Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Article - My Money Story: Onésimus barong Tagalog

My Money Story: Onésimus barong Tagalog

By Eduardo Canlas

As told to Lynda Corpuz, MoneySense magazine |

03/16/2009 2:57 PM

There’s a big difference between who I am now compared to when I was younger. I’ve always been a highly driven person. Through this innate drive, I excelled in school, finished college in three-and-a-half years with honors (AB Economics from the University of the Philippines-Diliman). Like most people, I was determined to become rich, live in a big house, drive a luxurious car, travel around the world, and be able to afford anything that I wished. I really wanted to live the high life.

Ironically, as I slowly began to realize my ambitions, I also began to perceive that being wealthy was just an illusion.

Seeking for meaning

On my last semester at UP, I came to a point of personal crisis where I had to face squarely the haunting question: “What is the meaning of life?” I took this painful experience so bad, which got me more into a searching mode.

I vividly remember that one UP Ikot ride where I found myself praying that whoever is the first God who would reveal Himself to me He’s the One I would accept. “Kahit hindi ikaw ang Diyos na kinamulatan ko – kahit Buddhist, kahit Hindu – kahit sino, ikaw ang paniniwalaan ko. Because You’re the one who heard my prayer and cared enough to meet me at my lowest point.” And if there was no God around who would introduce himself to me, I was well prepared and mentally conditioned to make the decision to become an atheist.

Little did I know that God had all things mapped out for my conversion all along. On my last semester, I had this classmate who was a devout Christian. One thing led to another – she shared with me her life, her spiritual ups and downs, the testimony of her walk with Lord.

That was the start of my renewal.

Realizing dreams

After finishing college, I put up my own company in 1985. I went into garments – the same business my parents put up in the 70’s that fed all eight of us children. Though I was tempted to try my hand on something else, it was difficult to deviate from it because it was the environment I grew up in.

It didn’t take long for me to apply what my parents indirectly and directly taught me, like how my mother haggled in Divisoria to bag the best prices of various supplies. I was in high school when I was asked to man the cash register, help compute the payroll, assist the master cutter, prepare receipts, and give the right clothes to the right customer. Those lessons learned from hands-on experiences proved handy when the time came for me to run my own business.

My parents, who first started a necktie shop then expanded into men’s formal wear, supported me. My first samples were sewn in their shop. I later became a supplier to Rustan’s and SM for their own clothing brands. And when I began receiving purchase orders worth hundreds of thousands, that’s when I knew I was earning. Whatever personal savings I had, I plowed them back to business.

Serving Him

While attending to my business, I remained active in church ministry, which I found more fulfilling. In 1987, I stopped the business to go full-time, and this went on until 1990. I was a volunteer worker for the church, serving as counselor and writer. At first, I was okay since I had six-figure savings back then. But my savings eventually ran out not so much from personal consumption as from engaging in constant giving to those the Lord would lead me to help. I then entered what I would call as a “wilderness experience” when I had nothing but my faith in Him.

In the church, I met a very special girl, whom the Lord revealed to me was to become my wife. Mi-an came from a well-to-do family. On top of that, she was earning her own good money, working as an international flight stewardess. Me? I was at a low point in my life. I was broke. I had nothing but this invisible faith and His equally invisible promises for my life. But both of us knew something no one else knew: we were called to be in the business and the next major step was for us to get married April 1991. Because of this, Mi-an couldn’t see me staying full time in church, although she herself was a committed member also. We sought our pastor’s counsel and he confirmed God was indeed calling me back into business.

Actually, I was in denial. Being out of circulation for four years, there were lots of changes in the market that I might not be able to cope with. But God’s calling was clear. He pulled me out of the business for a while to prepare me for something bigger.

Coming back

I stepped out of the full time ministry, with my pastor’s blessings, and registered Onésimus as a corporation in 1991. That was one of the worst times to start a business because of the Gulf War. There were many grim projections about skyrocketing oil prices and exchange rates. Still, Mi-an and I agreed to get it started while attending to our wedding preparations.

That time, I was managing one of my parents’ shops, where we had three rundown sewing machines and three tailors, and that’s where we made our first samples. I re-introduced myself to the different department stores, we sampled our products, and they liked our barongs and coats.

Before our wedding, we already got an offer to be a consignor at Robinsons Galleria where we were entrusted with our own space. Prior to that, SM accepted us as a supplier for their men’s line. Then Landmark committed to us a 30-sq.m. space, but here, we spent for the renovation. All the cash gifts we got from our wedding, amounting to over P100,000 were spent on the business. I thought to myself, “If I don’t succeed here, I don’t know where to hide from my in-laws.” Fearful thoughts crossed my mind, but not enough to stop me. The certainty that God had called us as a couple was greater.

