Those of us who have lived here for a very long time and those who have just came here know one thing for a fact. There are no cash refunds in the Philippines. You may if you’re lucky, get a replacement item or a store credit, but cash in hand, only when pigs fly.
For the last 15 years here on our mystical mountain in Bataan, we have our power supplied by a Co-Op, old Bach-Choy who totes his ladder up and down the hill towards the end of each month to read all the meters, and he often gets it wrong. A few years ago when I received a PHP 87,000 light bill being a prime example. He has gotten it wrong so many times I bought a new digital meter and replaced the one with the tiny dial lookin’ deals and the spinning wheel that he had so much trouble reading. We had it lowered to where he could read it without dangling precariously off that ladder made of scrap bamboo 12 feet in the air.
But the oddest thing is the yearly dividend refund that occurs one week before Christmas. We receive a refund (Cash infusion) and free food from our glorious Co-Op leaders. The amount is slightly over one month’s electric bill. Everyone shows up early and mills around smartly until the proceedings begin. I’ll wait at home until one of our vast extended family members’ phones and let me know the speeches are over and the distribution of what I like to call, our “Barangay Christmas Club” starts being divvied up. You can feel the excitement in the air.
This year on the way up the hill I met a very angry lady who received only 47 pesos refund and a tiny bag a food. After hearing her tale of woe I found out the reason. It seems that her light bill was two months in arrears and they collected it out of her share. This made no sense to her, and who was I to disagree.
It was like old home week when I arrived on the scene, a tent had been put up and smiles were the uniform of the day (Except the lady I just mentioned). Mayang fell into line and came back with two large bags of foods and 14,185.00 pesos to boot. I knew that the mall trip I just wrote about last week was on for the next day. I got to look at the money and then it was in my wife’s handbag, ready for spending on more Christmas gifts.
It the past there was animosity over the amount I received and the large amount of food we got. The money is ours as I still pay on time every month the largest electric bill in our area, between ten thousand and fourteen thousand every month. But Lady Gee our Co-Op president explained to the masses the why of it all. But the food, I give to my in-laws and friends as I have no need to keep it. It’s all Sari-sari supplies to begin with.
So they don’t like to refer to it as a refund, as that might violate some obscure Philippine law, so it’s called a dividend, so I guess I own part of the Co-Op. Remember I was raised in Boston and know little of rural life except for summers on Cape Cod. But this is the one time the pig flew, and boy, do those wings taste great.
Refund, dividend gift found money kickback or any other name you wish to called, suffice it to say, it truly is The Christmas Miracle.
Now here is Paul & Mayang wishing all LiP readers a most wonderful and fun filled New Year!