opinion

To falter is not an option

May 3, 2021

JR BORJA GENERAL HOSPITAL — Declared by the city government  as prio, I trooped to this new,  face-lifted city health facility to join a throng of seniors accepted to avail of the first dose of Sinovac.      Sans politics, I expressly thanked Mayor Oca for his deep community  concern, consistent as it were, despite some quarters opposing his own brand of governance in handling the pandemic woes at the local level.       To prove his point, he volunteered to take his first dose of vax earlier to somehow send a strong message to all Cagay-anons that vaccines play a crucial role in containing the spread of Covid 19.      The long queue was worth it.  My first dose of Sinovac done successfully  after hours of going through a series of pre-vaccine background checks along with several hundreds of seniors waiting in makeshift tents amid scorching  heat of the summer sun.       There is no other way but to submit to available  health protocols including the call for a massive vaccination for all as Covid 19 continue to surge,  spreading like wildfires in countries like India, now experiencing an epic national disaster.       To falter is not an option at this time when the pandemic is still raging its fury on mankind.      That said, the   arrivals of more  vaccines has triggered for a call by the city mayor for help from the  medical field —professionals like midwives, nurses and doctors to act as volunteers in the city’s vaccination program.      Those who have the talent and skills, please help. Let our  bayanihan spirit live throughout this fight for survival, the mayor appealed to all and sundry, citing that the vaccination program has to be pursued vigorously with no let-up.       For the record,  the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in the US has siginificantly reduced unnecessary deaths by 80 percent, a clear indicator of how effective vaccines are in the fight against the pandemic.      To those who are still in a state of  doubting Thomases, let Covid 19 catch you by surprise.       Its either you land in a quarantine facility, or six feet below the ground. The choice is yours.       After all, this virus has no regard  to  people who defy   logic.       And WHO says it’s a long way to go before Covid 19 will say good-bye world.       Meantime, wear  your face masks. Keep the distance.  Avoid crowded places. And get your vax, asap. (ruffy44_ph2000@yahoo.com)

