I don’t think we were rich, in hindsight, but I also never felt we weren’t


There’s a video on Facebook of a kid jumping for joy because his dad, a Grab Rider, brought home Jollibee. It got me a little nostalgic.

I grew up having fastfood only for special occassions. Compared to the friends I have now, in hindsight, I don’t think we were rich… but growing up, I also never felt we weren’t. I just knew they weren’t everyday food. Spaghetti was more common on the table than Chickenjoy. I was a very picky eater so I would spend HOURS on the dining table trying to finish my food, mostly in tears, because I never felt hungry except when dinner came late.

I also knew new clothes only come every Christmas and I had a budget of 1-2k pesos to spend on an entire outfit. Even if someone else would insist to buy for me, I’d always pick out a 500-700 peso sandals, because anything else beyond that felt excessive. But it may also be because I destroy any footwear in months dragging my feet whenever I walk. All I know is that to this day, I have to talk myself into buying a 2000-peso quality footwear so I wouldn’t embarrass myself at work or at a night out if it breaks down. It helps to look at shoes my brothers and guy friends buy for themselves, to be honest. 5k is nothing to that.

A few times a year, I’d have a “haul” from the balikbayan that relatives sent from the States. They would sometimes come branded, a Barbie doll, a perfume bottle, or some makeup—they were things I don’t look to buy myself, I just look forward to surprise padalas growing up for things beyond my wants. It was then I had an impression that anything imported were better, especially if they smelled like the airport. (I grew to find it unfair that pasalubongs and balikbayan boxes are expected of relatives abroad, though, each time I hear a friend from overseas second thinking about going home because they’re expected to bring loads of gifts and treat people out. They don’t have to do that for me.)

I also didn’t spend loads of time in the mall or eating out, except when I started going to a church inside a mall every weekend. Even though Festival Mall was the closest mall from home growing up, I remember getting lost going to that church every Saturday for several months at 16 years old. Maybe I’m just really bad at directions.

So what did I do growing up that kept me entertained and never made me feel we didn’t have money? I played in the streets, watched cable TV, read books in the library after classes, had friends with nice manners, spent weekends at church on various activities. Except for cable tv, they didn’t cost as much. Case in point, I didn’t have too much expectations. Even if my parents didn’t give me everything I wanted, and I got a mobile phone a little later than my peers, I always had more than I needed growing up. Any dissatisfaction I felt as a kid was simply intrinsic. I always thought I could get anything I wanted, but my parents just choose not to give them to me.

These days, when I talk to kids, their demands seem astronomical. I don’t even know where they get their ideas… their request aren’t even available here, only through Amazon. I’ve never gotten anything for myself through Amazon. Haha. Maybe it’s because of social media. I love kids, I’d rather hang out with them than most adults, but they’re so hard to please these days. Back then, it already felt like I won the lottery (read: happens either once in a lifetime or never)  if my meal was a kiddie meal (Jollibee kid, sorry Mcdo!) I always feel a little weird every time others would think my family was rich. Maybe in comparison to urban poor, yes, but to most middle income families? I don’t think so. I just didn’t grow up in excess, and had access to monthly excel sheets of the house budget.

Maybe my dad would say differently after I convinced him to buy a Macbook Pro for me in college. (Ang mahal pala ng 50k? 😅) Maybe our perspective just really change when we start to earn our own money and no longer depend on any allowance from our parents. Maybe times just change, so appetite varies per generation.

Ang dami ko sinabi, I just wanted to say how refreshing to see a kid like this jump for Jollibee. Watch it! So cute. And if you’re surrounded with privileged families, it’s a glimpse of how wide the gap has become between the poor, the middle class, and the rich if you go beyond what meets the eye.

PS I don’t know if I made any sense in this letter at all. Ciao.

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