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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Only in the Philippines: The Skylab

               You would probably think the Skylab is a laboratory built high up in the air - the sky.

               But it isn't.

               I do not even know how it earned its name on this side of the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao.  In the Visayas, it is more known as the habal-habal.

               It is actually motorcycle with appendages in the form of wood, added or attached to its sides, for the purpose of accomodating more passengers. The Skylab or the habal-habal, could accomodate as much as 10-12 persons, sometimes even 15, including the driver. That is a very far cry from the average of three persons that the motorcycle is designed to accomodate. Overloading would be such a poor term to describe it, but we all have to face the truth that the skylab is a product of the Filipino's ingenuity. That's the part I love most.

               The skylab has been such a useful means of transportation for quite a long time now - in my rough estimate, in the past 10-15 years - for most Filipinos specially those who are living in the outskirts of major business areas. To put it simply, it is the most accessible and affordable means of transportation for those who are living in the remote areas, especially in the mountains, where no buses dare brave to go, because of the indescribably rough roads and the distance. Where the buses can't go, the skylab takes you there.

               Friends, meet the skylab.

Side view.

Front view. Notice the kicker, the invitation to ride -- "Dali na! Sakay na! (Come on over, ride on!")

And finally....

Yes, that is me on the sklylab, with Manong, the ultimate photobomber. 

                Thank you for dropping by! 'til next time.


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Monday, January 23, 2017

Last and Final Serving: The Road to Financial Freedom - Simple Ways to Save Money (Last of 3 Parts)

It took quite a while before I was able to serve you this last helping.  Finally, here it is, your last serving of tips that will lead to the road to financial freedom. 

11. Walk when you can. It's good for your heart and your pocket, too. 

12. Make the most out of freebies. Sometimes,  there is such a thing as free lunch. Make the most of it but take caution not to become a freeloader. 

13. Set up automatic transfers. These day, banks offer automatic transfer services that facilitate transfer of money from and between your accounts. Some banks offer this service wherein they automatically deduct, say Php. 500.00 from your payroll account,  so that you have already saved even before you got hold of your salary. Sometimes, or maybe I should say, most of the time, it takes a lot of effort and emotions for us to set aside a small amount of our earnings for our savings. If you automate your transfers, you are spared of this effort and unnecessary stress and at the same time you have saved already for rainy days. 

14. Be faithful in sending your car to the shop for maintenance and oil change. A long life for your car would mean a lot of savings for you since you would not be pressured to buy a new one if your car is still in good running condition. 

15. Sleep on it. I practice whenever I feel like I want to buy something expensive. Before I make the big purchase, I test myself and sleep on it.  After one or more nights have passed and I still have the same desire for that expensive item, that's the time I go ahead and buy the item.

16. Learn to cook. I call this surival cooking. When someone asks me if I know how to cook, I would answer,  "Yes, survival cooking!" Fried dishes would be on top of the list. Aside from that, you can surf on YouTube for other dishes that you might want to cook. Once you have mastered cooking a dish, try cooking for more than one mealtime so you can pack some for your meal at the office.

17.  Eat out less and when you eat out bring home the leftovers. The least amount you could shell off when you eat out would be around Php. 400. You can already buy a lot of stuff from the grocery with that amount. Strive to eat out less. Reserve eating out for dates with your loved one, or for special occasions. You may also decide to eat out only once or twice a month like every pay day, but still alloting a certain amount or budget for that. Don't be ashamed to bring home the left overs. Food left untouched are disposed by restaurants straight to the trash. 

18. Examine your bill at the restaurant first before you get your cash or card to pay for it. I don't know why but I was ashamed to do this before. Eventually I have learned to overcome that embarrassment specially when I knew that examining your bill once the waiter hands it to you actually saves you some bucks. Try it. 

19. Compare plane fares from different airlines before finally booking your ticket and book early too. These are the times when being an early bird have its rewards. Being diligent in comparing plane fares also gives you a lot of savings too.  

