Things That Make Us Doubt the Philippines Is a Third World Country

Things That Make Us Doubt the Philippines Is a Third World Country

Crazy politics have pulled the country down to the depths of the poverty. For years, the country has been experiencing intense political turmoil that leads to slow growth of the economy. Years ago, the country is considered the economic giant in South East Asia. Countries like South Korea lauded the country for its development. Despite picking up these past few years, many Filipinos are still below the poverty line, earning minimum wage while still living in illegal lands.

Every payday, you hear Filipinos complain how low their income is, but look at their fancy lifestyle and we can’t help but scratch our head in wonder. Minimum wage workers owning the latest gadgets and middle-class office employees going on luxury trips every chance they get. One can’t help but wonder how Filipinos can afford to follow quite a lavish lifestyle. It can either be due to good budgeting or simply mindless spending.

Sold-out concerts


Filipinos love every form of entertainment, particularly music. That is why many of us attend concerts of local and foreign artists. Month by month, these acts are sold out, despite expensive prices. Just imagine a 26,000 worth of ticket for a one day concert. That’s an estimate of two month salary for a minimum wage earner in the Metro!

Last week, the tickets for One Direction’s concert in the PH quickly sold out, pushing organizers to add a second date for the event. This shows that while many Filipinos struggle to pay for tuition, thousands can easily purchase a concert ticket.

Houses loaded with the latest appliances

A quick trip around the houses of informal settlers in the country, you will be surprised at how complete their appliances are. Flat screen televisions, air conditioning units, refrigerator, and computersname it and they have it.

Malls everywhere


If the Guinness Book of World Records has to set a record for a country with most number of malls, Philippines might take the record. Metro Manila has so many malls, that you can actually go mall hopping in one district alone. If you can’t find anything you want from one shopping mall, walk a few blocks and you might see it in its adjacent mall. Three shopping malls in Metro ManilaSM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall and SM North Edsaare part of the top 10 biggest malls in the world.

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Love for all things new

Consumerism is so strong in the country that people buy the latest items even if it washes away their savings. Imagine people camping outside a store to buy new smartphones, limited edition sneakers, or the latest game consoles. No wonder Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said that eight to 10 Filipino households don’t have money for emergencies. Filipinos have been spending their saving on the latest items available in the market.

Condominiums in every corner of the metro


The beautiful skyline of Manila is starting to be filled with high-rise condominiums. Economists say that these constructions are indicators that the country is improving, but what we foresee are pollution, traffic congestion, and flood. These condominiums are so many, we doubt all the units will ever be sold. Try walking along a busy street anywhere in the metro and you can see a real estate agent brandishing flyers of recent condominium plans.

Obsession with food trends


If long queues in coffee shops, bars and restaurants around the country does not make you doubt that Filipinos may not be living in a 3rd world country, then look at the prices on the menu. If you ever tried buying these expensive foods, you are either so rich or just jumping onto the bandwagon

When the donut chain J.CO reached the Philippine shores on 2012, the lines were so long that people had to wait for hours just to buy their box of donuts. After 20 branches sprouting around the country, the lines still extend outside the stores.

Politicians’ luxurious lifestyle

Luxury cars, luxury houses, luxury living, and luxury vacationit seems like our political leaders, just like us, are in doubt that the country is a third world country. Maybe they see our taxes as their own money, that they are always seen gambling, driving expensive cars, traveling out of the country, and dining in fancy restaurants.  We won’t mind them as long they pass a bill to give us tax exemption.

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We admit, the article might sound a bit judgmental and generalized. However, these samples are based from our observations. There is nothing wrong with buying things you want, especially if it came from your hard earned money. There also nothing wrong with having an extravagant lifestyle, if you really are rich. We just can’t help wonder, why would people always complain about their income, if they act as if they are in a first world nation?

(Image Source: Osmeb, ArnelPineda.Ning, Manilalife.Tistory, Daily Mail)


  • Eddie Alawi
    June 18, 2014

    am in doubt too but you can see the luxurious life style of politicians and their families and in contrast
    there's a lot of "informal settlers" and beggars or children selling sapaguita and whatever on the streets.

  • Geo Robrigado
    June 18, 2014

    Wondering why this is so? Two words for all of you: NEOLIBERALISM and CAPITALISM, where they make you believe that spending will actually do good for the economy.

