‘Tinola’ now a luxury for those feeling pinch of high prices
In the last two months, Rose Deliverio’s diet has alternated between instant noodles, sardines and egg, and a stick of pork barbecue.
The 42-year-old ambulant vendor has been craving a bowl of “tinola” (chicken ginger stew) but, given the high cost of goods these days, she lamented that she could no longer afford to either cook the quintessential Filipino dish or even buy a serving of it from any of the food stalls dotting Barangay Old Capitol Site in Quezon City.
Tricycle driver Diosdado’s situation is no better than Rose’s. Over the last few weeks, his family’s meals have been made up mainly of rice porridge, hotdog and egg, and two pieces of tilapia.
While even middle-class Filipinos are hard-pressed to cope with the rising cost of goods and services, it is the urban poor, including those from the informal sector like Rose and Diosdado, who are hardest hit by soaring prices.
They do not have regular jobs and a fixed income, and live on the hope that each day would bring in enough for their needs.
Getting sick not an option
Rose, who sells various knickknacks from cotton buds to mobile phone cases and gloves, said that these days she would be lucky to turn in an income of, at most, P300, way below the prevailing minimum wage of P512 in the National Capital Region.
Most of her meager income goes to food, said Rose, while the rest covers her utility bills. And because she doesn’t have any savings, “getting sick is not an option,” she added.
The 6.4-percent inflation rate as of August—the highest in nine years—has meant that Rose’s favorite brand of sardines now retails for P22 a can, from just P18 a few months ago.
A stick of pork barbecue now costs P12, from P10, with only three pieces of meat instead of the usual four.
“Those who say they are not affected by high prices are hypocrites,” Rose said, adding that “these days no matter how hard you work, [what you earn] isn’t enough for your needs.”
Amid the high prices, Rose said the one thing going for her was that she was single.
Diosdado, on the other hand, has to figure out how his family of five would be able to get by on his P300 daily income.
Saving half of hotdog
To stretch his earnings, Diosdado said his family would divide among themselves their viand for the day. This means setting aside for dinner half of the hotdog and tilapia they had for lunch.
While this would deprive his school-aged children of nutritious food, he has “no choice,” Diosdado said, citing the high cost of fish, meat and vegetables in the market.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that in August, the price of vegetables and fish rose nationwide by 19.2 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, putting them out of reach of poor Filipinos.
The continued rise in the price of goods and services has prompted labor groups, such as the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, to press the government to immediately arrest the high inflation rate and the resulting decrease in the purchasing power of the peso.
Too much focus on drugs
“The unemployed are obviously scraping what’s left at rock bottom in order to survive. Workers in the informal economy — since they do not have a fixed income — also feel very insecure,” the group said.
Other labor groups have urged the government to provide discounts on basic commodities and to pass a law setting P750 as minimum wage nationwide.
Rose and Diosdado, meanwhile, expressed hope that the government would change its priority from “focusing too much on illegal drugs to really addressing the concerns of the poor.”
They said they wanted to see better working conditions for everyone and changes on how the National Food Authority was being managed.
“We do not need subsidies,” Rose said. “What we need are permanent solutions that would really have an impact on our lives.”
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