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CG’s advice: Save, don’t overspend, don’t guarantee debt

15 April 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

Filipinos in Hong Kong should keep three important things in mind: don’t spend more than you earn, don’t guarantee loans, and save for that day when you go home for good.
This is the gist of the New Year message of Consul General Bernardita Catalla to the roughly 200,000 of her compatriots, most of whom are domestic workers in this Special Autonomous Region of China.
“Let’s all remember that we are here temporarily and that we should do our best to undertake the tasks that are assigned to us. Don’t forget their reasons for coming here, to help their family and then, maybe elevate it to help their own communities, and help their country,” Catalla said in an interview on Jan. 4.
All these are interconnected, Catalla said. She said the workers should not forget that while they are here, their families rely on them for support.
But, “they should also provide for themselves, they should prepare themselves to returning to the Philippines, they should save, they should avoid spending more than they can earn,” the consul general said.
She said in the past, the common problem of the Filipinos here was falling into the debt trap because of the ease of borrowing money from local lenders.
“It’s not that we don’t want to support our friends here, but I think that they should also think of themselves,” Catalla said.
She noted that based on experience, most of the problems the Consulate handles involve loans taken out by friends or even family members where the Filipinas acted as guarantors, without knowing that by doing so they equally shared the obligation.
When the borrowers default on payments or go home for good, it is the guarantor who is hounded by the financing companies or other lenders and debt collectors. Often the worker loses her job as a result.
She advised the domestic workers to be smart. “Iwasan lang natin una, iyong paggasta nang mas marami kaysa ating kinikita; pangalawa, hindi lang iiwasan, maging maingat sa  pagtulong lalo na sa pangungutang, at pangatlo, mag-save para sa sarili,” Catalla said.
“Kasi hindi natin alam kung ano ang mangyayari sa atin dito, whether masaya ang buhay dito o hindi, merong keep for yourself. Don’t give everything to your family. Hindi pagdadamot iyan. Iyan ay pagpre-preserve sa sarili dahil bandang huli, iyan din, kapag ikaw ang inaasahan ng pamilya mo, kapag umuwi ka at wala sa oras ikaw pa rin ang aasahan, at wala ka ring aasahan kundi ang sarili mo.
“Kung ikaw naman ay may kaunting kakayahan, mag-save for future, puwedeng magnegosyo, puwedeng i-upgrade ang skills and look for jobs in the Philippines,” Catalla said, adding that there are options because the economy is growing and the country should improve in the next few years as the private sector generates jobs.
She encapsulated her wishes for the country in three “P”s:
“Ang hopes ko ay -- because we are very optimistic about it -- ‘P’ for peace for the Philippines, another ‘P’ for progress and the last ‘P’, for prosperity for the Filipinos and the Filipino nation. Iyon ang ating hopes na nakadugtong sa  ating individual contributions sa sarili natin, sa pamilya natin, sa ating small communities at sa sarili nating bayan, especially now that elections are forthcoming.
“It’s going to happen and sana mag-isip tayo na iyong lider na iboboto natin ay mas mapapaunlad pa ang Pilipinas, maging mas tahimik tayo, mas peaceful at magiging prosperous bawat isa. I guess that’s not only my aspiration but the aspiration of everyone, and I guess we can achieve that in the next three to five years.”

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