Winning 001: Take your pick–Be envious, or be contented

“You can either envy or be content. You cannot have both.” –P. Manaloto

The damage caused by Aman Futures unto some 15,000 victims of its pyramiding scheme in Mindanao has been the screaming news headline recently. The usual reaction of unaffected people is this: “What? Again?!”

Pyramiding schemes have been happening in cycles for the last 150 years when money became the standard of value.  It is just like a wave in the ocean that calms and rolls back —even  bigger, resembling a tsunami.  But, why did this scam happen again?  Why is it that educated people, bankers, financiers, businessmen, politicians, government technocrats and overseas Filipino workers were enticed again despite knowing that “quick rich” schemes can never be sustained.

The explanation lies in the power of envy.  Envy is such a strong emotion that while it can release positive attitudes of hard work, it also pushes one to go beyond what is logical and moral, just to keep up with the competition.  It is not impossible that, at first, many of these investors were keeping away from the agents of this scheme. But eventually, seeing material change in the lives of those who invested erases the veil of doubt, then envy sets in.  It is incredible how envy had destroyed so many lives, dreams and futures.

The Biblical antidote to envy is contentment.  As Manaloto wrote, you cannot have both envy and contentment.  Contentment is difficult because it is relative.  What may be few to one can be plenty for another.  Thus, finding contentment hinges on one’s values and understanding of how much one should have.

A practical way to determine contentment is to answer these questions. One, how many pair of shoes do you have?  Two, how many shirts or pants that you have but you have not used for the past 3 months? And three, how many mobile phones, television sets, computers, and gadgets do you own then how much time do you spend for each of them?

As we approach the Christmas season (“the season of giving”), let us look at the excesses of our lives.  Our excesses maybe the needs or wants of others.  I strongly suggest that one way to have a contented life is to limit the number of cabinets in your house.  Cabinets are nice since they keep things temporarily, not store things you do not use anymore.

Also, plan a bi-annual garage sale because things that you have not used for six months have to go.  Change the culture of may gagamit pa ito (there’s still use for this) and pwede pa itong itago (this can be kept).  Price your stuff at most affordable rates, then put a value unto these even if they’re cheap.

Let go of the old before buying the new.  Let this be our goal for 2013.  The only way to overcome envy is to enjoy and be contented with the less that you have.  As you go on shopping for the Christmas season, the best gifts are possibly in your cabinets, storage boxes, and book shelves.

Most of all, share your excesses this Christmas because He who did not spare His own Son will be able to give us more than what we ask or imagine.  Have a Christ-centered Christmas!


[Editorials of The Connection] Political epal and citizens’ vigilance


(photo from

This is the Facebook age. Things people do and say can be easily uploaded as pictures, statuses and comments —even jokes, or worse memes. Thanks to Facebook, people are spurred to become human CCTVs (closed-circuit televisions). Facebook is Philippine society’s Big Brother device.

Be careful with your actions now, or else you will get caught and be known online and offline. That is why the citizenry is now bolder and spot on to unearth local officials’ alleged misdeeds, or even legitimate policy differences.

Now that national and local elections draw near, politicians are expected to capitalize on the pre-campaign period to project themselves. But voters are abreast and know the different forms of pre-campaign electioneering.

Pre-campaign here includes actions done in the years prior to the next election, the time when the winning candidates are sitting in power. Filipinos are oh-so familiar with these forms of electioneering (many times using people’s money): billboards and tarpaulins announcing government programs but bearing the local official’s huge face, calendars of the local chief executive and his/her family, congratulatory remarks plastered during graduations and local fiestas, tarpaulins of cause-oriented groups’ medical missions but with the image of the mayor.

Go to Mandaluyong City, or Quezon City, or in many other areas of the country. Such numerous forms of electioneering are prevalent and done by barangay council people, up to the nationally-elected officials. In Filipino conversational parlance, there’s a term for this: epal (from the root Tagalog word papel —as a verb, mapapel— to imply that somebody grabs the credit). Epal in Philippine politics seems culturally rooted already.

To be fair to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, one cannot find any project billboard announcing that a national government project is Aquino’s handiwork. Aquino’s message is counter-culture to what current prevails here. In the Senate, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago lobbied for the passage of an anti-epal bill, prohibiting officials from announcing their names and showing their faces in government projects. The Commission on Elections is also on the lookout for the early electioneering after the Oct. 5 deadline of filing certificates of candidacy.

Unfortunately, as Comelec itself admitted, there is no law punishing pre-election pseudo-advertisements. One senatoriable got away with advertising the country’s health insurance program. Another one, aligned with the ruling Liberal Party, masqueraded his environmentalism.

Ojo! Don’t forget local politics. That’s where many forms of epal prosper.

If the citizenry is becoming more brazen, politicians just shrug off these anti-epal lobbyists and their messages. Rallies in Metro Manila had been held against it, and rallyists remain voices in the wilderness. A page for Sen. Santiago’s bill had become a page on Facebook, but with only 50 likes. And no matter how many times President Aquino convinces partymates and sitting leaders and officials to remove the epal billboards and tarpaulins, they don’t give in.

