Filipino culture abhors talking about money or money problems. There is utility in talking openly about money, or the problems that come with it, or without it. By shutting up or talking in hushed tones for fear of being shamed, we miss out on learning from the triumphs or mistakes of others.
In line with this, the Pinoy Money Confessions series shall be stories of people who fearlessly (while anonymous) share their money confessions – whether triumphant or otherwise. We welcome your confessions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As told to 20 something lawyer
Debt is a lifeline that allowed me to finance my stay in Cebu for several months, while waiting to enter government service as an armed personnel. I will not bother specifying the law enforcement agency I belong to.
I hail from a small town in Negros, which is an overnight ship ride away from Cebu City. Our family is of modest means. My parents earn their living by farming. I am still in my twenties, dating several girls but officially single.
How my debt addiction started
The long process of applying to a competitive government position involves trainings and screening. I had to stay in Cebu City for these purposes. I rented a mere bedspace – which is literally, a space on a double bunk bed.
Naturally, I needed money to comply with several documentary requirements, have a pre-employment medical checkup, and to pay for food and transportation. I felt fortunate at that time to have access to several loan institutions (many of them aggressively try to lend us money). I easily obtained a salary loan, which in hindsight I realize is such a predatory loan.
During this time I was already employed with the government.
The salary loan
Salary loans are loans where no collateral is required. The payments for the loan are just automatically deducted from my salary. The loan institutions affiliated with my employer had obtained a right to have such payments automatically deducted from my salary, such that these never even enter my payroll account. I had no idea, nor did I care how high the interest rate was. All I cared was that these salary loans helped me in my time of need.
I cannot overemphasize how aggressive these loan institutions were at trying to obtain our business. They showed up at trainings, where many of us newly-minted armed personnel were. They enticed us with quick loans. These loan institutions don’t require any documents, unlike banks. They only asked how much my current take home pay is. They give you a maximum limit for you to borrow and then they drop the cash. It was that easy. I started to become hooked.
Wow, I can borrow so much money!
I was pleasantly surprised when the loan institution told me that I could borrow as much as PhP 300,000.00 (USD 6,382.00) free and easy. So I indulged.
What I used the money for
I used the money that I borrowed in the following ways: (a) pay my family’s debt in Negros; (b) pay the debt I accumulated before I became employed; (c) buy a brand new motorcycle; and (d) regularly send money to my family in Negros.
I had younger siblings and I was paying for their tuition fees in school.
My debt caught up with me
Before I knew it, my salary deductions started to add up. After my debt payments were AUTOMATICALLY deducted from the salary that enters my payroll account, I was left with only PhP 5,000.00 (USD 106.00) per month, or PhP 2,500 (USD 53.00) every two weeks!
Clearly, this is not a living wage anymore. In order to survive, I was constrained to resort to other sources of income. Sadly, I sold my soul. I accepted bribes from gambling lords to protect those in that business from being caught. I accepted kickbacks from drug raids (kept the cash that was left behind after the said drug raid), among other things. I lost my integrity.
Three years later, the cycle continues
Finally, after three years, my debts were fully paid. I wish I could give you a happy ending and say I learned something. I haven’t.
I tried to keep my resolve to stop getting salary loans. However, after typhoon Ondoy, our family home in Negros was destroyed. I had no choice but to obtain a loan to have our home fixed.
I am still single and probably won’t be able to afford to get married anytime soon. I don’t know if I will resort to extra legal means again in order to survive. I might get caught.
I am unfortunately, chained to my debt, right now.