What I find annoying is that people specially residing in Philippines, see us folks returning to Philippines for a visit as rich folks. They would always think that we have money! They would try and take advantage of us by jacking up the prices, or in case of friends and relatives, they will ask for some money. Or we will get a phone call or an email or text, asking for a sum of money because they need to buy this or that or need a big lump sum of money for some emergency and they will always than not say, it’s only this much. Er.. Only this much?
Well in truth, we do have some money, when we are travelling. We saved up months or in our case—those like me with average income, years. We save a little bit each time we get paid over time so we have some spending money to spend in Philippines. It is not because we are rich, it’s because, we manage our money by saving it. So it seems that when we do get to Philippines, we have loads of money to spend!
Asking for money
The other part, that is common too, is this—and it often happens when you happen to be in Philippines, one of your relative will borrow some money. For whatever reasoning they need the money for, they will ask you whilst you are on holiday.
Think about this for a second. When we travel, our money is already allocated. Even though, we have not yet spent it, it is already geared for future travel expenses. Unless of course, you factor in these kind of requests in your travels to Philippines then I suppose you would be OK and not get caught. Most of us though, only caters for what we might be spending on. We really only have pocket money and other travel expenses with us. We do carry credit cards for emergencies and perhaps have some more money in our bank, in our savings account, which is our savings or other unmet expenses or other emergencies—but not for requests by relatives or being priced higher by vendors because they somehow smelt you have been overseas.
As I travelled in Philippines just six months ago, my new friends and I were talking about income and expenses and a taxi driver in Manila who could smell money from me, even though I was talking in Tagalog (the Philippine national language) and not at all boasting where I was from. Heck I didn’t’ even mention anything about overseas, until he asked me where in America was I from. The gist of the story was this, she and the others thought I was rich, after converting what I normally earn per financial year and converted to Philippine peso. When we converted my income, it ran into millions of pesos. Average yearly income for Filipino workers is about 120,000.00 pesos—based on 10k monthly earning. I know too, that people are getting paid far less than that. Learning that my income runs into millions of peso value, would be seen as a rich man right? I would think so too!
But it all ends there though. As I explained, with the big currency conversion gap from Australian dollar to Philippine peso, the standards of living and costs of living in Australia is expensive. I further explained, what some of the costs that I incur whilst living in Australia and told them, that if they thought, the few millions I earned after converting to the Philippine currency is rich, I thought, to make them understand, I would also convert my basic expenses to peso and perhaps, they can understand it that way. Indeed it worked! The taxi driver—who by the way ripped me off anyway, by not giving me my change from my taxi fare—I gave him 500 pesos for about 300 pesos taxi fare. He said to me during this conversation that, we are in a way, in the same position, living pay check per pay check.
Educating the few
I have always known, this to be a fact. Whenever somebody arrives from overseas, Filipinos would think they are loaded with money. I have always tried to explain to them that it isn’t always the case! We are just average folks living in a different country and spending our money here because it’s cheaper in currency value and as such our money would last longer. I have also tried explaining in other ways, that they should not see us “balik bayans” as $$$$. But most of them failed. Until, I started explaining everything in peso value.
Though, I hope, I won’t have to have a conversations like these again next time I visit Philippines. I also know this would be a mere impossibility, because somebody will eventually ask. This time around though, at least, I can explain it in a more logical terms that an average Filipino worker can understand.