It was still the first week of July, but I only had P70 worth of coins left in my wallet. With more than 10 days away from payday, I needed to tighten my belt to be able to survive. That meant staying home and working remotely to avoid spending my last cents.

Seriously, I have never felt this broke since I started earning my keep as a public school teacher. And so to console myself, I held onto this traditional idea that July is just naturally puráut, a Hiligaynon expression for a time of dearth or distress. As usual, like most people, I would get through this phase.

But pulling through wasn’t that simple. This penniless month pushed me to do a lot of side hustles. I accepted thesis consultation jobs one after the other, offered my service to design a departmental newsletter, and even sold some books in my collection online. Funny that, for a while, it seemed like I was a full-time raketero sidelining as a teacher. In exchange for my good night’s sleep (and happiness), I was able to make both ends meet.

As for that P70 proof of scarcity, it didn’t last a day though I stayed home. To begin with, P70 is P19 short for a liter of gas that would keep my motorcycle running. Secondly, since oil prices have increased dramatically, the costs of basic commodities and other goods delivered to markets by petroleum-run vehicles were also affected. I could be merely sitting pretty at home in front of a television and under a whirring ceiling fan but still spend a lot without knowing it. With the power rates in Northern Negros hitting an all-time high record of almost P15 per kilowatt hour, that is not impossible.

Like me, my friends also experienced the same economic slump that July brought. Over a cup of coffee, we would often complain about how the value of P1,000 has drastically declined and wonder how an egg is ridiculously sold for P20 per piece. The coffee session won’t conclude without one of us cracking this saddest joke in different permutations: “You promised us rice for P20 per kilo, but you gave us an egg for P20 each.” If only an economist had won the presidency, we wouldn’t be this anxious, we would agree.

As the former president ended his term, the Philippines was left in shambles with a P12-trillion debt and a disfigured economy. At that point, it was high time to put someone who does not spit false promises and superficial plans in power, but Filipinos chose one who has a family name to redeem. It was loud and clear: people wanted the hackneyed promise of unity more than a rose-colored future. Proudly, I was not one of them.

For the past four elections, I have set aside my biases and focused on the character, experience, and background of candidates before finalizing my list of who to vote for. Aspirants with a record of corruption and moral turpitude were automatically scratched out. I took time to read about the lives they had lived before they entered politics because I believe that this aspect would somehow reveal their true intention in running. Every single time, I made sure that the decision I reached was informed. I have exercised my right to suffrage based on research, not on hunch or emotion because I was afraid that this day would come.

Maybe, if we had been more intelligent with our choices for the past six years, July wouldn’t be this puràut. Maybe, the prices of basic commodities wouldn’t be this high. Maybe that P70 left in my wallet would still be enough for a liter of gas. Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t need to console myself that July is usually a poverty-stricken month in Negros.

Truth be told, this month is not supposedly scarce. We are in this plight because this is where we choose to be. July has become puráut because of the election choices we haphazardly made.

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