20. Unplug your appliances. I am out of my apartment most of the time. When I started to unplug my appliances when I am not in my place, I noticed a considerable decrease in my monthly electric bill. Unplugging my appliances is part of my checklist of things to do before going out of my apartment. This rule however does not apply to the refrigerator. 

21. Floss. Don't just do this because it's part of personal hygiene but also because you love your teeth so much that you can't afford to lose them to caries. You would be shocked to find that dentures actually cost a fortune. So go ahead and make your day,  floss it, like you mean it! 

22. Visit your dentist every six months. Recent studies have proven that poor oral hygiene leads to heart disease. Imagine having dentures and having to maintain taking daily medications when you get old. Isn't it such a repulsive or disappointing scenario? A scenario that you could actually stop from coming true by showing up at your dentist's clinic every six months for dental cleaning or prophylaxis. Of course, emphasizing the importance of brushing your teeth is an understatement. 

23. Prepare your grocery list before going to the grocer's. Making your list before you go to the grocery would save you a lot of time trying to remember what else you need to buy. Since we are all about saving money, try your best to stick to the items on your list, but still be kind to yourself. Maybe you can treat yourself to one bar of yoir favorite chocolate - just one item of indulgence, like maybe one pint od ice cream. If you are the strict type to stick on your budget, then maybe you can just bring just the exact amount of money you have alloted for your grocery items. 

24. Don't do the grocery when you are hungry. You would tend to pick up a lot of items that are not on your list. 

25. Sleep with the lights off. Doing this will take a big chunk off your monthly electricity bill. Aside from that, it helps you give back to the environment. 

             Now that we are still far from our twilight years, we all have this tendency to think that we deserve to enjoy life using our hard earned money. YOLO - You Only Live Once - that is, according to the millenials. There's also this thing called FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. 

            I don't also mean that you have to deprive yourself of the good things in life just so you could save. I suggest that we all strive to strike a balance between saving and spending. 

               One of the mantras I live by in saving money stems out from a statement said by a very good friend more than a decade ago.  I admire the skills this friend of mine has when it comes to managing her money. 

             We were just starting to earn money as doctors then. We used to receive our salaries in cold cash. One pay day she asked me if I count the bills that the cashier gives me during payroll time. She said she does that every time - count her money, that is - before going out of the business office. 

          I told her I don't do that. I just claim my envelope and I don't bother to count my money because I am embarassed to do that. However, she emphasized to me that I should take time to check if the salary written in my payslip matches the number of bills inside the envelope which bears my name. She assured me that the cashier would definitely understand and would not mind at all. Besides, she said in our dialect, "Wala bya ni nato gikatulgan atong kwarta." (We worked hard for the money and we did not earn it by just sleeping.)

          I consider that as one of the turning points in my financial life. She could not be more right. 

          We worked hard to earn what we are earning today. Saving money is a way of valuing all the sleepless nights we spent in college (and in medical school), and all the physical and mental and emotional exhaustion we had to go through to finally arrive to where we are today. That goes for everyone, not only for doctors - because whatever you are doing now for a living, I know you started somewhere down below. We all did. 

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Friday, August 26, 2016

The Tipster's Second Serving: The Road to Financial Freedom - Simple Ways to Save Money

For your second serving towards the road to financial freedom.

6. Withdraw from your own bank. Surcharge fee for withdrawing from other banks' ATMs could reach to around Php. 7-15.00. Remember, every peso counts. Just think of the health benefits you give to your heart each time you decide to walk that two blocks where your bank's ATM is located. Probably there's a view to enjoy too, on the way there. Thinks of ways to make the task lighter. Your heart - and your wallet (or even your eyes) - would give you a pat on the back for that.

7. Try not to withdraw from your bank account at all. Now this may sound confusing but what I really mean to say is that, if you still have enough money to last you for the day, or for the week, try not touching your money in the bank. This has something to do with Average Daily Balance (ADB) which the bank computes at the end of the month. This is at least for savings accounts. The bigger your ADB, the bigger your monthly interest. 

