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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Are You A Consumptive Saver?

I got to bed quite early, so when I woke up, I checked my social media accounts and found my news feed flooded with articles about the debut of the new Samsung S5.

The Enemy, in my line of work.
(Courtesy of

The two people that I think would probably be most orgasmic about this are tech geeks who would be going gaga over the features like fingerprint scanning, and the latest bunch - the people who are obsessed with having the latest edition of their preferred smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc.

It brought to mind a term that I encountered at a recent financial management seminar I attended: consumptive saving.

Simply put, consumptive saving is the process of setting aside money for a specific goal that is neither life-saving nor irreplaceable. The goals mostly take on the form of objects and activities that would likely fall under the Lifestyle or Trend sections of a publication: gadgets, travel, fancy dining places.

Let's use that checklist to determine if having an S5 would fall into this category.

Is it life saving? No. (You can argue that "seamless work transition" is a matter of life and death, but the S5 will not be there to administer CPR or take you to the hospital if your heart stops functioning.)

Is it irreplaceable? No. (In fact, manufacturers make it a point to replace it on an almost annual basis. It certainly makes the stockholders happy.)

A significant part of what I do daily is educating people on how they must conserve their finances, properly apportioning them into goals that are either on the short, medium or long term horizon.

Short term goals consist of having enough money for medical emergencies, baon of the kids, and a ready fund in case you suddenly get laid off from your current job. (Credit card bills fall in this category, since they arrive on the dot every month, like clockwork. Credit cards deserve their own post, though.)

Medium term goals would be concerned about starting a college fund for your 5 year old, or setting aside funds to finally get into your own business and get away from that wretched being called your "boss". Marriage plans also fall into this category - have you checked how much it costs these days to have a "decent" wedding?

Long term goals usually take the shape of retirement planning, or a fund that will take care of medical expenses that inevitably comes with age, a number that is slowly lowering. (We've all known someone who died from a heart attack in their 40's, these are diseases that aren't only "for the seniors" anymore.)

These are goals that should be acted on now, with what you earn now. Too often, especially with medium and long term goals, people have a tendency to procrastinate, and say, tsaka nalang. Long term horizon doesn't mean thinking about it later; it means making a plan right now because you need a head start in order to accomplish those goals.

In my line of work, the Samsung S5's are the enemy.

It distracts people from achieving their savings goals. And without any form of savings, it would be irresponsible of me to recommend any kind of investing, a way to beat inflation. Their savings will never grow if, on a yearly tradition, consumers stand in line for the latest gadget, but can't be bothered with making additions to achieve even their short term goals.

Then there's the "it's going somewhere" defense: some people justify consumptive saving by saying things like "well, at least napakinabangan ko siya, it's not like I wasted it on drugs or anything like that!" not realizing that consumerism can be even more lethal than any mind-altering substance, because when a breadwinner dies, the spouse and children can't live on an S5. (Like cars, gadgets begin depreciating the moment you buy them.)

I'm often surprised when some people are surprised that they don't have enough funds to pay a doctor for an unscheduled emergency visit - but are carrying a designer bag, or an iPhone 5s. If the priorities are wrong, it takes away your right to complain about how doctor's fees are off the charts - how can you complain that your last hospital visit cost you a thousand, when you're willing to plunk down more than 40 thousand pesos for a phone? Or more than a hundred thousand pesos for a bag?

So, are you a consumptive saver?

If you are, recognize the signs and do something about it. I have a goal to change consumptive savers to consummate savers, but like most things in life, that is something you have to decide for - and act on - yourself.

Besides, as far as I know, you can't die from not having the latest gadget.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

One Afternoon At Burgoo

When I was working full time in the south, my go-to mall was Alabang Town Center, mainly because I could walk to it from my place of work. I never got a chance to see the other malls for longer than 5 minutes, so when my friend Wins and I met up for a late lunch, I asked if we could meet at SM Southmall for a change in scenery (for me, anyway).

Wins got there earlier (since he lives in the area) and while walking around, someone from Burgoo handed him a coupon that had a Buy One-Take One promotion on their entrees. So when I arrived and he told me about it, we had this half-hearted attempt at seeing what other dining options we had, but ended up - predictably - at a place where we could maximize value.

Our first entree was their take on Fajitas.

