Thursday, March 10, 2011

Philippines Friday-The Cost of Living

I decided I am going to start a new weekly post called "Philippines Friday".  In these posts, I will share with you something about the Philippines.  I want to record and share our Filipino experience and this will make sure I at least post weekly.

This week I do not have pictures to share, but I wanted to share something else with you.  Recently I have felt a little frustrated with a misconception about living in the Philippines.  People think it's cheap to live here.  I mean...the average income in this country as of 2006 was 172,000 pesos, which with today's exchange rate is about $4000.00 a year.  So, how could it not be "cheap" to live here, right?  How else could people do it?  I have been asking myself this question ever day since I arrived.  HOW DO PEOPLE AFFORD TO LIVE HERE? I guess the first answer is, People live in VERY different conditions here.  (scroll back 2 entries to see how different the conditions are). No, not everyone lives with no running water and no electricity.  But, it is not uncommon to find large families living in very small dwellings and in conditions you can barely imagine. Also, most people do not own or drive cars.  They use the public transportation system, which includes riding trikes (motorcycles with little buggies on the side) or jeepnies. If you want to live in a  home that we would consider "normal", drive a car, eat at very basic restaurants, go to movies once in a while, wash your laundry in a machine instead of by hand, go to a gym, pay for things like the internet, air conditioning in your home and eat "regular"'s NOT CHEAP!  I will give you a little breakdown of some of the things we pay for here:

1. Rent for a "decent" apartment about 700sq ft is $700.00 a month in the city, out on Mactan it is a bit cheaper.  (Yes, this is cheaper than the rent we paid in California, but you could DEFINITELY find a comparable apartment in Utah County for this much or less)
2. Electricity each month for that same size house with air conditioning is about $230.00
3.TV is $20.00 a month and only works about 50% of the time
4. The Internet is about $35.00 a month
5. Gas for our car is currently costing us about $5.00 a gallon (and our car gets 14 miles to the gallon, yikes)
6. A bag of Tyson Frozen Chicken (like the one you buy at Costco) is $21.00
7. A 1/2 gallon of the ice cream brands you can get here are about $4.00.  The GOOD stuff (Tillamook) is $9.00 for a 1/2 gallon.
8.  Used cars are very expensive here.  They are actually between 1 and 3x as much as they are at home.  This will be nice when we sell our car, but not nice when you have to buy one.
9. Groceries in general.  ANYTHING organic or imported is at least double the cost of what it would be at home.  Vitamins are about double what they would be at home.  Going to the grocery store is not cheap.

Yes, there are things here that are "cheap", but they are more of the "extras" not the necessities.
1. Eating out.  We have found great restaurants with good food for between $3.00 and $20.00 a person.
2. Movies.  A "normal" theater is about $2.75.  If you want 3-D its about $4.00.  IMAX is about $9.00.  The treats at the movies are cheap.  A soda is between $.75 and $2.00.  The popcorn is like a dollar.
3. Massages.  You can get a one hour massage for $5.00
4. House Help.  You can get a house helper that lives with you. cleans for you, cooks for you, etc for between $50-$100.00 a month.  Obviously, they get free room and board, but still!
5. Manicure/Pedicure: $4.00
6. Haircut for Ben including a head massage $1.25

One thing that really hit me and helped me realize HOW people live here with such little income was when I read in the newspaper the other day that the average Filipino household spends 50% of their income on food!  Now, again, this was in a newspaper and not something I have been able to confirm, but when I read that it made more sense but it shocked me.  How much of your monthly budget goes to food?  Is it 50%?  I know for us it is not, that is just one portion of our budget, not 50% of it.

Anyway, I guess I had to just vent a little today.  Don't get me wrong, we are grateful for the incomes that we do have and the lifestyle that we are able to live but looking around me I realize that the idea that it is "cheap" to live here is a perception, one that hinders the motivation or ability to help the situation get better.  We are surrounded by suffering and poverty and I think this perception only hurts the situation, it does not help it.

PS.  I know some people would see this post as just being negative.  That really is not my purpose.  We are enjoying the opportunity and experiences we are having here.  I think I post a lot about the positives of living here too.  But, I am also not the type of person to pretend.  I say it how it is.  I don't sugar coat things and make them sound better than they are.  It's just not my way.  I hope this isn't seen as being negative, just honest and forth-coming.  Plus, if anyone is moving to the Philippines I want them to be a little more well-prepared than we were:).


Steve and Alli said...

That's such a great post Carmen! I think that's definitely the misconception that the Western World has about places like the Philippines and it's interesting to hear what things actually do cost. Thanks for sharing, I love reading your stories!

Pam said...

Carmen, you are definitly not negative in this post. We in the US do not deal with the realities of this world very well. I have been to Guatemala on mission trips, so I have an idea of what you are talking about. There is great beauty and inspiration in visiting or living in a third world country, but there is also great poverty and a harshness most people either don't know about or want to acknowledge. I'm glad I read your blog. I hope to read more.

This is Us said...

I didn't find that to be a negative or complaining post at all. Very informative and helpful to us SILLY Americans with no REAL perception of things. Thanks for sharing!