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Acceptance

April 26, 2021

When my brother-in-law Archie was torn from the center of his and our life by a heart attack a few days ago, I was in shock. Not only me. The whole family. He was just 59. Minutes before his death, we kept on joking. The whole family had to accept it his sudden death.      Have you ever wanted something so badly but you felt like you couldn’t do anything about it? How would you describe your state during those times? Archie is in heaven now. Sure. Thank you Lord.      Chances are that you experienced one or more of these emotions: frustration, neediness, helplessness, powerlessness, irritation, desperation, anxiousness, nervousness, anxiety, and possibly depression.      Before you beat yourself up for feeling this way, you should know that your feelings are perfectly normal. Most people experience inner turbulence whenever they feel unable to control an outcome that’s important to them. That’s because we dislike the unknown. We perceive the unknown as a threat to our survival. We tend to associate control with security and even power.      Currently, things are in flux, but our response to uncertainty hasn’t changed. We still have a need to try to control our environment. The possibility of losing a job or a business deal or being rejected by someone we fancy is not going to kill us, but we may feel as if it could.      Accepting what we don’t like may be one of the most difficult aspects of life. To solve challenges, we normally try to take positive action and change what we can, but inevitably there will be people, situations, and events we don’t like and that we aren’t able to change.      Do you find yourself trying to change things you have no control over? If so, you probably find it difficult to be satisfied and content with life. If we can’t change a situation or an outcome our best option is to learn how to accept it and deal with it.      Acceptance is not the same as resignation or passivity. We can continue to push forward despite accepting that there are things beyond our control. Here are a few tips to living with greater acceptance so you can have more joy and peace of mind.      We all have baggage that we carry from our past, and this baggage gets heavier the longer we hold onto it. Many people have a hard time letting go of the past. We carry a mental reminder of our mistakes and losses with us everywhere we go, not realizing how much they steal from our present joy and contentment.      We can’t change the past. What happened in your past happened, so our only hope is to learn how to accept our past and move forward.      At one point or another life will present us with an unexpected turn of events. It may be a difficult loss or a failure of epic proportions that we aren’t prepared to deal with. Sometimes these events are beyond our current ability to cope. So, part of the acceptance process is learning new ways to cope with a crisis.      Keep your emotions in check so you can make a more conscious decision about how to deal with a difficult situation.      Sometimes the “worst” thing that happens to us ends up being the most fundamental part of our personal growth. It is easier to accept something when we explore the opportunities and possibilities that come out of it. What can you learn from your difficulty? How has your difficulty made you a stronger person?      We live in a world that tells us to want more, be more, and do more. This isn’t always a negative message, but it often gets in the way of our life satisfaction. When something doesn’t meet our expectations, we are disappointed and angry. Life can appear purposeless, unfair, and ruthless if our expectations are unrealistic.      So, instead of expecting something to happen, or expecting a person or event to act a certain way, try to focus on accepting and creating. Focus on what you want to create instead of what you expect to happen. Creation is motivating, expectation is demanding.      When we run into failure or setbacks it can feel like we are stuck with nowhere to turn. Life will take unexpected turns and when this happens our trajectory might have to change as well. There is a point where it is in our best interest to move on and let go of what we want. If something doesn’t work the way we planned, don’t get caught up in the outcome.      Instead of doing the same thing and expecting different results, accept things aren’t working the way you planned and do something different.      You may not be able change what you’re going through right now, but this doesn’t mean you can’t live a full and meaningful life. You can adapt and adjust to your present circumstances.      Stop avoiding difficult issues and only focusing on what you can’t change. Focus on what you can do about the situation, and if you can’t change something it’s time to accept this reality.      Ask yourself, “What do I need to accept so that I can be happier and more fulfilled?”      Adopting a spiritual outlook provides a psychological cushion to cope with our perceived lack of control. It comforts us with the notion that there is a divine order behind everything that occurs in life and that there’s a reason why things happen the way that they do. It’s reassuring to know that there’s a benevolent force that’s got our back and supports our personal evolution.      Nothing good has ever come from worrying. It induces anxiety and is a major energy drainer. Whenever you worry, you operate from the frequency of fear, which will immobilize you. If we’re not careful, we can go down a tailspin of “what if?” loops and scary visions of all the possible things that could go wrong.      The only way we can get out of this rabbit hole is by letting go of our fears and worries and replacing them with optimism, faith in the future, and probably learning better coping skills with a licensed therapist.      Anxiety caused by the excessive need to control circumstances will wear down your mental energy and focus. You can regain power by surrendering your control over a situation. You’ll realize that although you have no way of controlling the events or people involved in a certain situation, you do have control over how you feel and how you react.      Based on what you know, you can create a plan and proactively follow through with it. You’ll feel more empowered knowing that you’ve done the best you could and you’re open to all possible outcomes.      Letting go of control is, essentially, an act of faith whether spiritual or otherwise. Faith can get us through foggy times of uncertainty and help us navigate through the dark valleys where we can’t see where we’re heading. Faith will illuminate our path and lead us down to our destiny if we allow it to.      My neutral attitude toward the country, the Philippines I lived in gradually made me see a more balanced view of it and eventually, appreciate the positive aspects. I noticed, for example, that the town Davao City had beautiful parks and ponds, and that some people living there were interesting and kind. Developing understanding and acceptance opened the doors for a change.      As I became more open-minded and happier within the years, I started noticing and acting on new opportunities. For example, I came across information about how to start my own working life and thus acted on it.      This non-resisting attitude made me dissolve some of the limits of my mind and thus I became more intuitive. This intuition eventually led me to the country where I felt most at home - Philippines. If I had never learned this lesson of non-resistance, I would probably still be stuck somewhere somehow, cursing my situation to this day.      Wherever you are and whatever you experience, try to be at peace with it. If it’s hard to think positively about your situation, at least don’t focus on the negatives, and instead focus on something you’d like to experience.      It may help to make a list of things you’re grateful for and the positive aspects of whatever you resist. Focus on those aspects completely, and soon your mind will become more positive and more accepting of your present circumstances.      This shift in focus will eventually open the door to circumstances that are more empowering and positive. Even my eyes are full of tears remembering my brother-of-law who was a real brother for me during my life as an expat in the Philippines during the last 22 years. +++      Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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The best of times, the worst of times

