Can You Survive Metro Manila for 1 Week in 1,000 Pesos ($19) or Less?

Where are you headed to?

Where are you headed to? Photo taken in Guadalupe Nuevo, Makati City, Philippines using Nikon D3200.

What if everyone could take the public transportation because you know it’s efficient? We’re confident that our trains wouldn’t break down because it’s been maintained well. We’re happy to take the major roads and never worry about getting late for school or work – but that’s in a parallel universe where we don’t live in.

I had this ‘Eureka!’ moment last weekend when my mum and brother got stuck at UP Town Center because of heavy raining. While having some sumptuous late lunch at KOS Greek Ouzeri, I wondered, what if my job don’t pay as much as I get now? Will I survive an entire week of not being able to buy what I want and just stick to only those what I need? For this week, I’ve challenged myself to limit my work week budget to 1,000 Pesos ($19).

In a hot Friday afternoon, I’ve decided to ride an ordinary bus from Bulacan to Makati – I didn’t regret that moment. Photo taken in Valenzuela City, Philippines using Nikon D3200.

Cost breakdown

What’s a good way to prove an idea and to tell a story? Experience it, and so did I! It wasn’t easy to start the week in a morning schedule whilst half of Metro Manila is ‘submerged’ because of the heavy raining for the past 48 hours. I do not know what’s with mornings but it wasn’t easy to course through the traffic. Gladly, I was able to manage this – I rode ordinary buses in broad daylight whilst exposed in dirt and pollution; to get to my destination, I walked for more than a mile or two to save money; I even have to ask for mum to drive and take me to the train station to cut my expenses down. I am very lucky to have supportive parents, but what about those who don’t have such luxury?

Total transportation cost sums up to 741 Pesos ($13.72).

I was lucky for my 2 days training at the Ateneo Center for Continuing Education, they served free food – morning and afternoon snacks, and full-course lunch meal, all in a managed buffet style – (Shout out to Villa Salud!) During the remaining days of the week, I’ve brought packed dinner with me and some biscuits, crackers to save money. Moreover, I used the Starbucks stars I’ve accumulated in exchange for free drinks. The only two instances I bought food this challenge week were last Monday when I met my best friend and ate lunch other and last Friday when I bought turon and pancit on my way to the office.

I think this was the most difficult part of my challenge. I cannot simply win over a battle against hunger, and I realized – what if I didn’t have those stars, where could I’ve ended up to? What if I didn’t have time to prepare for my packed meals each day, would I be able to survive? What if I didn’t have those 2 days training, would I be able to eat decent meals?

Total food cost sums up to 184 Pesos ($3).

I usually have my hair cut every 2nd or 3rd week of each month. Coincidentally, my hair cut is scheduled during the course of this challenge week. I felt torn between sacrificing 200 Pesos ($3.70) with my preferred shop and going for this newly opened hair salon for only 40 Pesos ($0.74). I ended up choosing the latter despite the bad service. My hair cut was fine, but I wouldn’t date to go back there.

Total miscellaneous cost sums up to 40 Pesos ($0.74).

There’s a missing 30 Pesos ($0.56) which I couldn’t remember where I placed/spent on but I as of writing, I’ve managed to save 5 Pesos (less than 1 centavos in US $) the entire week.

The first time I felt helpless was when it suddenly started to rain heavily and I wanted to take a cab going home but couldn’t because I simply can’t afford one. Photo taken in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig using Nikon D3200.

About budgeting

I thought I was just too confident to ask people favour. I always believe that desperate times call of desperate measures. I also have instilled to value of walking instead of taking public transportation. With how the Metro Manila traffic is going, especially when it’s raining and the roads are impassable due to flooding, the only best option left sometimes is to walk. I have also skipped meals when possible and I could. This wasn’t something I’ve done before because I usually eat when I want to and when I have to.

If you’re wondering what’s the secret, really, there’s none. I don’t think that’s budgeting that I did because it felt like I didn’t have much to budget in the first place. Now I suddenly felt envious with those people who would just walk going to work from their residence. I wish it was fast, easy to commute from Bulacan to BGC, Taguig. But here’s what I have realized:

  • One battle you cannot easily win over is hunger. This is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, problem to deal with. If only my level of discipline was heavens high, I could easily do this, but I have a body of a mortal that needs feeding.
  • 1,000 Pesos per week is not applicable to everyone. As a disclaimer from the video teaser I made, I implicitly mentioned there that there is no ideal budget each week. Some people would spend more than 1,000 Pesos (like me), whilst others could spend less, but that doesn’t mean that we, who spend more than 1,000 Pesos each week, have inferior budgeting skills than those who spend for 1,000 Pesos or less every week.
  • The thing that will differentiate us from each other would be our expenses. If you’d have a look at your expenses, you’d easily notice that your weekly expenses would differ from each other – and that is okay.
  • Always think twice, thrice before purchasing anything. The first question you should always ask yourself is if you really need this thing you want to buy. Definitely, if you can afford and have extra money, go ahead. Otherwise, don’t. Don’t even dare to think about using your credit card, if you have one, to meet your ends. It’s not healthy for you and your financial credit, most especially if you can’t pay off the credit right away and/or not familiar with the ins and outs of credit cards.
  • Find alternative options… only if you can afford it. I hate to break this, but most people these days wouldn’t trade comfort and convenience for anything that’s practical. I felt that a lot of people do not patronize carinderia anymore and we all have our reasons – sanitary issues, proximity, availability in the area, laziness to walk around… I am guilty of this and should never use my time as an excuse since my work has a very flexible schedule.

