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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

entry arrow11:50 AM | A Simple Life

I never read the Youngblood section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer anymore. It had its heyday so many years ago, when it was still young, and sent a thunderbolt through my generation of writers: imagine, an Op-Ed column by you in the nation's biggest newspaper! We took the bait: it was supposed to showcase all our concerns and opinions on current issues as young people. I wrote about two articles for this section, and my friend Marge about five. One of my favorite articles was Chris Anthony Ferrer's Musings on a Stone, which I still teach in my Essay Writing class as an example of inspired writing.

Then, the section began to become predictable. All those angst-ridden articles about crushes, about lost loves, about unemployment, about fathers... Blah blah blah. It took its toll.

But this recent article by Kitchie Canlas -- a 25-year old instructor, for almost five years now, at a state college in Pampanga -- caught my attention. Maybe because it hit close to home. It's about well-meaning young teachers in a time fraught with so much financial difficulty. After reading it, I understand for sure why it is that almost half the enrollment now in my own university invariably are Nursing hopefuls.

Is there any hope for a country when even teachers have to feel the pinch?

I was just watching the first part of "TV Patrol" minutes ago. Two news items got my attention and made me turn on my computer and write this stuff. The first one was the alleged corruption attending the purchase of equipment for the Light Rail Transit. The other one was the planned strike of a transport group that was demanding another increase in fares.

I asked myself why there is so much corruption in the government and why so many transport groups want to increase their fare. And it led me to think of my life, which is a living testimony to how hard life is today.

I am an instructor at a state college in Pampanga. My net income every month is P9,000. This may be reduced by P188 next month because I availed myself of the P5,000 cash advance offered by the Government Service Insurance System (through the e-card). Every month, there are deductions in my pay for tax, PhilHealth, policy loan, emergency loan, and life and retirement insurance.

I take a tricycle to school, which costs me P25 one way. After work in the afternoon, I hitch a ride in my colleague's van, which saves me an equal amount.

I eat packed lunch. I spend about P50 for my snacks in the morning and afternoon.

I go to the same school for my graduate education every Saturday. However, I spend more on this day because I can't get a free ride going home and I buy snacks and lunch from the canteen. In my three classes, I spend money for photocopying the readings, especially when I am the reporter for a certain topic.

In my work, I usually make handouts to facilitate the teaching-learning process. For these, I spend approximately P200 monthly. There are times when I give quizzes or exams and some of my students don't pay for their photocopying bills simply for lack of money.

I have just downgraded my Smart postpaid plan to P500 from the previous P800 so that starting next month my monthly phone bills will be approximately P700 (because most of the time, there are other charges on top of the plan).

I stay with my parents and so my meals are basically free. To help them out, I pay the monthly electricity and water bills which add up to about P1,800, thanks to the ever-increasing purchased power adjustment. I do not give money to my parents regularly though I do so to my unemployed sister.

Almost every month, there are additional deductions from my salary for death aid, help for a sick colleague, etc. Another strain on the pocket is buying gifts for friends who celebrate their birthdays and contribution to friend's relatives who die.

I rarely buy things for myself and I do not buy expensive things. Twice a month, I usually buy a pocketbook for P35 in Angeles City. Going to Angeles and back costs P52. The last time I bought a shirt at a "tiangge" [flea market], it cost me only P50. I do not eat at expensive restaurants; I normally spend only P80 for my dinner when I eat out.

I cannot itemize all my other expenses, but from my experience, I can safely say that I am living a simple and comfortable life. Despite this, I am one of so many people who count the days before receiving the next salary. I get mad whenever there is a delay in payment. There have been many times when the money in my coin purse (I do not use a wallet) was not even enough to pay the tricycle fare to school. And there have been times when I had to ask or borrow money from my mother.

Whenever I find myself in such situations, I wonder how some of my colleagues cope when they have babies who regularly need to be fed costly milk. How about the others who have children who go to school? How about those who live in apartments on which they have to pay rental? How about those who earn less than I do? And how about those who do not even have jobs?

And then I begin again to wonder, like I did when I heard those two news items on TV, why there is so much corruption in the government and why many transport groups want to increase the fare. I think and I realize that the continuous increases in prices of oil and other basic commodities led these groups to plan a strike. And I begin to wonder if this is also the reason there is so much corruption in government.

Ordinary government employees like me need to eat and have basic commodities, just like the President and other high-ranking officials and politicians. However, if I compare the way I live my life with the way they do, there's a very big difference.

I try my best to make my students learn because that is my foremost responsibility as a teacher, but I feel sad and disappointed whenever I see this very big difference in the way I live (which may be the same as how these public transport drivers live) and the way these prominent personalities live. Which makes me wonder why additional burdens are being laid on our shoulders through the imposition of new taxes when teachers are the most honest taxpayers in this country.

Anyway, I can still smile because my conscience is clear. I do my job well and there's my family to fall back on whenever my salary is delayed.

Posted 00:58am (Mla time) Mar 24, 2005
Inquirer News Service

There you go. The original article can be found here.

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