Life Lesson: When a Son Brings His Family Deep in Debt

The source of drama this week was care of my daughter’s yaya (babysitter). Our yaya is hre family’s breadwinner and supports her Mindoro-based unemployed husband and her five male children, one of whom is already working in Batangas.

The eldest is 21 years old and is working in a feeds factory in Batangas. Yaya was very proud of her son that at the very least, he has a job and can help his family financially. When he started, the eldest son would give Php 2,000 a month to his family in Mindoro, thus lessening the burden of yaya being the sole breadwinner.

During the ECQ, her eldest son unknowingly got his 18 year old girlfriend pregnant. The son called the mother when the girlfriend was four months pregnant and admitted that while bored in quarantine, they were able to conceive a baby.

It was a financial burden that yaya’s family could not really support at this point in time, but hey, a baby is a baby. As the Filipinos would often say, “Huwag parusahan ang batang walang kasalanan.” 

Teenage pregnancy is common here in the Philippines. According to the most recent data, collected every 10 years, in 2002, 6.3 percent of teenagers were pregnant; by 2013 it had gone up to 13.6 percent.

Joan Garcia floats herself and her child between the two shacks that make their home in the Navotas fish port. Joan gave birth when she was 15, and was pregnant at age 14. The Philippines has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the region, with approximately 200,000 Filipino teens getting pregnant each year. 1 in 10 Filipino girls between 15-19 is already a mother, or pregnant. AbortioXX

Most of the women I employ had their first child between the ages of 18 to 20. Often the fathers disappear after learning about the child, leaving the woman to be the sole breadwinner. Many women stop schooling and working just to raise their families early. Most do not practice safe sex or use protection, leading them to having more kids than they can afford at such a young age.

When the eldest informed yaya about his little accident, he comforted his mom saying that he will take care of his now budding family and will save up for the pregnancy. he told her not to worry and he will be a responsible father.

The mother breathed a sigh of relief. Her son is now a man.

Common to Filipino Families: When One Falls, Everyone Follows

Last Monday, the eldest son called his mom, asking for help.

Despite earlier informing his mom NOT to worry, the son was informed by his girlfriend’s mother that not only was the delivery going to be Caesarian, but the cost of the hospital bill was a whopping Php 70,000 (USD 1,500).

Please note that this is in the Philippine setting. We are not a first world country like Canada, Australia and the USA.

The son earns Php 10,500.00 (USD 220) per month as a feed production worker in Batangas.

He is a minimum waged worker whose company has reduced work hours due to the COVID-19 crisis. Hence, he is earning less than this the last couple of months. He is living with the girl’s parents and is helping out pay for the girlfriend’s family’s bills.

In the Philippines, a normal birth in a public hospital via a ward cost Php 5,000 pre-COVID-19 (USD 100). A Caesarian would cost around Php 12,000 (USD 250). During COVID-19, a Caesarian in a semi-private hospital can cost around Php 24,000 (USD 500), inclusive of the doctor’s fee, the use of the operating room and some medicine. In Batangas Medical Center, the cost is less than this thanks to a charity ward and some Philhealth assistance.

Php 70,000 for a Caesarian is what you would call an above-average rate for a Caesarian operation. It is money charged for the middle or the upper middle class in a private hospital. Not from a high school graduate production worker in Batangas who is earning minimum wages.

So if a Caesarian is only Php 24,000-30,000, how did the Son’s bill reach up to Php 70,000, which is double than what anybody would pay in his own income level?

“Paano nangyari yoon?!”

What transpired was a combination of a lack of financial literacy, negligence in canvassing for prices amongst OBs and medical centers, and an intentional negligence from the side of the future “in-laws” in an effort to punish the son for making their only child pregnant. Here is what transpired:

After the son found out that his girlfriend was pregnant, none of them in their family ever bothered to look for an obstetrician that fit their budget.

“Mommy, it was COVID-19 and going around was inconvenient. So we went to the closest clinic in Rosario Batangas and looked for an available OB there.” the eldest said.

Stupidly, because of foolish pride, not one, not the son nor the girlfriend or her family EVER asked how much the delivery expenses would be.

Now, they’re in the shits because they don’t know where to get the Php 70,00 for the delivery.

Nahihiya kasi kami,” he sheepishly admitted. His future in-laws were also no help Despite only earning Php 10,500, he has gotten himself an OB that’s 6x his monthly salary.

How can Filipinos Stop Getting into Unnecessary Debt?

  1. Avoid early pregnancies. Stay protected until the time you can afford to bear and raise a child.
    15 year old Rose Ann (right) and 17 year old Ros Jane (left) are seen with their babies in the neighborhood where they live in Manila, Philippines. The Philippines has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the region, with approximately 200,000 Filipino teens getting pregnant each year. 1 in 10 Filipino girls between 15-19 is already a mother, or pregnant. Abortion is still illegal in the country, and minors need to have parental consent for contraceptives. The age of consent is 12, one of the lowest globally.

    A child is NOT cheap. Best to raise money first before bringing a child into the family.

  2. Canvass prices before you settle on a supplier. It is not embarrassing to ask how much before you choose a supplier. Do not get stuck in paying the bill just because you did not ask the right questions.
  3. Do the math before getting into debt. It is not worth the trouble and effort to get into debt here in the Philippines. Local loan sharks charge an average 10% interest pre month. This means, if you borrow Php 20,000, the interest will be Php 2,000 per month. Hence, you’re just sinking yourself and your entire family onto a death trap. If you pawn an item, the average interest is 4% per month or around 48% per year.

  4. Be an asset to your family. Not a financial burden to them. Especially for those who are working, please make better life decisions so that your family do not financially suffer trying to bail you out.

    How can you tell your family you love them, when in fact, you are the reason of their financial headaches? Be a responsible kid.

  5. Lastly, manage your expenses and save up for the future. The girlfriend’s family is also heavily in debt by building a nicer looking home. Had they allocated their money more wisely and just sacrificed their lifestyle just for a little while, the two families would never have gotten into debt.

This is life in the Philippines. It’s hard and tough especially for those who are poor. Many of my friends say that it is not the poor’s fault for making bad life decisions since they do not know any better. However, I gently disagree with this thought — I know many people who came from poor families who did not end up with the same fate.

I personally do not think poverty is always inherited. That the poor must always remain poor because such is their fate.

Instead, I do believe that the poor can actually uplift themselves from their lot IF ONLY they make better life decisions, and do not get themselves in trouble because of carelessness and irresponsibility.

Truth be told, the son could have used protection and not gotten the girl pregnant. This would have bought them a bit more time to save up to properly raise a family, and not burden their own families as a result of their bad decisions. The parents could have also been there for the two and ensured that the two would be aware of the consequences of their actions BEFORE the girl got pregnant. 

Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. Such is our fate. But a big part of this is the lack of parental guidance and teaching to their kids. If we can only make better decisions, life would be better for us and our families.

I hope that this is a lesson on what not to do in the Philippines. Have a good week ahead!

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