         Others prefer a different strategy. They set aside cash enough for a week or maybe a month, so that their money in the bank goes untouched for quite some time - until they use up their stash, that is. If you prefer this strategy, just make sure you have a safe and protected place to store or hide your cash.

8. Deposit your coins in your bank account. Sounds like we're getting more serious about bank accounts here. Anyway, Are you one of those people who keep a piggy bank at home with all your loose change in it? Some would even choose just to save 5-peso-coins or 10-peso-coins. I used to do that - with an emphasis on the past tense.

         I used to challenge myself to fill my piggy bank - a 2-liter empty bottle of mineral water - to the brim, with 5-peso and 10-peso coins. It would take me a lot of months to do that and what an exhilaration those milestones would be for me that time. Recently, although I still use the same piggy bank, it is not anymore my goal to fill it to the brim like before. As soon as I feel that I have a lot of coins - maybe filling a quarter of the bottle - I immediately deposit it in my bank account, so that my money could earn for me, no matter how small. I could only shake my head thinking about the number of months I have allowed my coins to "sleep" in the piggy bank. Again, lesson learned. Let us all allow our coins to "sleep" in the bank this time, safe in our savings accounts, and earning for us. 

9. Bring packed meals to work. I do this each time I have the chance to cook. Sometimes,  I just cook rice and then I just buy viand at the canteen.  Packed meals are a great way to save.

10. Buy clothes at the thrift shop.  I started to be a frequent customer of thrift shops when I was a medical resident-in-training when I have to skimp a lot on my budget. Until now that I have graduated from training, I still find time to go to my favorite thrift shop. In fact, I have left my contact number in one shop because they send messages to their customers each time they have new stocks or new arrivals. That's quite a strategy right there to maintain their customers' loyalty. 

          I realized that being able to have an eye for good clothes or items in the thrift shop is a skill that one develops in time. I was not really good in choosing stuffs before but in time, I have developed my skill. Actually, if you just look closer and strive to be patient in scanning through the items they are selling, you can see that items in the thrift shop are actually made of good quality. If you are lucky enough, you might even get branded items at a very good bargain price. My family and friends are amazed when I tell them that which stuff I bought from the thrift shop. Aside from buying cheap quality clothing, the way you carry yourself counts a lot too. 

To be continued. 

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Tipster's Road to Financial Freedom: Simple Ways to Save Money (1st of 3 Parts)

          I am not exactly a miser but I believe there are many ways to save money that most of us often overlook. 

          Looking back now, I wish I had saved all the money that passed through my hands as fast as the speed of light. However, that is all in the past now and there is no use fretting about it at all. What's important is I have taken the lessons of the past with me.

          A lot of people say, how much you earn does not matter at all. What matters is how much you are willing to set aside - which I believe is true. It may sound impossible, but actually, it is indeed very possible to live below your means so that you can set aside a certain amount of your income.

          Now talking about living below your means - lifestyle, that is, - I gladly share to you just a few tips that may help you make the most of your hardly earned peso. These may just be small stuff, probably just making you save a few centavos, but I tell you, every peso counts.

1. Avoid the coffee at the deli. Overpriced coffee is indeed flavorful on the tongue but most of the time it stings your wallet or your pocket. Just do the math yourself if you indulge in one cup of overpriced coffee every week. Let's say a cup of your favorite coffee at the deli costs Php 150.00. Thats just the minimum price of coffee in those shops right? Make that four cups in a month, that's a whooping Php. 600.00 - probably enough to cover the meals of a struggling family of four in the city in a one week period. Imagine the savings you gain if you cut that habit of ordering that venti ice mocha frappe, non-fat milk, no whip cream.

     However at this point, you might want to argue with me and say, "Hey, I deserve to have this cup of coffee from Starbucks after a day's work!" Well, I won't object to that either. If you cannot totally cut on your overpriced coffee, at least minimize it or consider it as a treat or reward for yourself when you decide to have one.

