Opinion: The middle class OFWs and the cost of higher income

It was the year 2010.

Having been voted by more than 15 M Filipinos, President Noynoy Aquino delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA). His electrifying speech against corruption and the culture of “Wang-wang” or special treatment to VIPs was a hit in local press and the business sector.

Noynoy Aquino

A photo of President Noynoy Aquino. Credited for fixing the fiscal policy, reducing foreign debt, and tightening of spending. During his term, income taxes were unchanged. Good or bad for middle class?

Back then, I was working in one of the largest Universal Banks in the Philippines and was drawing a moderate salary but it was not enough for me to be financially free.

Related: Did you know that as OFWs, you can send remit smarter to your families’ household needs from groceries to medicine?  Register now for free and let BeamAndGo help support your family needs

Like many middle class college degree holder employees, my dream was to own my own house and be financially independent. I asked myself the question,” How long would it take for me to accomplish my noble aspirations? 20 years?”

So in January 2011, I finally boarded the cheapest flight to Singapore after months of deliberation with my family.

I armed myself with the very small stash of savings from the past 4.5 years. That’s it! #Bahalanasibatman ika nga but I was confident with my qualifications. So I bid goodbye to my parents, lola, and friends. It was painful, hard, and dramatic. A month after, I landed my first job to oversee the marketing and fundraising programs of a Singaporean NGO. I drew a salary more than 5 times my take home pay in the Philippines.

There were many things I learned while working overseas from cooking, washing of clothes, moving flats, and even dealing with abusive landlords (that’s a different story). But the most important is sending cash remittances back home and its enormous repercussions if not planned wisely. I could just imagine how much more I’d saved and invested if BeamAndGo was already available with its digital gift certificates on supermarkets, medicine, and other basic needs. If you don’t have an idea how it works, just watch this video below:

From my own personal experience and from the testimonies of dozens of OFWs whom I’ve personally met, many of us choose to work overseas because of better employment opportunities and lower taxes.

I will emphasize this because I want our next President to focus on the immediate welfare of middle class Filipinos. You can be assured, just like the millions of Filipinos who left their families, I will be watching your first State of the Nation Address! All of you promised to reduce taxes.  I will be taking down notes and I will hold you accountable. Tandaan niyo, sinabi ninyong lahat na babawasan niyo ang taxes. We are not endorsing any candidate but what we want is for the President to walk the talk, make the biggest sacrifices, and lead by example.  Don’t we all deserve this?

While OFW remittances has been widely acknowledged as the driver of the Philippine Economy (USD 29.7 Billion in 2015), the high costs of absentee parents, loneliness, and risks to life on both physical and mental are enormous. That subject cannot be brushed aside because their are serious concerns. Just read the story of a domestic helper who took her life a few days ago here.

We invite our fellow OFWs to become a member of the Beamer family. It’s a community for OFWs where we freely share stories and provide advice on a range of topics from saving, budgeting, and money allocation, to healthy nutrition.

Not long ago, my blood pressure went up to 160 / 100 in Singapore, when I gorged on chicken rice almost everyday. That was before I noticed that all of my Singaporean friends were eating vegetables and fish soup. Did you know that the mortality age in the  Philippines is 68.5 years as opposed to Singapore at 84.5 years? Stop the chicken rice,  friends!  If you want to learn practical tips on how to live longer, sign up at BeamAndGo now.


I was in Laoag, Ilocos Norte last Saturday delivering a workshop with Vanessa Cartera, our director of sales, to retired OFWs on the keys to claiming victory in both health and finances. One of the highlights was the subject on 8 dimensions of Wellness. I will discuss more on our findings and also learnings from the participants in my next blog. We will give you tips from Dr. Raymond Escalona, a lifestyle nutrition specialist, on how you can reduce the risk of cancer and live a healthy lifestyle. We thank the Laoag City LGU and its Community Affairs Division for inviting their OFW associations to attend.

