Monday, September 10, 2018

Tinola is now a luxury

This tinola pic from Kaukau Time! blog















Nearly a week or so after the scandalous Php1k/kilo of sili, the Agriculture Secretary Manny PiƱol himself tells the public that they should plant sili for self-sufficiency. I mean, sure. But where will the ordinary office bound Pinoy worker find the time to plant bahay kubo vegetables if they're still stuck in traffic? 

This article by the Inquirer looks at those in the informal sector who are hardest hit by the inflation: an ambulant vendor and a tricycle driver with a family to feed. They can no longer afford tinola--something that I had encountered when trying to buy ingredients the last time I went to the market--and have to set aside half of the hotdog and tilapia they had for lunch and have it for dinner. 

The prevailing minimum wage in the National Capital Region is Php512, and if it wasn't enough before, it certainly isn't enough to catch up with the 19.2% and 12% rise in price for vegetables and fish. There are groups that want to raise the minimum wage to Php750 and to provide discounts for basic commodities. 

The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines also lobbies the government to curb the rise of inflation and its effects on the poor. “The unemployed are obviously scraping what’s left at rock bottom in order to survive. Workers in the informal economy — since they do not have a fixed income — also feel very insecure.” 

Vendor Rose says that the government should shift its priorities away from illegal drugs. If the ordinary Pinoy is working as hard as she can but can no longer afford even simple meals, what is left to do? Rose feels lucky that she's single and doesn't have a family and therefore only has to fend for herself. But she can't get sick. There is no safety net. She insists that they don't need subsidies either. “What we need are permanent solutions that would really have an impact on our lives.” 

The question is how to get there. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

How to Fight Inflation

Price for bird's eye chilis just increased threefold.

























Price roundups feature frequently in news and morning shows to give the public an idea how much they need to spend at the markets. Lately, the news have one thing to say about prices: it just keeps on going up. 

The weekend report that's making the social media rounds has to do with the price of siling labuyo, the extremely hot but small chili one finds in sawsawan or dipping sauces. A few days ago, I had to go out and buy some dahong sili for tinola. A small bundle of chili leaves cost five pesos. Malunggay leaves were going for ten pesos. 

Someone looking for siling haba (the kind you use for sinigang and Bicol express) was surprised to find that a piece as long as your pinky finger was three pesos. 

"Dati, libre lang ilang piraso n'yan pag bumili ka ng gata." (This used to be free, just thrown in if you buy coconut milk.) 

Another manong chimed in, "Yung dahong sili nga, hinihingi lang sa kapitbahay eh." (One used to get this from your neighbor for free." 

There was no siling labuyo to be had. Labuyo is usually sold in small piles in halved coconut shells or plastic sauces for five or ten pesos. Or as one of the manongs noted, you just ask your suki to throw a few pieces in for free. 

Nothing is free these days. 

What passes for labuyo now, slightly bigger, imported from China,  cost five pieces for ten pesos. Or two pesos each. 
Twitter version of the weekend news report. 




















It's not the first time that the lack of supply of labuyo pushed prices higher. A quick search revealed that back in 2015, the price of siling labuyo surged to Php 400 to Php 700 per kilogram because of a deficit of supply coming from the Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon areas. What was being produced in Nueva Ecija was only enough for local consumption. 

Who can imagine a Pinoy table without sawsawan? On days when prices for labuyo or calamansi are outrageously high, even your neighborhood karinderia would be stingy with these. But now it seems like this would be the default. 

And there's news still that inflation for August might have hit as high as 6% and breaching the 9 year high. This was something that predicted as early as May.  

One way you know how hard regular people are being hit by inflation by how they react with the increasing prices of household goods. That overheard conversation among market goers was one thing. 
Fight inflation by planting your own sili plant.

























Someone else in an internet forum posted in reaction to the sili crisis: Why don't we go back to planting vegetables in our backyards again? Free sili for days. Assuming the birds don't get to it first. 

This is well and good if you have an actual yard to plant it in. Also, if you can get a plant to live. I've only successfully killed plants with my black thumb. 

Because of this sili crisis, I learned that the growing period for siling labuyo is September to October and harvest season is from February to March. I actually sowed a few seeds but of the bell pepper kind. Here's hoping that it lives and gives us free sili to fight inflation. 

How about you? One really needs to think how to stretch those hard-earned pesos. What do you guys plan to do to fight inflation? 



