This reminds of a priest’s homily. As a response to the epal phenomenon, the priest mentions the lack of humility —or its absence— among elected officials. What also seems to be lacking, the priest adds, are officials who look at themselves as servants, which includes not becoming credit grabbers. Obviously, changing politicians’ mindsets is a tall order —even if the President of the Republic of the Philippines himself is setting an example already.

So in pragmatic terms, how can the anti-epal movement prosper?

Well, there’s social networking sites to reveal more of those forms of epal. If your governor or mayor is grabbing credits for taxpayers-bankrolled government programs on education, health and infrastructure, exposing them on Facebook is the easiest to do. Show the pictures of the tarpaulins and paintings on waiting sheds. Monitor their epal-related activities, especially during the coming Christmas and graduation seasons. Talk about them online. Flood the zone.

Since politicians are present in social networking sites, exercise fraternal correction and tell them boldly you have found their epal poster, tarpaulin or billboard. Then share that post to your friends on Facebook. Batanguenos here, the primary audiences of this newspaper, can do the same —and Facebook becomes the cheapest, most effective mechanism for public transparency and accountability.

If you the citizen are easily irked at these epal politicians (whether they’re performers or not), take it to the ballot this May 2013 and don’t vote for them.

What is the point of these actions? The message here is the aspiration of having a more mature Filipino voting populace. Now that elections have become automated (thus diminishing significantly electoral fraud), the significant next step is to make elected officials aware that they are accountable to voters —and that voters aren’t dumb anymore to be fooled by political credit grabbers.

The Comelec said the campaign period for senators and party-list groups is from Feb 12 to May 11, 2013. As for congresspeople and local officials, the campaign starts March 29 and ends also on May 11. If politicians say they are servant-leaders, are accountable to the people, and are not credit-grabbers, formal electioneering can wait.

Then press the “Like” button.




Winning 001: You win when you start believing you can


One of the most difficult aspects of winning is accepting to change.  In many of my seminars on the Winning Mentality, I have realized that many people are interested in becoming free financially but do not have the mental desire to change.  
In one of my talks, I was listening to a spouse of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who is heavily in debt.  She was receiving a monthly allotment of about P100,000  from her seaman husband.  She told me that what I am saying is true but is not easy to do.  That’s precisely the point of this commentary. 
My intention in writing this piece is to pummel your minds the message that we can actually be winners financially.  We will not necessarily become multi-millionaires but we can be free to become what we have dreamed about.  The key to a positive change, both personally and financially, is the willingness to change.  This boils down to destroying negative family values about money and cultural mindset of poverty.  This takes time and is a significant process to focus on.  
In my research on finding the best approach to help people, I have realized that most books on personal finance have focused only on the mechanical part–the number crunching.  On the other hand, there are also books that look only on the emotional part, which is the mind setting.  I have not seen a single book that attempted to put them together.  This is reason why these self-help personal finance books are best sellers, and yet we still see a lot of people unable to move to financial freedom.  
Just the other day, the famous author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad (a must read), Robert Kiyosaki, filed for bankruptcy.  How ironic!  The man who had influenced people around the world to win the battle against personal mediocrity actually is bankrupt.  But what does it matter. Kiyosaki’s influence has given birth to a number of people now preaching personal finance freedom, myself included.  By influencing people to believe they can, they already won regardless of the background of the teacher. 
Starting with this commentary, we will start teaching some mechanical aspects with emotional banging to ensure that we will, at least, attempt to change certain habits that brought us to where we are now.  We can start by believing that we can make a list of our assets and liabilities.  It is simply a listing of everything that we own personally so it could be clothes, jewelry, books, furnitures, appliances, etc and then a listing of whatever we owe, whether officially, relational or even from informal lenders.  
Why do we need to do this exercise? People do not change until they know what their exact condition is.  But others will start moving only when they know they are in the danger zone. How do we know this? Logically, our assets must be greater than our liabilties.  If it is the other way around, then we are in a serious situation that needs to be reversed immediately. This is why change requires combining both our “emotional” and “mechanical” situations. 
I am sure you have not done this exercise of identifying assets and liabilities.  Do it now!  There are no right or wrong answers, but the exercise will surely help you situate where you are right now.  Then we can begin to talk about change because by doing so, you have already believed you can and you can be a winner!  God bless.
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For investment advice, or any questions about personal finance, email to  

For my colleagues in the Economics profession and interested friends, the Philippine Economic Society (PES) will celebrate its 50th anniversary this Nov. 27.  The speakers will be former PES presidents  and Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority.  For more details, please email or call (+632)9292671 c/o of Ms. Charm Escueta.  Looking forward to seeing you there.

[Editorials of The Connection] Good local governance died with Robredo?




It’s quite tough for a nation to lose a respected, ingenious civil servant in Jesse Robredo. By chance, an attendance sheet of a Sept. 11 board meeting of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) showed his name still listed, two weeks after he had been buried in Naga City. “Robredo” still rings a bell, even if he ain’t Dolphy.

[Read more…]

Winning 001: An unusual giving will always result to an unusual receiving


The past weeks, Filipinos in Luzon have witnessed another flooding on an unprecedented magnitude, affecting vast areas of Central Luzon and Metro Manila.  What was thought to be a once-in-a-century blip of nature repeated itself within three years (in reference to Typhoon Ondoy in 2009). This time around, during the week starting August 6, it was monsoon rains that flooded the streets.

What we had experienced was a sign that we actually breached a new normal, telling us we can no longer do things that we are used to.  Ondoy in 2009 already told us that a lot of adjustments in life had to be made.  Hardly some tried to do these adjustments; when such disposition is the attitude, everyone else fails.

How do we deal with this new normal? How do we really adjust to something new?  Life adjustments are not one-time events.  They need careful understanding and complete mental, emotional, physical and financial processing. They have to get into our way of doing things.  As our title of today’s commentary suggests, life adjustments are about giving something up unusually. This adjustment will not be in vain as the return will come up in some other areas of our lives, albeit, unusually too.

Giving something can also be done unconsciously as generosity had become part of our culture.  Some things need to be undone, and this has to be done consciously.  We have given too much of what we do not want to society and it found its way back to us.  We have treated all the warnings about nature, environment and the likes as just part of life.  Ultimately, all these problems will solve themselves.  Unfortunately, nature has taken so much from us that it can no longer adjust by itself.

The burden of adjustment has now shifted to us.

To adjust our lives to the new normal, we need to give unusually. In my opinion, we Filipinos have a penchant of collecting things.  We have china cabinets in our house that contain plates and glasses for visitors who rarely come.  For the modern world, we too have adjusted by having two or more cellular phones, television sets, radios, DVD players and the like.  We have treaded on the road of excesses and these are what we need to give up.

The simplest test is to look at our closet and look for things that you have not touched or worn during the last six months. You may no longer need those things. Giving out things we do not need anymore starts individually, but this can also be done by families.  The best is to have a semestral garage sale of things that we do not need.  Schedule this every start of the year and stick to it.  My family had done this ritual for the last six years, and it has helped us understand that things are not forever.  It also helped taught my children to value only the things that matter the most.  Leftovers from garage sales are easily handed over to other charities, as well as to relatives and friends.

It has become easy to give to other because of this adjustment that our family has made.  It is not impossible, we have seen other families and friends try and succeed. In the end, except to receive things in an unusual manner —and in many forms and many ways. We have received new friends, new ways of thinking, and new things that we need in this cycle of giving and receiving. Isn’t that a great bargain for a winning lifestyle?  God bless.

[Editorials of The Connection] How to sustain the gains?


By the time this editorial is written, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, through the traditional State of the Nation Address (SONA), had reported the government’s accomplishments. Not surprisingly, he will boast the biggest story of 2011 that spilled over through the first six months of the current year, thanks to foreign analysts: positive reviews on the economy. [Read more…]

[Winning 001] Stop the blame-game: Be a change-agent


The world of the 21st century requires everything to be available in an instant. It is observable that the fastest-moving items in the supermarket or even in wet markets are those that have instant properties.  This instant mentality has also challenged our values and patience as people.

The outcome of this clash in values is the all-too-common blaming. Recall what happened to you this morning: your husband again failed to lift the toilet seat; the maid again broke the sunny side egg; your daughter forgot her pencil case. You arrived at the office earlier than your assistant, and the lines of clients continue to get longer.

Before you knew it, you start to blame everyone who has contributed to this high blood morning.   This scene is fairly common in our 21st century lives.  The fast pace society has sidelined patience and in its stead, we have placed our comfort as the value of the day.

There’s is nothing wrong with having a fast-paced world.  But the thing that makes us blame others is because we have changed our values. But knowing this does not change anything.  The day can start almost the same again.

There are some things we can do to make the start of our day right –one thing at a time.

First, we need to stop the blame game.  Each time we blame, we point to that person we are blaming.  Notice that there is only one single finger pointing to the person, the rest of the finger points back to us.  Blaming does not make the situation right, in fact it only makes things worse.

The seemingly wrongs that happened can be dealt with in not in the situation, but when you have cooled down.  This is the second step: learn how to postpone conflict, and re-learn patience.

The way to postpone is to write everything down.  Have a small notebook (just like my teacher George) and carry it everywhere in your bag or pocket.  It is like filing an incident report. Review it at the end of the day.  Then schedule a day when you can discuss it with the person/s concerned.

When these are done on a regular basis, we have done something incredible.  We have brought back patience in the value system of the 21st Century; we have also rescued our emotions and our health from blaming stress. But more
importantly, we did not have to exert much effort to be the change that we want to see. God bless.