One of the real reasons that the Philippines isn’t on the map for backpackers in South East Asia is that it is quite a bit more expensive. Avoid the cities though and the prices drop substantially.
Areas like Banaue are as cheap as anywhere in the world, and you can survive on $5 a day or less.
Expect to spend $15-20 a day while traveling, mostly on hotels but you can live for $200-$300 elsewhere in the country by stayig in one place and renting a cabin.
Nightlife is very cheap in the Philippines. Good Filipino hash costs about $2 a gram in Angeles City but it’s almost free up in the mountains. Alcohol is dirt cheap, and good. Small bottles of liquor are about a dollar. Beers are $.25-$1, depending on the size of the bottle and if you’re in a bar.
Work in the Philippines is pretty slim and there aren’t that many jobs for travelers. Most people speak English so TEFL instructors are out of luck and you’re unlikely to understand the other languages on the island.
Many foreigners turn to running go-go bars but often run foul of the local mafia and it’s pretty iffy karma in the long run. A safer business plan might be to open a hostel somewhere nice and not expect to become rich, just to enjoy the idyllic spot you’ve chosen.
Other travelers turn to smuggling hash out of the island to Japan – one glimpse of the austerity of a Japanese prison cell would put all but the most reckless of travelers off the idea though.
There are options of scuba instructors as the Philippines have plenty of beautiful, untouched reefs. Alternatively, you can make the most of your exotic appearance to get into TV and the movies – though the hottest gig you’re likely to get is advertising sun cream. You spend a lot of time hanging around film studios waiting for cameras to roll and in the meantime you’re living in a dump like Manila.
The most feral of travelers might head out to the sticks and grow their own food and ganja. Get your own plot of land and you can grow a good deal of the essentials for yourself.