The Crisis We Need to Face as One Filipinos

The price of rice, vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish, among other Filipinos daily basic needs, keeps on rising. What is going on in the Philippines today?

Rice and eggs, typical Filipino meal

I think that same question is your question too.

During my elementary days, I used to sing a song about rice and a part of the song goes like this...

Bawat butil ng bigas na mailigpit...
Ligaya rin natin kapag nagigigpit...
Kumain ka ng husto at magtipid...

(Every grain of rice that is consumed...
Our happiness when we are on crisis...
Eat well and be thrifty...)

I can feel it and I am not numb to not see how the Filipinos are perishing to this crisis of the time. Rice, which our very own country produced, is so expensive that the lower class Filipino citizens can no longer afford to buy them. But if one cannot understand how rising global oil prices affects the inflation rate in the country, then to the simplest way, this blog will attempt to explain why importation of NFA rice is not enough to feed our hungry stomach, comfort our aching heart, and cool down our boiling minds.

Who do you want to blame?

President Duterte, the rice hoarders, the illegal importers, the economic managers, the big petroleum companies, the capitalists, or the militant groups that keeps on complaining on the streets? Or maybe the TRAIN Law? How about the leftists; the opposition perhaps? While we may have varying opinions, it is important that we think with caution when throwing blame with someone or anyone. Doing so may cause you sleepless nights, or worst case an enemy online or offline.

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte during his State of the Nation Address

Let us try to understand the situation.

There is NO Shortage of Rice --- Philippine Government
As of September 2018, the population of the Philippines is nearly 107 million! In the span of only about 3 years, we grew by about 7 million. Meanwhile, according to Philippine Statistics Authority, our palay production reaches a staggering 19.28 million metric tons in 2017. On a rough estimate, we should be having this year 2018 around 2.7 million metric tons surplus in rice supply. In a simpler sense, if its about rice, Philippine farmers are producing more than enough of what we need in a yearly consumption basis. We have plenty of grains to feed the swelling population, so to speak.

Sounds good but why the price of rice is increasing that much? And in the first place, why are we importing rice from Thailand and Vietnam if we have sufficient supply here? What went wrong?

To answer these questions, let us examine the reality in our local markets.

Importation of Rice is Government's Answer
How expensive rice is in your town? Php 50, 55, 60? Two years ago I can still remember I can buy a kilo of rice for Php 40. Well, the NFA rice priced at Php 27, I used to buy such rice before. My approach today is I buy a few kilos of good quality rice priced at Php 50 or so and then a few kilos of NFA rice. This, in a way, helps me ease the burden of expensive rice and other basic commodities.

NFA Rice Sold on Local Markets

What's in the News About NFA Rice
Now, the reason we are importing rice is because Filipino farmers cannot sell their palay (not yet rice) at Php 17 (way back July) to the National Food Authority (NFA) who’s in-charge of distributing affordable rice all over the country. This claim is according to the NFA. The price for locally produced typical-grade palay as of this month is surprisingly falling on the range of Php 25 to Php 26. After the palay is milled and become rice, rice millers would sell this to their wholesale clients at Php 44 to Php 45 a kilo. The rice when they reach our local palengke will then be retailed at Php 50 and above a kilo. We are just talking about sinandomeng, dinorado and the similar varieties, and not yet the higher quality varieties. In other words, there is a big problem going-on in the local trading aspect. The markup is so high.

Government action to at least ease the effects of the pricey locally-produced rice to the Filipino pockets is to import cheaper rice.

Why can’t the government intervene with these rice millers and traders? Why can’t they lower down the price of rice? They are the authority, aren't they?

Stop Blaming Each Other
I am not an economist or even somebody who fully understands the rice industry. These questions are for the economic experts to provide answers to. And just to be clear, I am not blaming anyone here, not even the rice traders and the government. This is business and everybody wants to make income out of rice. What I am just trying to say here is that with the on-going economic crisis we have in the Philippines, the ever-increasing price of foods and basic needs, everybody should act and do their part in order for us to survive.

I’ve been seeing a lot of debates, heated arguments, exchange of fowl words, and even hate and shame campaigns all over the internet, particularly in social media, these days. My goodness, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc… look what have you done to the Filipinos! Instead of doing these unkind deeds my dear countrymen, why not we find ways that could lighten up our burdens.

Please. Stop finger-pointing. Stay away from arguments.

This is easier said than done. But the goal of this article is to encourage the Filipinos to set aside blaming and cursing and hating. Time to move on.

