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.