And why offer barong? Having grown up in a tailorshop, I had a keen observation of the barong tagalog as being part of our culture. As such, I could not understand why such an important part of our culture and daily life should be relegated only to the Filipiniana section of department stores. I wanted to elevate the barong to be on a par with Western clothing. We were the first signature brand name in the Philippine market to offer such choice – suits and barongs – in one place, in different styles, consistently available throughout the year, and at affordable prices.

Remaining committed

Onésimus was born in the spirit, but it is also derived from a Greek word which means “useful” or “profitable”. Thus, you will see in our packaging this statement: “You’re now holding a very special piece of apparel, meticulously handcrafted by men and women who have spent many years of their lives perfecting men’s formal wear. For them, it’s worth it, so long as they keep up to their principle, ‘useful elegance.’”

I believe human resource is more important than capital. Capital will come and go but it’s the people who keep the business. Managing people is also like rearing up children the proper way. We don’t do anyone any favor by condoning a wrongdoing. Yet, balance it by always maintaining trust, honesty, and respect. Keep an open-door communication, even when your number of employees multiplies.

We’re more aggressive now in marketing and packaging, both of which prove to be costly. Our brand has been gaining momentum in terms of market acceptance and customer loyalty. We’ve been growing at over 30% in the previous years. There was a back-to-back year where we grew by 50% – all these through God’s grace.

Now, whenever we get to save some amount from our business, we prefer to invest in real estate. But mostly, we plow them back to the business, as we constantly shell out millions for store renovations alone in order to maintain a crisp, fresh look; security deposits and necessary bonds; and of course, ever-improving product lines.

With all these responsibilities, I can’t see myself retiring young and living it up. My conscience cannot seem to allow me to turn my back on people who depend on our business for their livelihood. It’s good to continue working for a cause, and this I believe is why I became a Christian entrepreneur.

This article is from is MoneySense, the country’s first and only personal finance magazine. You can read more financial tips and stories at www.moneysense.com.ph.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Article - 10 money questions every couple should ask

10 money questions every couple should ask

Lynda C. Corpuz, MoneySense

First Posted 10:51:00 03/05/2009

From content sharing of inquirer.net and MoneySense

1: Why do we fight about money?
Melvin Esteban, a registered financial consultant, explains that couples fight about money because they do not have enough of it. Toti Tanchoco, Jr., Cocolife senior vice president for finance, says, “They fight about spending it – not money per se.”

Fr. Ted, Gonzales, S.J., Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM)-Ateneo De Manila University overall program coordinator says couples undergo counselling for a lot of reasons. “Money is one of the issues, but not the main issue. [The] money issue is maybe a symbol or a mirror of the quality of their relationship for it historically traces how they view money,” he says.

2: How do divvy up financial duties?
Melvin points out that the wife is the default keeper of the purse, especially if the couple is starting out. “Generally, females are more budget conscious,” he reasons. Toti, however, says the wife should not be handling everything. “It’s incidental she’s handling the finances but it should not be ‘binigay sa iyo, bahala ka na (It was given to you, you deal with it),’” he says. Fr. Ted explains, “Although that is not always the case, we still have the tendency to repeat the same old patterns. But a mature couple should be together in managing their household finances.”

Couple Bambi and Francous Groleaus share money responsibilities by simply doing what they’re best at. For instance, Francois attended to the particulars of their wedding venue while Bambi took care of the entourage’s needs. Planning a year in advance, and targeting a P500,000 budget, she prepared the spreadsheet while he ended up filling it in. Culturally, Bambi says Filipina wives usually budget for everything while Francois says French men often take charge of investments.

3: Should we really have to tell each other about each purchase we make?
It is just fair to tell your spouse what you buy, but there is no need to detail small purchases, Melvin says. “Just make sure you tell each other if the purchase is big, like a car, a house, or an educational plan. Both of you should decide on that big purchase,” Melvin says. “It is always best to be open with each other,” Toti points out.

4: How do deal with our personal luho? (frivolities)
It’s important that a couple sets the right priorities. Buying that new designer bag or getting yet another gadget isn’t a priority. “The way we use money is how we prioritize what is important. The couple should really sit down and talk about their priorities,” Fr. Ted says.

With two pre-teen children, Bernie and Coralu Santos follow the adage of living within your means. “For me, if it’s not yet a necessity, I won’t buy it. I’ll just look and look at it, but I won’t buy it immediately,” Bernie says. “We wait for the right timing, and if we can afford it already, we buy,” Coralu adds.

But that doesn’t mean you should never spend on yourself. You just have to put a lid on it. An allowance system is a good way to budget and limit discretionary expenses. Toti says it is wise to set aside money not just for basic requirements like food, utilities, and children’s education, but also a little for recreation. Melvin recommends 50% of one’s income go to a common fund, 30% to allowance, and 20% to savings. “As income increases, savings should also be increased. Bonuses can be used to treat yourself to your personal luho once in a while,” he says.

