© 2014 Lindsay Cope

Celebrating Biodiversity : Philippine Tender

Until now, this little fragment of the internet has become a log of the events over my first few months here in the Philippines.  Of course, friends and family are curious and eager to live vicariously through my experience here.   Mixed in with stories and explanation, I wish to share some of the interesting cultural nuances of the Philippines.  To commence this series of cultural notes, I shall start with the ever fascinating topic of: Money.


Many of you know that I have a collection of foreign currency.  It started when I was young, my parents returned from a trip to Austria with a coin purse full of Francs for me, and I have kept a box of foreign currencies ever since.  The collection is vast, I have a few pre-Euro European currencies, an array of tender from South East Asia and South America, mostly collected from my UWC friends.  Some of the currencies are even mementos of my own travels.  Currency is a depiction of national pride; with the prominent profiles of national heroes and leaders, or depictions of historic landmarks.


The Philippine currency is colorful and pays homage to its unparallelled biodiversity.  Each bill celebrates a national park and a noteworthy species, endangered, endemic, charismatic.  The bills range from PHP50 to PHP1,000 and honor the adorable bug-eyed Targier and the majestic Whale shark, the Tubbataha Reef and the Taal Volcano.  I love that the currency promotes the environmental treasures of the Philippines, it truly is something to be proud of.


The conversion rate is roughly PHP45 to US$1.  But it is important not to be mindful of the conversion when making purchases, although items appear to be cheap by US standards, or even comparable in price, a volunteer’s budget is limited and equivalent to a Philippine income.  We make about PHP9,000 per month, which is meant to cover food and other expenses.  That doesn’t last long if you frequent Starbucks and spend anywhere from PHP125-PHP230 on a coffee or go to the mall to purchase clothing, name brand clothing at the mall will put you back at least PHP500 for a top and anywhere from PHP1,000-PHP3,000 for a pair of pants.   Not to worry however, remember those clothes you dropped off at Salvation Army last year, there is a good chance that they have made their way to the Ukay-Ukay stores here and it only costs about PHP30 for a top or PHP125 for a pair of shorts, and you can haggle for a decent price!  The Ukay-Ukay store is a treasure trove for quality apparel.

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