     As for me, I order one at Starbucks - my favorite hot mocha, grande - once in two to three months. I am not kidding. I admit, I have a favorite flavor from each coffee shop - White chocolate mocha, ice-blended from Bo's Coffee; Hot (as me) Cafe Americano from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I also have tasted all the coffee jelly variants from all coffee shops and for me the best of them all comes from Krispy Kreme. But still, I rarely get those coffee twice in a month.  The rest of the days, I rely on my all-time favorite 3-in-1 Nescafe coffee, the classic flavor. When I am at the office, I feast on the unlimited coffee.  

2. Use your debit card in your purchases. Unless I want to maintain my Average Daily Balance (ADB) from my savings account so that my account would earn me a higher interest at the end of the month, I usually use my BDO debit card in my purchases, specially at the grocer's. The primary reason why I use my debit card is it actually gives me a lot of savings. First, it saves me from the hassle of looking for coins that the cashier usually asks for to make her life easier when it comes to giving you your loose change. Second, it allows me to pay exactly to the last centavo, nothing more, nothing less. That point something in the amount due actually makes one's life harder, and it can make you poorer too. Take for example, your total bill is Php. 1032.82 and you hand the cashier a total of Php. 1050.00 in paper bills. You can't expect her to give you an exact change of Php 17.18. It is probable that she would only give you Php. 17.00. I know that 18 centavos would not make you dirt poor, but you are only making the owner of the grocery richer! That 18 centavos is still important. Nobody would even hand you that (not even your parents), unless you do labor or service in return. 

     So make it a habit to go cashless. Really, it saves you a lot of hassle and money.


3. Avoid buying bottled water. Bottled water costs at least Php. 10.00. You could save a lot if you just bring water at home using your tumbler. Be sure to use BPA-Free containers.


4.. Use public transportation. Ride the jeepney, why not? I used to ride the taxi each time I go to the airport (I would shell out a maximum of Php 220.00 as I travel from the heart of Cebu City to Mactan Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City. Recently however, SM Prime Holdings have this MyBus buses going around Cebu City, with their stations in SM malls. 

     You have to purchase a card so that you can ride on the buses. The card costs Php. 200 pesos, and that is already consumable. Their routes include: SM City Cebu to the Airport, Airport to SM City Cebu, SM City Cebu to SM Seaside. They also have routes to Talisay and Minglanilla from SM Seaside. The ride from one point to another only costs Php. 25.00.

     Last month, I was patting myself on the bank for saving a lot on my transportation expenses. I hopped into a taxi going to SM City and paid the driver Php. 86.00. I then hopped into MyBus going to the airport, paying only Php. 25.00. That is a lot of savings, right?! Lucky for me, I got my MyBus card from my colleague who gave it to me for free. 


5. Open a bank account a few days before the last day of the month. I did that when I opened my savings account. In a matter of days from opening your account, you will already be earning interest from it. Talking about making your money work for you. :-)

(To Be Continued).

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Monday, March 14, 2016

'Tis the season of celebration - again!

          I would like to send my warmest congratulations to the successful examinees who nailed the PSBIM 2016! You made it guys!

Here is the link to the complete list of successful examinees, the newly minted
Diplomates in Internal Medicine.

Photo credits: Katrina Paz U. Campomanes

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Only in the Philippines: Britania, The Beautiful

          I have only been to Britania Islands in San Agustin, Surigao del Sur, last January, but still, until today, I am drunkenly spellbound by the beauty of the place.

I am not sure what to call or aptly describe this type of intoxication but you can call it a long-lasting high, and definitely it is something that I would not want to recover from.

Going to Britania has actually been an overstaying entry on my bucket list of places to visit, so when my colleague brought up the idea of going there, I said, “I’m in!” faster than I can say my own name.

We reached Britania after about an hour on the road from Tandag City, the provincial capital. We dined and stayed overnight at La Entrada Resort and Restaurant, and went island hopping the following day.

On arrival at La Entrada Resort and Restaurant. Smiling for the camera while waiting for dinner to be served.

