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

The biggest mistake I ever did in an interview


Photo credits to Luxebag.com.

Last year, prior joining my current company, I got contacted by my dream company. What I meant with dream company was that it’s my employer of choice; that when I finished college in my university I see myself working there for the rest of my life. Fate has different plans and brought me to different industries and employers, but last year was the opportunity I’ve been waiting for a very long time.

My dream company wants me. They. Want. Me.

They were very discreet about my application because I honestly told them that I didn’t want my employer (former) to know that I’m exploring opportunities outside early on. They agreed. We went on with the processes. I got endorsed to the next steps. I was feeling it. I was close. It was a home run, so I thought.

“Correspondence… we regret to inform you, Kim, that we won’t be moving your application to the final step which is the interview with our boss based in UK. Thank you for your time!”

What happened? We were all positive and head on with the interviews, so what went wrong? How could this happen? I was so close. I even asked the manager about the feedback and he said,

“Hi Kim,

Thank you for going through the interview process. We appreciate the fact that you were consistently early for your interview schedules and demonstrated a clear grasp of the subject matter. We also appreciate your being very transparent with your accomplishments, challenges and how you overcame them to get results. We also believe that you’ve demonstrated a strong passion for Employer Branding across industries – this was very evident in our conversations about your work. Finally, we have observed that you are a very driven individual, and you have a strong desire to achieve / excel in any role you take on.

We did however find that there were certain topics where you could have been more concise, and answered more directly – while we appreciate the nuances of your processes, we would have wanted more insight into the solutions you had proposed / the results you generated.

It was a pleasure to meet you, and we hope to work with you again in the future.

Thanks!”

I didn’t respond to the manager after but I sent my regards. It was my first interview for a very long time. I got so used to being the one conducting the interviews that I forgot how it feels like to be questioned. Now the lingering question is, what went wrong?

As a Recruiter, I’ve dissected every step of the application process and I was able to find out the big mistakes I did during the course of the interviews and assessments. Here are my takeaways:

I was not giving any solution.

While I was able to present myself confidently to the manager and the rest of the team, I was not able to articulate the solutions that I have formulated and implemented. It should be 30-70 take – 30% you should appear strong and adept all the time, 70% you should discuss what you did to address a problem/situation in your team.

The manager’s question to me was to ‘Tell me about a time when you had to face a difficult situation.’ I kept mentioning things about undefined process, difficult manager to work with, unbelievable hiring timeline vs. the number of hiring requirements being raised. Sure I was able to mention my above the average organisational skills and impeccable intuition to prioritize things, but I was not able to present to them anything deeper than that.

As a candidate, it is very important to always mention the steps you did in order to attain certain result. The more specific, the better. My answers were vague and lacked clarity. It has a structure but it lacked thought and meat; hence I was speaking gibberish. I sounded like a whiner more than an advocate of change and improvement.

If I was the interviewer, that’s already a flag.

Over excitement.

I could not contain my emotions. Whenever I’d go to their office, honestly, my heart is jumping for joy. This over excitement spilled over to my interviews. Later I realised I was talking and sharing too much information. It benefited the interviewer but it wasn’t the case for my application with them. I was sharing information which should not be shared to my potential employer – strategic plans for next year, future campaigns, failed marketing strategies… anything they’d ask from me, I’d give them.

The thing about this is that I should have filtered the things I should be sharing to them. It’s okay to be transparent, indeed, but it really pays to carefully curate words in your mind before sharing; thus, limited information would be shared but those would’ve been the more important, more relevant ones than sharing the whole of everything.

Less is more, keep in mind!

Over confidence.

I was cool and I easily have established rapport with the Manager and his team, I could tell that with the way we were exchanging jokes as if they’ve known me for a long time already. Perhaps I saw that as a good thing, but maybe not to them. Did you know that most of the companies’ hiring process these days would incorporate unique methods for candidate selection, such as group interviews, video interview/selection, and behavioral assessments will provide a diverse, robust, and comprehensive idea of the character and passion of the individual? Meaning, there would be companies where their assessment starts right when the candidate entered the building and interacted with the Receptionist and Security Personnel. Who knows, I might have been watched all the time, right when I first came to their floor/building?

Pro tip: Always, and never forget, to treat everyone right. I didn’t miss this mark but it might have been better if I toned down the interaction level I’ve had with them and it might’ve come across to them as being too over confident. It would always pay off to temp check the atmosphere building showing your giddy-easy-going-side.

Overall, here’s my assessment and scoring per competency:

  • Communication: 3.5/5
  • Thought process: 2/5
  • Behaviour: 4/5
  • Technical knowledge: 4/5
  • Organisational skill: 3/5
  • Results-driven: 2/5
  • Culture fit: 2/5
  • Attention to details: 2/5
  • Overall score: 2.8125/5 – failed

What do you think was your biggest mistake ever in an interview? I’d love to hear more of your thoughts and experience! X