Monday, November 17, 2014

The Philippines is poor.  So how poor are Filipinos?  A pack of cigarettes is cheap, perhaps .50 USD per pack yet cigarettes are often sold by the "stick" because some smokers can't afford to pony up for a whole pack.  OTC drugs such as aspirin and paracetamol are sold by the individual pill, just tell the lady behind the drugstore counter how many pills you want (or can afford) and she'll get out her scissors and cut your order from a blister pack.

The Philippines has home grown department store chains like SM and Robinson's but there are also stores that cater to the low income market such as Lopues in Bacolod.  In the US it's often said that Walmart sells nothing but cheap Chinese crap but stores such as Lopues make Walmart look like Nordstrom.  The lighting is bare CFL, clothes are cheap and they look it, they look like they were tailored by a blind man with pinking shears.

Philippine cities have little or no public transportation so people rely on jeepneys, tricycles or pedicabs to get around.  In Manila the Jeepneys look like a cross between a Jeep and an open SUV.  They’re homemade and are usually powered by an Isuzu diesel engine.  People get piled in tightly like cattle, pay 8 pesos (around .20 cents) per trip.  In Manila the tires of Jeepneys are often bald, the lights don’t work,the brakes are questionable and if the drivers have insurance they wouldn't know it because they can’t read or write.  Tar black exhaust pours from the tailpipes.

In Bacolod everyone calls them Jeeps but they don’t even pretend to look like Jeeps.  They’re old Japanese vans that have had their beds partially enclosed to carry people.  

These homemade people carriers belch and bathe passengers and pedestrians in diesel smoke. I could see through rusted or badly welded joints in the floor. They're noisy too. This is what passes for mass transportation in the Philippines augmented by tricycles (a motorcycle lashed to a steel frame sidecar) and pedicabs.

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