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A Week In Manila, Philippines, On A $24,605 Salary

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Today: a product owner working in tech who makes $24,605 per year and spends some of her money this week on Wet Ones. We checked in with the OP following super typhoon Mangkhut, and she said: “We weren’t affected by it that much. The typhoon hit more of the northern part of our region, so we had rain and strong winds in our area but it wasn’t catastrophic. It also happened over the weekend, so I was able to work this week.” If you’d like to donate to help with typhoon relief in the Philippines, visit Save the Children here.

Occupation: Product OwnerIndustry: Information TechnologyAge: 28Location: Manila, PhilippinesSalary: $24,605Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $1,851

Monthly ExpensesRent: $0 (I live with my parents. It’s common here for women to stay with their parents until they marry and move out.)Student Loan Payment: $0 (My parents paid for my schooling.)Withholding Tax: $362.85 (This really hurts. Especially if you know how high poverty is here in Manila and if you see our poor infrastructures.)Government Contributions: $22.79 Health: $38.63 (My work provides health benefits for myself and one dependent. I added one more dependent that I pay for myself, so both my dad and mom are covered.)Phone & Spotify: ~$37Internet: $29.62 (I pay for my home’s wifi.)Netflix: $10.18 (I pay for the five devices plan, so all of the family and my boyfriend can chill.)Life Insurance & Other Investments: $74.05Savings: Varies, but I save a minimum of 25% of my salary. I just started working again a few months ago and before that had little savings left because I took a break from working for five months. Ahhh, it was the life! But I had to earn again. I have a couple of savings goals and want to put money in the bank so I don’t get anxious about having none.

Day One

7 a.m. — I snoozed my alarms at 6 and 6:30, but eventually managed to peel myself away from bed at 7. I do an eight-minute workout consisting of 80 crunches and 15 jumping jacks and then eat my breakfast. Dad is home, which means breakfast is covered. I eat longganisa (Filipino sausages) and paksiw na isda (fish simmered in vinegar and other spices) with rice – might not sound appetizing, but trust me, the pairing is good.

8:40 a.m. — Off to work! I took my time getting ready, knowing that my dad’s driver was here to take me to the office and I didn’t have to spend time booking a Grab (which is like Uber). Dad rides to the office with me because he’s going to visit my sister in her new home after I get dropped off. Her family moved out from our house a month ago and everyone’s having their own versions of separation anxiety.

9:15 a.m. — Going to the office takes around 30 to 40 minutes. I arrive at my desk and begin setting up my laptop. I also do my morning ritual of washing my water bottle and mug for the day’s use. Then I grab two packs of chamomile tea from the office pantry and consider myself lucky, because sometimes there isn’t any here at the office. (Heck, most times it’s just coffee and sugar or coffee and creamer and never all ingredients at once!)

11:30 a.m. — My officemates declare it’s lunchtime, and even though I’m not super hungry (I had some oatmeal cookies earlier), I decide to tag along knowing I’ll be hungry in around 30 minutes anyway. We have lunch at the cafeteria of another office building that’s a five-minute walk away from us. I have chicken pata tim and rice. $1.67

2:55 p.m. — WOAH. There’s a new machine in the office that spews different blends of coffee AND hot chocolate! I would have gone for the hot chocolate because my body doesn’t handle coffee well (I sweat, and my energy is all over), but I get a whiff of the cappuccino someone just dispensed and so I choose white coffee for myself and make a mental note to not finish the whole cup!

5:10 p.m. — Some user stories and an hour-long meeting later, I’m beat. I go down to the 7-11 in our building to buy a salad bowl, but they’re sold out. I end up buying a three-piece dim sum pack and a large probiotic drink for a final stretch of work. It’s Friday, woohoo! The dim sum tastes bad. I’m never buying it again. $0.76

8 p.m. — Dinner with my parents at home. Tonight’s meal is fried catfish with pickled garlic, leftover breakfast, beef noodle soup, and rice. I was supposed to go to the movies with my boyfriend, P., tonight, but he had to work overtime at his office, so instead I wait for him to visit me at home so we can watch Sierra Burgess Is A Loser on Netflix together. I play Design Home while I wait and hope that the movie is at least up to par with To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

1:15 a.m. — Done watching Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, and I didn’t like it. I tell my best friend this, and she calls me a hater! I fall asleep as P. and I watch our second movie for the night, which I don’t even remember the name of! P. waits for me to be really, really sleepy before he goes, which I’m grateful for, and then leaves at around 4 a.m.

Daily Total: $2.43

Day Two

8:53 a.m. — I wake up and stay in bed for 45 minutes while scrolling through social media. I know, so bad! I need to cut down on this.

