Editorial: Surviving is essential

·4 min read

Do not hold your breath. Many Filipinos are not surprised to hear there will be another round of price increase in petroleum products this week.

This is the third straight week that gas prices went up and spiked the costs of daily needs, from fare to food.

For less than a kilometer, the e-bike fare of Jessa in Bankal, Lapu-Lapu to the terminal where she takes the V-hire to Cebu City cost P25.

Before the pandemic, her “trisikad” ride to the V-hire terminal cost only P15. Jessa now walks to the terminal, saving on the e-bike fare.

Her round-trip transport to the department store in Cebu City where she works as a clerk costs her P100 every day after the V-hire fare increased from P30 to P40 during the pandemic.

Her P2,400 transport expenses consume 30 percent of her P8,000 monthly take-home pay. Jessa is looking for nearby work since she does not expect her employer to adjust her salary soon. Even after oil prices go down, basic commodities’ prices remain high.

Before she shifted to walking to cut down on e-trike expenses, her “suki (regular)” was Marcus, who rents an e-trike for P200 and pays P20 to the e-trike owner for the charging of the vehicle.

The e-trike is preferred by passengers than the “trisikad” since the former is newer, cleaner, and more comfortable. However, with the rising prices, commuters are cutting down on trips via e-trike, used in Lapu-Lapu City for short distances.

Marcus used to take home a minimum of P300 daily, which covered the needs of his young family: his wife and two children, aged 6 and 5 years.

With a kilo of the cheapest rice or corn costing P42 and the small but meaty “tamban” costing P100 a kilo, once the cheapest fish selling at P15 a kilo before the pandemic, Marcus welcomes odd jobs to do minor house repairs.

A carpenter helper earns P500 a day, with free meals and snacks. Marcus said some neighbors are still repairing houses six months after Typhoon Odette struck last December. Government “ayuda (cash assistance)” was distributed late and intermittently.

When she received the P4,000 midyear assistance for the elderly from the Lapu-Lapu City Government last Friday, neighbor Juvy hired Marcus to finally replace her family’s roof, destroyed six months ago. Cash assistance given to the elderly and persons with disability (P3,000 distributed last week in Lapu-Lapu City) is counted as essential, supplementing the resources providing for extended families.

Juvy, in her 70s, knows very well the struggle to be met every day. Her children operate two e-trikes. They are known in the village for requiring the lowest rent, P150 per day, compared to the usual rental of P200.

Juvy asked her children to also cover the charging of the e-trikes while other owners charge P20. When Juvy took an e-trike to claim her elderly cash aid at the public school in Abuno, she paid the full round-trip fare and gave extra to the man who rented her son’s e-trike.

Deo drives a taxi, hitting the road at dawn and doing his best to meet the taxi rental of P1,000 and the cost of refueling before noon. Whether he meets this target or not, Deo makes sure he crosses the bridge to return to Mactan by noon.

Deo is pragmatic, confident that being prudent and not greedy for profit will help him through these tough times. Traffic snarls up between Cebu and Lapu-Lapu Cities in the afternoons. Avoiding that route means cutting down on fuel costs but also reducing his take-home pay.

“Pila ray kalag sa pobre?” he expressed metaphorically before answering his own question by saying that his wife and children rely on vegetables harvested from their backyard garden planted in reused plastic containers.

The pandemic taught Deo’s family what is essential (health, livelihood, and education for his children) and what was not (meat and cell phones).

What is essential is to cross each day’s challenges—“para makalabang lang kada adlaw”—says this taxi driver for whom a bridge is more than a metaphor for our times.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting