How to Live Comfortably on US$1,000 a Month

You’d be hard-pressed living in the USA for US$1,000.00 a month, but outside the USA, you’ll find plenty.

One place I can recommend is the Philippines.

Fist, every Filipino speaks English.  Try engaging even kids on the street, and you’d be surprised at how they’re able to carry a decent conversation with you. Second, the Philippines has plenty to offer sun and sand buffs.  Third, Filipinos naturally warm up to foreigners.  And, yes, one can live in the Philippines for under US$1,000.00 a month.

American retirees can live comfortably in Manila on a US$2,000 monthly pension, but if one has to live on no more than US$1,000 a month, he will have to stay in a city outside Manila, for instance, Cagayan de Oro.

That’s right.  In Cagayan de Oro, you can stay in a 76 sqm floor area, two-storey house on a 100 sqm lot, drive a motorbike, enjoy satellite TV connection, have Internet access, and have some more left for beer—all for no more than US$1,000 a month.

You won’t live like a king which you will were you to have a thousand dollars more, but you’ll live comfortably enough.

You won’t be having Angus beef steak dinners every time, or wash down your steak with a Cabernet Sauvignon, but you’ll do very well instead on raw tuna cubes marinated in young coconut vinegar with lemon, coconut milk, chopped onions, ginger, pepper, and seasoning, a dinner table delight called “kinilaw”or “seviche” in English. It’s healthful, too.

For something quick for dinner, you may opt for roasted whole chicken “lechon manok” for US$3.40.  You cannot drive more than 100 meters before encountering a roadside stall selling one.  Or you might opt, instead, for grilled pork belly called “liempo” which are available for US$1.75 in the same stores selling “lechon manok.”

If you’re a widower retiree who came to the Philippines to start a family, you need not worry about your children’s future schooling. Even with a scholarship, you’d be hard-pressed sending your children to the city’s top schools, but no problem, your children will be getting top-grade education in the city’s top public elementary school. The city’s top public elementary school routinely dominates city-wide math and science contests, so you’re assured your kids will be in good hands.

You’ll probably not have enough left to pay your household help, but with just you and your wife, you’d surely manage.

Here’s your likely budget:

US$232.00   House amortization

70.00 Motorbike amortization

50.00  Gas

70.00  Power

25.00  Water

23.00  Internet

28.00  Cell phone

20.00  Satellite TV

US$  818.00  Total

The remainder may be set aside for trips to McDonald’s or Starbucks. You’ll feel at home in one of the city’s malls, especially when you’re among expats.  There’s an active expat group that meets every Wednesday evening for beer at a hotel which one of them owns.

If you could spare a thousand dollars more, you can definitely live like a king in Cagayan de Oro.  US$2,000.00 a month could get you living in a leafy gated community with 7/24 gate and roving guards, CATV cameras all over, 12-meter wide concrete roads, in-house garbage collection, and have the city’s wealthy as your neighbors.  You can opt to become a member of the exclusive country club inside the gated community, and spend your afternoons lazing in one of the swimming pools.

If you especially like fruits, you’d find Cagayan de Oro a paradise.  Fruits of all kinds are here:  mangoes, avocado, bananas, soursop, durian, mangosteen, apples, oranges, pears, peaches, grapes, papaya, name it, Cagayan de Oro has it, and in abundance, which means cheap.  To give you an idea how low fruit prices could be in Cagayan de Oro:  mangoes sell for US$1.60 a kilo off season, and 70 cents a kilo in May.


How to Earn Extra Money Like It’s The Easiest Thing to Do

You know you’re not earning well enough if, despite spending only for that which is necessary, you still find yourself with just enough till the next paycheck comes.

One way to get yourself out of this bind is to moonlight. Try to find work you can do after office.  That’s around four hours to work with, four hours that sometimes can give you the equivalent of an extra month’s salary.

But, unless your moonlighting is woven around your hobbies or interests, your moonlighting activities will only be such a heavy burden on you. You’ll probably not last long, too.

I know of math teachers who, after school, tutor kids of well-to-do parents.  Where I work are cooks who, in their spare time, accept cooking jobs for parties. And I have a physical fitness instructor friend who reports for work in two fitness centers.

So what kind of moonlighting jobs could you possibly do?

Selling cosmetics or home products is one.  Who has not heard of Tupperware parties? These days, however, the market has gone beyond Tupperware, and into new areas:  wellness products, food supplements, clothes, footwear, cosmetics, to name a few.

You can babysit, conduct surveys over the phone, sell property, proofread, or do bookkeeping.

Or, like me, you can give lessons.

