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How can a (Filipino) person live a happy life on $200 a month in the Philippines?

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“This is my house.” stated proudly my wife’s older sister as she showed my wife and I where she now lived. I was shocked at the site of her house. It was a beautiful freshly painted two-story house with a low white picket fence around it that was decorative in function, not a security type fence. This house would have looked in place in a middle-class neighborhood in the USA, but in this municipality Bohol it really stood out and you would have thought it was a rich person’s home. I knew my wife’s elder sister was not well off, so I was thunderstruck.

When we walked into the beautiful house and things started making sense. My wife sister showed us her living area. She had a bed, which I am almost certain she did not own. It was part of her rent. There was an entertainment center with a radio/music player. She had just enough room to stand behind a curtain that separated her living area from another lady’s area. This was a boarding house. Boarding houses are one form of shelter available for Filipinos that do not have a lot of money. This article will deal with how Filipinos meet basic needs for shelter, food, clothing, medical care, child-care, education, and entertainment.

Visa Assistance

Shelter

My understanding based on what I have experienced, seen, heard and read about Filipino Culture is that most Filipinos do not feel the need for a great deal of personal space and that there is no societal shame placed on an adult who continues to live with their parents or other relatives. If one understands Filipino culture then it is not difficult to see how Filipinos are able to find shelter for little to no cost. Many Filipinos live with their families rent free. In these cases, the family member might be doing some kind of work for their family member that is providing them shelter like cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and watching children. Unlike most Western countries, Filipinos usually live communal lives not solitary ones.

In cases where Filipinos live outside of a family compound, they often rent a small space perhaps even a small part of a room. Having only a few possessions makes it easy for a person to live in a small area especially as I said before if the individual feels little need for personal space. What I have observed in the area I have visited in the Philippines a sleeping mat is more common than a bed. To outside observers it might look sad to see people sleeping on a mat on the floor with little room, but if that is the way one has always lived it would not make one unhappy. In many ways sleeping on a mat on a concrete floor is actually healthier than sleeping on a bed.

Food

When in the Philippines, I might eat a couple of eggs, a couple of hot dogs, and rice for breakfast. My meal for one could easily be a meal for a family of six Filipinos living on less than $200 a month. The hot dogs would be cut into six pieces and the eggs split six ways. The only thing the family of six would need to eat more of than me is rice. Outsiders like myself might think that they could not be happy eating so little meat, but if this was my normal diet that I had eaten from birth I would be happy with it and I would, in my opinion, be healthier because of less fat in my diet. Poor Filipinos eat a lot of rice, they often eat vegetables and fruits grown in their yards and protein is mostly fish, but in smaller quantities than say Americans. More well-to-do Filipinos tend to eat more like Americans and from what I have observed they have a lot of the same health problems like obesity and high cholesterol.

Clothing

One thing that should be obvious is that a person does not need a heavy coat or jacket in the Philippines. Really the only clothing necessary are underwear, shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. These can be purchased for a low price from stores that sell donated clothing. A lot of clothing is also sent to Filipinos families in balikbayan boxes. Clothes, of course, are handed down to younger siblings. Additionally, uniforms for both school and work are more common in the Philippines. It is not hard to keep clothing cost low in the Philippines.

Medical Care

It is true that poor Filipinos rarely seek medical care. They are less likely to be diagnosed with serious problems like cancer than more well-to-do Filipinos. These realities could lead to serious health problems and quite possibly earlier death than if they had better access to medical care. On the other side of the issue is that when you get sick usually one of two things happen: you get better or you die. When your body gets better on its own you develop immunity to certain diseases.

Health care cost is lower in the Philippines because most Filipinos directly pay for their doctor. Most medical bills are paid with cash. Competition keeps cost down to about $5 for a doctor visit. When a Filipino needs major medical care they ask their family for help and their family usually pools their limited resources together and the bill gets paid.

