How do they do it?

December 2006

Vendors, Zamboanga Province

The legal minimum wage in Cebu is P240 (US $4.84) per day for an eight-hour day. I don't know the percentage of working Filipinos who actually receive this much, but I feel comfortable saying that much less than 50 percent of working adult Cebuanos take home that kinda piso. I know plenty of locals working full time for a salary of P100, P90, or even P70 per day.
Many of the downtown shops force their P80 (US $1.61) per day shop girls to start work at 7am and then stay until 7 or even 8pm; and that is 12 hours of standing.

trisikad driver

Then there are the "underemployed".. the huge pool of Cebuanos working in the informal economy as sidewalk vendors, sidewalk shoe and watch repairmen, jeep and trisikad drivers, cargocart pushers, runners, "parking mafia", etc. etc. etc. How much are they pulling in? I often ask, and those that aren't too ashamed to say, sometimes admit that they go home with as little as P50 after a long day. Of course, there's also the possibility they are hoping that a pitiful story will make the forener reach into his deep pocket and pull out a Manuel Roxas (one hundred peso note); but fat chance this kuripot guy is gonna do that.

Vendors, Zamboanga Province

Compare this situation to that for members of the working class in the USA: I believe that in my home city of Seattle, McDonalds pays about nine dollars per hour; so an eight hour day earns 72 dollars.
Meanwhile, Cebu shopgirls typically earn P90 (US $1.81) per day.
$72 divided by $1.81 equals 39.7, so an American fast-food worker earns roughly 40 times as much per day as a Cebu shopgirl.

Ice cream Nestle: sige na... indulge!

Juxtaposed against this wage situation is the cost of living in the Philippines. P90 per day would be OK if consumer prices here were also one-fortieth of those in America, but they're not. Here are some representative Cebu City consumer prices:
Rice: P27 per kg (US$.24 per lb.)
Pork chops: P123 per kg ($1.12 per lb.)
Lagao fish (popular with the poor): P180 per kg ($1.63 per lb.)
Sugar: P36 per kg ($.32 per lb.)
Anchor powdered non-fat milk: P184 per 450 gm ($3.68 per lb.)
Hamburger meal at Jolibee: P50 (US$1.01)
Nestle ice cream drumstick: P32 (US $.64)
Pair of jeans at Gaisano Main: P650 (US$13.13)
Small room in boardinghouse, per month: P1500 (US$30.00)
Small house in poor neighborhood, per month: P3000 (US$60.60)

GRO wanted sign

It's no wonder young women are tempted by the 'easy' money of alternative employment.
(GRO: 'Guest Relations Officer' in entertainment club.)

Typical family at home

So then... picture a "typical" Filipino family living in the city... Dad works as a laborer for P100 per day, mom is a full-time housewife taking care of five (or ten) children; the nephew from the province is staying with them and contributes a few hundred pesos a month to the household budget...

Washing chicken

So, here's my question...

...cuz even after five years in the Philippines, I still can't quite figure it out...: