THERE ARE easier ways to discover you have no easy way of recovering lost teeth, but for sheer drama and mindlessness, almost nothing beats biking down a footpath at roughly 70 degrees with balding brakepads, finding a pedestrian in your way probably three seconds before impact, involuntarily bailing out of your bike, and using your mouth to break your fall.
The result was losing one tooth and chipping another, and more than the trauma and shock of losing close friends in such a violent way, I simply had no idea how expensive getting back my teeth (or their replacements) was going to be. The dentures were costly enough, costing around $750, but the same dentist who created them told me that with a generous subsidy from Accident Compensation Corporation, I could enjoy titanium implants that would certainly outlast my fossilized bones. I almost went for it, if I hadn’t read the initial quotation that totaled $6000 requiring only half, or three big ones, as my participation. So much for the generous subsidy.
My tradesman’s wages and very modest side income (zero) couldn’t accommodate that; come to think of it, any dental work done here for a non-permanent resident will cost you an arm and a leg (figuratively), and so the next trip home would have to be devoted to extensive denture work, landscaping for the rest of my remaining teeth, and urban planning to reconstitute a dazzling smile.
That’s my little self-help lesson to new NZ migrants but especially to guest workers, work visa holders and other accidental migrants like me. There are certain things that although available here are a bit pricey because of the premium placed on fees and professional services and wages. You can’t complain because it’s precisely the regime of decent wages that brought you to the First World diba?
Buying specs of Sir Elton, Cee Lo Green or Gok Wan. Another near-essential that we would do well to sort out before getting here is your spectacles, and whether you use the generic kind or favor the Armani, Gucci or YSL frames, it’s much better to have them done at home. Because the market is so much bigger in the Philippines, a lot more optical shops compete for your myopic peso and the prices are definitely friendlier. Here, just to have your eyes examined may cost $60, the actual preparation of the corrective lens between $100 to $200, and we haven’t even discussed the kind of frames you fancy, which may cost as much as your week’s pay to a month’s pay, depending on your work.
Back home, if you want the bargain basement discount badly enough, meaning you’re willing to scrounge around in musty antediluvian shops in Recto, Raon and elsewhere in Manila‘s Old Quarter (forget about Makati or Ortigas Center), you can get a decent pair of glasses, tests done, frames and lens all for P1,000 tops, decent meaning you get a razor-sharp prescription eyewear that makes you look semi-hot to the opposite sex without alienating the geeky nerdy. And how cheap is that? We all know that P1000 won’t buy you a fancy lunch anywhere in White Man’s Land.
Non-urgent / cosmetic procedures. By non-urgent I mean non-life threatening, slightly inconvenient procedures you’re willing to join the queue for (where the state underwrites all health care) but for which you’re not willing to shell out too much money, especially if it’s otherwise free. I refer to a hodgepodge of procedures, anything from cataract removal, hip replacement, wart removal, etc. But nowadays non-urgent is frequently code for cosmetic procedures, and who can blame you for wanting such? You’ve reached that stage in life when you can financially afford them, and aesthetically can’t afford not to use them, PERIOD.
I’m talking about major derma work done, permanent eyelashes and eyebrows, nose jobs, boob jobs (yes, not shocking anymore), tummy tucks and other facial recontouring, body resculpting that Modern Man (and particularly Modern Woman) now undergo without a second thought. Given the buyer’s market and comfort / conveniences available back home ( family support system, less stressful recovery and more affordable / accessible professional services ), that makeover you’ve been contemplating is a perfect complement to a balikbayan junket to meet long-lost friends and cherished contemporaries of yesteryear, all the better to reinvent yourself figuratively and literally.
Miscellaneous. Watches cleaned, your indigenous condiments, jewelry polished, Pinoy DVDs, hobby supplies, sexy wardrobe replenished (Asian sizes not always available in NZ), but for the accident of geography and DNA, these details and items would not be terribly interesting to anyone, but because they matter to us, we want our Tag Heuer watch in superefficient, sparkling condition, our kare-kare paste and ginisa mix at our fingertips, Swarovski bracelet as clean as it was before the box was opened, watching as many scenes possible of KC and Piolo before the Big Reveal, and kinky sleepwear just the way we want them. And you know that as regards acquiring all these goodies, there’s no place like home, where we know exactly where to shop for them and who to buy them from.
From what we’ve heard, delaying all these pleasures until we get home makes the gratification all the more worthwhile. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first time migrant, a temporary expat, or going home for the first time in years and years. Stretch that OFW dollar and spend it patriotically in the Motherland.
Thanks for reading !