I wrote this blog post which was originally published in Lifestyle Upgrade 101.

Admit it or not, if there is one thing that we anticipate come the BER months, it is our 13th month pay. Perhaps, you have already planned what you will do with the money as early as September.

Well, there is nothing wrong with financial planning. However, our 13th month pay is the hard-earned money that we have to spend wisely too. Below are some of the ways to spend it.

How to spend your 13th month pay

1) Pay off debt

The majority of the Filipinos have debts especially high-interest debts. With your money, pay all of your debts as you possibly can. Start with the debts with the highest interest rates and work your way to the debts with the lowest interest.

2) Start an emergency fund

If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to set aside the money as an emergency fund. In fact, the emergency fund should be at least three times the amount of monthly household expenses.

3) Save for future expenses

If you are planning to make a big purchase in a six month’s time then, save ahead otherwise you might need to obtain another loan for that expense. Not such a good idea.

4) Purchase a policy

An insurance is one of the most overlooked ways to protect oneself. Compare life insurance products and decide which one is the best for your current condition particularly your age and health condition.

5) Start a retirement fund

An SSS survey claims that 98% of the Filipinos cannot support themselves when they hit their retirement. Thus, they have to depend on their children or the charities throughout the retirement years. Don’t be a part of the statistics by building your own retirement fund now.

6) Start a business

Even Warren Buffet, the investment guru, said that a person must not depend on a single income stream. It can be an online business wherein you only need a computer and a connection to keep it going. Whichever you choose, you can use your money to start a small business.

7) Open another savings account

Aside from your salary account, open a savings account that you will not withdraw money from. It would be better to open a non-ATM account. In this way, you won’t spend the money on temporary things.

8) Put in time deposit

Alternatively, you may consider putting the money in a time deposit safekeeping purposes. You cannot withdraw the money while it incurs interest.

9) Buy raw materials for DIY presents

What’s good about DIY presents is you can make them in bulk. You need not spend on lavish Christmas gifts particularly those the receivers won’t use anyway or will just stash in the display cabinet.

10) Invest in stocks

You’d only need Php5,000 to open a trading account. Most of the investment services provider conducts a risk profiling so you would know your risk tolerance.

True they say that you have to pay yourself first; this is what you have to do after 12 months of working hard. You may any of the listed above so you’d truly know where your money is going and not spend it on frivolities.

By virtue of House Bill 5241, December 8 could be declared as a special non-working holiday in the Philippines to commemorate the Feast of Immaculate Conception of Mary, the country’s principal patroness.

The Blessed Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) is also our patroness, so the 8th of December was traditionally a holiday in Antipolo City.

Many years back, Antipolo City fiesta was confined to only four barangays in the poblacion namely San Roque, San Jose, San Isidro and Dela Paz. Now, if I’m not mistaken, it’s a city-wide celebration.

Poblacion is a Spanish term for central, old town or downtown.

Having lived in Brgy. San Isidro all my life, I always looked forward to the first week of December. Everyone I know gets into the festive mood at least a week before especially when the neighbors start to set up colorful buntings and the dancing higantes start to pass by our street.

page breaker resized

Our household was usually busy during the day (when I was younger) because of the guests. Our house was one of the usual stops and people would visit us for the desserts. Every year, there’s this Manong from Laguna who would sell us macapuno, kaong, etc. My mother prepared these sweetened, to our guests’ delight.

My siblings (actually my sister) and I are free to roam the town proper. The festivities were concentrated on Gitna (central), which is a few blocks away from our house. There was one activity that I watch every year when I was still single–the drum and lyre competition. It was held on the afternoon of December 7. The champion would be the one to perform the next morning, during the Grand Parade.

I was able to experience playing color games and other things that are already forbidden now (i.e., colored chicks) and watching dance contests and Binibining Antipolo coronation night (which was later changed to Mr. and Ms. Antipolo then to Mutya ng Antipolo).

