Always Be Prepared

Recent events regarding another Pinoy acquaintance of ours who is in big trouble reminded me that living abroad isn’t always easy. Without the support of family and friends you left behind in the Philippines, you have to be prepared to face any problem alone.

Back in the Philippines, I was never prepared for anything. I lived a fairly happy-go-lucky (bahala na) lifestyle. I had a good job there that paid well. I have my family and life-long friends to ask help from in case of emergencies.

When I moved to Australia, that was no longer the case. I stopped being so happy-go-lucky. I had to be more responsible. I shouldn’t rely on the help of others (all though I hope I could). I had to be more self-reliant.

With that, I’ve listed below some of the lessons I learned about making myself more self-reliant:

  • Save money for emergencies. Living abroad, you don’t have your family to help you out financially. They probably couldn’t afford to help you anyway. When you find yourself out of a job, you’ll definitely need those saved funds. It would be a good idea to set up a second bank account (with the same bank as your first) that you wouldn’t touch at all unless it’s an emergency. If the second bank account comes with an ATM card, leave the card at home so that you wouldn’t be tempted to withdraw from the second bank account. Then, set it up so that a set amount of money from your first bank account gets transferred to your second account automatically every month. Over time, you will save lots of money and you wouldn’t even realize it.
  • Get a credit card. If you run out of cash and you desperately need money, you can always use the credit card to get you by. If you find yourself unemployed and you don’t have savings, you can probably survive a month or two with one credit card with a $5k spending limit. I recommend you get a Virgin Credit Card because it doesn’t have an annual fee. So you won’t be paying anything if you aren’t using it but it will be there in case you ever need it. Now, I know that there are people who absolutely hate having credit cards because they feel that they’d end up buying more than what they can really spend. You’ll just have to learn to not use credit cards unless it’s necessary.
  • Prioritize your spending. Be sure to have the essentials paid off first whenever you get paid your salary. If you are renting an apartment, paying for the rent must be your number one priority. After all, where would you live if you get kicked out by your landlord? Pay the bills next. Where would you be if you don’t have electricity or water in your apartment? If you really cannot afford to pay all of your bills, you should at least pay your rent, electricity and water. The other bills could probably wait. All though this sounds so common-sense stuff but, believe me, I know a couple of people already who didn’t seem to know this.
  • When unemployed for too long, don’t be too picky. It might happen that you get “retrenched” and find yourself jobless. If you have prepared for this eventuality, then you can probably remain living comfortably for a month or so and you would still have the luxury to be choosy of the jobs you’re applying for. But when you are running out of resources, it is very important that you get any job just so that you would continue to earn some money. I hear that they really need fruit-pickers in country Victoria that they are willing to hire people from China to do the fruit picking. I could probably do that if it means getting food on the table at the end of the day. The problem is, there are people with so much pride that they aren’t willing to get a job that seems beneath them even if it means getting kicked out from their own homes.
  • Have enough money for a plane ticket. In case that every thing really isn’t going your way, you should have at least an exit strategy. That is, you should always have enough money to buy yourself a plane ticket for the Philippines. I couldn’t imagine myself destitute and stuck in a foreign land. At the very least, I’d like to be able to return to my family and friends in the Philippines even if I was penniless.

I know of a person who knew that he was going to have a financial problem in the near future yet he continued to live beyond his means. He continued to go out on night-outs with friends. He didn’t pay the rent. He didn’t sell his unnecessary stuff on eBay or the Trading Post. He had no savings. And in the end when he got retrenched, he had no money and ran risk of being kicked out of his own home. If he had more foresight, he wouldn’t be in the mess he is in now. Sure, he will probably still be jobless right now, but at least he wouldn’t be so desperate for money that he had to borrow from all of his new found “friends” (us) just so he can pay off his current obligations.

So, if you have plans of moving to another country, remember to be like a boy scout and always be prepared.

Published in: on June 17, 2005 at 12:31 pm  Comments (1)  

Of Sob stories and deadbeats

About a couple of months ago, our friend SS migrated to Melbourne. He didn’t have any relatives nor friends here and was on his own. One day, he went out shopping for some furniture and found himself at a popular electronics/furniture shop in the city. He asked a store assistant about an item and continued browsing. Then another store assistant approached him, asking “Filipino ka ano?“(You’re Filipino, aren’t you?). SS was surprised, “Oo, paano mo nalaman?” (Yes, how did you know?). The store attendant, SH, said he heard SS ask the other store assistant a question and heard his accent. Thus started the friendship between SS and SH, with SH even promising to give SS a discount on a sofa because he supposedly has an employee discount from the store and could assist SS in getting it at a lower price. SH claimed that he has been staying in Australia for 11 years now and learning that SS has just migrated, promised to give him the grand tour of Melbourne. SS and SH soon learned that they lived in the same area and SH asked for his address. Not finding anything wrong with this, SS gave it to him. Later that night, SH showed up at his doorstep without warning and invited him out for a beer.

