When broaching a subject like this one, it’s a good thing to remember that there is a substantial cross-section of budgets to be found in Angeles. Aside from the “Two-Week Millionaire” tourists, there are actual millionaires, fellows with great pensions, and men who have successful businesses that run themselves while they’re away playing; there are old boys with decent pensions, guys who need at least some work to get by, all the way down to persons who amaze us that they even survive, and actually leave us wondering why they’re here even bothering.
By its very name, this article obviously can’t be geared to someone who has more money available to him than he knows what to do with, but these fellows are in the minority around here. This will be geared to those who desire to settle in Angeles City, and don’t have that much backing them up, or need to find some kind of work locally to get by. If I outline my personal experience of living in Angeles a little, some might be able to get an idea of what to watch out for should they decide to try to settle here. Some of it just might apply to you.
When I came here as a tourist in the ‘90s, to say I was impressed is an understatement! After six bi-yearly trips, I got so sick of the depression I felt sitting at the airport waiting to get on that damned plane, knowing it would be six months before I could feel this happy again, I determined I had to find a way to stay. My personal life in my own country had gotten to where I was ripe to get out of there and give Angeles a long-term try.
I saved up $5000 and got a plane back to my new “home”, with an eye on finding a way to generate enough capital to stay in Angeles comfortably. I’d made a few friends in my previous trips, and out of these connections I got a room in a house with an American and his Filipina wife for P3,000 a month, all inclusive.
I found my first job at “The Abbey Road” (where “Las Vegas” now stands) as a singer, and helped manage the place, for P1000 a night, six nights a week. I also got into a four-month affair with Elaine, an insatiable 20-year-ol mini-Dolly Parton (giant breasts on a 4’8” frame!) who was the horniest person I’ve ever seen in my life. Night and day I was attacked by this voluptuous little nympho and she’d accept no money at all. As a result, at the end of four months, I had saved money (and was struggling to keep up with this tiny tornado)!
After four months of this affair, Elaine, much to my relief, was off with an Australian she eventually married, and Abbey Road decided they couldn’t afford me anymore. I’d already had an offer to move to Valhalla (now “Coyote Ugly”), and had been asked by the manager of The Swagman Hotel to sing there a couple of times a week, so now I was free to do so. I worked in tandem with Jhun Longhair at Valhalla from Tuesday through Sunday, for 750 pesos a night. On Sunday afternoon I sang at The Swagman for P750 right after Bingo, from 2pm to 6pm, then headed to Valhalla to sing all night from 8pm to 2pm. On Monday night I sang at The Swagman from 8pm to Midnight for 1000 pesos. So early Tuesday morning was the only time I used to go barhopping, right after Midnight. Bars like “Private Dancer” (where the right-hand side of “Insomnia” now stands) and “The Club” were great after-hours spots to meet girls to bring home. Working eight gigs in seven days every week, I was making a grand total of P6,250! I had moved into my own small apartment, In the PG Pawn Shop & Jewelry Complex right by the Balibago Post Office & Fire Station, which cost me only 3,000 pesos-a-month rent. My electric bill was always around 500 pesos, and water was about 150 pesos, so my overhead was very low. I don’t drink alcohol except when I’m drinking with customers, so that was not a factor, either. That sort of outlines my first year in Balibago. I then left The Philippines for three months to close out my affairs in Reno, Nevada, to sell off all of my furniture and band equipment. When I came back I started a pretty long string of various managing jobs.
This is not intended to be an autobiography, so I’ll get more to the point: what it’s like to exist in Angeles on a small budget. The fact is, in my years in A.C., I’ve worked, either as a full-time manager, relief manager, temporary fill-in, or singer, at thirty-two different locations (not counting LaBamba & Rhapsody, where I handled the M.C. chores for “Manic Monday” & “WOW Wednesday” for a couple of months, or Asian Escapades, where I worked for about four months in 2006), working for twenty-five different owners (some were partners), and about thirty-five different mamasans.
The thing I focused on the most was keeping busy. Being in bars most of the time, I didn’t have a lot of urge to hang out in them with what little free time I had. This, in itself, is a big factor in not over-spending on a less-than-tourist budget. You’re just forced to learn to live within your means, or get the hell out of here! I’m not a cheap man, by nature. I’m more generous with the girls that have become part of my life in Angeles City than many of the guys they know. If I can’t afford to be generous, I just go without until I can be. An added bonus of being here full-time, and being relatively visible in the scene is that one will usually get to know quite a few girls who want to visit, quite often more often than I can deal with.
I very rarely go for EWRs anymore. The bars have priced themselves beyond my budget, for all practical purposes. Most managers usually make per day (or less), about what it costs for an EWR, and when you factor in all the rest, like socializing, ladies’ drinks, and tips, it becomes pretty much out of the question to go that route.
Even though I cannot socialize like a I did as a tourist, I still love being in Angeles City. You might find you get more-than-pleasant surprises sprung on you by these young ladies quite often. I haven’t worked in any clubs since I started drawing my Social Security, and even though A.C. is far more expensive than it was when I moved here, coupled with the collapse of the peso-for-dollar rate in the mid-2000s, I’m still loving it. I’ve met some really good friends here who have helped me out in tight spots through the years, when times got tough. I owe a lot to them. I’ve never paid more than 6,000 pesos a month for my rent (often less), I don’t use an aircon except when it’s hot at night to the extreme, and eat most meals at home. All of this is pretty much what I’d do back in The States, except there’s no Filipinas there!
I would never recommend this lifestyle to anybody else, if they asked me, but it’s worked for me. I only need to remain conscious of how life was before I moved here. No matter how few beautiful ladies visit my premises each month, that is the exact amount of memorable experiences I wouldn’t have when I’m back in my own country. And, for me, that is priceless!
In closing, I’ll outline a few impressions I’ve come up with, as far as living on a budget:
1) It helps to acclimate so as to not depend on an air conditioner too much. Electric bills can get awfully high. When I bought a refrigerator, I acted on a tip from a friend not to get a frost-free one, because they use more power per month, and I find it’s very little trouble to defrost it every couple of months.
2) Sharing rent with friends in a house or apartment is a saver. It’s also a good idea to try to find a place that’s pretty close to where you prefer to hang out the most, so you won’t be spending much on transportation.
3) Save up as much money as you can manage to before making your move to Angeles, and look for a part-time manager’s position anywhere (if that’s what you have in mind to try to do), as fast as you can, at least to get your foot in the door somewhere (there are some internet-based jobs here-and-there for the computer-wise, though not plentiful). You really can’t afford to be too fussy if no one knows you yet. You need to get to know owners and people that surround them. The scene can really be quite a “buddy system”, and getting to know people is pretty important. A past resume from your life away from Angeles is normally quite worthless here. Network!
4) This one is pretty obvious: eat at home as much as you can. Eating in restaurants two or three times a day can really chew up your capital. The malls are pretty good for shopping, I have found. I rarely go to local marketplaces, though if you have a fulltime girlfriend she’ll probably spend less money shopping than you would, because she’ll shop places you might not be all that willing to go to. I have shopped for produce at The VFW on Thursdays now and then. They bring fresh-grown fruits and vegetables down from Baguio each week, and the quality is relatively good at decent prices.
5) Be budget-minded. Remember, you’re no longer a tourist! You have to plan out your monthly budget just like you would if you were back home. The better job you do with this, the more you’ll have left to play with the available ladies. Common sense goes a long way in making living in Angeles a good experience.
6) I don’t care what it is you’re trying to buy, it is a good idea to try to get a price for whatever through a local. When they see a foreigner is involved in the transaction, prices can skyrocket!