April 26, 2021

Quoting Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities), Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (JAZA) described what 2020 was like for the country and for BPI during the bank’s annual stockholders meeting held last Thursday.       “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was a spring of hope. And it was a winter of despair.”      JAZA narrated a chronology of the worst events that happened last year – the Taal Volcano eruptions,   Covid 19  and the imposition of the strictest lockdown measures,  the series of earthquakes in Mindanao and the two super typhoons just before the year ended.       As a result, mobility plummeted. GDP declined by 9.5 per cent. Unemployment surged to 17 per cent before settling at 8.7 percent. Inflation rose to 2.6 percent. Weak fiscal response negated aggressive monetary policy. A negative real interest rate regime set in.  Import demand slowed.  The historical double digit loan growth contracted to 2.8 percent. NPL rose to 3.7 percent, necessitating a five-fold increase in loan loss provisions. BSP cap on interest on  credit card loans caused banks to reduce credit to riskier customers.  The provisions pulled down net income 25 percent. ROE dropped to half that of 2019. Market capitalization went down  21.1 percent, the worst in years.       But the  best things also happened in BPI in 2020.  BPI revenues increased by 10.5 percent, an all-time high on the back of higher net interest income and  trading income. Outgoing BPI President Cesar P. “Bong” Consing further elaborated. “Ironically,  the very challenging year presented BPI the opportunity to assert its position as a banking industry leader and a trusted Filipino institution. The banks continuity plan immediately kicked in ensuring that critical banking products and services, including the availability of cash and payment transfers, are readily available.”       At the height of the pandemic,  at least half of the critical branches and units were up and running, with BPI giving utmost consideration to the safety and well-being of its staff and its customers.        The bank’s many years of investments in technology, particularly digitalization, paid off. At the height of the lockdown, digital transactions went as high as 95 per cent then settled to 92 percent as the lockdown eased. Thousands of customers enrolled in BPI’s channels every single week. Today, 52 percent of all customers are digitally-enabled, with more than half of them classified as active users.      Having executed 1.8 billion in online transactions in 2020, BPI is now the acknowledged leader in digital banking.  BPI’s finance app is Number 5 in App Store, Number 6 in Google Play. In Instapay, BPI ranked No. 2 in receiving transactions and No. 3  in sending transactions. BPI worked with dozens of open banking partners (like Lazada, GCash, PayMaya) to become a key focal point of financial intermediation. According to the media intelligence firm Essencia, BPI is the most mentioned Philippine bank in social media.      Despite its slowest balance sheet growth in years (1.3 percent), BPI had its moments in 2020. BPI issued 70.7 billion in bonds, including 21.5 billion in CARE Bonds. Capital adequacy ratio grew to 17.1 percent. BPI’s asset management and mutual funds businesses saw   assets under management growing by 16.8  percent and 95.6 percent, respectively. Mortgage lending grew by 6.6 percent. BPI’s microfinance bank, BPI Direct BanKo, already the second largest (in its class) in the country, grew by 6.5 percent. BPI’s investment banking unit, BPI Capital, was the leading debt and equity underwriter in the country. Its underwriting fees grew 66 percent on the back of 30 mega transactions.       Consing described BPI as one of only two Philippine companies which was given by Standard and Poor’s,  a BBB+ rating,  equalling  that of the Philippine government. The BSP continues to give BPI the highest ratings for its capital position, asset quality, management, and low sensitivity to market risk.  BPI’s ESG scores consistently place it  either first  or second among Philippine banks. Moreover, BPI is the only large Philippine bank whose shares outperformed the Philippine Stock Exchange index in 2020. BPI remains the second largest bank by market capitalization. The prestigious finance publication Euromoney named BPI as the Best Philippine Bank in 2020.       Consing briefed the shareholders of moves to  future proof the bank, namely: 1. The merger of BPI and BPI Family Savings Bank – a move that will provide the new entity scale that will be beneficial to both customers  and employees. 2. Establishing BPI as the undisputed leader in digital banking.  3. Increasing the share of SME and consumer loans in BPI’s loan books.  4. Closing the gap on funding leadership. 5. Using branches as sales points, rather than service points, and  6. Promoting sustainable banking.       JAZA thanked Consing for his 8 years of stewardship of the bank including the last year,  which proved to be the most challenging in the bank’s 170 year history. Consing assumed in 2013 which coincidentally made him BPI’s 13th president.  JAZA  welcomed Jose Teodoro “TG” Limcaoco, who is no stranger to BPI, as its 14th president and also paid tribute to Xavier P. Loinaz, BPI’s 11th president. Loinaz resigned last year from the bank’s board due to health reasons.       Note: You may wish to share the foregoing via Facebook, Twitter or Linked-In.

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The need for speed: Faster vaccine roll-out critical to stronger recovery

April 21, 2021

A global economic recovery is in sight but a faster and more effective vaccination roll-out across the world is critical, while respecting necessary health and social distancing measures, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Outlook.      Activity in many sectors has picked up and adapted to pandemic restrictions over recent months. Vaccine deployment, although uneven, is finally gaining momentum and government fiscal stimulus – particularly in the US – is likely to provide a major boost to economic activity.      But the pandemic is widening gaps in economic performance between countries and between sectors, increasing social inequalities, particularly affecting vulnerable groups, and risking long-term damage to job prospects and living standards for many people.      The Interim Economic Outlook calls for ramping up vaccination, for swifter, more targeted fiscal stimulus to foster output and confidence, and to maintain income support for people and businesses hard hit by the pandemic while preparing the ground for a sustainable recovery.      “Speed is of the essence,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “There is no room for complacency. Vaccines must be deployed faster and globally. This will require better international co-operation and co-ordination than we have seen up to now. It is only by doing so that we can focus our attention on building forward better and laying the foundations for a prosperous and lasting recovery for all.”      The OECD sees global GDP growth at 5.6% this year, an upward revision of more than 1 percentage point since its projection in December 2020, and 4% in 2022. World output is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by mid-2021 but the pace and duration of the recovery will depend on the race between vaccines and emerging variants of the virus.       The outlook for global growth would be better than currently projected – and approach pre-pandemic projections for activity – if the production and distribution of vaccines accelerates, is better coordinated around the world and gets ahead of virus mutations.       This would allow containment measures to be relaxed more rapidly. But if vaccination programs are not fast enough to cut infection rates or if new variants become more widespread and require changes to current vaccines, consumer spending and business confidence would be hit.      In the OECD’s central scenario, US growth is projected to be 6.5% in 2021, an upward revision of more than 3 percentage points since December, partly reflecting the large-scale fiscal stimulus now planned with a sustained pace of vaccination. This also helps to lift output around the world. In the euro area, where the level of fiscal stimulus is lower and vaccine rollout slower, the Interim Economic Outlook sees GDP rising 3.9%, a 0.3 percentage point upward revision.      Prospects are brighter in the Asian-Pacific region where several countries have effectively contained the virus and where industrial activity has regained dynamism. In China, GDP growth is projected to be 7.8% this year; in Japan 2.7%; in Korea 3.3%; and in Australia 4.5%.      The recovery is likely to be more moderate in the emerging market economies of Latin America and Africa amid a resurgence of the virus, slow vaccine deployment and limited scope for additional policy support.       Presenting the Interim Economic Outlook was, OECD Chief Economist Laurence Boone said that the vaccination programs and stimulus measures should work hand in hand.      “Widespread vaccination of the adult population is the best economic policy available today to get our economies and employment growing again,” she said. “If we are at war with the virus then we need to put vaccine production on a war footing, provide the necessary resources and speed up deployment across the world.”      “If we don’t get enough people vaccinated quickly enough to allow restrictions to be lifted, the recovery will be slower and we will undermine the benefits of fiscal stimulus,” she added.      The improved prospects of a global recovery have led to financial market expectations of higher inflation although the Interim Economic Outlook says underlying price pressures generally remain mild in advanced economies. In emerging market economies, inflation could rise further. Public debt levels have risen sharply almost everywhere, but debt-servicing costs in most OECD economies continue to benefit from very low interest rates protecting fiscal sustainability.      The report says the vital support provided by governments to preserve jobs and businesses should remain in place while economies are still fragile and hampered by containment measures.       Particular attention needs to be paid to supporting young people and the less skilled to avoid a repeat of the long-term damage caused to the job prospects of these vulnerable groups after the financial crisis of 2008.

