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An Era When Money Was Actually Worth Something

It is becoming a recurring theme of late. I go to the supermarket with a small eco-bag, with every intent of purchasing just the very things that I need. Invariably, I end up buying things I had not really planned for. Not expensive things; just everyday things that I pick up more as a whim from off the shelves.

When I get to the cashier, I inevitably end up wondering how it came to be that I would be paying so much for a small bag that I had not even filled with groceries. Money, that commodity we spend so much of our lives earning, has come to mean so little these days.

Sometimes, I get flashbacks of the sixties when I was a little boy growing up. Money was worth so much more; albeit, earnings or incomes were inversely lower proportionally as well.

I will be working from memory alone; and after half a century, this memory will not entirely be accurate. Nonetheless, younger readers will get some perspective of a simpler life when money was worth so much more. My contemporaries are invited to make corrections or give additional information as you see fit.

A viand could go for as low as 1 or 2 centavos; rice for 1 centavo; and boiled banana for the same. On a whim, one could splurge 2 centavos on soda, what we call soft drink these days.
Baon when I was a small boy going to elementary in a school run by nuns was a measly 25 centavos; and even that was, when I come to think about it, not at all necessary. Transportation to and from school was provided by the Air Force; so I did not have to set aside money for fare.

I did not really have to bring along money for snacks, either, because we all brought these colourful little tin lunch boxes along with food our Moms had packed. But for drinks, my favourite was this bottled milk chocolate called Barley which cost about 5 or 10 centavos.

Sometimes, to break the monotony of what Mom had stacked inside the lunch box, I would buy pan de sal, which cost about the same. Those days, the pan de sal was about the size of a grownup’s palm.

Mom was not particularly happy about us having candies; but I loved sweets and bought these, anyway. My favourite was the Lemon Drop, this sweet-sour tin-foil wrapped hard candy that one sucked on inside the mouth till it dissolved completely.

Each Lemon Drop cost 1 centavo; so for a mere 5 centavos, I had a candy and some spare inside my pockets for the rest of the day.

Most days, I spent at most 15 centavos. This meant that the remaining 10 centavos were mine to keep as savings. I proudly stashed the coins in a savings booklet that I kept at home.

Mom was close to tears one of her birthdays when I bought her a plastic set of pitcher and glasses from the Base commissary. The set cost all of 10 pesos, which I had saved for in several weeks. Even that cheap plastic set will cost many times over these days.

Oil prices were pre-cartel. A litre of gasoline cost 20 centavos, Air Force price. We had this bug-shaped Oldsmobile and later a Batman-style Ford in which Dad and Mom took the entire family on unplanned joyrides around the country because gasoline was dirt-cheap.

Fare from the Base to Lipa City cost no more than 10 centavos. When the household help took me uptown with her and paid the jeepney driver 10 centavos for the two of us because I was still a boy, the driver would sarcastically complain that she was essentially paying 5 centavos for either of us.

This was still the era of short and neatly groomed hair, set in place by this sticky paste-like thing called the pomade. A small sachet of pomade which one could use for a few days cost no more than 5 centavos. Hence, the moniker tagsi, which stood for tagsisingko.

The younger readers will doubtless be blown away by the prices I have enumerated in this article. Wait till you all hear about what my parents themselves used to tell us about how prices had become inflated since they were youths in the pre-war era.

One could have a good meal for less than five centavos!

A viand could go for as low as 1 or 2 centavos; rice for 1 centavo; and boiled banana for the same. On a whim, one could splurge 2 centavos on soda, what we call soft drink these days.

In other words, they were complaining about how expensive commodities had become when I was a small boy!

Fast forward to the present and how many of us are even interested in keeping 1 centavo coins in our pockets? Sometimes, I wonder why government at all bothers to mint these.

Once upon a time, however, even that humble 1 centavo coin could actually buy something!

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