By: Lilibeth Basbas
Even before my husband Loreto and I got married, he was already working in Saudi Arabia in 1983 up until 2020, while I am working at Yarn Ventures Resources Inc. (YVRI) VONNEL from 1978 until 2000. We got married on December 23, 1989, and after receiving the sacrament of matrimony, he went back to Saudi Arabia to work. In the year 1990, I gave birth to my eldest son Bryan and during this time, we didn’t own a house nor a lot. We are staying in my husband’s sister’s vacant house since they were occupying their other house, hence my husband asked his sister a favor to let us use the vacant house for a meantime.
My husband considered the following things before we bought a lot where we could build our house. First, my husband considered the location: is the place close to our relatives, and when typhoon season comes, is there a flood? In 1995, our neighbor from where we are currently staying offered his lot to us for Php 540,000.00, with a three times payment system within 6 months. Me and my husband decided to buy a lot, despite the fact that our savings were not enough. What my husband did was ask his co-workers abroad to lend him some money, which his co-workers understand. By the year 1997, we started to slowly build the house, and during this time, I was pregnant with my second child, L.A.. We started to build the foundation first, then slowly installed the roof, and by 1998, I gave birth. Since our house was not yet done, we are still staying at my husband’s sister’s house. The house became completely done by 2000, when I gave birth also to my youngest son Lor Jay. During this time, I also decided to retire from my work, not just because I just turned forty that time, but also because of our growing family. In order to help my husband sustain our family financially, I decided to use my retirement payment to buy a Jeepney to support us, at the same time build a small boarding house in our open back area for extra income.
But I thought one jeepney is enough. I still remember, I always pawn my wedding ring and other jewelry at pawn shops in order to attain our sustainable standard of living, pay our bills, and pay the tuition fees. Despite the fact that we are not even living the luxurious life, our savings still felt short. Therefore, I decided to ask my husband if we can add another jeepney as an investment in order for us to be financially stable. My husband said I can use his remittances for things I think is beneficial for our family, hence I decided to use it wisely, together with my saved money. I bought another jeepney which helped our family to be financially stable that time. But as time goes by, our essential needs also start to grow, which makes us buy another jeepney to help us attain our financial needs. During this time, we have enough money to at least invest on bigger things that we think are beneficial to our family. Before my youngest son turned 7, my husband’s sister, who let us use her house, asked us if we were interested in buying the house, as they were looking for money to improve their current house. I told my husband that we can buy the house and lot, as we already have enough money, besides, we also need a space where we can park our jeepneys, as it is also a requirement for LTFRB.
I am a visionary person. I told my husband that the house in the lot area can be turned into an apartment. Therefore, from a one bungalow house, it became a two unit apartment with a small amount of money used. Also during this time, we decided to add another jeepney, hence we end up having four. Hence, we have four traditional jeepneys and 3 unit apartments, since the boarding house from our open back area was also transitioned into an apartment.
The jeepneys and the apartments really help our family to be financially stable. The tuition my children used was from my husband’s remittances while our daily expenses like food, bills, and the children’s allowance came from the jeepneys’ boundaries and rental payments. Despite we can say that we are starting to earn enough to at least do our “wants,” I always say to my children and to myself that we should always be reminded that my husband, your father was abroad, hence we should at least make sure that we are only doing things that we think is essential or not beyond the budget. I never wanted our family to be luxurious, always go on the trend, or be perceived as rich. I know how hard it is to work abroad and live far away from your family.
Bryan graduated B.S. Mechanical Engineering in the year 2013, and passed the board exam, and during 2017, my daughter L.A. graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in A.B. Legal Management, and was able to receive a scholarship grant for Law School. But during this time, my husband is nearing retirement. Lor Jay and L.A. were worried about our future financial situation as L.A. were still in Law School at that time, and currently having a hard time studying, resulting in her to lose the scholarship grant, while Lor Jay was preparing to enter college. I still remember, Lor Jay during this time was very eager to pass the UPCAT as he wanted to enter UP in order to have a free tuition fee to the moment he even cried in front of us, as he wanted to help our family by studying for free. But unfortunately, he failed, and L.A. already lost her scholarship. In 2019, my husband announced that he will retire in 2021. I may say that we still have enough savings to sustain our family when he retires.
In 2020, bad news was shared to us. My husband was rushed to the hospital in Saudi Arabia, as he had a heart attack. He was able to recover however we decided to let him retire early in order for him to fully recover. L.A. was 4th year Law School this time, while Lor Jay was in his second year. Thankfully, I saved more than enough and managed my husband’s remittances responsibly as during this time there was also the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the universe keeps challenging us. In the year 2021, I was rushed to the hospital due to COVID-19 virus, and stayed in the ICU for 5 days. I was with Lor Jay in the hospital to assist me inside, while Bryan was doing the responsibilities outside, like paying the bills, buying the needed medicines and essential needs, and others. I still remember we paid a five six hospital bill which is a huge loss for our savings.
But I trust the Lord’s process towards our life. I know he was with me all the time during the time I was saving money, managing our finances, and I am confident that he was still with us during our financial recovery. I never lose my faith in him.
In the year 2022, I can say this is the year of the Lord. L.A., graduated Law School, despite not being able to graduate with Latin honors, still made it to the top 10 of College of Civil Law Batch 2021 of her school, and recently passed the bar, and now working in a Law Firm. My eldest Bryan, balances working in a company and managing his business with his own family. My youngest, Lor Jay, is a promising person who believes he will serve the community by the time he graduates. Also, we are now upgrading our apartment from 2 units, into a 2 storey 6 units apartment with a store which we can use. My husband and I fully recovered from the illnesses we experienced.
To all the families who have an OFW member, here are some tips based from my experience I can share with you:
- Prioritize the basic and essential needs. Always remember that an OFW member was working abroad to ensure your family’s sustainable standard of living.
- Never be intimidated by the trends shared by others to you and your family. I still remember, all of them were sharing great photos from different places which made our family feel we are left behind. My husband always jokes to me that we can do better than that and even encourages us to do it but I always say that there is a perfect time for that. Our first out of the country was Thailand and that was the time when Lor Jay and I were invited by his sister to join them and he approved it. But our first independent family out of the country experience was in Hong Kong and it was 2017 when L.A. graduated Legal Management and Lor Jay had his Moving Up. I treated them as they L.A. graduated Magna Cum Laude and Lor Jay moved up with Honors and other citations. That is the only time we go beyond our budget for vacation, as we only have vacations within and nearby our provinces.
- Invest once you are able to save. Make your OFW family member’s remittances fruitful by investing in profitable businesses like sari-sari stores, cafeteria, apartments, and others. Remember, investing for the future as an OFW family member is not permanent abroad. If you were able to save more than enough from the investment, therefore the OFW family member can retire early and just manage the investment here in the Philippines.
- Spend the remittances wisley. I think one of my personality traits was being a thrifty and matipid person. Once I know something is expensive or not even necessary to be bought, despite others will say it is something you will love, I always refuse. As I always consider my family and their future.
- Be Healthy. Remember, Health is Wealth. It is expensive to be hospitalized these days. But also, prevention is better than cure, have an annual check-up, in order to ensure that all possible health problems will be cured immediately to avoid complications that will result in higher expenses.
- Always think about the future, by balancing your present. Remember that retirement is necessary in order for your body to relax and have a rest from the long time of working. If you were able to save more than enough, there’s a higher chance that you will live financially stable despite not working, or even bothering others for support as your family can live independently.