PART OF THE HAPPENIN' SCENE?

If you're one of the grunts of the Philippine Army of Commerce and High Finance that marches into Makati every morning, ask yourself this question: Do you honestly believe that the country's premier centre of cosmopolitan living functions with people like you in mind?

You, the above-average Makati boy or girl makes from Php 12,000 to Php 60,000 a month. Let's assume a middle figure of Php 35,000 a month (which is still high but considers the fact that this forum is accessible primarily by people like you - you know who you are). At the unreal exchange rate of Php45 to the USD, this amounts to less than US$800 a month or US$11,600 a year (including bonuses). Less, taxes, you probably take home about Php 30,000 a month.

Because of the nature of the traffic in Manila, distance is irrelevant so we will measure your commute effort in terms of travel time (you probably drive daddy's car). Your commute takes from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours if you still live with your parents, 1 hour to 2 hours if you rent, and 1.5 to 2.5 hours if you've purchased your own home. This translates to Php150 to Php250 worth of fuel consumed a day - 17% of your monthly cash inflow.

Compared to you, your car gets luxury accommodation. A day's parking slot close to your office (it's too hot to walk more than 50 metres outdoors in that costume your employers make you wear to work) sets you back at least Php 150 a day - 13% of your earnings.

A lunch meal plus drinks that can keep you sufficiently fueled for an afternoon's work costs Php140. Add something that passes off as breakfast about every other day (most days, you don't have the time to eat much less prepare it in the morning) Php50 per meal or Php150 a week. And then that occasional Starbucks latte, at Php70 a cup, say, thrice a week, or Php 210 a week. It all adds up - 18% of earnings spent on food and beverages at work.

Manila's corrosive atmosphere and decrepit roads exact their toll from your vehicle everyday. You probably think of your car as a kind of a penis-extender, so you probably spend about Php200 a week on commercial carwashes including waxing, buffing, and vacuuming. But the really necessary maintenance work (unless Daddy takes care of it) - notably wheel alignments every two months (which abnormally high tire replacement rates will cover if you don't perform this) - can cost anywhere from Php500 to Php1,000 a month (specially during the wet season when floods wreak havoc on those automatic transmissions). Let's discount air conditioner breakdown for this one (car air-conditioning is an absolute necessity - remember the work costume?), such an occurrence will put you in debt for the next several years. Anyway, car maintenance - 5% of monthly earnings.

How much of your income does being a Makati boy cost you? It works out to an estimated 53% of your income plus 20 to 25% of your waking hours spent on the road.

How much more does your personal life set you back? Groceries (Php1,000 a week - a lot more if you eat dinner out), electricity (you use an air conditioner - Php1,000 a month). 17% of income.

You're left with 30% disposable income or about Php9,000 a month. Not bad. But we haven't counted rent and auto payments yet, have we? Thank god we're Filipino and have our parents to subsidise those so we can spend the money on bars, discos, driving ranges, and designer clothes instead.

Where do you think all that money earned from poor saps like you gets re-invested? Golf courses and more exclusive residential enclaves?

Still feel like you're a genuine article in these "happenin" places? Consider this: Makati and its cousins, Ortigas, Alabang, and Greenhills are world-class reality suspensions. If only we could put all of them in an island and make like another Singapore with the rest of the country treated as its bread, fruit, and cheap labour basket. It is a closer reality than one thinks.

Entering one of the satellite residential enclaves of these capitals of commerce is just about as challenging as securing a visa to visit America. The security outposts of any of these "villages" are the equivalent of consulates and embassies where every visitor is looked on with a presumed intent to make trouble. "Visitor's visas" are granted in the form of passes that are obtained in exchange for a temporary surrender of one's driver's license (which you have a legal right to decline). "Multiple entry visas" are extended for a fee of up to Php1,000 for a year's access privilege (of course on the condition that you are endorsed - call it "petitioned" - by a resident). Even the neighbourhood parish church reserves prime weekend wedding and baptism slots for residents.

These enclaves are served by their own guest workers that are subject to rigorous security control procedures - body and luggage searches - the works. They levy their own taxes in the form of association dues on their residents; money far better spent than the taxes we pay the national government. Public service is first-class: a security force better-equipped, trained, and disciplined than our police force, grade-A asset management, first-world environmental policy (within the perimeter at least), and community-spirited (among themselves) residents who support and are compliant with the rules and regulations of the association.

What is the point of all this? We have three of them actually:

  • We are all victims of marketing and promotions genius all underlain with strategies that capitalise primarily on what is undoubtedly the most debilitating colonial mentality in the Third World.
  • We are third-class citizens in our own country with an aristocracy that has all but established their own sovereign states within our borders.
  • We deserve each other.


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