The time I’ve spent in the Philippines there is something you notice and that is there seems to be groups of people which are :-
- 1. The rich.
- 2. The poor.
- 3. The very poor.
The rich are a mix of foreign business people who married pinays aswell as the rich families who are either Chinese/Filipino or Filipino. They pretty much own most businesses of any serious value and are either very politically connected or involved in politics themselves. The lifestyles are better than most in the West never mind in a country where salaries and property are low.
The poor are the workers of the Philippines even as a bank manager a salary of P20,000 is around the norm for a month. A skilled person and graduate will normally be around the P10,000 mark. But it filters into lower brackets such as guards who work for around P6,000 a month or maids who are earning around the P2,000 a month (plus food and accommodation). There is people who work for a lot less aswell which drop into the next category.
The very poor these are normally people that are living in the mountains/provinces or in the squatter villages or on the streets. To say life is hard is an understatement people don’t always eat everyday and even if they do find work the majority of people are stuck in the poverty loop and unfortunately the majority of children will keep the cycle going.
The lives of the different groups become very apparent as you travel around the Philippines giving a stark reality check to many on first arrival.
The difference is for the majority of people they are happy if you visit a home you will be expected to eat with the family as part of the local custom even if the family have little or in a lot of cases they’re family food for the day. I’ve met people from all walks of life and travelled a lot of the planet over the years and the People of the Philippines are some of the most friendly people I’ve met. There is an acceptance within the poorer parts of life that things are as they are and unlikely to change. I think this is why so many people don’t plan for change or future.
Why you may ask? A lot of it has to do with shared wealth, generally if one family member is doing well he/she is expected to help all the other family members which in many cases pretty much leaves the OFW for example just as broke as everyone else with the difference they are hundreds if not thousands of miles away working in shipping or another country. Much of they help they give is used and abused which is sad to say it doesn’t create a better standard of living for most. There is also the saying of the “crab mentality” which is a stigma that is stuck in Philippines culture and I have experienced it first hand. But like most things its normally the minority that do this but it affects the majority as there is always more bad stories than good..why? because when things are going well people are generally quiet. When things are really bad they are all over the net.
So all in all if your not rich enough to be the owner of companies or your own shopping malls or at least a family member your pretty much struggling day to day just to get by.
There is a new level of status appearing in the Philippines but its mainly all heading out of the country and that’s the OFW and wives of foreigners. For a woman to marry a foreigner its pretty much a guaranteed escape from poverty not only for the woman but also for family, I don’t blame anyone for wanting to break the cycle of poverty and be able to offer security and a future for her children aswell as help siblings and parents. But often there is a lot of marital breakups after moving to the West and although most men will blame it on the woman only wanting a visa in most cases I think its a lot deeper. Over the last couple of years one of the biggest issues I have come across is family commitments. Someone who has married a woman from the Philippines without fully understanding the custom where she will be expected to help her family and sending regular money and balikbayan boxes. Not only is it expensive often the families don’t understand the hardships the woman is undergoing as no doubt she will be working hard to send money aswell as trying to keep her husband happy who may be financially struggling. There is also a lot of western influence that pays a part in the marriage downfalls and I think Jackie Chan with his recent comment about China about too much freedom being bad for people pretty much hit the nail on the head. Because this is what’s happened to the West. We half fight wars which is why we don’t want to be in Afghanistan and Iraq yet we are stuck there, at the same time we “need” to bring stability to the countries. Too much freedom has resulted in the majority becoming a victim aswell as it becoming unworkable and unreasonable simply because of trying to keep everyone happy. Western women have a habit of trying to westernise women coming from Asia. There is this strange belief that every man marrying a Filipina for example likes to dominate a relationship and have a wife more as a servant than a wife. Well I must know at least 300 people in the Philippines and can honestly say only about 2 people I know are like that. There is a lot of old guys and young girl relationships but that’s a different story and the majority of those relationships are nothing to do with domination they are more to do with a pretty young woman and an older guy with money.
Getting back to the OFWs and foreign wives these will eventually be the middle class of the Philippines same as the current call centre workers. Over the next 20 years there will be more money and people heading back to the Philippines for retirement. Sub divisions and new developments are already appearing for OFWs and other middle working class. They are the back bone of the Philippines and its future wrapped in one.