We opted to take the Trio variant (consisting of shrimp, chicken and beef, on top of mushrooms and bell peppers) and we first enjoyed the savory aromas when it was brought to our table. The beef, in particular, I found to be quite good.

The dish was served with this:

A tray of pita bread/wrappers and - also - a trio of condiments: a creamy mixture (we were debating what it was but it wasn't mayonnaise for sure), salsa and shaved pieces of cheese. The warm proteins inside the bread together with the three condiments complimented each other well and made for a messy but fun way of eating, drippings and all. (Best condiment for me was the salsa. Lovely.)

We also decided on a pasta dish, Seafood Au Gratin.

At first glance, we wondered where the seafood (squid, mussels, clams) was. Turns out, they were hidden at the edges (covered by foil) and underneath the (thick) noodles, which were in a creamy, seafood-tasting sauce that had a hint of curry, and which we found to be deliciously intoxicating.

Our total bill came to about a little over 700 (they have a 10% service charge) and we paid for only one of the entrees (the one with a higher value). The last time Wins ate at Burgoo was about 10 years ago (and he didn't relish the experience), so it was a pleasant surprise that both the dishes were "winners" and we were able to take off half of the price.

The only way this meal could be better is if this was shared over unbridled laughter and excellent conversation.

And so, a great meal came to pass.

*All photos by Wins and his spectacular phone camera*

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Quick Note About Respect

You have to earn it.

(Courtesy of

I chanced upon a former colleague (on the street, she didn't see me) who reminded me of an incident that reaffirmed my stance about this.

Back then, she was insisting that because of his position, a manager who made a false report about me and refused to face me in a meeting meant to resolve our differences was worthy of respect by virtue of his position.

"I'm sorry, I don't see how I can respect a liar and a backstabber who doesn't even have the balls to own up to his own statements made behind my back."

"But, Joey, he is the operations manager. Don't you think he deserves respect, at least?"

"What do I respect? Honesty. Integrity. Decency. Humility. He embodies none of those, in fact, he is despicably the very opposite of every one of those qualities. 

He was remiss in his duties of handling the studio sound system, he was nowhere to be found to fix it, and when I did find him, he was popping a zit facing a mirror, and when I asked him to attend to the matter, he looked at me as if I had just barged in while he was concocting the latest cure for ovarian cancer.

He even had the temerity to file a false report, claiming I had interrupted a meeting he was conducting when I insisted he do his job. And he can't even face me right now as we are all trying to get to the bottom of this, why we have different sides of the incident...and you think I should respect that?"

"Basta for me, we should respect him as the manager."

"I guess that shows the difference in values that we were raised in."

You want respect, you give respect first. Show people - especially subordinates - that your ego is not so fragile that you take offense if someone doesn't call you "Sir." Demonstrate empathy and people will naturally extend the same courtesy to you. You do not get to "demand" respect if you resort to outright lying just to make people side with you.

The thing is, if you were worthy of respect, you don't have to demand it in the first place.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Seeing Red (China) And Liking It

On a day like today when work took me to the north (Quezon City and Caloocan City), I opt to have a not-so-short lunch with one of my best friends based in QC, Liza. I (wisely) left the car in favor of the Mass Rail Transit (MRT), and requested that we have lunch at Trinoma Mall, since the train station connects directly to the mall.

After meeting up, we proceed to the Concierge, since we are both not too familiar with the restaurants there. I was saddened to learn that Peking Garden has closed shop (insert groan here), and we proceed to review the list of eateries that would interest us.

We knew we wanted Chinese fare (big whoop), so we first went to Mann Hann. With a line that looked like we would be seated by 2PM, we then proceeded to Red China by Super Bowl.

(Courtesy of

It was both our first time to dine here: I haven't seen this restaurant in Makati, and Liza wasn't too keen on anything related to Super Bowl, as she finds their flavors a little bland.

Having no clue or recommendations as to what's a must-order here, we decided to order the first item featured on their menu, guessing that this would be a dish they're proud to serve.

Yes, yes, and yes. 

The Roast Pork Belly (PhP 175) has the aroma, crunch and taste that hits all the check marks in our book. The crackling sound heard when you take a bite of the bronzed exterior is melodious, and the succulent, flavorful porcine taste that follows compliments it wonderfully. 

