but that’s ok. I have a poem for you, that I think you will appreciate as you go on the Voyage.

    by Tony Hoagland

    I feel as if we opened a book about great ocean voyages
    and found ourselves on a great ocean voyage:
    sailing through December, around the horn of Christmas
    and into the January Sea, and sailing on and on

    in a novel without a moral but one in which
    all the characters who died in the middle chapters
    make the sunsets near the book’s end more beautiful.

    —And someone is spreading a map upon a table,
    and someone is hanging a lantern from the stern,
    and someone else says, “I’m only sorry
    that I forgot my blue parka; It’s turning cold.”

    Sunset like a burning wagon train
    Sunrise like a dish of cantaloupe
    Clouds like two armies clashing in the sky;
    Icebergs and tropical storms,
    That’s the kind of thing that happens on our ocean voyage—

    And in one of the chapters I was blinded by love
    And in another, anger made us sick like swallowed glass
    & I lay in my bunk and slept for so long,

    I forgot about the ocean,
    Which all the time was going by, right there, outside my cabin window.

    And the sides of the ship were green as money,
    and the water made a sound like memory when we sailed.

    Then it was summer. Under the constellation of the swan,
    under the constellation of the horse.

    At night we consoled ourselves
    By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
    But there was no home to go home to.
    There was no getting around the ocean.
    We had to go on finding out the story
    by pushing into it—

    The sea was no longer a metaphor.
    The book was no longer a book.
    That was the plot.
    That was our marvelous punishment.

    “Voyage” by Tony Hoagland, from Hard Rain. © Hollyridge Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

  3. Paul Thompson says:

    Will I be buried here? I’ve lived here since 1993 so I would hazard a wild guess and say yes.
    For reasons unique to each of us we find the reason why we moved to the Philippines to many and varied.
    In my observation of people arriving I’ll tell you that I think that less than 1% were wrong to have made the trip without preparation or silly dreams, but then we never hear from them again, do we?
    Enjoy our life, as is our right to do so.

  4. Hello, David,

    Like yours, mine was an economic move. Like yours, our situation improved slightly during the long range lead up to the move. But not nearly enough to change course. We had packed up and moved from one end of the earth to the other a few times before, so I never really compared my emotions before moving to a death. But I did look at things like Autumn leaves, and snow with a new appreciation. I can still see them. If I want to. It’s only a plane ticket. But, I always knew what I wanted to do at this stage of my life. I just didn’t know where, or how, or when. And now, here we are.

    Take care,

  5. papaduck says:

    You can prepare all you want, but it is still scary making the big move halfway across the world. It didn’t help that he house we were staying in flooded a couple of months after i arrived here. But have been here 5 years now, so far so good. In the end it will all work out fine for you.

  6. Carlo_ D Lucero says:

    To Feyma,thanks for sharing your experience ,it’s my plan for the future year and half from now .plannig to buy a smallfarm in tagum and build a small house.my wife and i is thinking of the same thing work in alaskathen go home in the winter or if we find a place in alaska we will stay How’s the housing for couples in the work place ,anyway my wife is from Digos City we’re american citizens filipino origin