EDIT: Okay, it's official. The Philippines has the highest rate of inflation in the ASEAN. Wow. Much wow. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Hidden Charges of Beep Card Reloading


Loaded P100, only got 97. Automatic 3% charge!















After 3 years in existence, the Beep card has been sold 5 million times, logs in 1 billion transactions. Consider me triggered. Reading this piece of news made me remember a bad commuting experience recently. Not entirely horrible, but made me more aware that transportation is not a public service in this country. 

I needed to go to Bonifacio Global City (BGC) a week or so ago. Took the train to Ayala Station and  then went to where the shuttle buses to BGC were. BGC is alien land to me. The last time I was here I needed to check which route passed by my destination. After consulting the maps, I remembered that I had to top up by Beep card after several trips to QC the week before. 

Now usually I reload my Beep card at the ticket vending machines in the LRT/MRT stations. I also choose which stations to reload in—obviously, the less crowded the better. It’s a relatively hassle free experience:  place card on scanner to find out your remaining load, put in Php50 or 100 as I don’t commute as often or as far as before, then check the balance and you’re good to go. 

In my experience, the Beep card is a better choice than the old thin magnetic cards. Load up Php100, but don’t use it all up within 3 months? Expired. Sayang load. 

Avoid long lines, pay the premium. Capitalism gives you choices!














So when I was at the BGC shuttle terminal, I saw this machine near the entrance to top up. I assumed it was similar to the reloading machines in the train stations. Well, nope.  Now it turns out that this particular machine charges you for using the service. I put in Php100 and the screen said that there would be a 3 peso charge. It was too late to back up since the transaction was already done. 

It was then that I noticed there was a counter where more people were lining up to top up their cards, similar to LRT/MRT stations. I’m guessing that way you don’t get charged. 

I know some people would just shrug and say, “Eh, it’s just 3 pesos. Don’t be a cheapskate.” I don’t use retail or “tingi” mobile reloading after I noticed that the amount I topped up would frequently be used up faster than my regular use. For the same reason I find it absurd that a reloading machine would charge you basically 3% just because. I understand now that this machine might be an outsourced company. I haven’t tried loading up my card at a 7-11 or anything so for all I know, that one also has a charge. 

But really, the commuting public is already paying for really bad service. Then you charge them more just for using it. At least now, I know. And my katangahan or just sheer lack of knowledge cost me 3% of commuting money. 

More on ignorance tax: the BGC shuttle does not announce stops or destinations. I really missed that “Ang susunod na istasyon ay V. Mapa.” Also those maps that show you the stations/stops. That way you don’t get lost. Lesson learned. Look around. Don’t be lazy. Take the 10 steps or less to the counter and top up your Beep card there with no hidden charges. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Inflation Calculator



Philippine inflation rates seem to go nowhere but up. Pics by Rappler. 
















Inflation, or the movement of prices of basic goods and services, is now at a 5 year high, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Every month seems to bring news of a new rise in inflation rates. April registered an increase of 4.5%, May peaked at 4.6%, June rates were at 5.6%. July rated a 5.7% hike.  

These numbers are way higher than the government target of keeping inflation within 2% to 4% from 2018 to 2022.


Numbers from NEDA. Pics from Rappler. 




















The hardest hit are the poorest Filipinos, who have to pay 6.5% more  for the food, transport and other items they consume. Only education ramped a negative rate. 

Testing the numbers. Calculator by Ace Subido. 
























If this continues, it would be handy to know just how much your peso is worth against rising inflation. Ace Subido came up with this inflation calculator that lets you "see how prices in the Philippines has changed over the course of time." The data goes back all the way from 1960, based on numbers provided International Monetary Fund and International Financial Statistics. Recent rates are calculated from the data kept by the Bangko Sentral. 


I plugged in some numbers just to see how it works. This is based on when I joined the work force in 2000. The pay rate at the time was around Php15,000 for relatively fresh grads (although I was still in school when I started working). Over 18 years, and rates have doubled since then. Looking at it this way, it seems like pay has only increased almost at par with inflation. 


If you think about it, that re-dubbed Anak confrontation really doesn't seem so far-fetched. Imagine all those households trying to make ends meet. No matter how hard you work, you will still end up beaten by inflation. It's not like employers are going to adjust work wages to adapt to inflation rates. Although there was a 3% raise on wages this year, that's not even enough to cope with inflation. Super talo pa. Now, who still says that TRAIN was a good idea? 




