Filipinos use the expression isang kahig, isang tuka that literally means “one scratch, one peck”.
Because mahirap ang buhay or “life is tough” Filipinos go through life “scratching and pecking” to earn a living.
In the Philippines wages are low and circumstances are really tough and natural calamities make things even more difficult so, often, there is no alternative to scratching and pecking.
However, being married to a Filipina who has been living overseas for over 20 years and being constantly in touch with Filipinos who live in my country or in other European countries, has given me some insight into why even Filipinos who could have got past the “scratch and peck” way of life still find themselves scratching and pecking, barely making it through the day and endlessly living from paycheck to paycheck.
Don’t get me wrong, living from paycheck to paycheck is not wrong in and of itself. There are people who choose to live a simple and minimalistic life to be able to focus on other things such as religious and voluntary work for example.
So a simple life is not bad in and of itself. I am an advocate of a minimalistic lifestyle which, in my experience, leads to greater happiness. But a financially minimalistic life is no excuse for lack of planning ahead, getting into debt to buy the latest electronic gadgets or supporting tons of relatives who have many wants rather than real needs. And I think this is the real problem of expatriate Filipinos who often live a life of unnecessary striving. Some even share an apartment with another family to be able to buy a mansion in the Philippines that they only inhabit once in perhaps 5 years.
A poor personal organization and having one’s priorities messed up create a life of scratching and pecking and get in the way of a truly simple life.
Filipinos find themselves constantly out of money and working hard to make up for their lack of money which, while in the Philippines is the result of difficult circumstances, in the West is often the result of poor choices.
It breaks my heart to see expatriate Filipinos living in a constant state of financial emergency and having to scratch and peck and resort to diskarte to cope with the hirap (difficulties) they often are the ones to create.
Life is tough but sometimes Filipinos make it unnecessarily tough.
Much of the hirap could be avoided by making better decisions upstream.