In Transit: Jakarta to Manila

I am writing this at Soekarno Hatta Airport in Jakarta waiting for Cebu Pacific counters to open. My flight is in four hours bound for Manila. For the first time in my not so young life, an airline counter is closed for check-in for an international flight (THAT’S IN FOUR HOURS).

Keeping my composure – or at least trying to by writing my thoughts down – I decided to look for a place where I can sit down and chill. I walked around looking for McDonald’s (what else) because they have cheap and good coffee. It does not exist in this airport so I settled for the next best thing: Starbucks Old Town White Coffee A&W. Another mystery to me: How can A&W exist in this place and not McDonald’s?

I went in anyway. I saw power outlets by their tables so that’s definitely a place to go. It had wifi too (but at this time of writing it’s not working). Like any A&W, it came in stark brown and orange theme, with the rootbeer float on display. Unlike any other A&W outlets (in MNL anyway), the bear mascot is still there! Flashback to 1994 when I was seven and I popped my root beer float cherry – that bear was a witness to it.

What I’m saying is, this joint is a freaking time warp. The place feels like it’s stuck in the late 90’s or mid 00’s the latest. It’s ancient and worn but it’s clean and, well, friendly. Too friendly in fact that it doesn’t care almost. I like that. I like places that give customers independence and that is rare in Asia.

Too many a commercial establishment have that badger of a staff constantly staring at you and asking if you’re all right. I don’t like that, although I know the management means well, like trying to force a slave on you, but man I see it as invasion of privacy.

So I’m back here, charging my phone, writing this down and just… watching.

The default hairstyle of flight attendants are French Twists. They don’t give out spoons and forks here, which is weird for me. On my part I ordered myself root beer (in honor of the memory that is A&W), brownies and perkedel – which turned out to be the Indonesian version of bubble and squeak/potato croquette, which doesn’t really need cutlery for me – but I got served spoons, or plastic hooks which resemble spoons. Innovative product design perhaps, but it kinda reminds me of the stool collection sampling tool you get at the lab.

The rest of the population in the midst is ordering fried chicken and rice. Everyone is eating by hand. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not by any means squeamish but I am a bit culture shocked. It’s so different. Back at home – you can only eat by hand at home. I get two spoons for scooping out my float and brownies (the bigger spoon on the picture is for the drink – I’m spooning a drink and I can’t fork the cake) but… no spoon and fork for… a proper meal. It’s cool though. Again, product design. Their rice is packed in a paper pocket, like a sandwich so that you won’t have any problems with grains sticking on your fingers. The rice is shaped like a burger bun so you actually bite into it like a burger. The chicken, well, is still a chicken and will forever be finger food. I’ll only comment if they will give out sticks to pick french fries with (which I saw in the school I’m working for – WTF).

I see promotional posters that say “True Love Comes In Pair” for the brownies. Shame how one letter can change the whole feel of an international brand, but oh well, remember remember – it’s not their first language so don’t judge.

Okay let’s go to set meals. The Good Friends Meal is for 4 people with 4 pieces of rice, 4 glasses of drinks and 8 pieces of chicken with 2 desserts. 2 desserts and 8 pieces of chicken. Hm. The Good Family Meal, arguably for the family, comes with “9 Chicken”. No rice, no dessert, no drinks, just 9 Chicken. I don’t know about you but their promotion guy is a bit funky in my opinion.

But after that’s all said and done, I have to say: it’s nice here. It’s not the perfect place that’s for sure but it’s real and that’s what matters. It gives great food (tell you what: root beer and fresh brownies – what can go wrong?), snappy and smiley service, and clean surroundings. For a place that serves people who are tired, anxious, jetlagged and fucked over by plane companies, this place gives out the comfort that travelers need.

Cost of Living: Manila

We started with Thailand, now we are going to the Philippines to sustain this cost of living articles. Manila, the country’s capital, isn’t very popular to backpackers nor expats. I think this is because of the geographical location: It’s a ballache to go to the Philppines. You have to fly and fights are costly.

However, Manila is very different to the rest of Southeast Asia because of this coincidence. It’s the only catholic country and it is far more “Anglocized” than the rest of its neighbors, meaning, you can’t make money as an English teacher here. Maybe that’s also the reason why we don’t have a lot of backpackers.

It’s also a bit costly. When the boyfriend and I were living there, we did not save anything even if we had the Thailand lifestyle (most often that not anyway) where we eat out mor because we did not have a fully functional kitchen. Here goes!

Thank you to by the way for inspiring this post.

Currency references: 33 Baht to one US Dollar
50 Baht to one Pound Sterling
37 Baht to one Euro
25 Baht to one Australian Dollar
0.74 Baht to one Philippine Peso

Working in Manila, PH

Monthly Earnings: 38,200

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I took home around 38,200 baht a month from my job as a Teaching Assistant in a British School in Paranaque, Metro Manila.I assisted EYFS, KS1 and KS2 classes.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

Before I met A, I saved 12 to 15k a month. When we got together, we splurged on food and halved expenses with him. We lived life in Makati restaurants and Salcedo Village, so none. Haha!