9:40 a.m. — I eat breakfast while watching Good Witch. (I love the series! My sister and I often wish we got to live in a small town in the States and have our own small business in a community where almost everyone knows each other.) My parents left me breakfast, yay! I eat two pandesals (bread), and spread one with liver pâté and the other with hot Spanish sardines. I also have a cup of peaches and my leftover probiotic drink from yesterday.

3:04 p.m. — Binge watch more Good Witch and some random videos. P. wakes up at around 2 p.m. and we plan the rest of the day, which consists of doing an errand for a small meat delivery business that we have and a birthday dinner for our friend tonight. I order late lunch from Goldilocks, a Filipino restaurant, and get dinuguan (pork blood stew) with rice plus a side order of puto (rice cakes). I don’t reach the minimum order of $5.58, so I add in two ready-to-eat pouches of dinuguan and more rice cakes. I do some Zumba videos on YouTube while waiting for my meal. A note about our meat business: We usually buy in batches once every two months and we make around $200 per batch. $6.44

7:40 p.m. — We’ve been going around convenience stores for the past 30 minutes trying to find the right kind of alcohol to bring to the birthday dinner. We finally find it at the fifth store, where we purchase rum, Coke, and two bottles of soju and probiotic drinks. Soju goes so well with probiotic drinks. Mmm! The total is $15.64, and P. pays.

2:42 a.m. — Had a great night with our friends, and everyone liked the soju-probiotic mix! I get home and do my nighttime skin care routine. It’s very basic — I just wash my face with Clean & Clear face wash, moisturize with my trusty Sana Nameraka six-in-one cream (best Japan beauty find!), and then apply acne gel (my mom’s own concoction, because she’s a dermatologist) to blemishes. I wait for P. to get home and then put on Netflix in the background as I start to fall asleep.

Daily Total: $6.44

Day Three

10:40 a.m. — Well there goes my morning! At least I got enough sleep. I value my eight hours of shut-eye. I eat breakfast with my mom, and we eat the dinuguan pouch and rice cakes I bought yesterday and bond over gossip about what some of our relatives are up to.

2:50 p.m. — I go to my room and start a new book, Why We Broke Up. Nope, no issues in my relationship! Just thought of how it’s been around for a while now but I’ve never gotten around to reading it. I read from my laptop and stop about a fifth into the book to have lunch with mom. She had Wendy’s delivered, and I go out to the dining area for a shrimp sandwich and iced tea. Mom’s treat, hehe.

6:13 p.m. — Woot, I feel productive today! I cleaned my room, did some accounting for the month and the week to come, and lined up all my work clothes for the coming week. It’s easier to get ready when I don’t have to think of what to wear each morning. I shower and get ready for dinner and mass later.

7:20 p.m. — I have dinner with my parents. The food is sooo yummy! Fried matalos (Indian anchovy) and boiled lagikway (I don’t think there’s an English term for this, but it’s a leafy plant) straight from our farm in the province. I like how we get to grow our own vegetables. My dad has a humble business in the province, so he’s there or at other project sites around three to four days in a week. Then it’s farm to table goodness each time he comes home to Manila, and my body rejoices from the freshness! Oh, and of course we have rice because it’s the best. Plus bagoong balayan on the side, which is like a fermented anchovy dipping sauce. Burp!

8 p.m. — We walk to church to catch the 8:30 p.m. mass. The church is a five- to ten-minute walk away from us, and I consider this my exercise for the day.

9:55 p.m. — Back home! I spend an hour chatting with friends, cleaning my cat’s litter box, and getting ready for bed. Then I wait for P. to get home so we can FaceTime before I go to sleep. I read a bit more of Why We Broke Up while waiting.

11:10 p.m. — I have a quick FaceTime call with P. We do this every day that we don’t see each other — cheesy couple alert. Then, I read my book until I go to sleep at around midnight. I honestly don’t super like how the book is written — it’s too exaggeratedly narrative-ish for me. I plan to finish it because I’m already a third in.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7:09 a.m. — After two snoozes, I get up from bed. I had nightmares that caused me to wake up twice during my sleep. The last one gave me a jolt of energy, which ironically helped me to get up. It’s another work week, and I’m grateful I’m not feeling sluggish today even with my period nearing. Hello, Monday!

7:30 a.m. — I eat breakfast that my dad prepared and I feel lucky to have parents who still take care of me. Breakfast today is longganisa and tinapa (smoked fish), which I eat with pickled garlic and sweet and spicy vinegar. YUM. Oh, and rice.

8:20 a.m. — I do my quick every day makeup routine: put on under eye concealer, fill in my eyebrows, apply lip balm, and put on lip and cheek tint. Then I’m out the door! My dad’s driver brings me to the office again.

9:10 a.m. — I arrive at my office building and make a quick delivery to someone who ordered meat from us (customer works in the same building). Our small business doesn’t give us enough profit to quit our jobs, but I’m proud to say it did pay for our accommodation for more than a week in Japan last March!

