The Philippine’s National Economic Development Authority suffered backlash when it said that a P10,000 (less than $200 USD) monthly income was more than enough for a family of five Filipinos.
It was hard to comprehend the basis of their computation. But I am among the few who once lived on a less than P10,000 monthly income. It was however more than a decade ago.
Truth be told, my first job as a radio reporter here in Manila paid me less than P10,000 a month. I sustained it for six months before I decided to find another job. Not really that I “decided” but I failed in my probationary period.
I lived in a slum area in Pandacan. I paid P1,500 a month for the 5-meter by 5-meter room that I shared with a family of four.
I allocated P200 for my utilities – electricity, water and cable connections, which were practically stolen from legal connections. Police raided the area from time to time. The hunt for criminals often ended on the roof of our rented room.
Our primary passageway was less than two meters wide. But the neighborhood was bustling with activity. Kids play basketball with homemade hoops and neighbors lean out their windows, watching the world go by. More than a hundred families live in homes hammered together out of flimsy plywood and corrugated tin.
The canal is gray and murky from the sewage of makeshift homes, and the area floods pretty badly during typhoons. The water doesn’t smell great and the houses aren’t much to look at.
I was assigned at Manila Police District as a nightshift reporter. For six months, I never ride PUVs but walked from Pandacan to MPD Headquarters at UN Avenue.
I never had the chance of dining outside. My cycle of meals were coffee, noodles, sardines, and rice. I usually bought half dozens of eggs right after paydays.
My favorite place for shopping for personal stuff was Divisoria, which I did every other month. I knew where to buy the cheapest t-shirts, pants, and shoes. Although the quality remains questionable, that’s the only place that my budget can afford.
But that was almost a decade ago. Back then, I have a different lifestyle. I am not a family of five. I am living alone. It ain’t modest. But one within the boundary of life and hell.