Of ‘Savior’ Meals and City Lights

Photo by Eduphil

Manila is a youth’s dream. After years of staying in one’s homes away from the capital of the country, stories of how Manila is a world of freedom circulate. So when incoming college students get told by their parents that they will stay in Manila, multiple possibilities cross their minds.

Little do they know that living in a place away from home is no easy feat.

A taste of independence may sometimes be a difficult reality to swallow as young people navigate through adulthood. For the youth who rely on their families for sustenance, living in Manila may cause them to give more than what they prepared for.

Photo by Philstar

College students primarily rely on their allowance to sustain their daily needs, and budgeting is needed in order to allocate necessary funds for each day of every month. But for a city that offers more than what they often have, Manila poses expensive costs of living.

According to data aggregator iPrice Group, Manila is one of the most costly cities to live in despite having the lowest average wage for the working class in Southeast Asia.

iPrice data from Southeast Asia’s six largest markets on the Numeo database states that the Philippines’ capital city has the second-highest rent prices, trailing only behind Singapore. A one-bedroom apartment in Manila’s city center costs 56% more than in Kuala Lumpur, 47% more than in Jakarta, and 31% more than in Ho Chi Minh City.

A primary part of one’s day is a meal. Three meals a day away from home may have some changes. As students, time is often put into school works and requirements. They would rather buy food from nearby restaurants than cook at their own places.

Due to time constraints, they often eat to diminish the feeling of hunger and have no time to think if their food provides the proper nutrients. This is a concern that should be addressed among young people living in Manila.

As one meal almost costs PHP 200, it will surely drain their monthly allowance. That’s where budget meals and karinderyas come in. Fast food saver meals cost under PHP 100, while home-cooked meals from karinderyas go as low as PHP 50. It truly owns up to the name “savior” as students turn to these low-cost sources when their allowance is already short. Of course, food is also a way for students to relieve their stress from academic responsibilities.

Photo credit: Boston Consulting

Despite the added expenses, students choose to spend time with their peers after class. Nearby cafes and restaurants around their schools become a place to socialize and unwind. These types of moments help them cope with the challenges of college life.

After all the activities are done and one finds themselves alone in their place, it is back to reality again. It is back to the reality that one may or may not have spent more than they should have in a day. After this realization hits comes consoling oneself, reassurance that it all did not go in vain. What are a few bills in exchange for hours of memories anyway? These moments make the world spin a little faster. Life becomes more bearable when it is spent with the people who make you happy.

A student is expected to budget 18,000 Philippine Pesos (420 US dollars) per month for basic living expenses such as housing, utility bills, transportation, and food. With the increasing prices of goods and services, students will have to put forward more cash as often as they could. But what does this truly say about the cost of living in Manila? A PHP 1000 bill lasts for not more than two days nowadays. Sometimes, people do not even see money leaving their wallets because they know they are spending it on necessities.

For students who have just been introduced to the world of adulting, this is a learning curve for them. They soon realize that they have to put aside their wants and prioritize their needs. Living alone also means that they have to rely on themselves most of the time.

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Homesickness is a common experience for students living in Manila. Sentiments about missing their parents and everything about home fill each of their stories. But at this point in their lives, they would have to learn how to stand on their own two feet as they continue to study for their future and realize their goals.

Apart from the glitz and glamour that Manila offers the youth, several challenges await them in their new dorms and condominiums. Aspects of becoming an adult such as budgeting and prioritizing needs over wants are what they have to practice now. But aside from this, the high cost of living in the country’s capital should not hinder them from exploring it. Manila has a lot of things to offer to the youth. It is only a matter of proper management, whether in terms of time and resources. It is important to seize the moment for one’s youth cannot be replaced.