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Save up & stay away from loans, veteran OFWs advise

17 September 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap


George (foreground) has spent much of his time with Card HK,
giving financial lessons to fellow OFWs

If medals were to be awarded to overseas Filipino workers who have made their stay abroad exemplary, two veterans from Hong Kong would be among the first to get one.

One of them is George Manalansan, who is set to go home for good next month, after 38 long years of working abroad, the last 26 years of which he spent working as a family driver in Hong Kong.

The other is Ching Baltazar, who resettled back in the Philippines two years ago, after spending 32 years working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong.

Pindutin para sa detalye!

What sets these two apart from their fellow OFWs, especially in Hong Kong, is how they have managed to avoid the debt trap, which, given the ease with which FDHs here are able to take out loans several times their monthly salary, makes this indeed a feat.

Not only that. Both have managed to save a substantial part of their monthly salary not only to improve the lives of their family members, but also to have a nest egg after their retirement.

The two disclosed their formula for success during a live interview with The SUN last night, Sept 16.

Jo (5th from left) and her JC Catering Services team with TV personality Pauleen Luna-Sotto

They were joined by Jo Campos, another Hong Kong veteran who went back home in late 2017, also after 32 years of being an OFW.

Although she was frank in admitting that once during her long stay in the city, she did get enmeshed in debt, Jo said she wised up in time, and vowed never to go that way again.

While she did not save up as much as she could have, given her long stay in Hong Kong, Jo, who is single like Ching, has no regrets. She says she decided to indulge herself while working hard, and in the process, built happy memories with friends that she treasures to this day.

But Jo has not done badly after going home for good. She managed to set up her own company, JC Catering and Food Services, that quickly became known as a caterer to the stars.


For George, resettling back home had been in the cards for sometime. He set Sept 5 this year as the date when he would return to his family in Pampanga, as that would have been his last day at work.

But in November last year, he suffered a slipped disc while carrying a heavy sofa, and amid the pain from that experience, he started thinking he did not want to go home incapacitated and unable to enjoy retirement.

He told his employers he wanted to go home, but fate intervened when the domestic helper he was working with had to leave home for an emergency.

His employers prevailed upon him to stay until February, but the coronavirus outbreak happened, so he decided to stay a bit longer. He has agreed to stay on for another month after his contract ended, but will not agree to any more extension.

Apart from his desire to reunite with his wife and three children, George says he also wants to give himself a new leash on life, or tap whatever other talents he may have, after being an OFW for more than half his life.

George with his family during one of his vacations to his Pampanga hometown

Asked how much he thought an OFW should save before deciding to go home for good, George said it differs from person to person because of their varying needs. But ideally, he said one should have been able to buy a house, sent his children to school, and saved up enough money to start a business, and live on.

“Kung pang tong-its lang naman, ok na,” he says jokingly.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

In truth, he has prepared exceedingly well for his retirement. He and his wife, who also used to work as an OFW in Hong Kong, already have their own house in Pampanga, and his two eldest children have finished school, and are now both engineers. His youngest is also about to graduate from college.

What’s more, he has put away enough money to start his dream construction business with his children. And even if this venture does not yield immediate profit, George does not have much to worry about as he has invested in SSS, Pag-IBIG Fund, and a life insurance.

Ching also had her mind set on her retirement goals from the time she came to work as an OFW. Asked how she managed to stay away from the lure of loans, Ching put it simply as: “Kung noong nagtatrabaho ako sa Pilipinas na kakarampot ang suweldo ay napagkakasya ko, bakit kailangan kong mangutang noong mas malaki na ang kita ko?’ 

(If I managed to save from the little that I was earning back in the Philippines, why should't I be able to do the same thing with a higher income?)

With her future firmly secured, Ching now finds joy showing off her plump produce

But Ching exceeded the expectations of even the best financial planners when she decided to put away 30% of her monthly salary in preparation for her retirement. Due to her thrifty and unpretentious nature, Ching who is one of a few "Bagong Bayani" awardees in Hong Kong, even managed to send a few nieces to school from what was left of her salary each month.

Thus, just a few years after working in Hong Kong, she managed to invest in an apartment block from where she now draws much of her spending money. She has also bought a house in her hometown in Cagayan, and in Laguna where she now lives.

Not one to idle her time away, Ching also helped set up Balikatan sa Kaunlaran Hong Kong Council in 1996. The group has been giving free livelihood training to OFWs for the past 26 years, with her at the helm until she decided to go home. 

Ching's last public event for BSK had all the top Consulate officials as guests

She decided to retire when her last contract coincidentally ended on her 65th birthday in February 2018, which meant she was by law, automatically entitled to long service pay.

Ching and George both went on to join Card Hong Kong Foundation where they eventually became trainors in financial literacy. But the training that they got and eventually shared with fellow OFWs just fine-tuned what they had been practicing all along.

For Jo, Hong Kong is still a home away from home, a place where she would want to keep going back to. “I miss Hong Kong,” was among the first things she blurted out during the interview.

Jo, seen here with the late Consul General Bernardita Catalla
(2nd from left) and her friends from The SUN, enjoyed the good life in HK

But she is herself settled back in the Philippines, having set up a successful food and catering business with her chef-niece - until the coronavirus took hold.

In an instant, Jo, who just turned 60 years old, was relegated to spending much of her time indoors, cooking meals for her extended family and chatting with friends online.

But if there was one thing that her OFW experience had taught her, it was resilience, and Jo, like George and Ching, would always draw strength from that to make sure they indeed get to spend the rest of their lives back home, for good.  

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