So long as you’re good in what you do, there’s bound to be people who’d be interested enough to enroll in your course.   I have given English courses on spelling and vocabulary to kids during summer school breaks.  School breaks are great because you’d be helping parents solve a perennial summer problem:  how they could preoccupy their easily-bored brood during summer.

I’d write schools asking permission to distribute flyers long before classes end.  A little imagination could spell the difference between classes bursting at the seams with enrollees and anemic ones.  What I’d do  was to tell the school directress that the courses would be a very helpful preparation for a city-wide spelling contest which I’d be organizing when school opens.  And, yes, I’d remind her that the more of her school’s students attend, the greater the chances are of her school winning. As a result, it’s often the school who’d try to sell the course to the parents so they’d enroll their kids.

Be sure, however, to offer value:  the students must emerge from your sessions better spellers than their peers.  Otherwise, if the school or the parents feel they’ve been had, you’ll have no repeat business.  In my case, I’d show the schools the materials that would be used, and the words that would be covered.

Needless to say, I’d make sure that the list includes a lot of frequently misspelled and mispronounced words.  That tactic has never failed.  In one case, this time on a proposal to give another English course to school officials, I got myself invited to a 5-minute presentation during their break to an assembly of around 70 school officials.

Five minutes is not much for a presentation, so what I did was to prepare flash cards for around a dozen killer words carefully selected for their ability to elicit the wrong pronunciation.  There were guffaws and plenty of ribbing, as the officials heartily gave pronunciations they were absolutely sure were correct, only to find out they were not.  Needless to say, I got the job.

Promise value to your market.  That’s the only way you can assure well-attended courses.

In one flyer, I included the following quiz which I invited potential enrollees to take.  If they score well, they obviously do not need my course.  Otherwise, they do.

1. What’s the correct answer to the question “Who’s calling?” (a) It’s I. (b) It’s me.
2. Which is correct? (a) He is taller than I.( b) He is taller than me.
3. She is a better skater than (a) he (b) him).
4. (a). We (b) Us Christians believe in eternal life.
5. Please give this car to (a) whoever (b) whomever needs it.
6. But although he (a) was (b) were dead, yet shall he live.
7 Which is correct? Experts (a) had (b) have) not thought the sound barrier could be breached until Chuck Yeager did it.
8. Tell your brother that he (a) need (b) needs not come tomorrow.
9 Which is correct? (a) Who said, “Et tu, Brute?”? (b) Who said,“Et tu, Brute?
10. What’s wrong with this sentence? “Look at that”! he exclaimed. “Did
you see that”?

11. How about this one? “Darling”, the wife purred, “buy me a Jaguar”.

12. Colons and semi-colons come (a) inside (b) outside quotation marks.
13. (a) With regard b) With regards) to your proposal, please know that it has been tabled for today’s meeting.
14. The swindler got his (a) just deserts (b) just desserts.
15. Which is correct? (a) One cannot eat his pie and have it too .(b) One cannot have his pie and eat it too.
16 Which is correct? (a) To boldly go where no man has gone before…(b) To go boldly where no man has gone before…
17 Ice tea or iced tea? Stain glass or stained glassTeenage daughter or teenaged daughter?
18 After completing your work, do you say “I’m finished.”? Or “I’m done.”?
19. Which is correct? (a) The country is comprised of 7,000 islands.(b) The country comprises 7,000 islands.
20. Which is correct? (a) I had never done business with him before. (b) I have never done business with him before.

How to Wake Up Every Morning Feeling Like a Million Dollars

For a change, how’d you like to wake up every morning feeling like a million dollars?  How’d you like to hit the  ground running everyday, feeling supercharged, and all set to dive right into whatever it is you have to do?

It’s really quite easy, and all you have to do is to follow the following easy steps:

(1)   Sleep early.  There’s no surer way to wake up like a million dollars every morning than to give yourself enough sleep.  People wake up morose because they haven’t had enough sleep.  And they didn’t have enough sleep because they slept very late, or they had a difficult time going to sleep.

It’s easy to correct the first mistake.  Just sleep early.  This means that if you want to get up no later than 6 a.m. the following day, you have to be in bed at around 10 p.m. It’s equally easy to remedy the second one, provided you know how.  But let’s get to that later.  Suffice it to say here that to help ensure waking up like a million dolalrs every morning, you have to sleep early.

(2)   Have the right food for dinner. Carbohydrates are sleepers, they help you sleep soundly through the night.  Proteins are wakers; avoid them.  They’ll keep you awake much of the night.  A combination of high carbohydrates and some protein dinner is best. Avoid an all-carbohydrate dinner, and don’t take carbohydrate snacks with sugar before sleeping. You’ll trigger your blood sugar to plummet, and your body will release stress hormones that’ll keep you awake.