Child-care

This expense is easily handled in a good and loving way. If a child’s parents are both working a Lola, Lolo, aunt, uncle cousin, niece, or nephew step up to look after the child. In the unlikely event that no family is available a trusted neighbor can be recruited. The fact is high unemployment leaves many Filipinos available to help with children and most Filipinos I have met like children and are good with them.

Education

My wife comes from a family background that fits with this article. She successfully completed two Associate Degree programs and was working on a third when we met. From what I have observed it is not unusual for poor Filipinos to obtain Associate Degrees if they are good students. This is another case where the family often comes together to help the individual member. Perhaps you see a pattern.

Entertainment

I attended a potluck party recently where the ladies were Filipina and their husbands were all Americans like myself. After dinner, the men all went to the living room and we all watched a movie “Jack Reacher” starring Tom Cruise. The movie looked interesting, but we could not hear it at all even with the volume maxed out on the host’s television. The reason we could not hear the movie was our Filipina wives were in the kitchen telling stories and jokes, laughing and generally having a great time. As near as I can tell they were not spending any money, trust me our wives know how to spend money, but they were being entertained. Filipino living on less than $200 a month learn how to tell, listen to, and enjoy a good story or good joke at an early age. You don’t have to spend money to be entertained and have a happy life.

I will make a quick list of entertainment options that cost little or no money:

  • Chase a chicken around the yard like Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky II”.
  • Go for a stroll, swim or climb a tree.
  • Sing and/or dance along to the radio or karaoke.
  • Talk with friends and family about how poorly you or better yet someone else sings or dances.
  • Go outside and play basketball, soccer, volleyball or tag with your neighbors or local children.
  • Play checkers, chess, backgammon, Go Fish, Uno, poker, etc. with someone.
  • Tell a funny joke or humorous story to someone or if like me you are not capable of doing so listen to someone else’s
  • Read an entertaining LiP article written by someone else or if you are like me and capable of writing one do it and submit it.
  • Solve Sudoku, play solitaire. word scrambles or crossword puzzles if you do not want to interact with others.
  • Make love to your wife or girlfriend, your wife and your girlfriend, or your girlfriend and her girlfriend, etc.
  • Submit your own idea of how to be entertained with little or no money. Use your imagination, because if you don’t use it you will lose it!
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Jay Stainback

Jay Stainback lives in Raleigh, NC, USA and is hoping/planning to retire to Bohol in about 10 years. He is married to his beautiful Filipina wife Juliet whom he met on-line. They were married 12/7/02 and have two boys’ ages 9 years old and 5 years old. Jay has visited the Philippines 4 times the first time 1 week, the 2nd time 2 weeks, the 3rd time for 3 weeks, the 4th time 4 weeks spending most of their time in Bohol.

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Alex
Alex
4 years ago

Make love to your wife or girlfriend, your wife and your girlfriend, or your girlfriend and her girlfriend, etc. All good suggestions.

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
4 years ago
Reply to  Alex

Hi Alex,

I thought I would throw that in near the end of the article to see if anyone was still reading. Thanks for being the first to weigh in on my article and for reading all the way! This one ran a bit long because it was a very broad subject.

Peace

Jay

Steve
Steve
4 years ago

Hi Jay. It must have taken awhile to write the long article. I’m glad you wrote it as I enjoyed reading it. I can’t take issue with anything you listed. Maybe next article you can explain how to find a girl that my wife and I to could enjoy together (laughing). Also, would you mind explaining to my wife that it’s a good way to be entertained cheaply?

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Hi Steve, Good luck on finding the girl. I suspect one could be obtain for a fee. The trick would probably be getting your wife to go along with it. I wasn’t really serious about the threesome thing, but if consenting adults want to do something that works for them who am I to judge. Thanks for taking the time to comment and the compliment! I was actually originally make the two articles one, but the first was running long. I also wanted to finish an article I had started and submit it before this one, but the first article… Read more »

Steve
Steve
4 years ago
Reply to  Jay Stainback

I can’t predict the number of comments I’ll get either.