But right now, since we only have less than 30 days before we elect a new Chief Executive, let’s  watch the debates attentively and cast our vote according to our conscience, wisdom, and knowledge on what is best for our country. There are more issues from poverty alleviation, crime, drugs, women’s rights, contractualization, and K-12.

We have less than 30 days before we elect a new President. Let’s move away from personality politics and focus on knowing how our presidential candidates will solve our nation’s issues.

I believe it’s time to lower income taxes. There are 1.3 M of us OFWs that can cast a vote and make a difference. We will never forget all the days when we thought about quitting, when we reluctantly left our families, and when we almost lost hope in life. But we can always choose to change the game. We may find the ideal president who can walk the talk.

If you are an OFW and you like what you read, join the Beamer Support Community now. We’re now helping 80,000 Filipinos and you could easily be one of them. Together, let’s cast our votes and be heard by our government.


Ayan. Nagsalita na sila. The Philippine Presidential Debates

We recently had the Presidential Debates with all five candidates present. Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe, former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago were there to present their case. The event was held in Cagayan de Oro City and shown through GMA 7.

BeamAndGo tends to agree with the recent Rappler report saying the event was more about personality. Ganoon naman talaga dito sa Pilipinas. Mahalaga ang personalidad at kahit pa maraming marurunong daw na nagsasabing dapat plataporma ang mas mahalaga, ang mismong pagkatao pa rin ang tinututukan ng mga Pilipino. Kahit ano pa ang tulong na maaaring maibigay halimbawa ng mga tulad ng BeamAndGo, marami lang talaga ang nakasalalay sa mga ihahal natin pagdating ng Mayo.

Hindi naman yata mali ito. It’s really just a matter of being able to balance the two. Una, kung hindi mo mapagkakatiwalaan ang tao, walang mararating ang kung ano pa mang plataporma. Parang lang ‘yang magiging palamuti sa damit. Porma lang.

Kailangan talagang mapagkakatiwalaan ang isang tao kasi sa loob ng anim na taon ng panunungkulan ng isang Pangulo, maraming bagay ang maaaring mangyari. Nariyan na ang mga biglaang trahedya. Nariyan din ang mga OFW katulad ni Albert Go na pumuntang Singapore dahil sa matinding isyu ng income tax at high cost of living sa Metro Manila. Ang kaniyang blog post Lowering Taxes and preventing a balikbayan controvery ay isa lamang sa mga kwento ng milyon-milyong kababayan natin na nagkaroon ng oportunidad sa ibang bansa.

Can this or that candidate react fast enough, effectively enough without pointing fingers?

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 17.03.00

Photo taken from GMA 7 video.

Pero, hindi rin puedeng personalidad lang. Mahalaga ang plataporma. Kung wala itong kwenta, para namang mangmang ang ating Presidente at madaling itulak dito at doon ng kung sinu-sino depende sa ihip ng hangin. Sabi nga ng bansag isang comedy show noong late 80s hanggang early 90s: Ang Pambansang Panggulo.

So how now brown cow?

Dapat balanse. Since the Presidential Debate is still fresh in our minds, let us deal with the personalities first. We’ll deal with the platforms in a later post. (Kalma lang, ha? Gagawin natin iyon. Wag mag-alala.)

Wala tayong kakampihan dito. Babalikan lang natin ang mga sinabi nila mismo noong Presidential Debate sa GMA 7. Hopefully, this will give us a good glimpse on who these people are and what priorities they have so that we can see if their priorities align with ours. We also won’t make comments here whether their claims are valid or not. We will just focus on what they said. It is up to you to determine if you believe something can be done or not given the time frame the candidates themselves give.

VP Jejomar Binay

For VP Binay, the main problem facing the nation is poverty.Binay sloganHe asserts that he was able to help make Makati the way it is now – rich and prosperous. He stresses that he is a decisive and effective leader who is not bogged down by analysis-paralysis (ibig sabihin, hindi siya napaparalisa dala ng kakaisip). He also pointed out that there was underspending in government which led to under-performance. It is because of this underspending that some people have died without having received the necessary medicine.