The odd thing was that mustard was served as the "default" sauce (seen above), which I immediately identify with hotdogs. But it is served separately, so it's a matter of taste to use it. (Liza liked the condiment, I wasn't too much a fan.) No matter, it's the pork that's the star, and we concur that this should be the item that's front and center on the menu.

We also ordered the Roast Chicken with Mala Sauce (Half Order, PhP 350; Whole, PhP 675), as we were intrigued what Mala Sauce was. We asked them to serve the sauce separately, as our server told us it was quite spicy.

 Red China's Roast Chicken...

...and the Mala Sauce.

The chicken itself was not bad, but the Mala Sauce was delicious, after a few bites. (Only because the first few tries, we were busy deciphering what were the components) It seemed like a combination of chili sauce with tamarind paste, with an oily base. Some may find this an acquired taste, but we ended up finishing the sauce faster than the fowl itself.

(You can ask the server to serve the Mala Sauce without the spicy component, if you're not a fan of spicy food. Without the spice, it tasted about 70% sour and 30% sweet.)

Of course, we had to pair it with our choice of carbohydrate, one which appealed to us both from the name and the menu picture.

Chinese Chorizo Fried Rice (PhP220) is a sinful concoction, and my only negative point is that the rice could stand to have a teeny bit more moisture, but the sausage slices were very flavorful, and this dish could very well be eaten on its own. It's Chinese Chorizo, so you know you're in for a treat.

Good thing we had excellent (complimentary) tea to lessen our guilty feelings about what we had just ingested over lunch. And in such cute containers too.

I've always associated the color red with China, and this is one restaurant that can fly its' colors proudly. (Despite the political tensions we are experiencing with the country in this restaurant's name.)

Our countries may be at odds, but common ground might just be found on the dining table.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Attack Of The PhP48 Dimsum

My friends and I decided to go to Binondo the day after the Chinese New Year celebrations. We figured they would have been "dragon danced out" and we would be having an easy time walking around what some call the oldest Chinatown in the world. (Just heard this on TV, I need to verify this.)

We were wrong. Strangely, happily so.

You can't really get into a festive mood when there are no people around, so we were thrust into the usual cacophony of sounds, sights and smells I have come to associate with this corner of the metro, a mixture of eastern medicine, star anise, wok frying, horse manure and estero headiness.

Our unofficial guide, my friend Abner (who's lived in Chinatown all his life) brought us around, as we boldly declared "food trip!" when we decided to visit him in his part of town.

Corn dimsum

Our first stop was Golden Fortune Seafood Restaurant, along Soler Street, which we walked quite a distance to because we had to find parking at the next available slot. (I forgot now which street we were parked in.) Abner was telling us about the 48 peso promotion they had for all their dimsum items, and this was something I had to see for myself.

We got to the restaurant, which was a little below street level, and what greeted us was a standard sight in Chinese restaurants that served seafood:

An aquarium filled with live seafood that was ready for the picking. Coupled with the dim lights and the nonchalant way the server would speak, I knew I was in a Chinese restaurant.

From 2 to 5PM, most of the dimsum items were priced at only 48 pesos per steamed basket. The only one that cost 68 pesos was the hakaw, as well as the noodles and congee items, which cost 78 pesos each. You could list your choices to the server, or go to the steaming area to pick out the dimsum goodies yourself.

Here's a sampling of what was available.

Century Egg Siomai

Pork Siomai

Shark's Fin Siomai

Spare Ribs

Lobster Ball

Bean curd Roll

Radish Cake

Sliced Fish Congee

Wanton Noodle Soup

The only miss among these items was the lobster ball, which was really not much better from a similar snack being offered on the street outside. Everything else was quite delicious, and I would like to especially mention the radish cake as being very good, they had a crispy coating while maintaining that soft, savory, gooey and delicious middle.

We were so stuffed (thanks to the congee and noodle bowls, which we were told were good for one, and they might have meant one family, they were huge servings), we strolled around for hours (at least two) after that because we felt we had no space left to enjoy whatever delectable morsels we would pass by, and it wouldn't be fair to them.

We fittingly ended our trip at a food market that was beside Lucky Chinatown Mall, and while the food is the main draw, what caught my fancy were the decorations and the design, which reminded me of the shophouses in Bugis, Singapore.

Until the next Binondo food trip.