It was Wednesday morning, and I stole an hour break from my online classes to drop off the three parcels carted overnight on my e-commerce shop at a partner shipping hub.
I still had the hard cash from last week’s sales kept in my grab-and-go sling bag, so I managed to cut the trip, drop by BDO-SM Hypermarket Cainta, and deposit PHP15,000 to my Tita Glo’s bank account.
It was the second and last payment tranche for another memorial life plan. I loaned her money months ago, and instead of paying back, she suggested that I purchase her extra plan. So, it turned out I was the one indebted, but it was all, as I understood, a win-win bargain.
After high school, I was recruited by my aunt from Romblon to work in her small food business as a service crew, and I lived with her and my cousins until I finished my college studies. Giving her a loan was just a tiny favor compared to all familial and financial support I received while studying.
She was also the one who convinced me to purchase a life insurance policy which I got paid up last year. Later I realized that it’s an all-important financial protection.
It was my first time visiting the branch, and it was quite typical of me to observe around silently and make some reflective thinking while on a wait. It wasn’t a long wait though.
Without the hard cash, I could have just made an online transfer. It’s totally more convenient these days.
Banking has totally evolved, and the tagline displayed big in front of me — We find ways — means a lot.
When we, millennials, were just kids, we would always find ways to win the traditional and street games, and now that we’re adults, to win financial life.
Eighteen years ago…
Langit-Lupa (Heaven and Earth)
“Net, magpa-banwa ka kuno buwas para maipadaya ang allowance ninda (Net, tomorrow, you go to town and send your siblings’ allowance),” my mother would simply tell me, and I knew exactly what to do.
I was in high school then, whereas my other two siblings were already in college, but in Odiongan, another island municipality.
For two years, I was in charge of sending their allowances via the town’s only remittance center, about 10 kilometers from the barrio. I remember I would even appeal to the staff for consideration because my school ID was already expired, and I couldn’t get any validation sticker.
Upon arriving home, I would go to my cousin’s and borrow a cellphone for me to text my Ate the KPTN (Kwarta Padala Transaction Number). If there was no available mobile load, I would still hunt for Pasaload at sari-sari stores or from anybody in the neighborhood and then, walk meters far away or up the rock formations for the signal.
You’ve probably watched the local indie film on Netflix, Signal Rock (2018). Minus the drama, that was the exact struggle the barrio people and I had.
I was a 90s kid, and I spent my whole childhood without the internet and mobile devices. It was just in high school when I first experienced texting with a borrowed Nokia3210 and owned one during college.
Most millennials can relate to decoding text (SMS) messages printed on newspapers during class breaks and sending greetings and song requests to the local FM Radio DJs at night before bed. And there was always one channel we would follow then.
_______ Get elevated. Go digital.
Digital banking has truly revolutionized the way we bank and send money to our loved ones. I see no reason not to adopt it. Being a naysayer, one is left at a big disadvantage.
Bank-to-bank and bank-to-ewallet money transfers can now be done at the comfort of our homes and at minimal costs in a few clicks. Thanks to mobile technology.
BDO’s wide reach and continuous expansion, now with over 1,500 servicing branches and 4,500 ATMs and its powerful mobile apps for example, has made banking even more convenient and pushed further financial inclusion.
Apart from the usual banking apps, BDO Pay, a digital payment app, makes bills payments, cashless shopping, and money transfers, among others totally convenient in a tap or two.
Palo-Sebo (Greasy Pole)
As I boy, I had the fated initiation into the generational band of fishermen as early as seven. I do not despise it. I will always be proud that I was born and raised a fisherman.
In our small fishing village, we call ‘Tungod,’ the daily grind would normally start hours before the break of dawn and conclude just at nightfall, usually with intermittent fishing trips under the scorching midday sun.
For many generations, the young would inherit the same farms, boats and fishnets, and financial conditions from their aging parents.
I don’t say that people there weren’t happy. Of course, they were and still are, but such happiness might have also given birth to an unexamined cycle of ‘isang kahig, isang tuka (one scratch, one peck)’ or possibly, been a pretense of resilience amidst the scarce opportunities and privileges.
Once and again, I would overhear my father sharing his business ideas with his kumpares over some gallons of tuba, “Magkapuhunan lang, magnenegosyo ako. Ganito. Ganon.” Nothing materialized though as access to business capital loans, as among the possible reasons, was poor and limited.
His income from multi-technique fishing and a meager honorarium for being a kagawad de barangay (barrio councilor), though enough for the food and basic expenses of the family, ran short to cover for the education of the five growing children — two in college, two in high school, and a grade schooler.
It was not beyond our knowledge that he had to get loans from friends and relatives, almost all which had an interest. It even came to a point that he pawned his boat and fishnets for the same purpose.
