Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rich Dad Poor Dad

This is a must read book!  I read it before and I am reading it again. Sometimes, we have to do something twice or more to give us the same feeling of excitement, inspiration and motivation.

Life is a matter of choices. God has given us free will to decide and act. Robert Kiyosaki had made his choice to listen and follow his rich dad's advice.  His choice lead him to where he is right now.

You may visit to read what the book is all about. 

"Having two dads as advisors offered me the perspective of contrasting points of view: one of a rich man and one of a poor man. The problem was that my rich dad was not yet rich, and my poor dad not yet poor. Both were just starting out in their careers; both were struggling with money and families."

It's All About the Attitude

Financial education is supposed to start at home. Unfortunately, a typical Filipino family wouldn't discuss issues on finances openly.  Well, in my generation at least. I belong to Gen X, by the way. I don't know with the Gen Y.

The times that money were discussed loudly were during the bickering of my ma and pa which sounds pretty awful especially to a child. It had subconsciously inculcated in my mind that money could spark a petty argument and could wreck a relationship and worse a home. And as a child, since our mind were like vacuum, absorbing almost everything, I brought those negative beliefs in me. I may not verbalize it, but the way I looked at things, it actually takes me back to my past.  So what I am now is actually the product of the things that happened in the past.  So sometimes, understanding a person's outlook in life is also trying to understand where he is coming from.

If only we did a little twisting of the story, then perhaps things could have been different. But that wasn't the case.

If only I could fabricate my life I could probably start it by having my parents teaching me, first and foremost, fear of God because that will keep me grounded no matter what.  Second, they will teach me how to be headstrong because things might not go the way I wanted it to be but if I am determined, then I shouldn't let anything hinder it, not even fear.  Third, the importance of happiness in whatever I do. That I realize now for I have been pursuing happiness all my life. And when will money comes into the picture?  Well, after teaching me happiness. It is important that we love and we are happy of what we do, and I am sure money will come right after.  When you are happy, there is no such thing as tired or bored. What is there is excitement.

Since I couldn't change my past, what is there to do is to be selective of my thoughts and feelings.  It is quite a challenge because the world is full of distressing situation and people.  Watching TV alone gives a bad vibes. I actually shied away from watching news, I don't know if that is bad but I rather get a financial education through reading books and surfing the net.

I do not claim that what I do is right for everybody but it is definitely right for me.  I am actually pursuing happiness. And I am trying to get in control of my life and finances. Yes, there is a hint of fear but I am excited as well. I will make this work. Watch me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lessons From A Life's Crisis

According to the dictionary, a crisis means a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person's life.

Two things could happen to you in a crisis - either you get depressed or it will show the best of you.

If I have to think of a specific crisis in my life that literally pulled me down and put me in a situation where there was nothing I could hold on but faith alone, it would have to be during the time when my father was battling with cancer. I was financially stripped.  Day to day expenses was difficult. But I guess, it is through such tough times that tested not only my faith but strength and resilience as a person.

Now, I sometimes have to go back to that experience to let me think that I have been through the worse - emotionally and financially that is. That crisis actually made me realize a lot of things, and my fingers wouldn't suffice in counting. But let me mention three of them:

1. Cancer is painful. I saw how my father suffered. It breaks my heart until this day if I remember how he looked at me. He may not say a word, but all I see is his love and his pain.

Making the matter worst, the hospitalization bills were painful.  I may want to give him the best medical treatment in the country, but we were financially limited.

2.  Health is wealth.

 I know my father to be a very workaholic person.  He worked in extended hours and even worked during weekends.  I thought there was nothing wrong with that. But according to a specialist we have talked to, stress is toxic to the body. It puts your blood in a high acid level.

If you want to enjoy the prime of your life, you have to take care of your health. Though stress is inevitable, we should try to balanced it out with something that relaxes our mind and body.

3. Money makes the world round.  Honestly, I don't know what it means. But I have to tell you that a crisis that involves a sick in the family, you will truly do your best to come up with money.  Though there is a slim chance of survival, but seeing someone you loved suffer like that, you will never know what you can do and what you can give up until you find yourself in that situation.

The experience is nothing unusual. Some people have gone through difficult situation much worst than this.