But I wasn’t able to witness Palarong Bayan and Serenata ng mga Banda (band serenade competition). The folks did, and my mother would describe how it would be like. She was single then. 😉

I only get to see the parade where the city band plays.

page breaker resized

Amidst the abundance of colorful festivities, one thing I made sure of every year is attending the mass. December 8 is a day of obligation, requiring the Catholics to participate in mass. It’s only right to give thanks for all the blessings you receive throughout the years as well as the Blessed Virgin’s perpetual guidance to the city and its people.

Mass is celebrated every hour at the Cathedral. My sister and I always choose the mass between 3 and 5 pm to avoid the crowd. Even then, however, the Cathedral would be teeming with patrons.

In the evening, a procession of the image of the Blessed Virgin will be held within the city proper. A firework display usually follows after the procession, when the image was on the way to the church (or inside the church; I’m not so sure).

page breaker resized

It never seizes to amaze me how some Antipoleños are so naive of the meaning behind the feast. It’s Immaculate Conception, so it refers to the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, not that of Jesus Christ.

While she was conceived through conventional biological means, God acted upon Saint Anne’s soul to keep it (the conception of Mary) ‘immaculate.’ God did this because she was going to bear Jesus Christ later on in her life.

Saint Anne is the mother of Virgin Mary.

After nine months (September 8), Mary was born. Of course, I know you know that. 🙂

 

[Image credit: Xavier Daniel Photography]

Invest in experience, so they say, so here it is. 😀

Two weeks from now, my mother, sister, my daughters #sashadele (Sasha and Adele) and I will be attending a funfair in Antipolo City. It’ll be their first time to participate in a funfair and a first for me as well since I had them. I don’t know what to expect TBH so I searched for things to do at a fair as well as the do’s and don’ts. I know, I know it’ll be a riot! So it will be a survival game for me and all you mommies out there if ever you decide to visit one too. 😆

My primer below details everything you need to do to survive any fair.

funfair

noun a fair consisting of rides, sideshows, and other amusements

Ways to survive a funfair

Ask questions

Before you register, ask the right questions. For example, ask if children 2 ft. and below are free of charge or not or if the fee is inclusive of the food at the event. Ask if there are any restrictions when it comes to clothes, food and parking. Some fair organizers don’t allow sandos and slippers. Yes, it pays to know the rules.

Complete the registration

If online registration is available, register through it. This will save you time queuing come the actual day of the fair as a walk-in. There is usually a dedicated line for those who preregister. Settle the registration fee.

Get there early

If you are going to line up, allot at least 30 minutes before the fair starts. This is not a hard rule, but you may run the risk of missing the first part if you arrive at the venue too late. Even if the fair is free, try to be there ahead of time. There are many advantages to coming earlier such as finding yourselves a good place to have a nice, unobstructed view minus the rush due to the surge of other attendees as well as having prime parking spots, closer to where the festivities are. You’ll need the latter when carrying too-tired-for-walking kids back to the car.

Plan the travel

If you live far from the fair, make sure that you arrange for your transportation ahead of time. Good for you if you have your own car. If not, hire a car or van in advance. Check if it would be wise to commute instead of paying a rental fee.

Know how to get there

Check the event guide to know how to get to the location. The fair organizers provide printable maps. So print that out and take it with you. If you are going to use Google Maps, search the place in advance and save it on your phone. Yup, that’s possible. Keep the contact details of the event organizers too. If ever you get lost, you can contact them immediately to ask for assistance. This one’s handy if the exact location is a bit hard to find.

Bring the essentials

When you are with kids, there are many things you must bring such as water. To keep the kids safe, always bring your own water. Use reusable bottles. Freeze them the night before so you and your kids will have something refreshing to drink while hopping from ride to ride. Other must-brings are:

  • healthy snacks
  • extra towels
  • wet wipes
  • rain ponchos
  • emergency kit (aspirin, band-aids, ointment, etc.)

And keep everything inside the diaper bag.