In Metro Manila, you can’t afford to walk slowly, most especially when it’s rush hour. You’ll get bumped, people will push you… you simply can’t. Photo taken along EDSA corner Shaw Boulevard using Nikon D3200.

What I’m trying to say is…

Open your eyes.
Notice what’s happening around you.
Remain vigilant.

I have a renewed and now a never-ending respect for those people who are able to stick with their budget, especially to those who have a family to support, those who need to pay for their rent/housing, those who can afford to save even if there are tons of expenses each month. I am definitely not alienating anyone or any group here, but to those people who have the sheer determination and the ability to provide for their needs – the inspiration to do better and to keep a good financial standing moving forward is simply overflowing.

Some of my observations include:

  • Our traffic has gone from bad to worse. When I was in college, sometime in 2013, to get to my university, I used to take the same McArthur route from Malanday bus stop in Valenzuela City to Muñoz, Quezon City for only 1 hour. Now, it would take me 2 hours to do the same, and 3 hours at most if the traffic is really awful. How come, despite tons of road widening, improvements, that this has been the case?
  • If living within your means is fine, how about those who couldn’t even afford basic needs? I’ve always been told by my parents to never live beyond what I could pay for, and that’s true. I’m very lucky to land a good paying job to support my needs and wants and to, basically, live independently. I just feel for those who couldn’t even support their basic necessities in life. I wish the world isn’t that unfair but who am I to complain? I’m just a tiny voice out of the vast jungle full of predators ready to swallow me whole.
  • The basic burger with fries and drinks now cost at least 80 Pesos ($1.48). It used to 50 Pesos ($0.92) but now, your 50 Pesos can only buy an à la carte – without fries and drinks.
  • The commute to work or school kills us. This is a reflection of how bad really our traffic and transportation system is. We haven’t even reached our destination and yet we’re already tired. It’s exhausting – imagine allotting 5-6 hours each day on road, this could have been spent on other more productive things.
  • Our transportation system couldn’t support the volume of commuters each day. I wish to find options was as easy as changing socks. Could you imagine what kind of life we would’ve had only if our mode of transportation is more convenient?

This challenge also brought me to another level of understanding of how our supposedly basic needs are easily affected because of the changes in the tax scheme, the worsening inflation of the country, and the surging prices of goods and services. Why am I saying this?

My point is simple – my 1,000 Pesos ($19) last year could already last for a week and a half. Now, it barely lasted for a week. Had I not taken desperate measures, I would’ve gone overboard. Last year, my daily budget for commuting was just amounting to 165 Pesos ($3). This year, it has gone up to 180 Pesos ($3.33). Whilst some of you would think that it’s only 15 Pesos ($0.28) difference, it’s still a big amount of money – multiply 15 by 22 days (average no. of work days in a month), that’s still 330 Pesos ($6.11). I could’ve spent my 330 Pesos to paying for our water bill which don’t normally go above 400 Pesos ($7.41) per month.

Is this what we deserve after working hard, trying to provide for our families, in the hopes of being a law-abiding citizen by duly paying their taxes and contributing to the country’s supposedly booming economy?

I don’t know, but what I know is that I survived 1 week with 1,000 Pesos – if have to grade this, then my grade would’ve been “Barely Passed.”

*$1 = 54 Pesos

Changing Priorities Are Diamonds – It Lasts Forever

 

Let’s face it – we are living in a world full of sudden and unexpected changes. From our little dreams when we were kids to the things we ought to do for the week, it only shows that we are creatures of change. But, why do we change? Have you ever wondered how a cheerful, optimistic person suddenly turns into a monster of sadness and pain? How does a 30 minute drive from work to home changes one’s mood? How do we become so religious and spiritual when life gets us into trouble? How? Why?

I know most of us will definitely answer that priorities change due to various life circumstances that may come along, but that answer does not suffice my craving for the answer to this question. The longing for the key to this mystery still clings, like how most of us cling to what has happened before. I desperately need answers but I’m left in this void.

“How does one become so happy now and sad an hour or two after? Why do we change our feelings for a person whom we have loved and known for long already when we meet somebody along the way? Why do we stop living our life when we lose somebody over death? Why do we need to move on if we have had always been happy cherishing every moment of the past? If God is making new people each and everyday of this life, then why does He need to take away the others, don’t they have the right to live longer? How do we un-love something we had grown so much with?”

These are some of the questions I long to answer but don’t know how to and where to find the answers. If I had become so smart and was given any chance to choose a superpower, I will definitely be choosing something to help me find the answers to these powerful questions that I have at least on my mind. But more than the superpowers, I feel stronger now as compared before because of the lessons I have learned about priorities in life.

