Confronting the debt month of December

By Herbert Vego

IF you are not one of those who have not incurred debt this month just to enjoy a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, congratulations!

But some of us respond to fast-loan offers on the Internet for that purpose even if we have yet to complete payments of debts incurred last year.

Even those of us who think of ourselves as “middle class” would grimace to realize that we are no longer capable of buying the same quantity of food and other basic commodities because of galloping inflation. The unwelcome price increases overwhelm our capacity to splurge.

More often than not, we respond by pinching pennies. To make both ends meet, we buy less of our basic needs – say, a half-kilo of meat instead of the previous one kilo at the risk of our family going undernourished. But it’s really a losing game because the value of our money has diminished.

Even the greedy merchants who impose higher prices for bigger profit eventually see the erosion of their own gains whenever they buy their own needs at higher prices, too. Sooner or later, whatever money they have saved in the bank, even if it earns interest, devaluates.

The phrase “A penny saved is a penny earned” no longer means what it says because money sheds its buying power over time.

Therefore, why not make the most of it now?

Hasn’t the Great Book told us? “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Unfortunately, that “philosophy” could do more harm than good. A devalued peso has more value than no peso at all. Why not cost-cut instead?

Alas, cost-cutting hardly compensates, especially if it means scrimping for three budget meals a day. While we can cut and slash expenses to the bone to conserve our bottom peso, the fact remains that we could get sick and unable to afford medical expenses anymore. Going into debt would then be unavoidable.

The only way to keep pace with inflation is to earn more, which is an elusive dream for the average Filipino wage earner; or have a “sideline” or small business in which to prosper.

Those who demand wage increase but don’t get it are doomed to sink poorer.

Let’s take a look at the complaining minimum wage earner making ₱610 a day today. If this were his income in 2020 or four years ago, he must have made both ends meet.

I remember my friend Tony who, due to stagnant income, had to move his children from private to public schools to save on tuition fees.

Indeed, the better challenge is always to beat inflation by outracing monetary inflation. There are cases, however, when getting it from increased income could aggravate the workers’ problem. For when laborers ask for wage hike across the board, their employer would need to hike prices of their products – which further fuels inflation.

The better alternative would be to stimulate demand by keeping prices low and thus produce more products.  With more products selling like hotcakes, both the producer and the consumers benefit. This is the “secret” behind the success of a local fishing industry that cans and exports sardines worldwide.

Working abroad for better pay is an option for Filipinos who no longer see the “future” in the local job market. As the song New York New York says, “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.”

The first and only time I visited my nurse son in New York City, I literally bumped into a hundred Filipino nurses during a birthday party.



IT’S amazing how a person maintains grace under pressure or the ability to keep his demeanor and dignity intact amid various challenges demanding his attention at the same time.

And that is how we in the Iloilo media perceive the president and chief executive officer of MORE Power, Roel Z. Castro, who met with us at a thanksgiving dinner the other day at Smallville.

The past four years have seen gigantic strides for Iloilo City’s power-distribution utility in Castro’s passion to meet the challenge of Mayor Jerry P. Treñas to “level up”. Challenge survived with the company rising from a beginning of 62,000 households served in 2020 to 94,000 today.

Castro spoke positively of the expansion of MORE Power service to Passi City and 16 towns of Iloilo province in the New Year. It’s not to keep Iloilo Electric Cooperative out of business but to introduce a healthy competition that would redound to better customer care and cheaper rates.

A subsidiary that he also heads, Negros Electric and Power Corp. (NEPC), has emerged out of a joint venture with Central Negros Electric Cohortative (Ceneco), which has been losing due to heavy debts and power pilferage.  Clearly, the challenge facing Castro is how to reverse the situation.

An average manager facing the same predicament would probably roll over and give up under pressure. But not Sir Roel, who prays to God daily for the right decisions to make.

As the Bible clearly states in 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

That he gets his prayer answered, there is no doubt. He looks as healthy and hearty as looked four years ago.

“More power to you” was how he ended his speech.