Know the dress code

Dress comfortably and appropriately. Make sure that you and the kids are wearing something comfortable from head to toe. Cotton shirts and pants or shorts are the best. Wear a pair of sneakers or sandals too. Bring extra clothes with you. If the event will be for the whole day or will be finished at night, bring jackets as well so the kids won’t get wet due to occasional drizzles and cold while traveling back home.

Create a game plan

Refer to the event guide if there are any so you’d know what funfair attractions and games your kids can try. Plan your attendance with them if possible. This will keep them engaged the entire time—no meltdowns, no tantrums and no injuries. Well, hopefully. 😉

Bring cash

Set a budget for the day and stick with it. A trip to the funfair can quickly add up—from the entrance fees to ride tickets. You don’t want to overspend. But you always need to bring cash with you. There’d be lots of [tasty] temptations so better set aside an amount for that.

Keep safety in mind

Fairgrounds can get crowded. There are also plenty of distractions. So, don’t lose track of the kids. If one of them get separated into the crowd, make sure that he or she knows where to go or who to ask. So prep your kids the night before to ask the security guard for help if ever they get lost. Write down your contact details on a piece of paper and put it safely in their pockets. If you have two-year-olds and below, you might as well hold their hands while walking. Make sure that you keep an eye on them—always! I need to keep that last one in mind because I once lost Adele. #sorryna

Know when to call it a day

Kids, in general, start out strong until exhaustion wears them out. And just a few hours of rides can take their toll, especially for the younger kids. So, you should know when the kids had enough.

Other things to remember

  1. Make a beeline towards funfair games and attractions that appeal mostly to your kids.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. Several lurkers also double as pickpockets and whatnots.
  3. Take rest stops so the kids won’t get burnt out or bored quickly. Sit down for a while.
  4. Dress your kids in colored or printed clothes that you can easily identify from afar.

Finally, enjoy! It’s a funfair! Let your kids enjoy! Unleash the kid at heart in you too.

Kinain na tayong mga Pilipino ng sistemang Korea…!

[The Korean system has consumed us!…]

We often hear that phrase, and I couldn’’t agree more. Even I have been bitten by the Korean bug, binging over K-dramas whenever I had spare time. My elder daughter Sasha would even tell me “’Ma, good night. Saranghe!’” as if she really knows how to speak the language.

Saranghe means I love you.

Come to think of it, how hard it is to learn a new language and why would you want to learn a new language? ConVersa has the answers.

I pass by it (I didn’t know that is was a learning center at first) everyday going to work. Of all the establishments on that building, this one stands out because of its vibrant façade. I got so curious what it is actually.

I visited and explored their Facebook page before reaching out to them. One thing that caught my attention was the colorful graphics. Find fun in learning a new language with these.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What caught my attention upon reading its About section is the promise of quality training. You don’t promise quality unless you are 100% sure you can deliver and perform. It can backfire because of the perceived notion that you can provide a quality learning experience.

I need to see that for myself.

What ConVersa is

conversa logoRegistered at Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on October 2016, ConVersa Language Training & Services Center Inc. (or simply ConVersa) is the first and only language training center in Antipolo. Sir Franco Henry Domingo, along with his wife Miss Rocelle, operates the school. Sir Franco Henry and Miss Rocelle are the President and Secretary/Treasurer at ConVersa, respectively.

Sir Franco Henry and Sir Jordan Delas Verges (CEO) both belong to OFW families, and they understand the challenges that aspiring OFWs go through when going abroad. I can only imagine especially when you plan to work in a non-English speaking country. This is where the role of ConVersa comes into play.

ConVersa aims to provide “excellent quality foreign language training by setting an excellent standard in curriculum development, teaching methodology and cross-cultural understanding.” It envisions itself to be an exemplary leader in language training and manpower development in the country.

What are its services

ConVersa offers language courses such as:

  • English proficiency
  • Korean language
  • Japanese language
  • Mandarin language
  • Arabic language

Sir Franco Henry mentioned that ConVersa will start offering Spanish course soon.