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Hi Steve, Very true on predicting comments! The thing that surprised me on this article is that a lot of people on the previous article expressed eagerness for the follow up. I was hoping for reader input to learn more. I am assuming most agree with most of my points. I had a dissenting comment on my original post after this article posted, but I think that individual misunderstood my point. I am not at all opposed to ideas like raising the Filipino minimum wage and I think donating to help the poor is good. I understand the concern that… Read more »

marjorie
marjorie
4 years ago

Hi Jay

I find people watching is also free entertainment.
Enjoy your articles, keep entertaining us please.

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
4 years ago
Reply to  marjorie

Hi Marjorie,

Thanks for your comment and compliment! I also enjoy watching and learning from what I observe people doing.

Peace

Jay

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
4 years ago

Jay; The first article was on the mark and this one too. I think some folks with the first article thought you meant “They” could live on $ 200.00 per month.or $50.00 per week, which as we know that is a living wage here, but not for a person from the west. When I read the entertainment list, I knew what direction the thread would go. If the old Kano was married to a girl in her twenty’s and then wanted to add another girl in her twenty’s. They’ll soon find out they are not wired for 220. At least… Read more »

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
4 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Hi Paul, My first instinct was to move on to another topic like you are doing with your series of articles and then come back to this topic. I was hoping for more input on this article about the details of how Filipinos adjust to make as much as they can out of what they have. In the first article, I perceived that the comments from Filipino who used to live on very little money agreed with my assessment. I added the (Filipino) to the title and put 10,000 pesos in the cover picture of this article to clear up… Read more »

Bradley Hart
Bradley Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Jay Stainback

As a been there done that in the threesome category it is Always much better in theory, even where less timid western women are concerned.

Jay
Jay
3 years ago
Reply to  Bradley Hart

Hi Bradley,

Thanks for your comment and supporting my opinion with your personal experience!

Peace

Jay

Cordillera Cowboy
Cordillera Cowboy
4 years ago

Hello Jay, I suppose Filipinos who live off of low wages can be happy. Until something happens, and they’re not. There is the culture of bahala na, loosely translated as come what may. The fatalistic attitude of simply accepting your lot in life without complaint. Are they truly happy? Or have they simply been taught from birth, this is our life in the Philippines. Bahala na. Things that I see that likely have a negative impact on real happiness are the huge financial hits brought on by illness, early death, or education investments that didn’t pay off. Sure, family will… Read more »

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
4 years ago

Hi Pete, Thanks for sharing your thoughts they add a lot to my articles! Emergency situation certainly create a big problem for people who have no savings to tap into. Happiness is kind of a hard thing to tie down. I think there are steps that could be taken to help lower income Filipinos like raising the minimum wage and better access to healthcare. I see where you are coming from. My intent was not to say that no change is necessary, just that I feel a lot can be learned from poor Filipinos about how to make the most… Read more »

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
4 years ago

Pete;
It’s like when we were in the military bouncing along happy collecting atta-boy after- atta-boy until the first AH-Shit strips them all away and you must move (Transfer) to start again! (LOL)

Cordillera Cowboy
Cordillera Cowboy
4 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Yes, Paul. Seems like the same thing. happy as a clam, til something goes wrong. I’ve asked folks why they ride their motor bikes without a helmet. They reply “bahala na”. Then, when they’re laid up in the hospital, it’s “Why me, God?”

Before I retired, it took 100 atta-boys to make up for one ah-shit. That was over 20 years ago. I suspect there has been some inflation in the rate since then.

Take care,
Pete

Take care,
Pete

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
4 years ago

Pete;
One Ah-shit is all it takes! (LOL)

James Cunningham
James Cunningham
4 years ago

I think it all boils down to the Filipina being more easily contented than a Kano.

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
4 years ago

Hi James, You have hit on my point to an extent. When money becomes available as in the case with my wife and her friends here in the USA who are married to Americans the ladies will spend large sums on designer bags and shoes, but these things largely sit on display in a closet to occasionally be used or photographed and put on Facebook. Still when the ladies are together the primary source of entertainment is each others stories and jokes. Thanks for your comment! For some reason it is now the only one I see on this post.… Read more »

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