Yes, there is something we can do to at least budget our money wisely, even save extra money from unnecessary expenses and allocate those savings to the much needed necessities like food, medicine and household basic needs.

Here’s how we should respond to the crisis in our land.

Skip the malls, go to the “palengke” or “talipapa”.
Seriously, if you’re one of those who complains about the high price of rice, go nowhere but the “palengke” in your town or barangay. Have you ever checked the price difference of a kilo rice sold in grocery stores inside malls and those sold in palengke? Big difference. It could be from Php 5 to as high as Php 15. Not only rice, but the common foods and cooking ingredients we need, the palengke have them priced a little bit lower for you. Imagine saving Php 50 to Php 100 by not buying those common stuffs we need inside grocery stores inside malls. Remember, public market is far different to private markets. So let me be clear that palengke or talipapa is that public marketplace where you can even “tawad” (bargain for price).

Do not (ever) eat on food courts, but only in “karinderya”.
Probably some of you may disagree with this thought if its about cleanliness of food preparations and serving. But hey, have you ever been into the kitchen area of a food court or even a restaurant inside the malls? When it comes to cleanliness and sanitation, there are “karinderya” that is as clean and as sanitize as those that are in malls. Truth is, there is no guarantee that the food served in food courts inside shopping malls are 100% safe and clean. You just have to be selective when it comes to karinderya or canteens. Now, if it’s about the price of a meal, unquestionably, you can save a lot when you eat on karinderya. But if possible, do not eat that often outside. If you can cook your own food, way better. All your doubts about cleanliness and prices will be erased for sure.

Go for other sources of carbohydrates.
These days, many of us don’t care that much when it comes to the nutrition or health benefits of the food we are eating. Sad reality but true. We prefer foods serve on fast food chains and those that are sold by street vendors. Only when we get sick that we realize we did something wrong on our eating habits. Truth is, there are inexpensive yet healthy foods out there that we used to take for granted. The “kamote”, “saging na saba”, “mais”, and “tinapay” are good sources of carbohydrates and all of these can wipe out our hunger. Why not we focus our attention to these superfoods and ignore the junk and cholesterol-packed foods like hamburger and barbecue. And think about the savings you can get by doing this.

Plan your weekly trips or commute.
I’m not sure about the minimum fare on jeepneys and buses right now, maybe Php 8 or Php 9. Regardless of that, there is still something you can do to save some from your weekly transportation or travel allowance. One way is by planning your trips or routes. If you’ve been commuting for years, then this option may not work as probably you are used to the routes and the fares that goes with each. But hey, try to know if a jeepney passes there or if there is an option to walk that few hundred meters with the goal of saving a peso or two. If the way to do it is leave your house 30 minutes earlier than usual, then do it. In going home, if it is way better to walk a mile or two instead of killing yourself on heavy traffic jams, do it. Avoid taxi ride as much as possible, unless you have somebody who can share a ride with you. Make friday as your exercise-going-home day, if your body condition allows. If you can save Php 10 to Php 25 a week, that’s roughly Php 100 savings in a month.

Maximize your e-loads. Register on unli-surf and unli-calls.
In today’s busy world, communication is a necessity. Not only that, but also checking your FBs and watching videos on YouTube. Got you on that. But the thing is (listen millennials), are you consuming those e-loads or data packages “smart” and “globe” enough? Use it wisely my friend. Register on data and call plans that will lengthen the use or consumption of that money your spent on e-loads. And more importantly, if you can control yourself, stay away from senseless discussion on social media and from watching video clips that will bring you nothing good in return. Those are time wasters, and money wasters. Save that Php 30 for something better. Or should I say, cut your spendings on e-loads.

Buy the typical type of rice. All rice almost tastes the same.
We are used to not asking from karinderya or restaurant the kind of rice they're serving. We order and just eat it. Let me put it this way. Have you ever tried adding pandan leaves on the rice? Well, practically speaking, whatever rice that might be, if you want it to smell like fresh and delicious, adding pandan leaves will help. Being practical about our choice of food will do something remarkable in our lives, trust me. Think of this carefully. When you see this rice priced at Php 50 and then another one is priced at Php 53, with only slight variation in color and texture, where would you go? The point here is if you can save somewhere in between Php 50 to Php 100 for a month-worth of rice purchases, go for the cheaper rice. Given that NFA rice is not always available, your choice of low-priced rice can play a huge role on your monthly food budget. And try pandan leaves as well.

