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Cost Of Living In Manila Province (2011)

I have seen the day, many times, where folks stop by to eat and where my gardener brings his kids, or where they just happen to come by for marienda. When we have marienda early, the gardener will stall or delay until the kids show up. Usually the kids are not in school as the gardener can not afford the expenses of education. We usually feed the kids twice a day, at 9 AM and at about 3 PM. Often they will eat something at noon if they do not go home for lunch. I have been to Manila and have experienced the markets there. I prefer the province because it is less crowded and less expensive.

I know many in our province leave for Manila to seek their fortune in the big city. Some find their fortune in Lucena, the first town on the mainland. Some find their fortune between Lucena and Manila.

Most however find their fortune in Manila or leave the big city and get a job abroad. I see a lot of squatters in the big cities, and I feel sorry for all of them. I have seen kids collecting firewood just so that mama can cook rice for their evening meal. To say that it is a sad picture is truly correct and understating the scene. Beggars do not seem to be so abundant in the province. They seem to be in greater numbers and with more aggression in the big cities. I guess one of the reasons I like SM is the cleanness.

A second reason is that there are no beggars, at least in Lucena. I have gone to the large public markets and found beggars there, but it is far worse in Manila. I can not speak from personal experience regarding beggars and squatters, except that I have seen them. I often say a prayer of thanks that if not for the Grace of God, I may be among the populate of the squatters quarters.

I remember a song that speaks about a lady living on the streets. One of the lines is that she 'carries her household in two carrier bags'. Many in Manila seem to carry their household in similar containers. I could not imagine getting married when I could not provide for my self. I guess it is a common practice in poor areas. Some are eternal optimists. The ones I feel the sorriest for are the children. Some look so thin, and some seem to be so dirty and ragged. We can see pictures on TV, but seeing the problem in person puts a different face on the situation. I have more than once given a vendor money for 5 bags of rice, half or 1 kilo each. Then I give the rice to the kids on the street. They take it and run away. I am not sure if I am adding to the problem or not. I do not give it to the ones with manicured hands and fingers, but to the poor kids with chipped nails and with plenty of dirt under them.

I am sure many of these kids have never seen the peace and quite of the province. Many would feel free just to grow up in a province around extended family and be able to call something their own. I know I would never trade the province for the city. I enjoy the cleaner air and the fresh food. Much of our food is grown locally, but some comes from Baguio. Even the food that is shipped in is relatively fresh. We get lettuce, celery and carrots several times a week. I often find it limp, but setting the vegetables in a little warm water often does wonders. We have several nephews that have gone from the province to Manila. One works as a cameraman for the TV channel, 6 or 7, I forget which. Another works for Delta Motors. Both long for the days when they can come home on vacation. Both look forward to retirement and they are only in their early 40's. They live in small apartments, and one has a shared bath with another family. They manage to space by every month but wonder if the effort is worth it. Both have tried to fine jobs in the province, but we not able to do so. Life is tough in the province, but I think it is tougher in the city. Both find feeding a family and children three times a day a real challenge. Both find trying to save for the children's future education impossible. They are not sure what they will do when the kids are ready for higher education, and smile when they see me. I have already been approached with several offers to put a great niece or nephew through a university in Manila.

I have not lived all over the Philippines, but I have lived in Manila, Subic Bay/Olongapo and Marinduque. I have also made extended stays in Baguio and Cebu. I would not trade my time in Marinduque for all the others combined, but I would put Manila at the bottom of the list. I think the life style in the province, with fresh food, and cleaner air and water to be something of enjoyment. I could never find life there in Marinduque boring. I have however been pressed to find my own entertainment. I enjoy alternative small scale agriculture. In Marinduque I can practice my craft everyday. I have fun with various types of poultry; quail, chickens, ducks, pigeons and turkeys. I work in my orchard and do some vegetable gardening. I start many plants in pots and in the lawn. My days are full.

