Forty Years Ago, the Peso Had a High Value
By Apolinario Villalobos
When I joined PAL in 1976 assigned in Romblon (Tablas station), my pay was less than Php500/month but I still had enough savings left for my sister who was in college, to cover a portion of her allowance. I recall the US dollar to be something like Php3.80 to a peso, and it was at par with the Hongkong dollar or Php1 to HKD1. I was not interested to know the minimum wage during that time, as I was happily and contentedly working with the country’s flag carrier. But when I joined its Tours and Promotions Division for which I was relocated to Manila, after less than a year, my pay was increased to Php1,408.00/month. Those days were part of the Marcos “regime”.
My point here is that, the Philippine peso value has deteriorated drastically so that to date, a dollar is equivalent to the fluctuating value of the US dollar between Php45 to Php46. The head of the family has to have a gross earning of at least Php40,000/month to cover the expenses for food, lodging rent, water, electricity, transportation to the job site, clothing, and education. That estimate is even conservative for a decent life of one family with 4 members. In that estimate, the emergency expenses for hospitalization and medicines are not yet included.
Many would ask then, how could a family in Manila, whose breadwinner’s take home pay of less than Php10,000/month survive? The answer is by “scrimping” and through “resourcefulness”… by having only 2 pieces of pan de sal for each member for breakfast and a mug of coffee shared among them in which each member dip the bread, with the youngest having the privilege of gulping the last drop. Lunch for the members of the family left at home is a plate or two of cold or burnt rice bought at half the price of the newly-cooked, drenched with instant noodle soup – one sachet cooked in two to three cups of water. Meanwhile, the head of the family at the job site is contented with the half portions of rice and viand, usually vegetable. Dinner for the whole family is whatever salvaged wilted vegetables begged from stall owners cooked with fish heads or just flavored with “bagoong”. At night there is only one 10-watt light bulb used to light the room where the family lives. Water is fetched from a common manual pump three blocks away, or purchased at Php15 per “container” – used for drinking and the rest of basic uses, such as washing dishes, clothes, bath, etc.
In time, changes as a “universal rule” have to happen throughout the world including the monetary power of all nations. But very obvious is the occurrence of drastic changes in Philippines at a very sweeping pace. And, even without my mentioning it, the evident unrelenting corruption in the government is the greatest factor in the country’s economic deterioration. In this view, no GDP (gross domestic product) report that supposedly shows the economic growth of the country can change the landscape of poverty in the Philippines as the benefits are not felt by the impoverished.