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‘Do I have a chance of getting rich?’

story of money

I got into the taxicab feeling stressed, out of breath, and worried. The to-do list in my mind felt heavier than the bags of school supplies and groceries I was carrying. It was a blah and tiring kind of day.

Then the cabdriver, let’s call him Mang Tonyo, spoke and my day went from blah to amazing.

Ma’am, meron po kayong mga lumang libro pang high school? (Ma’am, do you have old books for high school students?)” his voice was pleasant enough, but I stiffened, thinking he was going to sell me something.

In Filipino, “po” is an expression of respect, the way “usted” is in Spanish.

Wala eh, sorry (No, sorry.),” I said, determined not to give additional information that would make him continue the conversation.

Nagtatanong po kasi ako sa mga pasahero, baka sakali pwede kong mabili ng mura. (You see, I ask my passengers, just in case I can buy secondhand books cheaper),” Mang Tonyo continued. Hmm. My personal finance antenna started beeping.

Mang Tonyo reached for a battered list of books tucked into the car visor. Although Recto (that’s a known for secondhand books) was cheap, this way was even cheaper, he said. In fact, one passenger had already given him an English textbook, refusing payment.

By then, I felt like giving Mang Tonyo any textbook I have in the house, unfortunately, my eldest daughter is in high school herself. From our conversation, I learned that Mang Tonyo’s two daughters are disciplined students: the eldest a scholar in a local college and who graduated salutatorian in high school while the second one is also top in her class, and the school shoulders half her tuition.

At one point in our conversation, I commented that education nowadays has become too expensive. “Buti pa nga po kayo, nakabili na ng notebook at mga gamit. (At least, you already bought notebooks and school things),” he said, as he glanced at my packages.

I felt like the ultimate social klutz. Did my voice sound like I was whining, I wondered. What an insensitive comment.

As I thought about Mang Tonyo, I realized that a common question out there is this: Do I have a chance of getting rich?

With our country being a third world country, social services at a horrendous state, the economy in a constant state of arrested development, and financial literacy very poor, does everybody have an equal chance at aiming for wealth?

I believe Mang Tonyo——and each Filipino-—has a chance. True wealth starts with the word “can.” If there is one thing I have learned as a financial journalist of more than a decade, there are money stories out there from ordinary people (not the Ayalas or Gokongweis or Sys) that show it is possible to dream, work hard, and benefit from good money management.

This blog is all about those money stories. I will share my personal money stories, as well as the stories of those I interview in the course of my work. For you, I will break down what to do and what not to do, so that all of us can break through our personal financial barriers, and reach our dreams. Some of you may have read my previous work at’s MoneySmarts. MoneyStories is now my writings’ new home.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I wish I could have a chance to greet Mang Tonyo a happy Father’s Day. I am confident that he teaches his daughters things about money they will greatly need in life, just by his example.

For you Mang Tonyo:

Keep thinking you can.
Keep working hard.
Develop your simple creativity.

And that goes for all of us.

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33 Responses

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  1. rexwal says

    Personally I don’t understand why there are few people who are able to have a successful career. There are a vast degree of options that require very little money (just time and effort) to pursue. For example:

    The typical PMP will earn around PHP 80,000 per month in the Philippines and a 6 figure salary in the USA, the exam costs around 15,000 to take and the book will cost you 2000.

    A Microsoft certified database specialist can earn around 40,000 a month, the exam costs a mere 2,000 to take, the book sets you back around 2,500

    I think most people don’t get rich due to a lack of a good plan. I see most people relying on their jobs/HR department to gain personal growth rather than doing it as a lifestyle – also alot of people blaming the government, education system or what not.

    Books are cheap, just invest your time wisely.. heck most of those books can even be downloaded for free so I just hope some people read this post, and stop reading entrepeneurship magazine (which will get you nowhere), and make a half decent plan!

