When I am at the mall to get out of the house I usually, have coffee at one of the kiosk coffee bars. At one of them, I have become friendly with two of the young men that work there.
The other day, as I was sitting there with a book to read and kill some time, I was able to learn more from one of the employees. At that time, the coffee bar was quiet and I was the only customer. The one employee usually comes to my table and likes to talk and joke with me. In the past I had learned he was 25, a graduate of Criminal Justice Degree from the University and waiting to take his Board Exams. That day I learned he was married and had a son about to reach his first birthday.
He was telling me he was sad, his sons first birthday will be at the end of this month and he cannot afford any gift or party. I made him smile when I told him; at one year old a child does not understand birthdays and save for the child’s second birthday.
I asked him if his child has been baptized yet and again he looked sad and told me no, since he cannot afford the Church costs and the party to follow. You might be wondering why they need a party. I think here with such poverty and depression, families need a party and celebration to lift their spirits.
While we were talking I learned he earns the minimum wage of 265 pesos a day, which is approx $5.70 USD. However, after his taxes and deductions he take home about 150 pesos ($ 3.21). With this amount, he has to pay for their boarding house room, 1000 pesos a month, and their food and substance.
I was thinking, how a family of three could survive on such little money. I do not know, but they do. The fill stomachs with the cheapest rice and a little piece of fish or vegetable. Well they do, because they have no choice. With all this difficulty to this man, and many like him, most are open and friendly and do not beg for tips or gifts. They open themselves and offer a friendship for no other reason then being nice.
When I first moved here I was amazed how many times a day many Filipinos eat. They normally have three meals a day. Every meal has a large amount of rice and usually some small amount of a protein or vegetable. Then mid morning and mid afternoon they have a snack. Many times this is a carbohydrate. Bread, noodles, or even both, then again in the evening some more carbohydrates or a banana.
Rice is high in Carbohydrates but little in protein or minerals. Then the poor can only afford the cheaper rice with lower quality and nutritional value. The government has instituted a fortified rice adding iron. This is because of the poor diet many Filipinos are anemic. However, what about the needed vitamins and minerals.
I have heard of many poor families that live on one meal of rice a day and if lucky flavored with a little soy sauce. That meal is mainly carbohydrates and salt. The reason for so many Filipinos suffers from high blood pressure this one. Then add the fried foods and high fat of the meats and you are looking at strokes and coronary problems.
With this insufficient diet and lack of available medical care for the poor, there are more problems for the poor working class.
With the business owners looking to maximize profits and lower costs, the easiest way to save is by taking advantage of the labor force. In the States, many companies think in preventive medicine for their employees since the healthier their employees are the less downtime and delays to get their tasks done. Here in the Philippines, most employees do not receive sick pay and if an employee is absent too often, they are easily replaced.
There are some employers that pay better, help feed their employees and show the needed respect to lifestyle, but from what I hear, these are few. To improve a country and its workforce the people need to be considered.
Looking at China, Viet Nam, Cambodia and how they are getting foreign investments and becoming more industrialized, I hope and pray someday the leaders of this country can learn from example and find ways not to exploit the people but to assist them.