On the issue of political dynasties, his position is that as long as a person is qualified and is willing to serve, this should not be a hindrance to public office.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte

Mayor Duterte focused on the problems of crime and Duterte Slogancorruption. He promised to clean up the country and rid it of crime and corruption within three to six months. He explained that he will go after criminals and even put them to death as long as these actions are according to the rule of law. He said he would use the military and the police to go after these lawless elements.

He said that corruption was still the problem of the Philippines and that as long as there were incompetent or corrupt officials, things would remain the same.

Being from Mindanao, he also touched on two major issues: The national budget allotment of Mindanao and the Bangsamoro Basic Law. He complained that only 19% of the infrastructure budget was given to the area while 65% went to Metro Manila. He then asked how Mindanao was to develop with such a disparity. He is an advocate of federalism (allowing each region or state to have its own power without having to rely on the power of the central or national government) adding that he’d even offer this to Moro National Liberation Front chief Nur Misuari.

Senator Grace Poe

Senator Poe said her administration would allot 30% of the national budget for Mindanao adding that it was important for jobs to be created in the region. Her plan included the creation of a Mindanao Rail system, cementing around 2000 kms of roads, and the rehabilitation of dams to generate electricity. She expects these projects, especially the one for road creation, to provide temporary jobs but with the long-term benefit of attracting more tourists and investors to the area, which would then create a more steady job market.

Regarding the controversial BBL, she says there should be more transparent discussion of issues and should involve Maguindanaons, Tausugs, Badjao, and other groups like indigenous peoples and Christians.Grace Poe slogan

She approached the issue of nation building from the point of view of being a mother. She admitted being the newbie of the bunch but insisted that she had already seen what was needed by the government. She continued by saying that one does not need a long tenure as an executive to realize that the government’s help in things like transportation was sorely lacking.

She advocates change in agriculture calling for free irrigation and the creation of agri-industrial zones where the Departments of Agriculture and Trade and Industry would work hand-in-hand to promote the products of farmers. Included here is replanting of coconut trees to maximize the yield per hectare and identifying what high-value products should be planted by our farmers so that they reap the maximum benefit for their labor.

Former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas

The former DILG Secretary opened up the whole affair with his “driver” analogy asking what kind of driver would be best for a country. Unsurprisingly, he ended the analogy saying that one with the proper experience and the confidence of his former employer would be best.

Roxas SloganHe touted the achievements of the present administration saying that the economy had improved as evidenced by the numbers of the National Economic Development Authority and that Mindanao has had twice the amount of infrastructure in the last five years as compared to the 12 years prior to that.

He also spoke on the need to help the country’s fishermen by means of granting non-debilitating loans, providing them with fish-finder technology, and setting up post-catch facilities in the areas where the fishermen operate so that fish are sold fresher and profits are bigger.

He did not deny that he, himself, has had a good life but shared that it was such a life that he also wished for all Filipinos, one that was free from hunger and fear and one that allowed a person to freely dream.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago

Senator Santiago was her fiery self though a little less than what most people were used to.

She lamented the fact that though there was so much corruption, hardly anything had been done about it. Regarding all the promises made by her opponents, she addressed this by saying it was so easy to make promises but it was much harder to talk about implementation. She focused on the poverty programs mentioned and asked where the money would come from to get any of this done.Santiago slogan

She called for a bigger budget allocation for education, rural infrastructure, social welfare, and health care for the poor.

She also spoke on the issues of political dynasties and the problem with China. She advocated negotiations with China and other Asian countries adding that both the Americans and Chinese were merely trying to impose their will on the Philippines. She also expressed her opposition to political dynasties while admitting that a much clearer definition of what constituted such should be made.


Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 17.14.41

Photo taken from GMA 7 video.

Okay na?

Elections are not one-shot deals. We need to keep a close watch on these guys who make a lot of promises but may just point fingers at other people when things fail, people are already complaining, and blame is being hurled. Sisihan na kumbaga.