(3)   Clear your mind of everything except the prospect of a good night’s sleep. Especially banish any thought about your unfinished work at the office, or the bad day you had with a particularly nasty client.  If you have to, you may think of the absolutely dashing guy who sat across you at the cafeteria, but don’t overdo it.  Muse about him in a passing way, and let go. The last thing that should be on your mind is how soft and pluffy your pillow is, and how nice it is to be on a soft but firm bed which …zzzzzzzz.

(4)   It’ll help immensely if you have the correct room temperature. Personal preferences vary, and one’s bane could be another’s boon, but 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit is the right range.  Remember, it’s not merely about the room being too hot, but it is also about the room being too cold.  Both extremes will ruin your sleep.


(5)   Use an alarm clock.  This will remove the stress of having to worry that you might not wake up on time.  Remember to disable the snooze function.And, most important, train yourself to get off your bed at the alarm.  No excuses.  Consider this your heroic minute.  It might require great discipline, but you can do it!

(6)   Take a warm shower. Brush your teeth.  Have a change of fresh clothes.  It’s amazing how going to bed feeling and smelling clean helps ensure an uninterrupted sleep.

(7)   Avoid caffeine drinks like coffee, tea, soft drinks, or energy drinks.  They disrupt your sleep. Some could quaff copious quantities of caffeine beverages and still sleep like a log, but if you’re not one of them, avoid these beverages.

(8)  If not too much of a problem, get yourself a good rubdown.  I have a hard massage right before going to sleep, and it has never failed me. As soon as it’s done, I drift off to sleep.

(9)   Pray. I pray not so that I can sleep well.  I pray because that’s the least I can do to thank God for the day just ended, and regardless of whether the day went well or not.  But I’ve noticed that peace and calm always descend upon me after praying, which is just as well, because being in a state of peace is the key to a good night’s sleep.

Look At What They’re Teaching Now At Seminaries

I heard the heresy for the first time in a homily, although I couldn’t recall precisely who the priest was.  I took a mental note of taking it up with the priest after the Holy Mass, but one look from my wife (somehow she knows whenever there’s something I don’t like in what the priest says) stopped me. 

I’ve all but forgotten about it until last week when I read about it again in Catholic Answers, specifically from articles written by Steve Ray and Jack Taylor, and after speaking with a teacher friend who’s likewise heard about it, again, from a priest.

This heresy, it seems, is no longer a laughing matter, especially as its chief propagandists are priests, and it’s taught in the local seminary.

Steve Ray calls the heresy the “miracle of sharing,” which claims that there was no real, literal, and miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes in the two miracles of the loaves and fishes as described by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in other words, by all four Gospel writers.

According to this heresy, the people had enough food under their robes, as it was the custom then– so the fairy tale goes– of people to bring with them food whenever  they go on a trip, as the event obviously was—the people have been with Jesus for three days in some remote grassy desert place.

The miracle, according to some priests teaching at seminaries, is the conversion of the people from tightwad Ebenezer Scrooges to generous sharers, gladly taking out their hoard of food inside their robes to share with others after hearing Jesus’ discourse.

Cute. Logical too, except that it flies right smack into the face of Scripture..

In the first place, it’s clear that Jesus and the disciples were concerned that the people had nothing to eat—Matthew 15:32 is explicit:  “Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat:  and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.’” (See also Mark 8:2-4;  John 6:5).

Would Jesus and his disciples become concerned had they known the people had enough food hidden inside their robes?  Besides, and assuming the Jews also had three meals a day, could food enough for nine meals be hidden inside one’s robes?

From Google Images

On the other hand, there is not one hint in the passages that the people had food stashed inside their robes.  And, if that were the custom then, wouldn’t 2,000 years of Bible scholars have noticed it earlier, and called attention to the fact?

But what’s most worrying is the ease with which Catholic priests—the cutting edge of  our Catholic faith— could be duped so easily.  Long years studying philosophy followed by equally long years studying theology, and our priests would unravel?  I don’t buy that.  Long years of study watered daily by recourse to the sacraments result in unshakeable foundation, not the wishy-washy one that would crumble at the first try of the devil, the wishy-washy foundation that our “miracle sharing” priests have.

Unless my teacher-friend and I heard the same trash from the same priest, it’s possible that this heresy might have infected more than one priest.  If so, I would like others who’ve heard the same from a priest to come forward and tell your story here, the same way that I’d like to request such priests to come out in the open with an explanation.

I’m Getting Old, And Loving Every Minute Of It!

After 57 years of trying, I am now the person I have always wanted  to be.