Other services include:

  • Passport assistance
  • Document authentication
  • Visa assistance (Japanese and Canadian)
  • Document translation
  • NBI assistance
  • PSA certificate assistance

classes at conversa language school in antipolo

ConVersa is TESDA accredited; it is not a recruitment agency although it has a partnership with three recruitment agencies in Manila. Through its partner manpower agencies, ConVersa helps in looking for skilled workers for Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

ConVersa will open its second branch soon somewhere in Manila, probably around Makati area so that it can bring its services to more people.

Why a language school in Antipolo

The Domingos are from Manila, but I got so curious I had to ask them why they chose Antipolo. Sir Franco Henry mentioned that there are no training centers of this kind in the place. He is right. If there is any, the school usually offers either Japanese or Korean language, and the teaching is not geared toward learning the language for employment purposes unlike what they do at ConVersa.

They are now concentrating on the Asian region because of the high demand.Japan and Korea are requiring workers to learn to speak, write and read their language. Hence the need to learn the languages.

page breaker resized

Inside ConVersa

The language center is not too big or too small; just enough for a small classroom setting. ConVersa accommodates up to 12 students per session, with a dedicated instructor for the particular lesson. There are two classrooms inside, the Green Room and Blue Room. I can’t help but mention how I love the palette inside ConVersa’s office—so soothing! Check the pics below.

I went there three Sundays ago (October 29). I got to talk to the owners as well as the ever-so-friendly staff. Yup, they are offering the orientation seminar and trial class on Sundays. It goes to say that language learning is not free; it requires preparedness, willingness and commitment (financial and non-financial).

With the two pre-training seminars you will understand the necessity of learning the Korean language (Hangeul) and whether it’’s worth the investment or not. They also offer these seminars during weekday evenings and online.

I attended the pre-seminar orientation facilitated by Miss Jelly Alvaran inside the Green Room. I never expected to learn as much information about Korea and working in the country in just one hour, which warrants another blog post. So stay tuned for that. 😉

page breaker resized

Their ber months promo is ongoing. They also have a referral system to make the Korean and Japanese courses more bearable for the students who want to learn a new language in groups. Head over to ConVersa’’s Facebook page to learn more about the promo.

conversa ber months promo

You can self-learn through listening to K-pop or watching K-dramas (like Sasha). True. But if you are planning to travel or work in Korea, you need the help of the expert. Don’t deny yourself of the privilege to learn something new from the pros.

Me, being an Antipoleña, I am thankful to them because they chose to operate ConVersa in the city. Here is an opportunity that Antipoleños must seize. If being consumed by the Korean system means opening up more [employment] opportunities with better and higher pay than what local companies can offer, then so be it!

[Images are from ConVersa’s FB page; used with their permission.]

 

I suck at savings. I’ve been working for more than ten years now, but I have very little amount of savings. Sad but true. So for 2018, I’m looking for options on how I can save money for immediate and future needs.

Saving is not in the vocabulary of the Filipinos especially those who are trying to make ends meet while living from paycheck to paycheck like me. The thing is the government has specific savings programs that not all Filipinos are aware of. Toinks.

Hence this post.

Pag-IBIG MP2 vs. SSS PESO Fund

In February 2010, Pag-IBIG launched MP2. SSS (Social Security System) followed suit in May 2015 through the PESO Fund program, an offshoot of the Flexi-Fund savings program specifically designed for the OFWs. Which one should you choose—PESO or MP2? Below are some information to guide your decision-making.

MP2 stands for Modified Pag-IBIG II while PESO stands for Personal Equity and Savings Option. These programs are:

  • Available to non-OFWs or local income earners

  • Available to all regular Pag-IBIG and SSS members

  • Voluntary savings scheme

  • Tax-free

  • Philippine government guaranteed

  • Salary deducted and remitted by the employer

Don’t worry because these savings programs offer higher interest rates compared to the current bank rates. Monthly contributions are not required as well. You won’t be penalized if ever you miss a month or months of contribution. When making contributions, though, there are certain things to remember.