Sunday, August 26, 2018

Anak: The TRAIN Law Edition





I found this video which dubbed the film Anak's confrontation scene between Vilma Santos and Claudine Barreto into Ilonggo. Instead of the high octane argument over a mother's lack of time for her children because she chose to work abroad to give her children a good life, this parody took the very real consequences of the TRAIN law on regular Filipinos. 

The daughter now complains that their meal now consists of eggplant day in, day out. The mother claims that she does cook meat--once a year, the daughter counters. Once a month, the mother says. And even then the little amount of meat is swimming in about 3 liters of water. It's all pretty funny if it weren't also a painful reminder that a lot of people probably will have (or already had) arguments with their own families about how they can no longer afford certain things even if they arguably have more take home pay now. 

I don't speak Ilonggo, but it's easy to get the context and drift of the scene's dialogue. Almost sure that this would be funnier if I could understand every word. All in all a really good subversion of how the government messes up our lives. Props to the owner of the video, Val TV on Facebook. 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Philippines: Best Place in the World to Retire

Got this from an online forum. Credits to the owner.























It's been a few months since Infinity War was shown, and yet memes about Thanos landing in the Philippines keep on coming. This one is extra funny because it's financial life related. Sure, the Philippines is the best place in the world to retire---if you're coming from the third first world and actually have the benefit of a 401k, a retirement package or a pension coming from your employer. 

Tropical third world countries in general come up top as the best places for (usually) white people to retire in because for one, winter is tough for old people. Got to keep them bones and achy joints warm. Two, their euro/dollar/etc go very far in our shores. Like what my aunt used to tell her foreigner husband: lets go back to the Philippines and you'll live like a king. True enough. They get to live in a condo with the supermarket and all the possible amenities nearby. They get vacation time for weeks and months on end. They get relatives who live nearby to run some of their errands. What's not to like? 

But if you're Filipino, retirement in your own country sounds like a scary idea. You can't even run off to other third world countries unless you have saved up and really prepared for your retirement. One option though is to move to the provinces where the quality of life is better compared to Metro Manila. In the city, traffic and air pollution will probably be bad for aging lungs---or just plain bad for everyone, period. If you own land in the provinces, you can probably garden and grow some of your own food. Bonus points if you have relatives in the area to keep you company and to help out, just in case. The one drawback is probably that healthcare is concentrated to capital city hospitals. Can't say much about the state of healthcare in the provinces, but the sheer distance from barrio to the city is going to be worth an hour's travel at least? A compromise could be worked out though: live in the provinces, but choose places where a good hospital is within a reasonable travel frame. If an emergency comes up, god forbid you don't want to be trapped in an island with no ferry to the mainland. 

Prospects about my own future retirement are scary. For one, you really can't depend on the government pensions to fund your old age. My mother's pension from the SSS is a measly Php1,200 per month--granted that she stopped working after my siblings were born. She gets this Senior Citizen Fund of Php5k per year. So that's not really much and us siblings have to pick up the slack for whatever's left. This is how most Filipino families take care of their older members. 

I really hope this changes and there's more awareness about preparing for retirement with people my age and younger. Because we can't keep on going on like this. Just the news of the SSS hiking pensions again will mean that the fund life will be cut to 2026---there really won't be anything left decades before I (and my cohort) will be ready to retire. 

The message really seems to be: don't depend on anyone for your retirement. Not the government, not your children (if you have any). Because unlike Thanos, we don't have Infinity Stones and the Banaue Rice Terraces to fall back on. You're the only one responsible for your own future self. So do yourself a favor and prepare for your old age now. Don't buy unnecessary stuff to show off. Stash part of your income in a fund--mutual, stocks, VUL, PERA, pension funds---do it now. Your future self will thank you. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Frugal Celebrity: Give up the glam, buy a house in the US Edition

GMA artist Kris Bernal and her sister in her ~$600k California home. 





















Working in the media and entertainment industry exposed me to how it was pretty much a boom and bust situation. When it's good, it's really good. You get projects left and right and one after the other, then it's forty years wandering the desert and the seven plagues the next. Since it's the first industry I worked in, I learned early how to budget my money, how to make it last until the next payday which may be a month, or two, or six months away. Who knows. 


That's why when it comes up in the news, I always have a soft spot for people who can forgo the trappings of celebrity--buying all the designer goodies, #travelgoals, the big muscle cars--and scrape and save for a future when the spotlight is no longer trained on them. One of the first entries on my blog when I returned to blogging was about Scottie Thompson, who saved up his basketball money to put up his own business

Recently, there's Kris Bernal, a GMA artist who saved by not hiring a glam team and driving herself to work and then using that savings to buy a house in West Covina, California. Primarily, she got the house because she has a sister working there as a nurse who then fell ill and Kris Bernal thought it would be nice if her sister didn't have to think of making rent on top of health concerns. 