To be sure, I have not become the Roman Abramovich I’ve always dreamed of becoming, or the Brad Pitt that once I fancied myself to be, but I have come to realize that one could be very rich without being wealthy, or wanted without becoming a star.

I have my wife of 26 years– God’s most precious gift without whom I couldn’t cope, and she, alone, is more than enough.  I have my children, which makes be blessed beyond anything I could imagine.  I have my health.  And what remains of my hair. Or my teeth.

Yes, my body sucks.  I wake up every morning feeling like a steamroller had been placed on top of me. I like to jump out of bed, impatient and wanting to hit the ground running.  But aching joints from still-slumbering muscles prevent me.

And when I look in the mirror — could that puffed up guy with the horrible lines and sagging jowls be really me?   Invariably, however, I’d notice how sexy my graying (although thinning) hair had become.

Sir Joe Almodobar, F&B Manager, Xavier Sports & Country Club, and I

It’s tempting, but I would never trade my family, friends, my health for a chance to do it all over again, but differently.  I’d probably be driving a Lamborghini Gallardo, but what’s even ten of those if I have a listless life?  As I’ve aged, I’ve become a connoisseur of value, and there’s nothing more precious than family, health, and friends.  (God comes first, of course.)

I don’t hate myself   for wanting to have  two eggs for breakfast, or for often forgetting things, or for buying  those turn blocks that make our clothesline taut like no one else’s (but which my wife considers an unnecessary expense).  I am entitled to indulge in my favorite food once in a while, to be exacting with cleanliness in the house, to be extravagant with small things like turn blocks.

I can only count myself blessed– I  have seen far too many dear friends leave the world before they have the privilege of being called “old.”  Perhaps that’s why I always take the senior citizens lane at the supermarket, and feel pleased when counter girls fail to notice my lack of qualification.

Whose business is it if I take longer time to marvel at morning glories?  Or paint my house yellow? Or have numerous Facebook and Twitter accounts?  Whose concern is it if I have six blogs?

I will croon to my heart’s desire to those wonderful tunes of Nat King Cole or Simon and Garfunkel, and if I, at  the same time, feel like belting out Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses,” or Hearts’ “Alone,” I will.

Shirley G. Llera

I will continue to adore my wife and dote on our children, and will always want my son with me even if he’s already twenty-six.  That, despite the snickers of others. They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful.  But then would growing old be growing old if one always remembers everything?  And you know  what?  I always remember the important things like my wife’s birthday, or our wedding anniversary, or the names of our daughters’ friends.

Sure, I’ve had my share of grief.  How can one not weep  at the loss of a loved  one, or when bills get due and payday is still two weeks away, or when even one’s own son thinks Dad’s the worst thing that has ever happened to him? But from broken hearts come wisdom, and from every humbling experience, strength. A man that has never been down has not truly lived.

I thank God to have been allowed to see my hair turn gray, and my teeth fall.  So many have never been as privileged.  As one gets older, it is easier to be positive. One spends less time worrying about what other people think.

So, do I like getting old?  Yes, Virginia,  I  love growing old.

It has set me free.

From Google images

I like the person I have become.  I am not going to be around forever,   but while I live, I will not waste time dwelling on what could have been, or worrying about what tomorrow will bring.

Might You Not Be Leading a Double Life?


There was once a young executive whose star was definitely on the rise in the company.

A brilliant organizer and a gifted persuader, he was a financial whiz kid as well.  It’s no surprise, therefore, that, at 28, he became the investment banking division head of the investment bank he works for with the title of assistant vice-president.  In this job, the young executive, now 31,helps clients raise funds in capital markets and facilitates mergers and acquisitions.  In fact, he’s rumored to take the place of his boss who’s being promoted.

One day, he received a call from a member of the Board. He was coming to Paris for a visit to  a large client.  The young executive cleared his calendar, and was at the Charles de Gaulle Airport the following day to meet the Board official.

After a series of meetings and visits, the party had dinner and drinks at a swank restaurant.  Soon, what the young executive dreaded came. You see, the Board member is a known ladies’ man, and soon his voice thundered across the room:  “Let’s go see what the city has to offer;  the night is still young.”  The young exec cleared his throat and croaked:  “Sir, my wife’s waiting.”  “Nonsense,” roared the official, what are you? A priest?”

In the driving rain, the young exec drove home sad.  He knew that by declining the official, he was probably kissing his promotion goodbye.

Weeks passed. He was surprised when he learned through the grapevine that, yes, he got his boss’ job.