9:15 a.m. — I get to my desk and settle in. I have no meetings today, so I get to focus on writing user stories and reviewing documents.

11:30 a.m. — Lunchtime! I’m having lunch with a close friend from my first job. He just started a new job and we were both surprised to know that he works in the same building as me. We go way back, and I’m the godmother of his child! (We old, haha.) We go to Rustan’s, a retail brand/store here in Manila, and choose from their deli/cooked foods section. I get myself parmesan pan-crusted fish with you guessed it, rice, and a bottle of water. $3.39

3:10 p.m. — User story creation is a bit slow today. To wake myself up, I heat up a bag of buttered popcorn that I have stashed in my drawer. My officemates take some handfuls.

6:23 p.m. — Still at the office because I have a food blogging event at 7 p.m. nearby. I’m feeling a bit tired already and I honestly just want to go home, but I stay because I already made a commitment. I spend a few hours on user stories and then do research on grad school scholarships.

9:15 p.m. — I’m done with my event. The food is SOOO good and I eat A LOT! They prepared food for six people but half cancelled, so we had double the intended serving. It was pure Mediterranean goodness and my taste buds rejoiced with the medley of spices and the taste of cilantro, which is probably my favorite herb. No spending for me here — I just have to turn in a review in two weeks time. This restaurant will for sure get an amazing write-up from me. My dad’s driver picks me up and drives me home.

10 p.m. — I get home, chat for a bit with my parents, have a quick FaceTime call with P., chat a bit more with friends, and watch videos on YouTube. Then I get ready for bed. My back hurts because I’m about to get my period. Terrible.

12 a.m. — Lights out! Goodnight, world!

Daily Total: $3.39

Day Five

7:09 a.m. — Two snoozes in and I’m up! I go out of my room, do 60 quick crunches, brush my cat and give her vitamins, and then eat breakfast. My parents left breakfast for me again today! I eat pandesal with honey and scrambled eggs. I’ve been having this since I was seven years old after I read about it in a story book, and it never gets old!

8:30 a.m. — Off to work. Dad’s driver is here again, so I don’t rush. I usually get free rides on Mondays and Tuesdays. Last Friday I was lucky, hehe.

8:53 a.m. — I arrive at the office, set up my laptop, and wash my water bottle and mug. I get started on usual tasks (user stories, researching systems, etc.) after some inquiries.

11:15 a.m. — Finally, lunchtime! I’m meeting my financial advisor today to discuss tweaks we can make to my current insurance policy. I treat her to Jollibee, a Filipino fast-food chain. I have a chicken and rice meal and she gets a hot dog meal. The total with her 20% senior citizen discount is $2.47. $2.47

12:30 p.m. — I go back to work feeling happy about the discussion I had with my advisor. I spend the next couple of hours creating some user stories and then go to a meeting.

3:20 p.m. — I’m annoyed at the lack of organization of this meeting.

4:20 p.m. — I get hungry, so I head down to get myself a ham and cheese sandwich and a probiotic drink from 7-11. The spread of the sandwich is too creamy for me, so I only eat two thirds of it. I work a bit more for 30 minutes before signing off from work for the day. My dad’s driver picks me up and I ask to be taken to Glorietta, a mall in Makati (which is where the Central Business District of Metro Manila is), where I meet P. for a movie date. $1.69

5:30 p.m. — I buy our tickets. We’re seeing Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral ( Goyo: The Young General), which is second in a trilogy of movies about Philippine History. The first movie Heneral Luna was a blockbuster hit that awakened the souls of my countrymen. I’ve been reading great reviews for Goyo and can’t wait to watch it. $10.76

6 p.m. — P. and I look for food to bring inside the theater and settle on sisig (pork cheek and liver, fried to comfort food level) with rice, pickled cucumbers, and plantains. It’s unusual to eat rice in the cinemas, but I’ve been doing so since I was in grade school. I eat anything I like in there, as long as the smell is not offensive to other people, of course. P. pays for dinner.

9:35 p.m. — I’m home! P. brought me home via Grab (charged to his card) and went back to the mall to catch the last bus to his place. The movie was so moving, and I’m really happy for our film industry. Movies are getting better and better!

10:30 p.m. — I put on Heneral Luna in the background while I chat with friends and read. I fall asleep a few minutes away from a new day.

Daily Total: $14.92

Day Six

7:11 a.m. — Usual two snoozes and then I’m up! Dad and Mom left for the province early in the morning and didn’t leave any breakfast behind, so I’m off to fend for myself, no biggie. I heat up the last pouch of dinuguan and eat it with rice cakes for breakfast. I put what I don’t finish in a container to bring to the office.

