An Ethnography of Return
[Philippine Retirement Authority] should find ways to boost the growth of the
booming retirement industry in the Philippines. [The world’s] graying population is rap-
idly increasing. . . . The Philippines is in a very good position to take advantage of this
potential. . . . As one of the flagship projects of the Philippine government, I want [the]
to boost its efforts to develop and promote the Philippines as a retirement haven and
contribute to the increase of foreign investments. —Former Philippine president Gloria
Macapagal- Arroyo
In 2007 the former president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo,
made an appearance at the unveiling of three colossal retirement villages
in the Batangas region, a large province just eighty kilometers south of the
country’s capital region, Metro Manila (see figure I.1). The mere mention
of these multimillion- dollar property ventures, christened with names like
the Imperial Silvertown, Chateau Evercrest Retirement Project, and Batu-
lao Monte Grande, evokes a particular retirement fantasy. The manner in
which the word retirement proliferates in the vast inventory of brochures
and websites produced by the Philippine Retirement Authority (pra), and
the global campaigns initiated to sell such developments, tends to evoke a
particular meaning of return for its consumers: one that is simultaneously
foreign and local. They can certainly expect to experience a wide range of
amenities, all of which are now commonplace to tourism throughout the
globe. Yet while retirement in the Philippines has often been associated
with non- Filipinos, the way these villages cater to localized aspirations at-
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