Some people at work were somewhat surprised to learn that I do not only do something domestic but I actually love doing them; say handwashing clothes (no, it is not a primitive way, just a matter of preference), interior designing my little place, and cooking. Once you start wearing the label feminist (or an independent woman who loves traveling), for some, it is like an instant dismissal of anything domestic. Truth be told, I hate the laborious and boring dish-washing. But most domestic responsibilities are rather meditative and creative, something I need when writing becomes toxic. I need something that requires mental and physical movement, if not of the whole body, of hands or feet at the least.
Why did I bring this up? Because some travel bloggers’ advice to backpackers wanting to save for their trip is to cook for oneself. Refrain from eating out.
READ: New here? Have you read What’s wrong with Leave Everything Behind and Travel World?
Is that so? Again, whose perspective is this?
Now, here in Cebu City (Philippines), there is this place where buildings grow faster than kids, where the vast grassland is now gradually disappearing. The place is fancy and feels like money, money, money. No, I do not live there. I live in the nearby seedy neighborhood, a five-minute walk from that posh Cebu Business Park.
In this part of the world, you can actually save by buying food—that is, if you eat how most locals eat.
In my neighborhood, some people drive trisikad to earn, some are construction workers, some are jobless, and some earn a bit higher. It is the kind of neighborhood where you can see a lovely three-story house beside a shack. You can say that it is the microcosm of a Filipino society. There is affordable food for everyone. With Php25.00, you can already have a satisfying meal. Here, you can buy a meal for P10.00—a cup of rice and a little pouch of stir-fried vegetable, like eggplant or sari-sari (a local word on different chopped vegetables.)
Cooking can take a bit of your time, especially if you live alone like I do. What’s the point of saving thirty pesos and losing an hour allotted for meeting deadlines online? An hour can be equivalent to Php3000.00 ($80) for all you know.
Unlike western countries where eating out is expensive, in developing countries like ours, you can eat in the unhealthy Jollibee at Php55.00 or in carenderias (food stalls).
In this part of the world, you can actually save by buying food— that is, if you eat how most locals eat. This can be applied in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia too.
But a cup of rice is too little for me and I need more than stir-fried vegetables. I love playing with my food. The market in my neighborhood doubles the prices of fruits and vegetables; so I personally go to Carbon Market to buy my weekly supply. For Php250, I get all the needed weekly supply of colorful vitamins and minerals.
Again, if you are traveling around Southeast Asia (we can exclude Singapore, I guess), ask the locals. Or eat somewhere where it is rare to see fellow travelers. This, I have personally tested. In Thailand, if you think the food in Khao San Road is cheap, think again. A few blocks away from Khao San, we found fresh fried rice and other Thai food for 25-30 Baht. And it can get cheaper and cheaper if you travel farther from the tourist belt.
Here in Cebu City, if I cook for myself, I can pack my own lunch for work. At work, I normally spend Php50-Php80 for lunch. (Or a lot more when the gang decides to eat somewhere fancier.) A piece of fried chicken is P25.00. A half-kilo of chicken costs 75, which has six to eight pieces. If you do not mind eating chicken for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then yes, cooking can be a saving strategy, which is proven effective when I excelled my weekly expenses. There was a day I only spent Php7—a jeepney ride to Ayala and then walk the rest to my workplace. It takes me twenty minutes to walk from work to my little place.
If you live with someone else or with your family, packing your own lunch can be a good saving strategy, given that there is a wet market nearby.
Once you start wearing the label feminist (or an independent woman who loves traveling), for some, it is like an instant dismissal of anything domestic.
I haven’t cooked for the past two weeks now. I have several deadlines to meet. And for a traveler funding her trip, a deadline is as good as money. So I forego cooking these days and eat in the carenderias near my workplace.
But I miss cooking and going to Carbon and choosing the colors of the week. True enough, I do not only cook for the sake of saving but also because the act of cooking reminds me of the act of writing fiction. I can experiment with the ingredients but I have to make sure the outcome can be stomached. I cook because I still believe eating healthy is better than eating Jollibee. I cook because I find our markets replete with stories.