Years ago, most parents in the barrio would support their children only up to high school, sometimes just grade school.
While young men would stay to work as farmers, fishermen, and marble quarry workers, women would take their chances to get recruited into the outside cities for kasambahay (househelp) jobs.
That was the trend until recent changes that many have started to value and believe in the promises of education. It has since become an investment.
_______ Keep climbing. Keep learning.
Aside from basic and higher education, financial literacy has also received serious attention and focus over the past decades, with joint efforts and initiatives to address issues coming from both public and private sectors.
Financial literacy is the ability to understand various financial concepts, skills, and products, and effectively use them in navigating through the economic aspect of life and in achieving both short-term and long-term financial goals.
In 2021, BDO Foundation, DA-BFAR, BSP, and USAID inked a partnership for fishers’ financial education to offer trainings on topics such as saving and budgeting, supplementary income sources, and the proper use of micro-loans and micro-insurance to help break the vicious cycle of poverty and natural resource depletion.
“Uy, ‘d’yan na si Bombay,” and I pulled out a booklet from the drawer and handed it over to the Indian national, whose real name I cared not asking despite the daily encounters. We used to call him then just ‘Bombay.’
I usually wouldn’t bother peeking to check how much was pre-inserted or reserved from the breakfast sales. It was a quick transaction that the lender would just get the money, sign on the page, and drive away with his motorbike.
One around nine, another during lunchtime, and yet another at three in the afternoon — these Indian lenders indeed made big cuts from our daily sales.
Later I learned that all these loans came with a 20% usurious interest rate and compulsory merchandise, e.g., bedsheets, appliances, etc., for purchase from the loan money.
I knew that the business sustained by such loans made us a living for years and paid off all Tita’s debts.
Soon, it was not just her, but all other canteen crew and even the auto mechanic boys within the commercial compound also availed loans from these Indian nationals — and soon, they all learned to play hide-and-seek once in a while.
That shouldn’t be the case.
_______ Don’t get caught off guard. Don’t get into bad debts.
Borrowing has long been a neglected and less examined aspect of personal finance, not to mention the negative stigma that surrounds it.
Whether pushed back to the dark after the nationwide crackdown or still operating under the nose of the law in some remote communities, these informal microlending schemes also tell us about the bigger issue regarding financial inclusion.
Financial inclusion, being identified as the enabler for 7 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, is defined by World Bank as the access of individuals and businesses to useful financial products and services that meet their needs — transactions, payments, savings, credit, and insurance — delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.
With digital banking, small and medium-sized enterprise owners can have access to formal loans. Application processes are thus streamlined and completely online.
BDO itself, just like many other banks, also offers SME loans up to PHP20M at competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms to fuel growth and expansion of business operations.
And just years ago…
I should have earned a degree in business, finance, or banking if I had been more serious about career planning. I just never had the luxury of time for it, but there are also lots of things that bring joy and fulfillment in education.
In college, I opened my first passbook savings account with a thrift bank as I had been frequenting it for my scholarship checks. Soon, I tried another bank, and then another — BDO-Sta Lucia Mall Branch.
I learned how banking works. Having a savings account encouraged me to save money.
I remember, I was completely clueless about how to use a debit card the first time I had it. I had to go back to the bank after a few days because I couldn’t access my funds from a non-BDO ATM, only to find out that I still had to change the PIN first with their own machine. I was a little lost.
There was also a time that I had my card captured because I kept on pushing it seeing no cash dispensed yet.
In many years of banking, I think I have tried and learned about various deposit products and digital services of all big banks already.
_______ Apply logic and math. Automate savings.
Saving is for all who have financial goals, may these be clear or unclear. And many just save for one simple yet unclear goal — the future.
Opening a savings account online and at the comfort of our home has become a common experience these days, and BDO has also made this possible.
… and so, I left the bank with my new game plans to win a healthier financial life.
BDO finds ways to expand its reach to Filipinos through technology and innovation.
Whether you are more of — an earner, budgeteer, saver, borrower, investor, protector — or have the balance of them all, there is always a financial product or service that is right for you and made conveniently available by BDO.
And whatever your game plan is, BDO can be your partner bank as it finds ways to make every Filipino — financially included, financially literate, and financially healthy — to achieve big financial goals, one at a time.
About BDO Unibank, Inc.
BDO Unibank, Inc. (BDO) remains the largest bank in the Philippines in terms of assets, deposits, and number of servicing branches and ATMS, among others.
It offers a wide array of financial products and services such as retail banking, lending (corporate, commercial, consumer, and SME), treasury, trust, credit cards, corporate cash management, and remittances.
Through its subsidiaries, BDO also offers leasing and financing, investment banking, private banking, bancassurance, insurance brokerage, and stock brokerage services. To know more about financial products and services that suit your needs and goals, you may visit www.bdo.com.ph.