Is 13th Month Pay Symbolic of Filipino Wastefulness?

We Filipinos take for granted the 13th month pay. We probably would go on a witch hunt if we found our company does not give it (let me note that 13th month pay is separate from Christmas bonuses). This pay scheme was mandated by a law introduced by Ferdinand Marcos in 1965, and it continues today. I’m wondering if businesses groan from needing to pay it, and some might say, why pay them extra for no work?

However, recent musings had me wondering whether it symbolizes a dysfunction in our society, and could we do without it. I’ve read that the reason 13th month pay was introduced in the Philippines was to give ordinary people more money for their Christmas traditions. But what are these Christmas traditions that require much money? But I’ll not get into detail about traditions, I’ll just say which of these we practice that are likely detrimental to our financial health.

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I’ll go on to Balikbayan boxes since the explanation for Filipino spending here could apply to Christmas traditions. We seem to have this craving for bringing home loads of goods (sometimes useless) in a box from somewhere else. This should have changed since many products that could be found only in other countries are now available here. Things like matcha tea, soy milk, coffee products, luxury brands, fancy gadgets and many others. However, one can sense dissatisfaction by Filipinos with anything available locally, and they still want things coming from other countries.

The notion still remains that having something brought from another country still smacks of class, so it’s another social climbing manifestation or rat racing with “o wala ka nito (you don’t have what I have)” or “my thing is superior to yours” mentality. Or, perhaps it caters to a Freudian inner feeling that likens getting stuff through balikbayan boxes to pilfering another country, as if you successfully raided them. Or that feeling of inferiority or being “poor” that Filipino seek to relieve by having something expensive (but useless). Whatever the reason, it shows that Filipinos are the still among the easiest to chump into unnecessary spending.

Perhaps the box of goodies from abroad is another thing we’re better off without

Let’s recall fellow blogger Paul Farol’s explanation on why Filipino OFWs often stay poor. They tend to not save, and spend on things for the very reasons I state above. I would add the irresponsible dependence of kin and friends back here in the home country who try to avoid work and continue to seek this blood-sweat-and-tears-of-others-borne “manna from heaven.” And they demand on receiving gifts (pasalubong) from others. As a result, Filipinos are gastadors (overspenders) and wasters. It’s one reason our country remains poor.

13th month pay was perhaps a concession to people’s irresponsible demands. We would be a truly prosperous society once we have no need of it. I see 13th month pay as based on the idea that the normal Filipino situation is treated as an emergency, even if it is not, so assistance is given to alleviate that situation. But instead, it creates more impetus to spend, since the habit of Filipinos is to splurge when they have a large amount of money. It then leads to the spending becoming an addiction, and such Filipinos become depressed if unable to spend so much. It’s a pathological condition that’s enlarged into a cultural defect.

So some Filipinos may retort, “pakialam mo about my happiness (why should you interfere with my happiness)!” Well, all I’m repeating here is wisdom of the ages. So if you get all the goods you want, but still feel empty, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Filipinos need to step back and question their money habits and related traditions. They should also question their own egos, because wasteful habits can be traced to these. Overspending and non-saving, as I explained above, are results of trying to please egos. Indeed, many needless burdens Filipinos create for themselves are found in their ego-tripping, and it’s likely that once we’re rid of this, we’ll have better lives.

13 Replies to “Is 13th Month Pay Symbolic of Filipino Wastefulness?”

  1. WHAT? the 13TH Month pay doesn’t even begin to approach what criminlaity is perpetrated upon Filipino worker’s. OFW boxes from abroad often keep Pinoy families going and to stop it just for the sake of being too proud top accept it is ridiculous.
    Paying Filipino’s 1st World wages, which are bordering on the 3rd world wages these days, is what is necessary today. Not an examination of why Filipino’s are somehow morally deficient in taking something they more than earned.

    1. If a company was going to pay first world wages they would stay in the first world and pay first world wages there. One of the biggest industries in the Philippines is BPO because it is much cheaper here than the home country due to the lower wages.

      1. U DON’T GET IT !!! Having to accept these shit wages because there are NO DECENT JOBS in the manufacturing sector IS THE PROBLEM………….
        ……………………….andBeing exploited by the 1ST World Corporations is sickening to watch and even worse when people think they have a good job, UGH !!
        You comment as if you think IDK why a corporation outsources jobs to the third world….you need a clue, desperately !

    2. First, it is not the boxes, but remittances that keep the Filipino family going. And perhaps it is this dependence on remittances, instead of good salaries at home, that is the criminality.

      Second, even if we have first-world salaries, third-world habits ensure that this is depleted quickly. It is not a moral, but a practical fault.

      1. Exactly. The Philippines may not be exactly a socialist/welfare state but there’s a thousand ways to get the same effect. Pretty much any thirld world way of incentivizing and spending goes around the same loop of low value investing.

      2. Lack of decent jobs, and having people send money home is criminality? WHAT ? I’ve seen families waiting for Balikbayan boxes and praying for them, so IDK WTF UR talking about, they are important to many people/families…

  2. In my country a 13th month is quite normal. On top of that, employees get profit distribution (Dutch: winstuitkering) (the % depends per industry and per employer) AND holiday/vacation pay (8%).
    Do I care what my next door neighbour does with her/his 13th month? No, why should I? This is really a no-issue in my country.

    I really think and know that the Philippines have far more and far deeper problems than a 13th month.

  3. I enjoyed the 13th month pay , from the firm , I worked with, when I was in the Philippine.. The trick here is : you must save it for the” rainy day.” If you go on spending it , on useless items, until you have spent it all. It will not contribute to your financial well being.

    I am for the Christmas bonuses and the 13th month pay. They give cheers, to families, during this Christmas season !

  4. While I generally agree that many Filipinos (a significant percentage) seemingly have no concept of savings, I think that this can easily be remedied by enforcing a government-mandated saving (Singapore model). Considering the fact that the average wage in the Philippines has not kept up with inflation (as do wages in almost all countries worldwide), the 13th-month pay is anything but “symbolic of Filipino wastefulness”.

    Filipinos are generally stereotyped as spendthrift, but I actually find the situation in the Philippines a much more favourable position vis-a-vis most of the so-called “first world” where most people are often in debt (credit card debt, mortgages, car loans, college loans, etc.) almost all of their adult lives. Unfortunately, due to the rising wealth levels and the ever-increasing encroachment of financial institutions into people’s lives, Filipinos are also now adopting the misguided ways of the West when it comes to credit card use.

    1. @kenneth: Filipinos are also perennially in debt. However, they get around this problem by simply not paying the money back.

      Still, bad money-management habits are pretty much a global issue. Governments aren’t immune to it either. An international campaign against general wastefulness would go a long way towards solving some thorny problems.

    2. Anyone who are not rich without a credit card cannot pay credit cards, period. I wonder why this guys from credit card stands still offers the brochure on anyone they see? are they idiots? I wonder what are the banks thinking? Idiot banks. They’re forcing people to get credit cards especially the poor and the middle class to bled them dry.

  5. I spend my 13th month pay for my investments such as stocks and mutual funds. Only small percentages goes to my leisure like new clothes etc. I’m not buying the typical Pinoy mentalities every christmas. Whatever they want to say bad to me like Madamot, Kuripot etc, i dont care because that is my money not theres. Because majority of them, need a person when they need it but if there is no need, you will become a ghosts to them.

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