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The first time I used the ATM machine here, I was charged by the local bank $9.98. And all I got was P4000.00 ($80.00) and fast cash of P500.00 ($10.00). I tried a couple of times to get 4000 pesos and the machine blinked each time. I panicked thinking that P8000.00 was taken from my account. This is the equivalent of about $160.00. After a week I learned that I only got what I really wanted to withdraw. That is P4000.00. So much for worrying.

So I decided to open an ATM account with a local bank to avoid paying tremendous charges everytime I need money. Well this bank I chose is incredibly busy with people waiting in line for many minutes before getting the chance to withdraw their money. You can't imagine what a punishment this is if you are waiting outside in the sun. And when you gain entry into the small airconditioned room, people behind you want to join you as well. Forget about privacy. The next customer is hanging just behind your shoulders.

But think about getting wads of bills. P4000 should be 4 or 8 bills only, 4 - P1000 bills or 8 - P500 bills. What I got and nearly lost were 40 - P100 bills. The cash dispenser was slightly concealed so while I was searching for it, a warning came on the screen that I could lose all my money in a few seconds. When I finally found the cash, it was tightly packed and difficult to take out all at once. A couple of bills were left as the machine tried to gobble these up into its inner recesses. I pulled hard to get the last 2 - P100 bills, nearly tearing these in half. Then I started to count, and kept on counting. Then I recounted because I was missing one P100 bill. I thought the machine had gained on me and eaten this. It would have been a struggle to go inside the bank and wait again with all the customers there. But the bank, I found out, closes at 3 p.m. And thankfully, I had all my money.

I still dread going to the ATM machine. I never thought the day would come that I would wish money grew on trees.

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