Why is this important? The President of the Philippines can easily determine how good or bad the lives of your loved ones will be for the next SIX years! Just imagine what a lousy President can do to the education of your children. Di ba gusto mo ring makauwi sana at hindi na umalis sa Pilipinas? Kung magaling ang Presidente natin, baka maging totoo iyon. Kung hindi, baka matagal pa ang kalbaryo mo na malayo ka sa asawa’t anak mo.

Isipin mo na lang din: Kaya nga nandito ang BeamAndGo para makatulong sa iyo at sa iyong pamilya. Makapagpapadala ka ng pagkain, gamot, at kung anu-ano pa sa kanila. Hindi ba maganda kung sa gobyerno mismo nararamdaman mong panatag ka parati na maaalagaan mo ang mga mahal mo sa buhay?

Meron pa tayong mga panahon para magpasya. Wag sana nating isarado ang ating isipan. Itong mga debateng ganito ang isa sa mga maaari nating gamitin para kilatisin nang maayos itong mga taong gustong mamuno sa atin.


BeamAndGo friends in Hong Kong Salu-Salo event

Who can you trust? 6 things Filipinos want in our next President

Presidential Elections! One of the most important things in the life of a Filipino. Kailan pa ba tayo maaaring makapili ng mamumuno sa atin? Dito may pagkakataon tayong sabihing “Tama na!” sa isang politiko at itulak naman sa bagong uri ng paglilingkod ang isa pa. Fun times! Kadalasan nga, fiesta pa, di ba?

Paano nga ba tayo pipili ng tamang kandidato? Marami silang ipinagsasabi diyan – ipagpapatuloy ang isinulong at ipinaglaban ng ama, mahirap lang din daw siya, sa diretsong daan daw yung iba, may kamay na bakal naman ang isa, at kung anu-ano pa. Maraming drama at maraming kwentong isinusulong para lang isipin mong naaayon sila sa mga bagay na pinahahalagahan mo.

The latest Philippine Trust Index (the one for 2015) indicates that there has been a very noticeable decline in how much trust the President of the Republic now has. In 2012, it was around 28%. Now, it’s a much lower 15%. Amusingly, trust in the Senate and the Congress is even more saddening with 10% and 8%. Paano naman ang local government? Dito medyo mas maganda. Sa mga sangay ng goberyno, ito ang pinakamataas ngayon ang rating.

Ano ngayon ito sa iyo?

Panahon mag-prioritize! Kailangan nating isipin kung ano nga mas makabubuti para sa atin, sa ating pamilya, at sa ating buong bayan.

Sabi nga ng Philippine Trust Index, ito ang mga nangungunang pinahahalagahan ng mga Pilipino:

  • Ensure national peace and security
  • Help the poor address their basic needs such as housing, food, and education
  • Improve Philippine economy
  • Put corrupt politicians in jail
  • Prepare communities for disasters and calamities
  • Provide better job opportunities for Filipinos

Kita mo na? Tama naman ang pinahahalagahan natin. Gamit itong mga ito, una siguro nating gawin ay salain ang mga politikong nangangako ng kung anu-ano at tignan kung may tumutugon nga ba sa mga nabanggit natin sa itaas. Game? Game!sample_shading_ballot

Itanong mo ang sarili mo ang mga sumusunod:

  • May mga nagawa na ba siya ukol sa binanggit natin sa itaas?
  • May plataporma ba siya para sa peace, security and order?
  • Ano ang masasabi niya sa pagtulong sa mahihirap para matugunan nila ang mga pangangailangan para sa tirahan, pagkain, at pag-aaral?
  • May kakayahan ba siyang ipinakita na sa pangangalaga ng ekonomiya?
  • May lakas ba siya ng loob at kakayahang ipakulong ang mga tiwaling mga politiko kahit kaalyado pa?
  • May programa ba siya para sa tunay na paghahanda sa mga kalamidad?
  • May naipakita na ba siyang kakayahan o may nagawa na ba siyang proyekto para makapagbigay ng trabaho sa mga mamamayan?

Hindi puedeng sikat lang. We’ve seen the governments of the countries we’re in. We’ve seen how they work and how they are able to get concrete change done. Hindi ba natin puedeng ipangarap ito para sa sarili nating bansa?

