I was inspired to write this article while standing in the queue at the Bayad Center at SM North last night. About three people ahead of me, an obviously elderly Kano was paying his bills, and arguing about the seven peso (US$0.12) additional fee that is charged to process PLDT payments at SM.
As this utterly stupid and asinine argument was occurring, I started to reflect on things a bit…
“Hey, you old bastard! Your social security payment alone is probably around ten times the average wage here! What is your damn problem?”, I thought.
Furthermore, I saw a debate online about the “Senior Discount”, and a number of Kanos were complaining in the comments about racism because they cannot receive their 20% discount at Pizza Hut like Filipino “seniors”.
Honestly, when I write that I don’t hang around expats very often here, this type of stuff is the reason why.
First off, I’ll address the senior discounts. This is most DEFINITELY NOT an issue of racism. It IS an issue of citizenship, nationality, and Filipino retirement. Senior discounts in the Philippines were instituted, by law (RA 9994), in order to provide elderly citizens a break on the prices of basic commodities. They are mandated by law, and paid for through FILIPINO SSS contributions and FILIPINO corporate income taxes. The discounts were intended to help the poor and needy: Not some American snowbird on a pension who feels entitled. Even though the article to which I am referring (I will not link to it because I so vehemently disagree with the crap being said in there) stated, explicitly, that it was a violation of the law for foreigners to obtain a senior discount card. Don’t believe me? (Someone is bound to argue that they have one anyway). Here’s the text of the law:
Senior citizen – means any resident citizen of the Philippines at least sixty (60) years old, including those who have retired from both government offices and private enterprises, and has an income of not more than sixty thousand pesos (P60,000.00) per annum subject to review by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) every three (3) years.
The term “qualified senior citizen” shall refer to a resident Filipino citizen who meets the statutory requirements of Section 2 of the Act and Section 2(b) of these regulations.
use of the Senior Citizen privilege by a person not entitled to use the privilege is punishable by a fine of not less than P50,000 and a prison sentence ofnot less than six months. If the offender is an alien or a foreigner, he/she shall be deported immediately after service of sentence without further deportation proceedings
So, all of you Kanos holding cards or complaining that you don’t get your discount, take note that the penalties for violations are stiff, and that ANY merchant can report you to BI for fraudulent card use. So, if you decided that you qualify and hold a card, then don’t use it. You are stealing from the mouths of elderly Filipinos. Hope that 40 pesos you saved at Pizza Hut was worth the jail and deportation…
As to the guy griping about a seven peso fee… If that is such a hardship on you, then perhaps you should have stayed in the United States where you were qualified for relief programs.
Look, I understand fixed income, I’m a senior, I’m frugal, times are tough, and so on. However, realistically, anyone who contemplates moving here on a pension, for whatever reason (love, healthcare, whatever) should damn sure be certain to separate the myths from the reality. Just as in the USA, there is inflation, prices change, and things will never stay the same. Look at it this way: If you are earning $1,500 per month in US Social Security or pension, that YOU paid into, you are in a better financial position than 70% of the people in the Philippines. Do you really, honestly, think that anyone here gives one whit that you are financially strapped? Of course not! Then why complain? YOU made the decision to move here. NOT the cashier at the Bayad Center earning P 300 per day, if she’s lucky. Why bitch at her?
So, some myths and the reality:
Myth 1: Living is cheaper here.
Reality Check: It can be, if you want to live at Filipino standards. Most foreigners may say they can, but realistically, most cannot. Most likely, your biggest savings will come in rent and commodity foods. Electricity, gasoline, vehicles, and virtually all imported goods are more expensive.
Myth 2: You are not rich.
Reality Check: Even if you are “poor” by US or European standards, you are considered wealthy here.
Myth 3: I won’t help my wife / girlfriend’s family with money.
Reality Check: You WILL, if you want to stay married.
Myth 4: I have ___ Years experience at ___. I can get a job / earn a salary.
Reality Check: No one cares how long you were an HVAC technician. There are hundreds or thousands of Filipinos who are willing to work cheaper, with no benefits.
Myth 5: I can set up a business online, like Bob, and make a living.
Reality Check: Yes, it is possible, as Bob can attest. However, if you think that the money will start rolling in just because you started a blog, then think again. It is, and requires, WORK. I can think of at least 20 dead web sites started in the last year by expats trying to make money. The rules of business are the same everywhere, but the Philippines has a very different culture, and what you think may apply is most likely very different here.
Myth 6: The Philippines is so corrupt. Every official is out for graft.
Reality Check: Though there are some corrupt officials here, it is nowhere near as widespread and prevalent as some make it out to be.
Myth 7: I can live like a king on $____ per month.
Reality Check: I’ve met a couple of kings through work. Not bloody likely. You can be comfortable, and depending on financial ability, live a pretty good life here. However, luxury goods are expensive here, just as in the rest of the world, and the king lifestyle will get awfully expensive very quickly. Locally produced good, labor intensive services, and rent will be where your real savings will manifest. However, maintaining a foreign lifestyle here for pennies is not really possible.
So, that list is a starter. If I were retiring here, of far more interest is making a very general budget, giving plenty of room for currency fluctuations, and not tying myself down after I immediately arrive to the extent that I could not return. I would be prepared for lots of miscellaneous fees, visa fees, visa runs, and costs that may be higher than I expected. I would have a bona-fide income generating plan BEFORE leaving, and not simply rely on what other people, especially other expats or girlfriends, write online or tell me about business or earning a living here.
Bottom Line: If you cannot afford the P 500 express fee at immigration, the P 20 tip to the parking attendant, the P 7 Bayad Fee, or a currency fluctuation, then please… DO US ALL A FAVOR AND STAY HOME. NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR YOUR COMPLAINING!
John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.