9:20 a.m. — I take a Grab to work today, which took me around 20 minutes to book. This is normal in my country, sadly. We have some of the worst transportation options in the world. I arrive at work all nauseous from the cab driver’s driving. $5.70

11:20 a.m. — Steady work pace this morning. I have discussions with designers and developers for products and do some user story writing. My officemates invite me to dine out with them for lunch, and we go on a 10-minute walk to a restaurant they want to try. I order a meal called Tapa de Morning (cured shredded pork), which I really enjoy. $3.70

12:30 p.m. — I get back to work and continue on my tasks. No meetings ahead, so I get to have the whole afternoon for different things I have yet to accomplish!

3 p.m. — I share my packed dinuguan and rice cakes with two of my officemates. Mmm. Mental note to order more pouches next time!

4:30 p.m. — My officemates invite me to go to McDonald’s for a snack, but I pass. It’s Wednesday, which means I’m going to my sister’s place — my weekly schedule — to help her take care of her kid later. Each time I go, the food is good, so I don’t want to ruin my appetite for that! I eat raisin crackers instead.

5:15 p.m. — I book a Grab quickly, but the five minute booking time is cancelled out by how long it takes to get to me. The driver’s GPS had some connectivity issues that led him farther from my pick-up point. I wait for 20 minutes in my office’s lobby and get three mosquito bites. Good thing the driver is kind and traffic isn’t as heavy as I expected, so I don’t get too frustrated! $5

6:30 p.m. — I arrive at my sister’s place. Dinner tonight is aglio e olio pasta and sausage. I’m a happy kid! I eat and spend the rest of the night hanging out with my sister and nephew. We watch To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before for the third time together.

9:45 p.m. — My nephew is starting to feel sleepy, so I put him to sleep while I give my sister time for herself. I chat with P. while singing nursery rhymes to my nephew on loop.

11:15 p.m. — I follow my nephew to dreamland.

Daily Total: $14.40

Day Seven

7:01 a.m. — I’m up, I’m up! And running a bit late. I wanted to get up around 6:30 a.m., since booking a Grab from my sister’s place is hard, but that doesn’t happen. I rush through breakfast (my sister always has cereal stocked), and get ready.

8:03 a.m. — Having difficulty getting a Grab, so I ask for P.’s help. He has a Platinum status on the app, so he gets priority booking. I’m still on Gold status since I stopped heavy usage for around five months during my no-work break. P. pays for my ride on his credit card and doesn’t let me pay him back. P. and I don’t bother asking each other to pay each other back for expenses like transportation or dining out or groceries. He normally pays for dates because he insists he was brought up not to let a woman pay. I don’t consider it a mark of dependency on my end. I can, after all, still afford to run my own life.

8:53 a.m. — Arrive at work and get into my user stories with feedback discussions in between. It’s a busy morning. I get a cup of cafe mocha from the new coffee machine and drink half to help me focus.

11:25 a.m. — We eat at the cafeteria of the office we ate at earlier this week. I don’t enjoy the food as much today, but it’s okay. I have chicken in coconut cream and string beans with rice. $2.50

3 p.m. — Finish an hour-long catch up call about a product. My head is loaded with information but I quickly remind myself it’s nothing to be stressed about, and it works! 🙂

4:15 p.m. — I head down to 7-11 to try my luck at a salad bowl. And today I am lucky because there’s one left. YAY! 🙂 I get one and a small probiotic drink. Love me my Dutch Mill Delight probiotic drink. (Even before Peter Kavinsky loved it!) $1.11

5:15 p.m. — There’s a super typhoon that’s forecasted to hit us hard this weekend and the skies are already gloomy, so I decide to leave work early to avoid possible traffic. My dad’s driver picks me up and we pick up P. from his work since he’s on the way anyway.

6:20 p.m. — We get dropped off at Little Tokyo, an area in Makati full of authentic Japanese restaurants. We order spicy salmon sashimi, seaweed salad, grilled Wagyu beef cubes, gindara teriyaki, and rice. Total is $24.07, but we charge it to our small business account. Yes, dining out is waaay cheaper here than it is in the States. ($24.07 expensed)

7:30 p.m. — We drop by a stall that sells lottery tickets. The Grand Lotto is at around $11 million now! Ah, all the things you can do with that amount! P. and I each place five bets and hope to win. $2.30

8 p.m. — We pass by a community mall beside my condominium. We check out prices for tablets — I really want to get one. I also do some grocery shopping for toiletries. I get six Korean face masks, a big bottle of lotion, a moisturizer, hand soap, panty liners, powder, three packs of facial tissue, and a packet of Wet Ones. $14.33

9 p.m. — P. and I spent the night watching a documentary about aliens on the moon. I try to keep my eyes open.

11 p.m. — We try to stay up to welcome our 18th month anniversary as a couple (yes, we celebrate these things), but I’m failing terribly. I manage to stay up until midnight and fall asleep after that.

Daily Total: $20.24

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