Maraming Pilipinong nawalan na ng pag-asa sa mga dapat naglilingkod sa atin kaya iniisip nilang sila na lang ang bahala sa buhay nila, sa pamilya nila.

It can’t be like that. We have to do our work, do our part in nation building but we also have to make sure that we elect good people to office. Hindi puedeng yung sikat lang. Hindi puedeng yung anak lang ng kung sinong sikat din. Dapat siya, may nagawa na rin. Siya mismo. Hindi rin puedeng yung namimigay ng t-shirt, kendi, o kaya pera pa.

Part of our trying to make our lives better as OFWs even if our politicians are still trying to get their acts together is making sure our own families get fed and get what they need so that they’re healthy and able to do what they want to do with their lives.

Hindi ka nga politiko pero puede ka pa ring makatulong. Paano? Nandito ang BeamAndGo para siguruhing mas makakatulong ka. Dahil mas makasisiguro kang maayos ang padala mo sa mga mahal mo gamit ang BeamAndGo, panahon na rin na ipakalat mo ang balita sa mga kakilala mo. Share mo lang sa kanila ito: www.beamandgo.com o kaya panuorin niyo lang kung papaano makakatulong ang BeamAndGo sa mga OFWs na katulad niyo.

Kaunti lang itong tulong. At least sigurado ka na ang mga padala nila sa mga kapamilya nila ay makararating nang maayos at hindi maaaring lustayin sa maling paraan.

Please vote in the 2016 elections

The Right to Suffrage or Suffer


After living in Singapore for over 12 years and witnessing 3 general elections here, I have come to understand the power of every person’s vote.

When I first moved to Singapore, I thought the city-state was perfect: highly efficient systems, clean sidewalks, orderly and well-mannered people. Everything worked. This was the by-product of a motivated, disciplined and focused government.

The first Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, once famously said:

“We (Singapore) would not have made the economic progress if we (the government) had not intervened on very personal matters. Who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit or where you spit.”

However, after over 40 years of hyper growth under a domineering government, Singaporeans wanted a change: they wanted more input into the policies that govern the country and their own lives. During the 2011 election, they spoke with their vote: the People’s Action Party (PAP), the ruling party since the country’s independence in 1965, lost seats in Parliament.

While the PAP still owned the majority of the Parliamentary seats, they experienced the lowest margin of victory in 46 years. This was their wake-up call.

After the 2011 election, the PAP went to work: they held town halls with business leaders, engaged with the citizens on social media, consulted grass roots organizations, and created forums to listen to Singaporeans.

Change happened. New policies were implemented. And in the recent 2015 General Elections, the PAP won nearly 70 per cent of the popular vote, the highest percentage of votes since 2001. It was a clear mandate from the people that they were doing a good job.

The people were heard and the government reacted positively.

Commision of Elections RP

BeamAndGo encourages Filipinos around the world to register and exercise their right to suffrage in the 2016 Presidential Elections.

Now in 9 months, the Philippine presidential election will take place. If you are happy with what’s happening in the country, vote. If you are unhappy, vote. If you are unsure, vote. Even if you are OFW and not living the Philippines, vote.

Here’s why …

If you vote on May 9, 2016, you will be forcing the government to listen to you. What you write in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media channels will mean something; the leaders will need to pay attention.

Your vote is a politician’s currency. If you don’t vote, then whatever ideas or complaints or issues you have are meaningless to a politician. You won’t matter to them.

Plus voting is not a hard thing to do. It only takes two steps:

Step 1. Register to vote. You only have until October 31, 2015, to register as a voter or validate your biometrics data for the 2016 presidential, national, and local elections. For more information, go to http://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/98510-voter-registration-primer-2016-elections

Step 2. On May 9, 2016, go to an election polling station and cast your vote for whom you think will do the best job leading the Philippines.

Remember: your vote is critical in making the Philippines the best that it can be.

