Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Life in the Philippines: Expensive Restaurants in Luxurious Malls and Usury

Who Says the Philippines is a Poor Country?

Last month we stayed at my sister-in-law Condo in Metro Manila for 4 days prior to our snowbirding sojourn in Marinduque. One Saturday first cousins Olga and Lito Quiazon treated us for lunch at Mesa Restaurant. This restaurant is located at the new SM Shopping Mall called the Aura at Taguig right at C-5. The mall was huge and beautiful and better built and design in most of the malls, I have visited in Northern California. There must be parking spaces for more than 10,000 cars.

Dining at this restaurant and window shopping in this mall, you will never think the Philippines is a poor country compared to US or Singapore. The restaurant was full and there was about a 3o minutes wait if you arrived after 12 noon. Luckily we have reservations at 11:30 and we we were served promptly. There were six adults in our party. Olga ordered about 5 main dishes, a soup dish a salad entry and two desserts. The servings were small similar to what they called the California cuisine. In spite of the small servings the food was delicious. One particular dish that I like was the binago-ongan. This is a dish made of pork and flavored with shrimp paste called bago-ong. In general I hate bago-ong because oftentimes it is salty and its fishy smell. But this binago-ong is just perfect and no smell plus the pork was tender and delicious. The other dish that I love was their fresh pomelo salad. Speaking of pomelo ( Pinoy or Chinese grapefruit).our two pomelos here in Amoingon were very fruitful this year. Last January, it yielded about 400 pomelos. When we arrived in Amoingon the last week of February, there were only about two dozen fruits that are still on the tree that my wife and I were able to enjoy

Back to the Mesa restaurant at the SM Aura Mall. Although the servings were small, the prices were expensive that only the rich Filipinos and Balikbayans that earned dollars can afford to dine, I truly believed. I saw Lito paying the waiter 5000 pesos for our lunch. In our party were 4 senior citizens with a 20% discount card that we all gave to Lito This made sense, when I remembered that the prices of the dishes in the menu ranged from 250 to 400 pesos. Again, thank you Olga and Lito for the delicious lunch. So who says The Philippines is a poor country. ( The dollar to pesos exchanged rate at that time was 1 to 44).

On another subject about life here in the Philippines: The usurious practice of lenders here in Marinduque makes me vomit. Our new care taker( for Macrine) lives in a barangay in the interior of Marinduque. It takes her an hour of bumpy roads riding in a tricycle from her village to downtown Boac. Two days after she received her first salary, she requested to take a day off. She informed me that she needed to pay a loan that she took 2 months ago of 500 pesos. Two months later she is being charge an interest of 100 pesos, so her total loan is now 600 pesos. I started calculating in my mind what the interest rate. It comes to 10% per month or 120% annually. I was so shocked when I heard this. But after talking to my driver here, I was informed this is common practice here in Marinduque. The lenders become rich, but when they die their souls will go to Hell because of their usurious ways. I told my driver in the US one can go to jail if they get caught. However here in Marinduque and possibly other parts of the Philippines, this lending practice is a way of life.

Our corrupt Pinoy legislators should pass a law to make usurious practices a crime and not to exclude themselves. Maybe I am just dreaming or very naive by even thinking about this.

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