I have grown mentally and emotionally, and I realized that I have grown tired of waiting for people. If you’ve had known me quite well, then you would know that I am one of the most patient – if not the most patient – person ever in this world. You could make me wait for an hour, or two, or three, or four, and that I wouldn’t be mad at you. It came into a point, when I finally learned something from my experiences, that I don’t deserve waiting on someone to prioritize me; that nobody deserves to wait in vain without knowing what will happen next.

If he does not look for you first thing in the morning, then probably he won’t be looking for you before he sleeps at night, too. If she does not care about as to whoever you are with, then she probably does not care at all about you. If one does not see or feel your absence, then your presence is and will never be appreciated. It really takes a lot of courage to suck these things all up but that is just the way it is – we can never be everybody’s priority.

I’ve learnt to finally accept that despite being good to most people around you they wouldn’t mind leaving you, most especially if you have done them wrong, even just for once. We could never please everybody, and that contributes to the changing of priorities in this life. Pleasing everybody makes everything worse, because the very best thing that we could do about it is to accept that few people would like us and a lot would turn us down. That is the harsh but truthful fact about living in a world full of priorities.

WE can never give the same love to two different persons.
WE cannot give something that we didn’t really have in the first place.
WE can never fake happiness.
WE are not in love unless we really feel it.
WE can un-love somebody.
WE can let it go.
WE can stop if we are tired.
WE don’t deserve to be cheated.
WE should not stop learning.
WE should work our way up.
WE can forget things.
WE cannot be the same person we were few years back.
WE cannot be somebody else to complete others.
WE can get hurt if we want to.
WE can get sad, too.

But above everything,
WE can be a priority, too – someday, somehow, we will be.

Heartbreaks: When Nightmares Turn Into Lessons

September 7, 2015. 5:34 PM.

I was weak and vulnerable that day. I haven’t eaten anything for three days straight because I felt full. I barely moved at all but managed to get myself to the Adoration Chapel. I desperately needed a sign from Him, so I prayed hard like I’ve never prayed to Him before. He responded to me by letting me meet him for the last time of my life. He was there, standing right in front of me as I was crying my heart out. He asked, “What’s the matter, tell me?” I said nothing. He picked me up on my arms and walked me on the bench to talk things over. He always knew I was having issues with my family and he has been my shoulders to lean on. He was listening to me very well and had been advising me that everything will be all right – not until the moment he uttered something about us.

He told me everything, and that was the only time I felt he was being honest with me about his feelings. I was really waiting for that moment when he would tell me that he had been having an affair because I knew all about it already. He didn’t mention anything about that, but he’d been telling me that he didn’t deserve my love because I’m always the forgiving one and all because he’d been committing things he shouldn’t be committing in the first place. I don’t know what to say, but I really thought he’s being unfair because he used my vulnerability that day; hence a double whammy for me, if others would say. I uttered nothing but silence because he knew my eyes spoke sadness all along.

We talked about things I didn’t understand at all because nothing came into my mind except the thought of loneliness and being broken. When the mass has ended, I managed to get up from my seat and walked inside the Adoration Chapel. I needed an arm to hold me and God was there. Thank God for He was there to catch me through my prayers.

The prayers may have done the miracles for me because I managed not to cry anymore and decided to go home. He decided to walk me home for the last time. He heard nothing from me, despite his efforts to make everything feel lighter and a little positive. I told myself, “This guy is crazy, isn’t he? He broke my heart yet he’s trying to console my emotions by making me laugh. Such a shame!” I managed not to smile and not to give any glance to him that moment. and I never regretted a thing or two about that.

He asked me why I was so distant to him and he tried to pull me closer to his arms. I refused and told him that ‘I am good’ and he didn’t have to worry about me. He frowned. I rested a poker face.

He was telling me stories about our good memories together, but nothing registered in my mind but pain. Maybe, he thought that I would be consoled if he made me remember everything that night. Maybe, he thought that I would be the same Kim, who would easily forget everything after a few moments of deep thinking. Maybe, he didn’t think that what he was doing that time would make the pain worse than ever.

I managed not to let him come near our house because he’s banned from coming in there, so we parted ways when reached the nearby street. I was numb when he hugged me. I turned my back against him, and so he did his back to me, too. Suddenly, I felt a sudden rush of adrenaline down to my legs and made me run after him. I did not hug him, but just tapped his shoulders. He stopped so we could talk over.

Now, here’s the part where I told him everything I needed to tell him – about him, my life with him, my life without him, my days, my stress, my problems and everything… everything he wanted me to say while we were walking home, but there was no single moment when I begged him to stay. I said, “If God allows, then He surely will.” That was the moment when I have accepted everything and have already moved on. Yes, I have moved on that fast. “Why not?” I asked myself. I did not doubt everything because I knew that God has a plan for me.

I may be broken yesterday, but never again today. Indeed, the memories are there and will always be present, but that wouldn’t hurt me because those memories would serve as a good reminder that everything in this life is fast changing. I suddenly remembered that we are living in a world of impermanence and these things will make us better individuals not because we need to but because that’s how it is should be – we keep learning in life, because if we stop learning, then we fail to live life.