SS, who was actively posting in an online Pinoy community forum even before he landed in Australia, saw that there would be an eye-ball for Pinoys living in Melbourne. He went and met us (Gabriel and I), M, R, IR, W and her cousin J. Before the meeting ended, SH called SS and told him he’d be interested to meet us all too. We waited for him to get off work before we disbanded that evening. That meeting was followed by several others, with regular gimiks(night-outs) per week. Everytime the group meets, a member would bring another friend or another member from the forum shows up and so our numbers grew. The group was mostly composed of Filipino migrants who are trying their luck here and have been here from 3 months to several years. Roughly in the same age bracket, we are a varied group of engineers, IT and accounting professionals, writer, student and pharmacist, among others.

Last week, we went out for a movie and bowling at Crown Casino and SH tagged along. Unknown to most members of the group, SH has lost his job at the store and has borrowed money from SS and M. While we were having fun practicing our bowling skills, he approached J and told her about his situation and asked her to lend him some cash. Being sympathetic to his situation, J gave him $350. SH then asked her not to tell anyone in the group that he has lost his job because he’s embarrassed about the situation. J said she’d keep his secret. Several days later, the group minus Gabriel and I, SS and IR went to Great Ocean Road, spending the night in M’s house in Werribee. SH went with the group and without the knowledge of the people he’d already previously asked for money, recounted his sob story to the other members of the group always careful that he talk to them one by one. He also asked for their phone numbers plus the numbers of the ones who didn’t join the trip.

Early this week, Gabriel received a call from one of the members of the group. The caller told us that SH has been asking each of them for money and that we should be cautious of lending him more. Stunned, we asked for some details. It seems that SH has by then borrowed a total of $1100 from several members of the group in a matter of just a few days. His modus operandi would be to call you, ask to meet and then say his spiel to get some money. Next he’ll make you promise not to tell the other members of the group, always saying that he’s embarassed of his need to borrow money. Later that night, Gabriel’s phone registered several missed calls coming from various unfamiliar numbers. A few minutes after we noticed the missed calls, the phone rang again and Gabriel answered. It’s SH. Gabriel wasn’t feeling well that night and SH must have noticed it in his voice, asking if Gabriel’s alright. Hubby said that he’s feeling under the weather to which SH replied that perhaps he should rest, ended the call cheerfully.

We’d later find out that SH called W after he called Gabriel. According to W, SH sounded panicked while confiding that he need money to pay his rent the next day or his landlord would evict him. W, who has already lent him some money, asked for some details. How much does SH owe? 2 weeks worth of rent($160/week). Where is this apartment? South Yarra, a stone’s throw away from the city. She asked for the name and number of the landlord hoping that she could ask the landlord for an extension. After all, what’s 2 weeks worth of rent? Won’t the bond more than cover for that?

Consulting the yellow pages, a call was placed to the landlord and W found out that not only is it not an apartment(it’s a backpackers hotel) but that SH owes 2 month’s worth of rent. Upset that she has been lied to, W texted SH. W’s mobile was soon ringing and SH was explaining that he has already paid up part of the rent and that he only need $500 more to pay up the total. Empathising with his plight, W met up with SH the next day to lend him another $500, against the advice of the other people in the group. She reasoned that SH might be telling the truth and it could have been her in his situation. We told her that if she has enough sense she wouldn’t be in his situation at all because she’d get out even before the situation worsens. The group also told her that if SH is really willing, there are many ways of getting some cash with being a freeloader. Why doesn’t he apply in casual positions or be a busker?

By now the members of the group has also compared stories and found several inconsistencies in SH’s story. He claimed that he couldn’t borrow money from SS because SS’s parents in the Philippines are sick and also need money. When asked, SS said that he already lent a large amount to SH. There were also several versions and amounts quoted and we learned that the amount SH supposedly owes the landlord kept on increasing with each telling and subsequent borrowing(shouldn’t the amount decrease because people keep on forking over money to him?!)

When W met up with SH that morning, W was hoping that SH would at least be contrite. She asked him to move to another accommodation that might be further away from the city but would also be cheaper. She reasoned that this would only be temporary, at least until SH finds another job. He insisted that he need to be close to the city to find a job and plans to crash at SS’s place(without asking SS’s permission yet). W also recounted how SH’s mobile supposedly rang with him claiming that it is a call from a prospective employer asking for an interview. This, at 7:30 in the morning! Having enough of his nonsense, W told him to stay away from the group and sort his life out, saying that he should only make contact once he’s ready to pay up.

Later that same day, W found out that SH is still asking people for money and even went as far as showing up uninvited to a new member, L’s, place of work. At this point, W asked M to talk to SH. M called SH and got a litany of excuses and reasons. SH claimed that he couldn’t stay away from the group now that he owed people money, what would people think when he suddenly disappears from sight? We told M to pass on the message that it would be better for him to stay away and that if he really is nahihiya(embarrassed) as he claimed, he’d abide by the wishes of the group – don’t show his face until he’s ready to pay up.

That, so far, is the end of the story. We’re all hoping that there would be a happy ending to this, with him finding some form of employment and returning the group’s hard-earned money. We also hope that SS would get the sofa he paid downpayment to SH to (without a receipt) or at least see that money returned. The group has been burned and are now understandably upset and angry with SH. I hope that SH’s name rhyming with manggagantso(swindler) would prove to be a coincidence. I hope that he would prove us wrong and get his life in order. I, however, am not holding my breath.

Published in: on June 17, 2005 at 12:42 am  Leave a Comment