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I rented a room with its own bathroom for 7,500. The payment included electric and water bills. The room is a tiny 7sq meter thing.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

P1000 to P4000 a month, depending on how late I wake up in the morning. P4000 a month if I take a cab, and P1000 if I take the MRT or bus – not recommended. I use the cab. With A, we use the cab too, so P4000 a month.

b) Utility bills

As mentioned earlier, bills were part of my rent. A’s bills were paid for by the school as he was an expat. I usually pay P2000 for internet though, with wifi (dongle).

c) Food – both restaurants and supermarket shopping

P6000 because I put a P1500 budget every week. Sometimes it reaches to P10000 though. I never scrimp on food.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Oh this cost a lot as we probably have an average expenditure of P2000 per night out and we went out a lot! Maybe 15,000. Jesus Christ. Ridic!

e) Books, computers

Zero expenses because… piracy!

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

EXPENSIVE AS F*UCK. I won’t be back here.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real ‘bargain’ here?

Erm, friendship? LOL probably electronics and electronic services like repairs and open-lining your phones. Greenbelt is heaven for those kinda stuff.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

For the Philippines I think P75,000 would be comfortable. P50,000 is fine, but there will be cutbacks. If you are an expat I think P150k should be your minimum because apartments here like the one A had in Makati (normal, 35 sq meter studio) cost P75000 per month to rent! Ridiculous!

Deaths in Schools: Suicides and Plagiarism

One of the saddest things in my adventures as a teacher is when a student dies. It is exceptionally so when the student committed suicide.

In my first year in teaching for a big American International School near Manila, a Korean student decided to end his young life. He was 16. He flunked his algebra exam, and he didn’t have family in the Philippines.

Last Saturday, my mother messaged me about an 18 year old student from a famed British school in Manila who ended his own life. Couldn’t care less to be honest, at the back of my head, Filipinos who go to that school are spoiled, rich, often from a political family or a showbiz family. But one of my good friends came to work there, and I even tried to work there, I can only say that that school is top tier, top notch and very respectable.

The kid allegedly jumped from a carpark building in Salcedo Village in Makati (where my boyfriend used to live, so quite familiar with the area!), and to his death. His family comes from a posh village a stone’s throw away, and when I was researching for it, learned that their family is my aunt’s neighbor in Makati (also very familiar with that area), and one article even said that the Barangay Council vouched for the student’s intelligence. My aunt is chairman of the council. How very familiar indeed.

Suicides come and go. Depression is bound to hit you at some point or another and if you can’t handle it, well, it makes to wanna jump towards your demise.That’s how I look at it. Some people, take a different spin on it, like blaming the teacher of the kid for his suicide. Like whaaaaat?

The parents say that they will acquire a hold departure order for the student’s British teacher as she reprimanded the kid for plagiarizing his writing assignment, and that was, according to them, is what made the kid’s fuse blow.

That is in no way right. First of all, plagiarism is WRONG. Full stop. It’s stealing. I understand where the kid is coming from, we were all at that one point in our lives where deadline is imminent and you can’t rephrase a damn paragraph, but is it my fault if you waited for the deadline? How come other students did it too? As a teacher, I’d  reprimand him too. I want my student’s to have integrity!

If the kid was smart as they say he is, then I’m pretty sure he’s cool about it, he knew what he was doing, as after all, he’s smart. Unless he was on drugs, which can make his behavior go bonkers. Then again, he can be just plain depressed and that made him bonkers. Why does the depression have to be blamed on the teacher though? Can he not have other problems?

I will quote the mother on this “Dapat sabihin kaagad ng school ang nangyari para masuportahan sa bahay o dapat nadoon kami sa meeting na ‘yon (We should have been told immediately what happened so we could support him at home or we should have been in the meeting [with the teacher]),”  (source) and I go, whut. He’s 18. He’s an adult. Being a Filipino though, 18 can still be pretty kiddie and the British teacher MAY have not realized that the student isn’t mature enough to take a very sensitive, intellectually-blowing reprimand (but mature enough to plagiarize – ha!), but yeah, understand it when the parents go, he’s still a kid. Maturity is relative after all.

It’s good that the school hasn’t issued a statement over this as it’s just, sorry – stupid. I am tempted to say sorry that I wasted your time on this but to tell the truth, we can all learn from this: quit plagiarizing, claim your mistakes, be kind to everyone. We all have our shit. Let’s all be giving.

Sources and Related Articles:

Family of fallen BSM student mulls charges vs teacher

British school student jumps to death in Makati

Troubled student jumps off Makati carpark building