One of the best reasons to spend your time in Cebu is economic. You get good value for money. Having said that, not everything is cheaper in Cebu, and if you expect your lifestyle to be the same as it is back home, you'll still be spending alot. Anything imported from abroad is expensive. This includes cars, which cost about twice as much as in the US, and just about all luxury goods except furniture, which is produced locally. Locally produced goods and labor are cheap.

One of the hardest things to do upon arriving in a foreign place is to get a feel of the value of money. Let me give you some insights.

The minimum wage in Cebu is about 200 pesos per day, which is about USD $4. But only large corporations and government offices pay the minimum wage for unskilled labor. Sales clerks at bakeries, for example, typically earn 100 or less. Foreign visitors tend to not understand the value of money in Cebu, and often overtip. For a driver who has driven you around all day, 100 pesos or more may be an adequate tip, but for, say, bellhops, courtesy tips exceeding 20 pesos would be considered by locals to be extravagant.

Menial laborers earn between 120 and 150 a day, plus "snacks" (see "Business Customs"). Skilled laborers, such as carpenters, plumbers, or painters earn between 200 and 300 pesos a day, depending on the level of skill. A maid typically gets 1,500 - 2,500 a month, plus room and board. Experienced workers at factories and stores may earn 3,000 - 5,000 a month. Nurses earn between 5,000 and 6,000 pesos a month, slightly more at government hospitals. 15,000 pesos is already a managerial wage. Judges are paid at least 20,000. Experienced executives at multinational firms might make as much as 75,000 or more. The only way for a Cebuano to make real money without breaking the law is to become a doctor, to own a business, or to find a job abroad. As you probably know, about 8 million Filipinos have become overseas workers in the US, Saudi Arabia and other countries. We call them balikbayan.

Of course, a lot of officials do break the law, and many have become filthy rich. The wealth of the customs and internal revenue officials, who can earn hundreds of thousands or millions of pesos a month, is non-existent on paper, as their income is in cash and their mansions and luxury vehicles are put under the names of relatives or - sometimes - maids. Recently, the government has introduced lifestyle checks, which look at where the officials actually live and what they drive, to discourage extreme corruption. But I digress.

The jeepney fare costs about 5 pesos. A taxi ride will set you back around 50 pesos. A trip to Manila costs about 3,000, and less than half that if you go by boat. The minimum phone bill is between 600 and 900 pesos, depending on your phone company. A meal can cost anywhere between 30 pesos and 1,000 pesos per person, depending on where you eat. For most people, 150 pesos or less would be considered average. Spend more than that and you're rich - or a foreigner.


Every foreigner is a walking dollar sign. You may justifiably be worried about being ripped off.

However, the Visayans are by nature a very honest people. In some eateries catering to locals, the staff won't keep track of what patrons order. When it's time to settle the bill, they'll ask the diner what he or she had, and then calculate the charge. How many servings of rice? Did you have any soup? What about softdrinks, did you drink anything? Such a system which counts on every single customer to be honest would never work in a society where a good proportion of the population is comprised of thieves and crooks. It would never work in, for example, Italy.

Therefore, there is very little chance of your being ripped off unless you go somewhere frequented by foreigners. When dealing with an establishment that almost never sees foreign customers, such as roadside eateries, or stalls in a market, you will in most cases not have to worry about being overcharged.

However, Cebuanos that regularly deal with foreigners - taxi drivers, waiters, gift shop clerks, real estate agents - have cottoned on to the fact that foreigners carry around more money than most people earn in a year, and some of them - not all, but a good many - will try to milk you for every penny you've got. Some restaurants and karaoke bars that cater to foreigners often have two pricelists, one for locals and one for foreigners. Ditto for a few diveshops.

As in any city in the world, if someone approaches you with an offer, you should be wary. But if you are the one to approach the person, you'll most likely meet a friendly, honest Cebuano.


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