Eligibility

To be eligible, you must be a regular Pag-IBIG or SSS member. For Pag-IBIG members, your gross monthly income must be Php5,000 and must have paid at least one monthly savings. For SSS members, on the other hand, you must not have file any final claim yet. SSS members must have paid six consecutive monthly contributions within the last 12 months to be accepted into the program. There is no maximum age limit for Pag-IBIG members while SSS requires that you are 55 years or younger at the time of registration.

Contribution

Speaking of savings, you must be paying Php100 for employed individuals or Php200 for self-employed, voluntary and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). For SSS, you must be contributing the regular contribution based on your monthly salary credit (MSC) if you are employed and the maximum amount of Php1,760 for the self-employed, voluntary and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Savings amount

For Pag-IBIG, the minimum monthly savings is Php500 and Php1,000 for SSS members. The maximum savings amount for SSS members is Php100,000 per year. The savings will go directly to your own MP2 account for Pag-IBIG MP2 and your regular SSS account for SSS PESO. You can only have one PESO account. Pag-IBIG allows its members to have more than one MP2 account though.

Components

While both are aimed for savings with yield, the components are very different. Pag-IBIG MP2 is an outright savings program while SSS PESO is divided into three segments namely retirement/total disability (65%), medical (25%) and general purpose (10%). The last one refers to education, housing, livelihood and unemployment.

Claiming

You may claim your Pag-IBIG MP2 savings after five years, but you can only claim the 35% on your SSS PESO account. The 65% can be claimed when you turn 60 years old or upon filing retirement or total disability.

Premature withdrawal

One may withdraw before the five-year hold period but only under certain conditions. For Pag-IBIG MP2 members, you may withdraw your savings for reasons of total disability or insanity, unemployment due to an illness and member’s death. SSS PESO members can also do so but from the medical and general purpose (35%) accounts only. Corresponding fees and penalties apply.

A member may continue paying for SSS PESO after five years. For Pag-IBIG MP2 members, a renewal is necessary.

I summed it all up in an infographic for all of you.

sss peso vs pagibig mp2 infographic

Which is better—PagIBIG MP2 or SSS PESO?

For the self-employed and voluntary members, Pag-IBIG MP2 is the more advisable option compared to SSS PESO. It is more practical too more so if you will have a big purchase after five years because MP2 allows members to save as much as they can.

For the employed, SSS PESO is better. The maximum monthly contributions of Php1,760 may be unworkable for the voluntary and self-employed members. If you are saving for your retirement and the maximum monthly contribution is not a problem for you, SSS PESO Fund is the way to go.

How to register for the MP2 program

There are two ways to register.

1) Online registration

Go to Pag-IBIG website.

Click e-Services.

Select MP2 Enrollment System (MP2EF) under Others.

Fill-out and submit the form. Pag-IBIG MID number is needed.

Print the form with the MP2 account number.

Proceed to the nearest branch and present the form.

Start remitting.

2) Employee-assisted registration

Go to the nearest Pag-IBIG branch.

Present a valid ID.

Fill-out the registration form that the staff will give you.

Or you can print and fill out this form before going to the branch to save time.

Obtain the member’s copy with the MP2 account number.

Start remitting.

How to register for the PESO program

There are also two ways to register.

1) Over the counter registration at any SSS branch

Go to the nearest SSS branch.

Fill-out the registration form that the staff will give you.

Or you can print and fill out this form before going to the branch to save time.

Start remitting.

2) Enrollment through My.SSS

Go to SSS website.

Log in to your account.

Registration is required before you may access the E-Services tab.

After logging in, click E-Services.

Select PESO Fund.

Fill-out and submit the enrollment form.

Start remitting.

page breaker resized

[I am not an expert when it comes to government services, but I believe that these are great ways to jumpstart your savings for 2018.]

%d bloggers like this: