Staying alive at Christmas

By Herbert Vego

THE inflationary Christmas this year does not augur well for the less fortunate. Even we in the “middle class” grimace over rising prices of Noche Buena foods.

To make both ends meet, some of us need to pinch pennies by buying less of everything – say, a half-kilo of ham instead of the traditional one kilo. That “sacrifice” could only be avoided by borrowing money and worrying about payment later.

Even the greedy merchants who impose higher prices eventually see the erosion of their own gains whenever they buy their own needs at higher prices, too. Sooner or later, whatever money they have saved in the bank, even if it earns negligible but taxable interest, devaluates.

Hasn’t the Great Book in 1 Timothy 6:10 reminded us that greed or “the love of money is the root of all evil”?

Unfortunately, austerity can only get us so far. Whatever Christmas bonus and extra income could only stretch so far.  Sooner or later, it would be back to “normal” for the less fortunate who would have to slash food expenses to the bone and risk the possibility of getting sick and be unable to afford medicine. Going into deeper debt would then be unavoidable.

The only way to keep pace with inflation is to earn more money, which is an elusive dream as far as the minimum wage earner is concerned.

Of course, we know of friends who have gone into “sideline” or a little business and have consequently prospered.

Those who demand wage increase but don’t get it are doomed to suffer further.

Let’s take a look at the minimum wage earner making P12,000 per month. If this were his income in the 1980s, he could have lived very comfortably. Today, he would have to endure a Spartan existence (no complete appliances) to keep his family alive, clothed and educated.

If his income this year is no more  than three years ago, he is in big trouble. Take note that the minimum jeepney fare has gone up from seven to 12 pesos!

Alas, that might not benefit the jeepney driver but aggravate his lack, since he is responsible for buying diesel and remitting higher “boundary” or vehicle rental to the unit’s owner. Passengers would likewise “retaliate” by taking a lesser number of jeepney rides.

When my kumpare Eli — who used to send his children to Ateneo – suffered a business reversal, he literally begged them to transfer to a public college in exchange for a bigger daily allowance.  Otherwise, they would have to sell precious possessions. The children agreed and finished college.

Between cutting back on expenses and doubling your income, which is preferable? Obviously, it’s adding more income but this is easier said than done when the employers are as hard-up as the employees.

When laborers ask for a wage hike across the board, their employers would have to hike prices of their products or services – which further fuels inflation.  The better alternative would be to stimulate demand by keeping prices low and thus produce more products.  With more products selling like hotcakes, both the producer and the consumers benefit. This is the way the economies of scale works.

Working abroad for better pay is another option for Filipinos who no longer see the “future” in the local job market. As the song New York New York says, “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.”



EFFECTIVE this week, residents of Iloilo will be spared scheduled brownouts until next year — January 6, 2023, that is. A scheduled power interruption, by the way, is one done for the sake of upgrading the system.

But of course, in emergency cases whenever customers lose electricity due to faulty lines, response teams of MORE Power will still remain available on 24/7 basis all throughout the Christmas/New Year season.

This was announced by Joy Fantilaga, the distribution utility’s strategic communications officer, on the radio/FB program “MORE Power at Your Service”.

“We have thousands of customers. Hundreds of them call us daily to complain of unexpected power problems,” Fantilaga said, referring to equipment defects or accidental outages. “We issue them numbered tickets either on a first-come first served basis or on urgency.”

This means that when a whole block is in trouble, it would be prioritized over a family household.

Scheduled brownouts will resume on January 7 with the decommissioning of the Molo substation for overhauling, to be temporarily replaced by the new mobile substation.  This is in line with the five-year rehabilitation of the substations as envisioned by the utility’s president and CEO, Roel Z. Castro.