It was not until much later, however, that he learned how. It seemed that in the meeting to select the new head of the front office division of their bank, the Chairman cautioned the board, saying “This position is sensitive, and requires a person of saintly timber.  “Oh, that’s all right,” boomed a voice from across the mammoth table, “we have a “priest” at Investment Banking.”

It was the Board official who came to visit.

This story ends in a happy note, but even if it doesn’t, it still illustrates an ideal which everyone should pursue:  unity of life.


We see in the story that the young executive was practicing it.  Obviously, he is the type who likes to be true to his marriage vows, and therefore avoids occasions which would subject him to temptation.  He is married so he could not obviously have a woman not his wife, even just to be comfy with or even just to gawk at.

He is living unity of life. Elijah warns:  “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”  What this means is clear:  One can be good, or one can be evil, but he cannot be, in certain situations good, and in other situations, evil.”

It is very sad, but how often do we  see people living exemplary lives in public, but are monsters at home?

How many profess concern for their pet dogs, but are totally callous to the suffering of people around them?

How precious many say one thing and really mean it, profess to be something  and really be it,  subscribe to an ideal and live it?

How precious many?

Christian life must be authentic in all its dimensions, otherwise it will just become a parody, a farcical comedy, a mockery of that which it purports to be.

To achieve this unity is a lifetime task.  The only way by which it can be done is by growing in the love of God so that our self-surrender progressively increases in scope.

To go at it solely relying on our own powers of resolve and determination is the sure way to fail.  We have to grow in the love of God, then everything will follow.  It’s sort of like tapping on to power outside our own.

From Google Images

Which is why this thing cannot be done without prayer, frequent recourse to the sacraments, and the constant presence of God.

Everyone has the obligation to form his conscience well.  We must strive to have regular moments of recollection– when we examine ourselves  and draw every dark action out into the light.

We must also see if we lead double lives:  one life for public consumption, an entirely different life in the privacy f our homes.

Sometimes it is easy not to be honest since the alternative does not look so bad.

Reading a book or watching a movie, it’s easy to condemn a protagonist who, for instance, is a ranking naval official, but, at the same time, feeds sensitive information to a hostile government.

Yet, have we examined ourselves, trying to see in what way we could be worse?

Slow Travel: Anyone?

Photo by Bong Edralin

Eight years ago I submitted an article on Cagayan de Oro to  the editor of Marco Polo magazine, hoping it would get published and launch my “career” as a freelance travel writer. The editor of the American magazine was very kind and commended me for a “well-written piece,” but made clear in no uncertain terms that the article would not see print.  How come?   Because “nobody goes there.”

This dousing of cold water smothered  my travel writing ambitions, but it did not extinguish my conviction that somehow, there must be something  about Cagayan de Oro that will pack tourists in.

In fact, there is.  Or at least there seems to be.  Six years ago, a Newsweek cover story talked about an emerging trend in world travel, one called slow travel.  Gone are the days of ten-cities-in-ten-days tours, Newsweek claims.  In vogue now are  immersion tours:  tourists going to China not to see the Great Wall, but to study Chinese calligraphy or to learn Tai Chi from an authentic master;  travelers going to Egypt not to see the pyramids, but to join in some archeological dig;  tourists going to Italy not for the frescoes of Sistine Chapel, but for an unhurried tour of Italian vineyards.

Photo by Bong Edralin

Often, it is about taking the unbeaten path, to use a bike instead of a car,  yes, to go where nobody goes. There is emerging a tendency to go slow, to savor the moment, to go home crammed not so much with pictures as with fond memories.

Well, it does not require genius to tell that this is something we can satisfy and in grand manner in CDO..  We speak the lingua franca.  Okay, we have the tendency to mangle the English language at every opportunity, but generally, we are able to understand and make ourselves understood.   In English.

We are such natural hosts.  We delight in making strangers comfortable. In fact, we just don’t invite visitors into our homes;  we insist they join us on our dining tables.

And, most important, we just might have what French, German, Canadian, and American slow travelers want.  It’s not just our girls, silly;  although that could be one reason. We have rich “lumad” (native)  culture.  We have fantastic eco-tourism sites. We have such great bargains.

We have to prepare for this great opportunity.  Everyone must see in every tourist not a mark to rip off, but  a magnificent opportunity to put food on our tables, and to see Junior through Nursing school.  Everyone– especially taxi and rent-a-van drivers– must be a veritable tour guide, able to assist tourists.  We have to whip discipline into our @#?*&!  drivers and worse Roads and Traffic Authority officers. This early, City Hall might want to develop walking tours, biking tours, or lumad immersion tours.

The Marco Polo editor’s comment might still be true, that nobody ever goes here, but THAT may precisely be the reason why many others will.