What it was like managing a Million Pesos

I was 24 years old when I realized that I managed a million pesos. No, it wasn’t my money. It belonged to the United Methodist Youth Fellowship in the Philippines, of which I was the National President from 2006-2008. 

That was a lot of money! My fellow officers and I joked that we could have gone to Jollibee for months and months! 

But then again, it wasn’t our money. 

We received several grants for projects that we wrote grant requests for. So for two years, we held meetings, we planned for events and programs, we wrote materials, we published guide books.

We even produced an album composed of 10 songs composed by young people. One was written by a pillar of Filipino Christian music, but the song was still for the youth of our organization.

I may have handled PhP 250,000 in cash. I withdrew the money from the organization’s bank account in Manila, put it in the deepest pocket of my backpack, and traveled 9 hours by bus to the venue of our conference. It probably helped that I didn’t look “rich” by any stretch. I probably looked like an ordinary, skinny young guy, who doesn’t have much to eat! Ha!

Looking back, a million pesos was a large sum of money for my younger self. The people around me were as passionate about the work we did. And we held each other accountable for how we managed ourselves and the money entrusted to our care.

To manage reporting, I kept careful track of expenses and receipts. I’m not exactly a spreadsheet ninja, but I’m still using the skills I learned from managing that million-peso budget.

I have managed bigger budgets since then. But as scriptures remind us: if we are faithful with the small things, we can be faithful in the bigger things.

People Come and People Go

Last May, we told our son Malcolm that he will transfer to a different school in the coming school year.

He cried.

He said that he will miss KJ, his bestfriend, and his teachers at Hickman Elementary.

We had to move to a new apartment, which is zoned in a different elementary school. It will help us save money and enjoy a bigger space for our growing family.

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Relearning the (Lost) Art of Listening

My elementary teachers often told us that we have two ears and only one mouth so we could listen twice more than we speak. This is an important reminder in the age of social media and incessant online noise.

If Facebook and Twitter posts are any indication, people chime in and post their comments within minutes, if not seconds, of a photo or status update. What’s even worse is that people drop all filters and say whatever they want to say online!

Have we lost the art of listening?

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Limitations are a Blessing

We often believe that if we only had a big amount of money and resources, we can pursue our dreams: start a business or a nonprofit, invest, and achieve what we want in life.

But it doesn’t work that way.

I have seen a lot of college students squander the many resources available to them. One of my housemates during my last year at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, owned a powerful computer and ate better than most of us at the house we rented.

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What’s in my backpack?

I carry a backpack when I go to the office. It’s the same backpack I carry when I travel for work. Here’s what inside my bag.

High Sierra Backpack

To begin with, I have a High Sierra backpack, which I bought at a discount store for about $24. It’s been with me for 3 years now. I like its construction, the number of pockets and compartments. It has been sturdy and durable.

Laptop.

I have a Dell Latitude E7440. It’s an older Windows laptop with Intel Core i5 processor. It was issued by the company I work for. It’s good enough for the work I do.

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Parenting Tips: Lessons from three TED Talks

It’s not easy being a father. I thought I had issues with my dad while growing up. But now that I am a father of two sons, I understand how difficult it could be, and how I could easily make mistakes, too.

Here’s a few lessons about being a dad from a few TED Talks.

Glen Henry: It’s Okay not to know a lot of things about being a dad.

I may not be a stay-at-home dad, but Glen Henry’s talk resonated with me.

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Frequency Works! (Or Slow and Steady will get you there)

Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? The hare may be really fast but it is the tortoise who finished the race.

Gretchen Rubin wrote “As a writer, I work every single day, including weekends, holidays, and vacations. Usually I write for many hours during a day, though sometimes it might be a sting as short as fifteen minutes–and I never skip a day. I’ve found that this kind of frequent work makes it possible to accomplish more, with greater originality‚Ķ”

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Something Unexpected Always Shows Up

Something unexpected always shows up. I’ve been learning this throughout my life.

Google Maps’ estimated time of travel is almost always shorter than the actual travel. If you’re planning an event or a wedding, a storm can derail your bets laid plans. I am so glad that it didn’t rain when my wife and I got married.

I learned the importance of Plans B and Plans Z when I organized an international event in 2014 and a very strong typhoon literally destroyed the venue of our event! Roofs caved in or the wind blew them away. Glass doors shattered. Electricity was cut off. The venue was literally unsafe after the typhoon.

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The Challenge of Minimalism

In March 2015, we let go of about 80% of our possessions. With some misgivings, I gathered my books and sold some, and then gave away a lot more. Our shelves, tables, chairs, and other appliances went to people who responded to the ads I posted on Facebook, Craigslist, or OLX. Even our set of clothes dwindled. Between myself, my wife, and my son, we gave away 4 big boxes full of shirts, pants, and other clothes.

My books are my best possessions and treasures. I had almost all of Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi books, Tolkien’s books, the game of thrones books (which by the way belong to the series called “A Song of Ice and Fire”), a bunch of Filipino and Ilokano books, and nonfiction leadership and business books.

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