  • Cy Policarpio
    June 20, 2014

    If you want samples for observation, then visit remote/rural places, to bicol/armm/samar perhaps, and maybe you could find out why you shouldn't doubt..

  • Chuchay Chichi
    June 21, 2014

    Wealth in the PH is distributed unevenly. Though it's true that most of us don't have emergency funds, but I believe you're only referring to the working class. A good sample of poverty are those in the rural areas or perhaps the marginalized and even the indigents.

  • Marlon Nombrado
    June 21, 2014

    I think there is hardly anything one can deduce from this piece you wrote. You doubt Philippines being a third world country by simply talking about the consumption attitude of middle-class Filipinos (which you are perhaps a part of). Well let me tell you, a nation does not rise from third world status by mere consumption of its citizens. Industrialization and land reform are key to genuine national progress. I suggest don't talk about highly political terms like third world economics if you can't afford to talk about real politics.

  • Danielle Joanna Gaite
    June 21, 2014

    Almost everything here shows an inefficiency of the use of funds in the country and inadequate financial literacy. Instead of saving up for the future or investing in financial markets, we spend on concert tickets and just keep up with new trends without thinking of the cost. Instead of public funds being used for important infrastructure and investments in R&D and important technology (which can make us a first world country), they are used to fund lifestyles of unnecessary waste.

    We are a third world country precisely because our priorities are skewed.

  • Trebor Batang
    June 22, 2014

    yes, what you saw is just concentrated in metro manila, where roughly 10% of the total population.
    How about the remaining 90% who are outside manila? and as stated above, these regions are neglected
    by our gov't of almost everything. Proof: PDAF funds… used to be called the Country Wide Development Fund
    (here we go again….) really, whats the cause of POVERTY in Phils?, everything points to corruption,
    political in nature, and not to the filipinos…. yes Filipinos are resilient, to the point that they patiently
    withstand the corrupt gov't, abusive professional fees, and biased judicial system that we have.
    What fears me the most is the peace and safety in our community. The very group (police) that is tasks
    to ensure peace and safety to every filipino, is no longer thrustworthy. Instead, they became accessory
    to crimes and deceit. ( not considering all but the majority ) and this is due to the fact that its has been
    tolerated by the politicians for a reciprocating benefit they set.

  • meg2014
    June 22, 2014

    The last one is one of the reasons why we are still a third world country.

    • al len
      June 24, 2014

      If you get to New York you’d find beggars as well, ride along lower Manhattan and you’ll see similar view, the difference is Manila is a tropical place where you can simply put up poles and a roof on top and you can call it a home compared to Manhattan with cold weather you can freeze to death in such thin roofing houses..

  • Ernani Medenilla
    June 23, 2014

    The cause of poverty in rural areas is not due to poor government programming or industrialization. Its the massive unreported corruption on the local levels. Mayors, Governors bag millions and billions of money that is suppose to improve roads, put up granaries, provide heavy machinery, fertilizers and so much more. And comes the biggest corrupt in the country, Senators and Congressman, and the President from previous administrations like Gloria Arroyo. If only the money is properly used for the development of the country the way the present administration is doing now (Pnoy) the country could been out of the Third World Country status already, sad to say we've only just begun.

  • Nonito Santillan Cabrera
    June 24, 2014

    I can't help but criticize and judge the article's tunnel vision and the disregard for other factors that determine third world status. A person who is only basing his observations on what is happening or what he is seeing in his immediate environment can only presume and give a very biased, uneducated assumption about the extent of poverty and the poor distribution of wealth in the country. The consumption and spending power that the author described in the article is generally reflective of every middle- to upper-midlde class person's spending habits, but that is hardly a cross-section of the entire country's population. The reality is a very tiny elite possesses most of the country's wealth, and the oligarchy has too much control of the resources. There is something wrong with the structure. Think about it. Henry Sy and Lucio Tan (two people!!!) alone have 6% of the country's economy to their name. Almost half of the entire economy belongs to the top 40 family corporations and monopolies. The grim reality is the people who are comfortable and are earning enough to have some relatively disposable purchasing power only make up a very tiny minority, while the rest don't even feel that the economy is steadily rising because it just doesnt trickle down.

  • Roman Cruz
    June 24, 2014

    Actually, one of his examples — extravagant lifestyles of the rich and famous, living off embezzled taxes — is more of a symptom of a third-world nation than it is of a developed one. Think Mobutu Sese Seko.