The sad truth about it all is money plays a vital role. Money shouldn't have matter.  But having less of it, narrows your options.  And sometimes, death comes handy. I was sad that my father died, but I was also relieved from the burden.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

John Gokongwei's Speech

The speech was delivered last March 1, 2002 during the launch of the Ateneo de Manila University John Gokongwei School of Management. This was copied from

This is probably very familiar to some of you. You might be one of the Ateneans this speech was addressed to or this might be something you have read in the past. I have read this before and though I couldn't memorize it word for word, but it made a mark in my heart. I was inspired by this speech.

This may be quite long but it is worth reading.

The speech:

 Good morning.

I am John Gokongwei, Jr. I am not an Atenean but I feel at home with you. Today, at least.

Sixty-two years ago, I could not have dreamt of appearing before the Jesuits and their students to tell the story of MY life. I was no more than a student then, at San Carlos University in Cebu, when my father died suddenly. It left me, the eldest, the responsibility of taking care of my mother and five siblings. That was tough for someone who was 13. Creditors had just seized our home and business and I had no experience with earning a living.

But here I am--not all on account of my good looks or charming personality--but because I somehow survived. And when I look back, I know now that I did so because I recognized CHANGE when I saw it.

The first change was war. I had turned 15. My mother had already sent my brothers and sister to China where the cost of living was lower. From Cebu, she and I had to make money to send to them.

I turned to peddling. My day began at 5 in the morning. I would load my bicycle with soap, thread, and candles, and then bike to neighboring towns to sell my goods. On market days, I would rent a stall, lay out the goods from the bike, and make about 20 pesos a day, enough for me to survive and to buy even more goods for next time. Those days, you might call my BICYCLE AGE.

After two years of biking and peddling, at 17, I entered my BATEL AGE. The batel was a small, very utilitarian boat that defied the open sea and would take me farther from Cebu and all the way to Lucena, from where I would take a truck to Manila, with companions twice or thrice my age. The sea trips could take two to three weeks depending on the weather, and the land trips another five to six hours. (I was lighter then, you can imagine.)

On the batel, I read books like Gone with the Wind under the great blue sky to pass away the time, even if we traders were always in fear of sea pirates and the bad weather.

Once, our batel hit a rock and sank. Thank heavens for my rubber tires! Those were the goods I had with me to sell in Manila. Well, we all held on to those tires, which meant I saved all those traders and those traders saved all my tires.

At that time, the War was still going on. Ironically, I look back at the War with the fondest of memories. It was the great equalizer. Almost everyone I knew had lost big and small fortunes at the time. This meant we all started at ground zero. Ground zero meant living by our wits alone; ground zero meant starting equal; ground zero was where I discovered I was an entrepreneur.

When the War ended, I was 19. Because of the war, the economy was more dependent than ever on imports. So when I set up Amasia, my first company, it was to import textile remnants, fruit, old newspapers and magazines, and used clothing from the US.

There was a side benefit to this. I would wear some of my own stock, so I would have different clothes to wear when I went courting Elizabeth, the woman who would be my wife. But at the end of it, I made some money.

The Bicycle Age was over. The TRADING AGE began.

By then, my brothers and sister returned from China. Together, we worked in the trading business I had begun: as bodegeros, clerks, warehousemen, cashiers, and collectors. And all this while they were all still going to school; me, I stopped schooling. Like most Chinese-Filipino families, we worked where we lived, and at times, we had to endure the stench of rotten oranges and potatoes filling our two-story apartment.

By the early '50s, we were importing cigarettes and whiskey as well. Business was good. But two factors made me change strategies again. First, I saw that trading would in time become a low-margin business BECAUSE we were at the mercy of our suppliers and buyers. Second, I saw that the government was working on import-substitution policies to encourage local business. President Quirino wanted to shore up the country's foreign exchange reserves that had been depleted as a result of the high importation of the post-war years.

So I decided to enter the AGE of MANUFACTURING. In 1957, I started a corn milling plant producing glucose and cornstarch. Why cornstarch? Because I thought--and it turned out, correctly--that the unglamorous cornstarch would be in great demand from better known businesses like textiles, paper, ice cream, pharmaceuticals, and beer.

But there was one problem: I needed capital. That was not easy. I was 30, had no big company success to back me up, and I didn't know any bankers.

Thankfully, Dr. Albino Sycip, then chairman of China Bank, and DK Chiong, then president, gave me a clean loan of P500,000 to start my business. He would be asked later why he did that and he said something about knowing a good man when he saw one. (Maybe he knew something I didn't.) Anyway, from there Universal Corn Products, the predecessor of Universal Robina Corporation, was born.

Of course, the bigger cornstarch players did not give us an easy time. They engaged us in a price war. That is a nice way of saying they tried to kill us by selling low.

But we prevailed, and started to get clients like San Miguel Corporation. It was my first real taste of competition. And I liked it. I think THAT first experience prepared me for the bigger, tougher competitors in my future.

By 1961, cornstarch was becoming a commodity, and I saw that there was no future in a business where we had to keep lowering margins to survive.

It was time to get into the bigger, and riskier, game played by big multinationals like Procter and Gamble and Nestle. I saw that all they did to capture the market was to brand their products, for instance their coffee and their toothpaste. That is, give their coffee and toothpaste a name, a face, and an image that customers would instantly recognize and identify with quality. Me, I dreamt that one day I would be the Philippine Nestle or General Foods. So the Manufacturing Age for me was giving way to the AGE of BRANDS.

So, we put up CFC, and our first successful product was Blend 45, an instant coffee we put out to directly compete with Nestle's Nescafe. We positioned it as "the poor man's coffee," hired top movie star Susan Roces to endorse it, and employed Procter-and-Gamble veterans to sell it. Basically, we took a page out of the multinational book, and applied it to our business. We gave our coffee, snack food, candy, and chocolates a name, a face, an image. Today, Jack and Jill, Max candy, and Cloud 9 have become household names.

It was also at this time that I returned to school for an MBA--with all due respect to the Jesuits, at De La Salle University--and a decade later, for a 14-week advanced management program at Harvard. Going back to the university for studies which war had interrupted gave me an appreciation, believe me, for the beauty and the breadth of business life. This is something I believe I would never have gained if I had chosen to stop my education.

The success of URC opened up many opportunities for our group. We had the choice to focus on food where we were very successful-or to pursue other businesses. We decided that there were too many good opportunities to pass up, and that remaining in our comfort zone would stunt our growth. So we got into the Age of Expansion.

For the next two decades, we pursued businesses that answered positive on FOUR CRUCIAL QUESTIONS.

First: Is there a market?

Second: Could we compete against both local and foreign players?

Third: Could we find the right people for the job and did we have enough capital to pursue the business?

Last and most important: Did we have the stomach for it? That is, could we take the sleepless nights, the cutthroat competition?

We went into textiles, retail, real estate, telecommunications, aviation, banking, and petrochemicals because we said YES to all those questions. Still, in all those industries, we were faced with tough and worthy competitors: the mighty SM Department Stores and Malls, the unbeatable PLDT, the entrenched Philippine Airlines and the powerful San Miguel Corporation. Most pundits expected us to fail. They were wrong. Robinsons Stores and Mall, Digitel, Cebu Pacific Air and Universal Robina Corporation are now market leaders in their respective fields.

That's because they offered the public a choice.

Remember the story of David and Goliath? Every industry has its Goliath. But every David knows that all giants have their weaknesses. Every weakness is an opportunity.

In a few months, we will launch our mobile services to compete with two giants, Globe and Smart. Our stomachs are churning for sure, but we know that we faced similar challenges before, and we are hopeful we can prove the pundits wrong again.

In the past decade, which is one-sixth of my entire business life, the company has tripled in size. This was the decade when our companies raised money from the global equity and debt markets, brought our companies public, and hired the best professionals to run them. In six decades, we grew from a one-man team to a group with 30,000 employees.

Now I am in what you can probably call the AGE of GLOBALIZATION. I am always asked where I stand on this issue. I say that it does NOT matter where I stand because as sure as the Ateneo Basketball Team will win next year's UAAP championship, global barriers will come crashing down, and we have no choice but to prepare ourselves for that.

Still, our company will not take globalization sitting down. OUR future and the country's depend on how we act now. JG operates branded food concerns in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Hongkong, China, and soon, Vietnam. We also sell our snack foods in India, Korea, and Taiwan--one of the few ASEAN companies to do so.

In a few years, when foreign products find their way into OUR shopping carts as they already have, we want Piattos and Chippy to find their way into THEIR shopping carts as well. Our dream is to be the first group to plant the Philippine flag throughout Asia.

As I look back, I ask myself, "What if I had stopped at cornstarch?" I would probably be the owner of the biggest cornstarch group in the country today or just as possibly, be broke.

