Have you ever heard of teachers whose ATM cards are nowhere in their handbags, but are possessed by loan sharks? Well, it’s not a joke. It’s truer than the truth. A lot of teachers in the field who are just dependent on their salaries for subsistence are drowning in various loans.

The implication of this is simple—teachers’ salaries do not suffice in meeting the high cost of living nowadays. It is true that, based on the record, the teachers’ wages have been raised several times over the past years and decades, but still, they are not enough in defraying household expenses. Why?

First, the increases are not that much. They are merely minimal amounts being added to the originally low salaries. They are hardly felt. Yes, there are increases, but what are they if they do not significantly augment the meager pay? It turns out that, these increases are just in name, just for a show, to justify the promises of politicians who perhaps vowed in their campaign sorties that they would raise the teachers’ wages to win the latter’s votes.

Furthermore, lifestyles nowadays demand so many things to spend money for. The bills just accumulate, with due dates to observe. And if they’re not paid on or before the due date, penalties are given. If a teacher, for reasons of catching up with the demands of her job such as the need to have laptops and cellphones with high mega-pixel cameras, will attempt to secure all these, then these would be added bills to pay for. These numerous expenditures multiply especially if one lives in an urban area.

The high inflation is another reason why teachers’ salaries do not suffice. The cost of commodities is frequently increasing. This partly explains why salary increases don’t make much difference, because they just cover up the new increases in basic needs. I never forget that time, way back in 1997 when we relocated to Tacloban when the price of an LPG tank was merely 150 pesos apiece. Now it’s more than a thousand already. And it’s not just the prices of commodities that are soaring high—passenger fares and other services are following suit.

If only the prices of goods won’t go up, perhaps there is no need for pay hikes. But since, now and then, prices are endlessly increasing, there needs to be a constant salary increase that should be effected. If not, if such frequent salary increases are quite bothersome, just affect it in a one-time, big-time scheme so it won’t preoccupy the policy-makers. The point is, salary should increase preferably every time the prices of goods and services go up. That’s to be fair to lowly teachers and workers in general.

Unfortunately, increases in wages hardly come. And when they come, they’re just too minimal, and mostly given on a staggered basis. As a result, the underpaid teachers could hardly cope with the soaring cost of living, hence their resort to loan sharks just to meet their financial obligations, particularly those that cannot wait, like electric or water due dates. They no longer hold their ATMs; it’s in the possession of loan sharks, who are preying on them and holding their cards captive. Poor teachers, indeed.