5: Should we only have a joint account?
Thirteen years after their marriage, the Santoses opened a joint account just two years ago. “Bakit kailan lang? Kasi wala kaming ganoon, `yun lang ang dahilan (Why just now? Because we didn’t have that before, that’s all),” Bernie says. But apart from their joint account now, they still have their personal accounts.

Meanwhile, the Groleaus started early. “When we got married, we started to contribute to the common fund for our household needs. We still continue each of our personal accounts,” Francois shares. “We put an equal amount for the common fund. When there’s extra money, Francois is the first to put in additional funds,” Bambi shares. Although they have personal accounts, it does not mean they are keeping secrets about where their money goes. “I still tell Francois how much I’m putting in my account,” she cites.

The two couples are doing an acceptable compromise. They have a joint account for common expenses and personal accounts for individual expenses. Melvin adds that having a joint account is good because you can still have access to the family’s wealth in case of your spouse’s incapacity or death.

6: How do we deal with financial crises like being victimized by a scam or piling up a huge debt?Fr. Ted says it’s always a danger when one spouse gets into a financial mess. “Like an addiction, you don’t want to let it out with your spouse since there’s some shame about it. Those can break up the relationship and leave deep wounds. It’s truly traumatic to have creditors running after the spouse,” he says.

Toti says tendencies or habits like these should be known early on. “These should be discussed before getting married so you can agree to discipline each of your spending, saving, and investing habits,” he says.

Fr. Ted says the guilty spouse will have to be honest about the unmanageability of the situation and go through a genuine recovery. “Because if there’s no real examination of life, and a real surrender of that behavior, it will drain the whole family of their patience, resources, and understanding,” he explains.

Always remember your spouse loves you very much that he or she is willing to marry you, Melvin says. “No matter how grave the situation is, your spouse will always be your partner to help you. The more you keep it a secret, the worse it gets,” he says.

Fr. Ted says, despite everything, trust that something good will still happen and be ready to make amends. “Making amends is righting the wrong. But when you love tenderly, you will know your strengths and weaknesses, and you can act justly,” he says.

7: How do we handle power struggles related to money?
Couples should review their values if they keep on fighting about money, especially in the context of who has the bigger income, “because it can sometimes be a power to some, an excuse to dominate or lord it over the other person,” Fr. Ted says. “But if you really look at it, a family is just one unit regardless of who’s earning more.”

“The best way is to talk and there should always be a compromise for everything,” Melvin says. If the wife earns more, the husband should take it as a constructive challenge, he adds. “If the wife is earning more, it should be an inspiration for the man, especially if he is insecure about it. But should he really be insecure about it? It’s all about role-playing, and one should accept each other’s role,” Toti says.

8: Is it possible for us to live on one income?
While it is ideal for one spouse to stay at home to focus on the children and household matters, given the times, living on a single income can be difficult. The wife should only stay at home if she cannot earn more than a house help, Melvin says. “Otherwise, both should work. Of course there are other reasons to be considered, thus the saying, ‘a mother’s love is always priceless,’” he says.

The Santoses found it necessary not just to work full-time but find extra sources of income. Whenever their workload allowed, they accepted sidelines to add to their finances. Money they saved from these sidelines automatically went to their children’s accounts.

It may be difficult, but not impossible. It takes a lot of financial discipline to live within a single income, but that works easier if the working spouse is earning an adequate amount of money.

9: How should we deal with parents who are financially dependent on us?
The Santoses are helping their relatives. “Tumutulong din kami. Hindi puwedeng mawala `yun sa monthly budget naming(We help out. We need to include this in our budget),” Coralu says. Fr. Ted says the questions here are: How much do you give? And how regular? He adds that some in-laws are becoming too dependent, as in the cases of migrant workers who have the whole barangay of relatives waiting for their salaries. “Assess if there is an abuse already and what is the effect of this constant shelling out for the relatives. If unmanageable, this will drain the couple’s budget,” he warns.

Dealing with in-laws and relatives about money has emotional strains to it, Melvin says. He suggests if you are earning more than you are actually spending, it is but right that you support your parents and in-laws. “Remember, you and your spouse would not be where you are now if not for your parents,” he says.

Toti, however, believes that couples have to meet their own needs first. “It will not help in your planning as a couple and it just tolerates the parasitical situation. But if you know you’ll have to still provide for your parents, don’t marry yet. Becoming independent is the idea why you’re starting a family,” he says.

10: How do I deal with an uncooperative spouse?
Melvin subscribes to what the best sales people believe is “your 99.” “That means, 99% of the time, you’re thinking of what’s good for them. So you have to convince him or her on anything,” he says. Fr. Ted advises to first exhaust all means, like counselling or attending marriage encounters. But if it is really unmanageable, the Church will look into the marriage’s viability. “The Church wants a couple to have a relationship grounded in love. But it also tries to be objective in considering certain relationships that are out of control, especially if there were already hints of unmanageability before the marriage,” he explains.