But I chose to live my life unafraid even during times when I WAS afraid. I discovered that opportunities don't find you;/ you find your opportunities. I found those opportunities when MY FATHER PASSED AWAY, WHEN WAR CAME, THROUGH CHANGES IN PRESIDENTS AND THEIR POLICIES, DURING MARTIAL LAW, DESPITE COUP DE ETATS, PAST ECONOMIC BOOMS AND BUSTS, AND IN THE MIDST OF MARKET SHIFTS AND MOVEMENTS.

Now I'm 75 and retired. And funny, but I often wonder what ever happened to my first bike! The bike that was my companion during those first years when my family had lost everything. I wonder where it is now? That bike reminds me that success is not necessarily about connections, or cutting corners, or chamba--the three Cs of bad business.

Call it trite--but, believe me, success CAN BE ACHIEVED through hard work, frugality, integrity, responsiveness to change--and most of all, boldness to dream. These have never been just easy slogans for me. I have lived by them.

I hope that many of you in this room will some day choose to be entrepreneurs. Choose to be entrepreneur because then YOU create value. Choose to be an entrepreneur because the products, services, and jobs you create then become the lifeblood of our nation. But most of all, choose to be an entrepreneur because then you desire a life of adventure, endless challenge, and the opportunity to be your BEST SELF.

Thank you.

My Quest And Motivation

In my introduction, I did mentioned that my mother came from a family of business-minded people but I didn't grew up to be like one of them. Not until my mid 20's did I have this spark of interest of being an entrepreneur or something else outside the corporate world.  I  was motivated to do what I am truly passionate about and at the same time earn from it. That I believe would make me happy.

Life isn't that easy for me. I worked my way to finish college - having a full-time job while enrolling 18 units of subjects. Then I seek a better opportunity in the city hence I was forced to move from Angeles City to Manila. It was a turning point in my life when my father was diagnosed with cancer. I realized that we were financially unprepared for this situation.  I was actually stripped from my savings and was left penniless.  Instead of being discouraged or be depressed I was motivated to do something else.

Money, in short, is kind of evasive for me. It is evading me and yet it has a full control of my decision. Why can't it be the other way around! Why don't I control my life and take control of money. These were the thoughts that were running through my head before I jump into the decision of leaving the corporate world.

I have been saying that failure isn't my option. Although I hear a little stupid voice asking what if I fail? My answer?  At least, I tried. At least, I have done what I am supposed to do and I won't be asking myself the what ifs when I grow old. But again, failure isn't my option.  I am a survivor, I'll make this work.

In this so-called quest, I get motivation from a lot of people. I read a lot, and I tried so hard to be selective of my thoughts. I may have been a chronic pessimist in the past but I started to unlearn it, soon enough I could totally forgo it.

In my next post, I will be sharing a speech delivered by John Gokongwei way back 2002 to the Ateneans.


Whether we like it or not, money govern our lives.  It is the controlling force of majority of our decisions and actions.  We leave our families for abroad for money. We let go of our dreams and get a job where we thought we will be earning more. And the worst decision made is probably to get married because of money.  That is reality!

Others may say that money is not important in our lives. Then why the heck we have to work every day of our lives. We may not love money itself, but the choices of having it make a big difference - we can give a better future to our family, we can live in comfort, we can help more people and we can eat in a restaurant without looking at the price.

I wasn't born in a family that talks money freely. Though my mother came from a family of business-minded people, I didn't grew up to be like one of them. But living in the metro, away from the family, experiencing the harshness of life - these made me realize of the things that I missed learning while I was young.

Robert Kiyosaki was fortunate to have both a rich dad and a poor dad. Warren Buffett is fortunate to be born in the US and to have been introduced to stock investment since the age of 11. Steve Jobs was fortunate to have known failures early in his life which made him stronger and successful. What about us--the common people? What are we fortunate about? What are the things that we are supposed to learn but haven't,

I read an article recently that says Filipino are not financially literate. I do have to agree on that because I for one is so dumb when it comes to personal finance. There are so many reasons to blame. We could blame our education system which doesn't really teach us to be entrepreneurial minded but instead be highly educated so we can be an ideal employee. We can blame our Filipino families who are equally uneducated when it comes to personal finance.

Blaming can't take us anywhere. Sadly, we have to face, nobody else can help us but ourselves. We have strive and educate ourselves. We have to spend time to learn. We are our own responsibility. That's why God give us the skills, talent and education so we can use it to better ourselves. And of course, to give back for His glory.

I decided to make a blog solely about money. It is my personal objective to explore and share helpful information about money-making, investments and etc. to help myself in this financial journey. Hopefully, we will share this journey together to a more better life.

Updated: January 16, 2016

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