Bernal often taped three times a week, especially if working on a soap opera, and having a glam team--stylist, make up artist, hair stylist--and a driver to bring her to work and back home, are considered necessities. But what gave her pause was how much having this team would cost her in the long run. "Pag inipon mo kasi yun, its very expensive, e." She pegged the driver's salary in a month at PHP10,000, that adds up to PHP600,000 for five years. Add to that the salary of a stylist and a hair and makeup artist. So that makes the celebrity life really expensive indeed. 

She put her money in a time deposit so that she wouldn't be tempted to spend it. (Of course, I think that time deposits don't really do much, but hey, if it worked for her, you do you, ate.) She built her savings for a decade. Recently, she also opened a Korean BBQ restaurant. "Hindi siya ano, na bigla na lang dumami ang pera ko. Hindi nila alam na sobrang tipid ko, as in ang dami kong tinipid at tiniis para lang mabili ko itong bahay, mapatayo ko itong House of Gogi, yung ganun." 




She bought the house in April 2018, and according to Zillow, modern-minimalist home has a lot size of 3,750 square feet and a floor area of 2,022 square feet. Pep.ph, which ran the article, found out that "four-bedroom homes in West Covina are priced from $500,000 to $600,000." So Ms. Bernal's five bedroom home with a loft cost her around $603,000 or PHP32,121,207. If she saved for it for a decade, she was putting aside ~Php3M/year. She's right to be proud of her purchase. Really frugal indeed. 
That's around PHP26M to PHP31M.But based on our research, the house was

Monday, August 13, 2018

Productivity and the Part Time Life


Productivity needs to be quantified. Stress Drilon, mga besh. 



















Sometime after that meeting announcing the very real effects of the lean years on our workload, our Soon To Be Boss approached Cube Mate and I about possible higher education outside. It turns out that in the meeting for Full Timers, it’s been agreed that CM and I should take on higher ed since we’re the only ones without it or not currently working on it. STB forwarded details about where to apply. 

So now we’re hustling to make it to the deadline. Which is two weeks from now. And even if it’s not that particular school, will probably be applying to others. 

It was around this time last year that I started to feel the pressure of not having anything to show for my time. Everyone’s favorite question: “What are you working on right now?” This is probably the most nerve wracking and anxiety inducing for creatives and those in academia. Particularly since last year, mostly everyone in the Office had something to show, and were very very productive. 

I’ve never been one to care about keeping it up with whomever, but when the institution you work for asks you to fill up multiple forms about how productive you’ve been in the last x years, and you have to skip whole charts, it’s like your entire reason for being has amounted to nothing. Nothing notable, nothing to contribute. So when the roster of Part Timers had a lot to show for their time last year, it hit me so hard that it landed me on a downward spiral that now requires me regular therapy and medication that eats up a huge chunk of my pithy and pitiful Part Time Pay. 

The Cube Mate also recently disclosed that the feeling of losing passion for what we do, that feeling of stagnation and not doing much also hit her—adding to that desire to get out, even for a while. Which is really odd, because Cube Mate does have something to show, but those “outputs” are not qualified for the forms of “productivity.” 

Also had a really long talk online with a Creative Acquiantance (we’re not that close, but we have a lot of mutuals, we talk about our frail mental health) who has been quite productive with really good projects, and yet has been feeling anxious and depressed. Someone asked her why she's been feeling shitty despite the really cool projects she's been a part of. “Working on cool projects does not guarantee happiness or peace of mind.” People kept giving her work because "mukhang kaya pa naman niya." (Looks like she could still handle it.) But in reality, it’s even made her feel worse. Productivity at the cost of poor mental health. Nope. 

The higher education race life: marathon or a sprint? I prefer walking, actually. 











I don’t know why but a lot of people in my line(s) of work have been feeling this crush, this burden of needing to produce something, even if said productions aren’t really paid that much.

I’ve learned my lesson, a very costly one at that. Even if now I’m trying to get stuff done, I’m conscious enough not to compare myself with how others are doing. When others ask what I’m working on, I’ll be appropriating this response from Financial Best Life:“I’m working on having the best life for myself.” Let them perform. Each one of us runs at a different “phase of production.” Trying to run and lose my breath to catch up with everyone is not worth the price of my peace of mind and sanity.