Go for the generics in the pharmacy.
We are “choosy” if it’s about the health of our family members. If it’s about medicine, we were used to buying branded ones from known pharmacies like Mercury Drugs and Watsons. While many have explained it quite well, we were still being convinced by actors and actresses on TV commercials and doctors on their white uniforms that these brands of drugs are way more effective. Holi cow! Science have proven it and experts had spoken loudly that generic drugs are equally the same as the branded ones. So let us all wake up! If a capsule of anti-flu is way cheaper from TGP or Generika, go there. Forget about the brand. What’s more important is that you or your family member’s illness will be healed. It would save your life, it would save you money.

Go for the unpopular brands in the grocery store.
The same as drugs, a can of Ligo sardines is almost the same as a can of Master sardines. While this claim may face contradictions from the expert taste buds, a difference of 50 cents to 1 peso will invite applause and cheers from a cautious mother. And what is it to sacrifice a little bit in terms of taste if it’s about saving in order to survive the crisis of the time? I’m telling you, choose the brands that are priced just right instead of those expensive ones.Reserve your cravings for yummy foods on birthdays and Christmas. The good thing in doing this sacrifice is that you can save as high as Php 500 or even Php 1000 each month. Economically speaking, if you buy the less popular brands, you are making their production quality way better. You, in a sense, is killing the demand for expensive brands, pushing those food manufacturers to lower their prices in order for them to compete in the market.

Avoid too much “lakad” and “gimik”. Forget (or minimize) about your vices.
In these tough times, think of the “kapakanan” (welfare) of your family. The money you will spend on traveling, eating outside, texting or calling to update your partner or son/daughter on where you are, and every peso that will be spent while you’re away from home, could you not postpone or cancel your trips if you can? Stay at home or go to the nearby parks, that might keep you well and safe. And sad to say, but if you used to go out to drink and smoke with your friends, stop it. Allocate that liquor and cigarette allowance to a kilo of rice and half a kilo of pork or fish instead. Forget about the malls and bars. They will not go anywhere. Forget about out-of-towns. Everything you need to relax and enjoy is in your living room or backyard garden. I believe you’re getting what I mean.

Create a weekly meal schedule and follow it.
Many of us could have been doing this routine for years. It is helping, right? If you are allocating say Php 2000 per week on food and basic needs, there is much more you can do to make this budget fits well on the entire week. Creating meal plans is like convincing yourself to avoid unnecessary spendings. Make a complete list and buy those stuffs good for a week. Then write down on a piece of paper the meals for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on. Post that note on the ref or anywhere in the kitchen area where you can easily see and read it. Again, the impact of doing this is that you can avoid unnecessary purchases because almost everything you need for a week is right there. And to make this routine even more successful and beneficial, track down your weekly budget and see if you can still do some adjustments. If you can subtract say Php 100 from that Php 2000, then all the benefits is for you and your family.

Let's Do Our Part
Again, for most of us (including myself), these things are easier said than done (Madaling sabihin, mahirap gawin). I’m neither a saint nor a perfectionist to say I can do all of these. But if we can do at least one or two, who knows, it could help us face the crisis and become better off.

There is a lot of things we can do to lessen the effect of the crisis we have right now in the country. We’ve been into many crisis before. This one, we can surpass it.

As ordinary citizens, we have no control over surging oil prices, swelling inflation rate, and rising prices of rice and basic commodities. But we do have control on the way we manage our money. We can even plant vegetables in pots. We even can accept sideline jobs if our body and time both allows. While it is our human nature to complain, remember that it is also our responsibility to respond positively into unfortunate situations. We can voice out our concerns and we can also do something that would help not just ourselves but also the entire nation.

As of this writing, Philippines is yet to face another strong typhoon again - typhoon Ompong. This will be another devastating one and all is encourage to be ready and prepared. In crisis like this, and after the typhoon is gone, these practical guides may help us get back on our feet fast.

PAGASA expert explaining the detail and possible effects of Typhoon Ompong. Photo courtesy of DOST-PAGASA.

Magtulungan tayo bilang isang bansa. Huwag tayong magaway-away. Makakaahon din tayo.
(Let us help each other as one nation. Let us not fight. We will overcome this.)

You, what can you positively do to help this country survive this crisis of time?

About this Post
The intention of the author, Noriel Panganiban, founder of and, is to encourage Filipinos to remain calm in times of crisis like what we are experiencing today. A few practical ways to combat the crisis is suggested the goal of which is help Filipinos do their part in facing the crisis. This post also aims to end arguments that leads into a divisive nation. On another perspective, this blog is trying to create awareness that like any other country, Philippines stands strong in face of adversities. Please spread this information.


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