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The way to heaven

April 19, 2021

Driving in big cities is not a joke for beginners. It's an ordeal, especially driving during heavy traffic hours. One must know where to go and which way to take. Otherwise, one'll end up bumping somewhere somehow... .      But, driving a car in a small village, where roads are simple, is for neophytes an enjoyable one. No traffic, or less traffic, no traffic lights, no complicated ways... .      In the same way, railroads can make train drivers ill at ease when they are also in big cities. I remember Munich in my home country Germany, where railways appear like spider's cobwebs. They go in several directions. No wonder, accidents on the roads happened many times.      In life we, too, have roads which lead us to several directions. To go to heaven, man's eternal destiny, one can either choose the shortest road, or one can make detours. Not so many perhaps fall by the way and end up in eternal damnation.      There are some of us, Christians, who take the shourt-cut road to heaven. This is the road of suffering, of the actual practice of Christian virtues, of serving God and our neighbour. Others take the circuitos road of easy life, thinking that at the end they still have time to amend themselves and lead a good life. This is risky, since no one can guarantee that an opportunity will be given at the eleventh hour. Unfortunately, there are still others, who prefer to take that opposite road, which leads to eternal damnation. So they live, so they die! In John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress", we read, "Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven!"      Homo sapiens, quo vadis? +++      Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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Pandemic Essentials: Breaking through bad money habits

April 19, 2021

When the government first implemented the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) from March 17 to the end of May 2020, a study released by AdSpark, Inc.—a portfolio company under Globe Telecom’s 917Ventures—revealed that searches and media consumption on personal finance as a topic grew by 800% among Filipinos.      Now that the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjacent areas are once again under ECQ, it wouldn’t be surprising if financial stress and recovery would be among the top most searched topics online, as more Filipinos feel the impact of the situation on their finances. The question in the minds of many would be: “How can we best manage our money during these uncertain times?”        In a World Bank (WB) Policy Research Talk in 2017, Bilal Zia, an economist from the World Bank research department, gave an overview of a decade’s worth of research on what works and what doesn’t in boosting households’ financial capabilities. This includes financial education.      This groundbreaking research prompted WB and its partner countries to shift towards people-centric tools to improve the understanding and use of financial services and products. For the WB, “there is an unprecedented opportunity to use entertainment media to change the lives of billions of people, especially in urban areas. Entertainment education or edutainment can be a game-changer for development.”        Following the WB recommendation, BPI Foundation, the social responsibility arm of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), launched a mobile game called “Breakthrough: The Financial Choices We Make.” This is the first-of-its-kind mobile gaming app that has the primary aim of educating Filipinos about personal finance while keeping them entertained.      “Proper financial understanding helps us make better-informed decisions. It helps us manage our money in good times and especially in bad times, just like this ongoing pandemic,” said BPI Foundation Executive Director Owen Cammayo.   Edutainment format      “Breakthrough” is a board game played through an app that allows players to test their skills in personal finance and show how financial choices affect their daily lives. It is available for free on Google Play and the Apple App Store.      “The intent of the game is to make learning about personal financial concepts more accessible, enjoyable, and effective,” said Cammayo. “This is fully aligned with our commitment to empower and enable our fellow Filipinos through financial education.”      Going against Artificial Intelligence (AI) opponents, players roll the dice to travel around the digital board. They will encounter common life events at every turn, and make “adulting” decisions that could affect their score. Should they save? Go on a vacation? Invest in stocks? Get insurance? Throughout the game, players will either amass or lose wealth depending on the path they decide to take.      The player has to make smart and practical decisions to gain the most assets, investments, and FinEd coins, and whoever ends with the highest net worth wins the game. Aside from the actual board game, the Foundation said that the app also includes a Financial Wellness Journal, quizzes, and tips for a more immersive learning experience.      With the mobile game format, BPI Foundation hopes to engage senior high school and college students, as well as OFWs and their families, and others who seek to improve their financial literacy. This will help BPI Foundation in guiding ordinary Filipinos towards the proper mindset and behavior when it comes to financial decision-making.      As COVID-19 cases continue to surge and prolonged lockdowns are expected, the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic will continue to be felt into the foreseeable future. Losing money or missing out on opportunities due to uninformed decision-making is the last thing you would want to add to your growing list of worries during this pandemic.      These trying times make it more important to equip ourselves with the necessary skills and knowledge on how to protect and manage our finances. And it’s good to know that there is now a fun way for Filipinos to get it done—to breakthrough and break free from financial anxiety. Note: You may wish to share the foregoing via Facebook, Twitter and/or Linked-In.

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