I often need a nap in the early afternoon. I agree with the statement that it is "you that makes your day". My life is simple, pleasant and reasonably healthy. I got sick once in 11 months, and that was easily treated by a local doctor.

We also have family get together in the evening. We often split a small bottle of T5, or perhaps enjoy our own bottle of San Miguel or Red Horse. (If Beer Ng Beer is your thing, or Emprador, go for it). Many nights I just drink sun tea. I make it by the gallon. My family seems to enjoy it as much as I do. My nephews and great nephews practice English on the veranda. The girls often watch a movie on VCR or DVD, and we all enjoy each others company. Sometimes the kids eat with us, and sometimes they have been feed and watered before they arrive. Their arrival is always wonderful and the highlight of our day. Family is so important and one of the reasons I enjoy the Filipino Culture so much. We are looking forward to starting some chicken raising projects. I am sure that money could be made and that jobs could be created. I anticipate that capitol is the initial problem. I shall let you know after the first few batches of chickens go through our cages. Even it we just break even there will have been jobs created and we feel that the project will be a success. Our gardens have not been so productive but we have a problem with drainage and with local chickens eating the seedlings.

We anticipate building raised beds and covering the beds with netting until the vegetables are well on their way to productivity. Either way you look at it we are learning to garden in the Tropics. It can be a challenge indeed, but we are learning. We have mastered beans and have more beans than we can use. We enjoy harvesting them often and many beans seem to walk away with two legged pickers, but then, they need to eat too. We also buy fresh fish, still jumping and so fresh that it had been swimming just hours ago. The crabs try to go in ten directions and the shrimp jump on the table as the vendors try to display them. We also get clams and other seafood on occasion. Be are ever on the lookout for life's eating pleasures in the raw. Meals can be so healthy and so varied with just a little bit of imagination. My family always tells me that they like my presentations, and they have never thought of some of my salad combinations, pasta or vegetables. A little basil as garnish is always pretty and pleasing to the eye.

We play lots of music in the evenings. CD's are cheap; the music on the radio is peaceful and wonderful. We take many USA CD's into the Philippine Islands every trip and have never had a problem. A karoke is nice, if the neighbors do not complain and it is not so loud as to wake the dead. Just listening to a cd or the radio and chatting under the stars, sipping iced tea and knowing the day is waning, has been so nice a way to spend time with my family. I hate to see them go home. What a real way to live life as to know that you are welcome and that your presence is missed.

We do not have too much of a falls or pools of natural occurrence, but we do have the warm springs. I could spend days there and have yet to tire my time spent with the family at the springs. We often take a picnic, go for a swim and have a great day of it. We can go, pay for the adults to swim and somehow the locals let the kids swim for little or nothing. We make lunch, cram the kids and adults into the car and off we go. I am sure the grand kids will have wonderful memories of family gatherings and time spent at the ocean and the warm springs. These times seem to mask the 'worries of the world'. We cherish the days we have these gatherings. We also share jokes and the kids get to practice their English. I am so impressed at the English skill these kids now possess. When we have good weather, the kids play badminton or volleyball. When weather is bad, the radio is more of a focal point and CD's seem to bring pleasure to all of our souls. Doing these activities cost almost nothing and derives so much pleasure for the adults and wonderful memories for the kids.

As long as I lived in the Philippines I am still amazed at how the local people use rice. When I grew up we had white rice twice a year and Spanish Rice every few weeks. My mother could make the best Spanish Rice in the whole world. She never left me the recipe, she always told me how do it, but there was no recipe. Mine is good, but now where near her level of culinary excellence. In Marinduque, there are rice cakes, sumen, and many types of rice candy. At holidays and fiesta, the locals display even more imagination in what rice can be honed into.

I often think, and ponder back over past memories of times we were together with the family. My family is blessed as most have done well, especially in the country with some tough conditions. Most work and have regular incomes. Those that want to get by are doing so. The happiest members of the family are those still in the province. The healthiest members of our family also seem to be those living in the province.

James Claire

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