I believe the answer to be, “Yes, millions do!” I made no mistake in my article title. I meant $200 not $2,000. I meant “happy life” not survive. The key word in the title is “person” which is not an expat. Most persons in the Philippines are not expats; they are Filipinos. Millions live on less than $200 a month. The only questions I have are:
- Are they living a “happy life” or are they just surviving?
- How can they possibly be happy with so little?
There is no scientific way to measure a “happy life”, but the suicide rate is 3.8 per 100,000 persons in the Philippines and 12.6 per 100,000 persons in the USA, my home country, according to the World Health Organization. The fact that Americans are about four times as likely to take their own lives would probably shock most Filipinos, who view the USA as the Promised Land. I think I know some of the reasons for this fact. I like lists so here is one based on my thoughts:
- The more one has the more one wants.
- Americans tend to value possessions above people.
- Things do not ultimately make one happy.
- Filipinos tend to be closer to their families.
- Filipinos tend to have strong faith in God and an afterlife.
- Suicide is seen as more socially acceptable in the USA than in the Philippines.
- Filipinos tend to get their entertainment by interacting with people, while Americans tend to get their entertainment by interacting with things.
- Generally, Filipinos talk more with their neighbors.
- Filipinos have more free time to think.
- Filipino time means don’t worry about being where you are when you are supposed to be there, so Filipinos have less stress.
Again, I do not offer this as scientific proof, but death rates due to the use of mind/mood altering drugs is about 17 times higher in the USA than the Philippines 6.96 to .41 per 100,000, again according to WHO. I am not judging people for using drugs to alter their reality with drugs. I used to do so with alcohol before my wife came into my life. This fact would also come as a shock I believe to most Filipinos and some Americans.
My reason to feel that Filipinos living on $200 or less in the Philippines comes from my visits and correspondence with them and from listening to the experiences of Filipinos who now live on considerably more money here in the USA. As always most of what I write is my opinion and I could be wrong, but I think I can give a good detailed explanation of how this is possible. I will not be doing so in this article. I know well the counter-arguments to my position. If poor Filipinos are so happy why are they so desperate to go overseas to make money. Part of the reason is the perception that life is better and easier in other countries. I have tried to explain how hard I work to support my family’s middle-class life in the USA, but the poor Filipinos really do not believe people from rich countries have to struggle to make a living. Another argument is that Filipinos who leave the Philippines and become wealthier may think back fondly on their previous poverty, but do not choose to return to it. This is true once a person has become accustomed to living with more material wealth it is difficult for them to return to a simpler life. This does not necessarily mean that they are actually happier than they used to be only that they have come to “need” more stuff to be happy.
I also do not think I would personally try to live a happy life on $200 a month, but I know how I would try if it became necessary. I have learned much from my interaction with Filipinos. Many think the beauty of the Philippines can be found in a bar watching some smoking hot 20-year-old Filipinas with straight jet-black hair down to their butts wearing only g-strings dance to “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Mötley Crüe while drinking a cold beer…I can see how one could see beauty in that, but the true beauty of the Philippines for me is how Filipinos make so much out of so little. There is, of course, a point where so little money becomes too little money and a happy life is not possible even for a Filipino. I am not sure what that amount of money is and I think it depends on the individual person. The next time I write on this topic I intend to explain Question #2, “How can a person live a happy life in the Philippines on $200 a month?”