Philippine Island Times Adventures of an American expat in the Philippines

January 30, 2009

Debtor’s Prison

Filed under: General — Donald @ 8:53 am


The matriarch of one of the families in my neighborhood is in the hospital following a stroke. She had brain surgery and her bill is enormous. Hospitals here normally will not release a patient until everything is paid in full, but this family can use quite a bit of titled land as collateral, so they have to pay only the doctor’s fee at this time. It’s a small fraction of the total, but still amounts to about 1000 times the typical Filipino daily wage. One member of the family has a good, steady job, so she was able to secure loans at 3.5-5.0 percent per month, but they were not sufficient to cover the bill. Bit of a jam. That is how I almost got into the mango business.

The deal is called a prenda. The owners of a property borrow money against it. Until their debt is paid, the lender enjoys full use of the property, including in this case the harvest from about 60 mango trees. Unfortunately, the plantation is on the mountain, about 1 km from the nearest road, and it has no water supply. Mangoes need water. Boys will haul 5 gallon containers up there for about 10 cents each, but it still isn’t feasible. In the end I learned a lot about mangoes from the island’s top expert, but could not make it work. I believe the family was able to secure yet another loan at some ungodly rate and bring their loved one home.

Sparing the details, I’ve also been exploring rice and coconuts. I like coconuts because they just hang there and grow no matter what. My kind of crop. Occasionally they fall and kill people, but in my opinion we should not jump to hasty conclusions about that.

At the moment I’m in Dumaguete trying to find a good Java programmer that I can hook up with a friend in the States. Once that is wrapped up I plan to avoid business matters like the plague and relax for a while. February is the nicest month of the year here. March starts to get hot, and God willing I will get a lot of swimming and exploring done before then.


  1. How do hospital stays work out for the average Filipino? Are there people who are forced to stay at a hospital for a long time? Don’t the hospitals end up needing the beds, and isn’t it more expensive for them to continue to take care of people once they’re well? Do hospitals end up becomming debtors prisons? Do hospitals maintain a security force to keep people in?

    Comment by Chuck — February 5, 2009 @ 2:13 am

  2. The average Filipino can’t afford to go to the hospital. Yes to everything else.

    Each day they keep someone for a bill unpaid is just another day added to the bill. That’s why families get panicky when they’re sort. The nice thing, of course, is that by Western standards, care is very cheap. The best hospital in entire Visayas costs maybe 15% as much as the hospital in my place in Michigan, and it’s a better hospital.

    Comment by Donald — February 11, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

  3. Our own dysfunctional nation should revert to 1950’s healthcare–cheap and we could cover everyone. Might knock down life expectancy a bit–but then Social Security would be in better shape.


    Comment by scott — February 12, 2009 @ 12:52 am

  4. Dr. Ernst, this is a former student of yours, trying to get in touch. I hope the Philippines have been good to you. Do you have an e-mail address where I can contact you directly?

    Comment by Chris Merchich — April 6, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  5. We went to Spain for a three-week vacation and had been trevlaing around it for a week already when we got to Valencia We stayed in Valencia for two days. One of the days was to do the Valencia Tour. It was the best thing we did at that point of the trip because it was a completely different experience. We had visited museums, palaces, cathedrals, etc in other cities but in Valencia tour we went to the country side and experienced less touristic places and other typical spanish activities. We had an amazing day with the tour guide, who provided us with a day of lots of fun and unforgettable memories. We were extremely happy to have chosen this tour to have a break in our trip around Spain and we highly recommend it to anyone who goes to Spain.

    Comment by Junior — November 16, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

  6. very nice that you’re still thinking of your long oveurde honeymoon despite having a kid and one more coming up it’s really important for couples to think of the importance of having this getaway by themselves or in your case, with your son.Pearl recently posted..

    Comment by Nada — February 18, 2015 @ 12:17 pm

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