  • Carleen Bay
    June 24, 2014

    1 – The bloc of democratic-industrial countries within the American influence sphere, the "First World".
    2 – The Eastern bloc of the communist-socialist states, the "Second World".
    3 – The remaining three-quarters of the world's population, states not aligned with either bloc were regarded as the "Third World."
    4 – The term "Fourth World", coined in the early 1970s by Shuswap Chief George Manuel, refers to widely unknown nations (cultural entities) of indigenous peoples, "First Nations" living within or across national state boundaries.

  • Prayot Rivera
    June 24, 2014

    I think the writer's being sarcastic.

  • Nonito Santillan Cabrera
    June 24, 2014

    Really? I don't think this was a satire at all. My take is that he expounded on the usual thing we hear "Sino may sabing mahirap ang Pilipino? Tingnan mo ang ____ (insert random indirectly correlational or irrelevant indicator of wealth)". Prayot

  • Prayot Rivera
    June 24, 2014

    hehe well with the last point kasi "Politicians’ luxurious lifestyle" sarcasm was pretty obvious

  • Nonito Santillan Cabrera
    June 24, 2014

    Prayot Rivera Oh… I see where you are coming from. To me, though, that's hardly sarcastic. That's a very direct hit. It's a reality that most of those who are in power are lording it over their constituents in the most literal sense. Naghahari-harian sila just because they have access to power and money, which, as we know, is not supposed to be the case.

  • Miggy Barretto
    June 24, 2014

    Carleen Bay THANK YOU!! I was about to post this. I'm glad someone shares my pet peeve. I cringe everytime someone uses the term Third World incorrectly.

  • if you look at this in a very "big view" you have to take in the account of the percentage of people that can actually live this life style in the Philippines and compare it to the millions and millions of citizens in the Philippines who don't have the ability or wealth to thats why people see the Philippines as a third world, are you only looking a small area in the Philippines compared to many areas of living in the Philippines.

  • Aileen Estoquia
    June 25, 2014

    the article is too manila-centric. the things you said may be true for manila, but not in the rest of the country. honey, manila is not the philippines.

  • the writer has art…very sarcastic title for an article about consumerism and commercialism, concentrating on the capital region..ONLY

  • Mary Grace
    July 7, 2014

    The lesson I learned from this article is time to change the attitude of compulsive buying… so even if we have less salary, we can still save. I appreciate the positive side of the article 🙂

  • Larry ML
    July 7, 2014

    Some of the cities here in the Philippines are like that too…

  • Mary Grace
    July 7, 2014

    I admire the author. The wit and the style. The title is like a woman clothed in stunning dress, men can't resist to turn their heads. But thers is more than that dress that meets the eye… its 25 last words.

  • Ramon David
    August 26, 2014

    These Filipinos that have the latest gadgets, having flat screen tv, ref., ac etc, going to the malls are either rich Filipinos or ofw,s who are treating their family or friend on their few days of vacation. Ordinary workers receiving minimum wage cannot afford the things you said. Do your math this time. I both live in the Philippines and USA and now a retired employee in us living in the Philippines.

  • RandomRalph
    August 29, 2014

    This is satirical, right? A lot of people just don’t have the discernment to recognize sarcasm… hay nako… nagpataasan ng ihi sa comment…

  • Joey Ladaran
    March 5, 2015

    No latest items in Bohol Tagbilaran. They don't sell any version of the Xbox or playstation nor do they have any of the latest computer hardware with nothing but bottom of the line budget range parts. Searched every mall in Tagbilaran and best I could get was an 'order notice' from cebu with a 3 week wait at best. Also most of the countries restrooms especially in local town markets still don't have flushing toilets/sink/mirror or even a doorknob/lock on individual stalls with doors lower than neck height for someone 5"9 or taller a lock doesn't really matter anyway.

    Oh and the vehicle emission standards are virtually non-existent regardless of the law that isn't enforced in anything but a major city, air pollution is the first thing you notice getting off the plane in Cebu.

  • Steve Kay
    February 2, 2016

    A lot of Filipinos have family overseas who earn a lot of money and send it back, which is why they can afford these things.

  • JM Ayala
    December 12, 2019

    Well written. Sadly but this is the truth about our country.

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