 Definitely I am not a morning person but I successfully dragged myself out of my bed to say hello to The Britania Sunrise. 

All set for island hopping. 

We took the island hopping package of nearby McArthur’s Place, just a stone’s throw away from La Entrada. At McArthur’s Place, we paid Php. 1,500.00 for a four-hour island hopping trip to four of the 24 islands and islets of Britania, scattered on Lianga Bay. (La Entrada offered us the same price for island hopping but only good for three hours.) The randomness on which each island and islet was situated in relation to each other, not to mention their uhmm sizes, or land area, is already a sight to behold in itself. They were like flowers randomly showered by a flower girl on a carpet-laden wedding aisle. 

Too beautiful not to be photographed. A selfie with the islands and islets. 

At McArthur’s Place. 

           We visited four of the 24 islands and islets in Britania, namely, the Naked Island, Hagonoy Island, Hirog-Hirog Island, and Boslon Island.  

           First stop is Hagonoy Island. It was a simple yet a beautiful island. I wanna say, it is virginal, forgive the pun, but one can really tell that it is untouched and unspoiled by the complexity of modernization – and I love it that way. Truly, beauty in simplicity. I did not expect  to find vendors in the island, but yes, there were vendors indeed! If there is one tip I can give you if ever you decide to visit Britania, bring some money when you go island hopping. The vendors were selling souvenir items and most of all, boiled sea shells and it was my first time to eat those. The “saang” is slow cooked initially with sea water, according to “Manang” so that the animal living in it would not hide deep inside the shell, or else, you would not be able to eat it at all. After pulling out the meat from the shell, we soaked it in native white vinegar and oh my, they were delicious!

 Hagonoy Island. Beauty in simplicity. (Photo courtesy of Shiela U. Campomanes)

The “saang” and me. (Photo courtesy of Shiela U. Campomanes)

More “saang” please. My fellow doctors and I enjoying the saang with native vinegar. (Photo courtesy of Shiela U. Campomanes)

After filling ourselves up at Hagonoy Island, our next stop was the Naked Island. If Hagonoy Island was virginal, well this one is uhm, naked, yes – definitely 100% pure and heavenly patch of fine white sand you can enjoy. 

 Taking a walk on the Naked Island. Hagonoy Island on the background
(Photo credit Ivy Matildo-De Jose)

Going wacky on the Naked Island. (Photo courtesy of Shiela U. Campomanes)

     I had to take a picture of our sunny-natured boatman. The guy in the middle of the photo below. He is the story behind our wacky photo on Naked Island. We asked him to take our group picture, and when he did, we were on the verge of dispersing when he said, “Wait! Kanang wacky! (Let me take your wacky photo!) Mabuti pa si Manong, may wacky pang nalalaman.  Talo kami, ah 

Our boatman, smiling for the camera while pulling the ropes of the boat.
(Photo courtesy of Shiela U. Campomanes)

Our boatman, displaying his expertise.

           Next stop is the Buslon Island. Most merchant’s are here probably because this is the common pit-stop of all tourists to take a dip in the pristine waters of Britania, before they hop on to the next stop which is the Hirog-Hirog Island. 

Gifts of the sea. Sea urchin and sea grapes for sale on Buslon island.
(Photo by Shiela U. Campomanes)

           After four hours which seemed like breeze, our tour of the Britania Islands was concluded. I felt I could not get enough of the islands and its waters. As we drove back to the city, I had one thing in mind – I am definitely coming back to Britania. That’s for sure. 

           How to get to Britania Islands: Britania Islands is in the town of San Agustin in Surigao del Sur. San Agustin is around a 6-hour bus ride away from either Davao City or Surigao City, and a 3-hour bus ride from Butuan City. One can also go there by taking a 1-hour plane ride from Cebu City to Tandag City via Cebu Pacific. Cebu Pacific flies to Tandag City three times weekly. From Tandag City, you can take a 1-hour bus ride to San Agustin, the home of Britania Islands.

           When you plan to visit and have questions, you can always ask me anyway. My email is Enjoy!

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