Lowering taxes and preventing another Balikbayan Box controversy

(Marketing Director, BeamAndGo, Albert Christian Go)

It was in August when the Bureau of Customs (BOC) announced that it would start to impose taxes and inspect balikbayan boxes.

In less than a day, blood was boiling amongst OFWs demanding the government to scrap the plan or they would stop monthly cash remittances to their families.

Just search for the hashtag #notoBOCbalikbayantax. You will feel the pulse of angry Filipinos blurting out profane laden language (for good measure).

The controversy erupted like wildfire, deadlier than the haze in Singapore. Within weeks, the government had no other recourse but to strike down the plan to randomly inspect balikbayan boxes upon direct orders from President Benigno Aquino III.

Bottom line: Your voices were heard and the government responded (albeit miraculously).

I was once an OFW. I lived in Singapore for over 4 years because at that time, I felt that was my only way to escape the poorly thought out policies of the government. Just imagine. Taxes are at an astounding 32% compared to Singapore that gives tax relief to our first $30,000. I often asked myself, “Where can I earn the money to buy my own house, get married, or support my parents?”

Keep pushing: Lower Income tax pushed (Inquirer.net headline on October 21)

Keep pushing! Lower Income tax pushed (Inquirer.net headline on October 21)

In January 2011, I took the leap of faith and got employed at a non-profit organization that provides mentoring for children and youth. If I factor in the taxes, my salary in Singapore was 6 times more than what I would get in the Philippines.  It didn’t help that I often read news of bogus NGOs and senators pocketing hundreds of millions. DAMN! This is hopeless, I said.

If I were to have it my way, I wouldn’t leave my country! Not by a long shot. I missed my mom, dad, and everyone who was there to provide support. Although my job was very noble (a non-profit organization for children and youth), I had to hustle at work and wrestle with my emotions every night. The distance could break your heart (literally) in many aspects, believe me. I had to cling to my goals and motivations and of course my faith in the Almighty.

But I had no choice. It became a necessity. If you think we left because we simply want to travel and explore the world, it’s safe to say you’re grossly mistaken. We’re not that shallow.

Like millions of Filipinos, we packed up simply because we saw a fair and equal employment opportunity in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and other countries. To be honest, every country seemed better.

BeamAndGo with officers of Mindanao Federation

BeamAndGo with officers of Mindanao Federation

For many OFWs, it seemed as if our talents are better appreciated overseas whether we are occupying a skilled profession or not.

Myrna Padilla, whom I recently met in Davao, spoke at the Mindanao Federation in Hong Kong last October 17. Her life is an inspiration to many OFWs. Having worked in Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong for 24 years, she is now the Founder and President of OFW Watch and Mynd Consulting.


A Mindanao Federation member receives a LoadAndGo Gift Certificate from BeamAndGo

We also had the absolute pleasure of meeting Cindy Pesidas Encabo (Chairperson) and Aura Ablin (Treasurer), who spent more than decade in Hong Kong. Today, Mindanao Federation exists because it provides much needed support for Minadanaoans.

At that event, I also spoke about BeamAndGo and how we contribute to the financial freedom of Filipinos through our digital gift certificates. If you are an OFW, I’ll personally invite you to watch this short video.

Together with Raizza Encinas we spent hours interacting with dozens of Mindanaoans. Believe us, they want to return to the Philippines. One of them even angrily told me, “We are sick and tired of politicians promising to install generators, provide jobs, and end war.”  It’s almost as if they have all given up.

Having said so, 2016 will be the most important year for Filipinos. If you want your voices to be heard, at the very least, you should vote for national candidates who would enact genuine change – lower taxes, infrastructure, and promote quality education.

If we vote for the right candidates, we would never have to endure another BOC scandal. It’s election season and again we are reading news of lawmakers promising to reduce taxes. Click here for the Inquirer story titled “Lower income tax pushed.” My only piece of advice, if any lawmaker reads this (I wish!), is to follow through your talk in media. After you get re elected, just do it!

As a Filipino, let’s give it a shot! Let’s vote. Maybe…just maybe..we could all return home one day!