  2. gary labis says

    Investing should be part of school curriculums to teach the basics of money .
    If kids can start at an early age, then it will be second nature to them . many people in their lifetimes make good money in their prime , if saving and investing is integral to their philosophy (not as an afterthought) then there’s a decent chance to be live comfortably.wishing and hoping does not count. to quote from a famous investor, “predicting rain does not count, building the ark does” .
    A fancy degree is not required, what is needed is character and right mindest. If a cab driver makes an offer to purchase second hand books to , he is on right track.




  3. salve says

    Hi Jet,

    Thank you for your very kind words. Haven’t been able to update MoneyStories as often as I want because of pressing things that bring in money (haha). But your comment has made me realize this really should be a priority too as it helps people. Sige, will write also about social entrepreneurship. That’s also another inspiring thing that I want to get into. Let me know more about what you’re doing ha?

  4. Jet Pinili says

    Hi Salve,

    I always watch Shoptalk on ANC and I really enjoyed it when you’re on it.
    I learn a lot from your common tips on how to save and take care of personal finance.
    I’m into social entrepreneurship too here in Davao and I hope you have articles regarding social entrepreneurship so I can be at the right track.

  5. Marlu says

    Hi Salve,
    Mang Tonyo is commendable for being hardworking, resourceful, courageous, seeing opportunities and having good communication skill. He makes the best of what he can and earns a living in a decent way.
    You are also quick to see “a slice of life” that can demonstrate some financial principles. You can always start from something small. There is no substitute to hard work in growing financially. He is also working smart.
    I also commend your being observant and a good writer.
    Keep it up.
    I enjoy your stories.

  6. Peter says

    Salve, so you have a new blog na pala, di ka man lang nagsasabi.

    Looking forward to hearing…err…reading from you.


  7. qwerty says

    wow, you really are back online! sorry for not contributing anything of substance (yet.) just can’t resist the urge to leave something here in my disbelief.

    and just like before, the typical-everyday-snapshot served in financial bites makes for a worthwhile read.

    keep doing what you do. to say you’re helping people this way would be an understatement really.

  8. Tyrone @ Millionaire Acts says

    I like the last part Salve. We should always be positive in the things that we do. That positive vibes would drive us to do actions that would bring us to to opportunities and act accordingly to achieve our dreams and goals.

  9. Sweetest N says

    Hi Salve,
    I like your story about Mang Tonyo. Indeed being wise about money and finance is not found just among the highly educated. Many of those we consider wealthy were once cash-poor (have-nots) people – willing to work hard, and unafraid to speak their minds to those who “have” ! We all have to be like Mang Tonyo- speaking our minds, believing that there will be people who will listen, and some will buy our ideas. To be rich, like Mang Tonyo, we must being willing to try !
    Sweetest N

  10. hachiko says

    hi salve. hachiko is here! ready to give you more walang kwentang comments hehehe. so where’s best friend oda? :)

    anyway welcome back! aba, moneystories vs moneysmarts. exciting ito. sino kaya magwawagi? hehehe :)

  11. salve says

    Femaad, thanks dear. How are you doing? Share naman your recent PF experiences :). Is the crisis still greatly affecting people in your place?

  12. salve says

    Mommy! thank you for being so supportive of your baby daughter :). How are the apos in cold Canada?

  13. salve says

    Hi Raffy! I love Randell’s website and visited yours too! Very interesting.

    I so agree with you on numbers one and two. Two years ago for MoneySmarts, I started this project to readers of I absolutely didn’t know personally and linked them up with very good financial planners so that they could work together for a year for free. I learned eventually that the timing was just what was needed to turn around several lives. Mine was enriched tremendously too!

    Will be reading more of your writings Raffy. :-)

  14. salve says

    Thanks Tsa :)

  15. salve says

    Ate Taya! Couldn’t say a thing, I was so embarrassed with myself. :(

  16. boboy says

    yun oh. galeng mo be! :)

  17. Marciana Williams says

    Congrats my daughter , I am proud of your blog , and i just want to tell you , I am soo happy , you will influence a lot of people to improve their lives about financial problems if they are willing to apply the priciples being discussed . We need a lot of knowledge about money stories we can use in our daily lives . I am still learning from you and other people . I am blest to have you as my daughter .

  18. femaad says

    hi, salve! great to see you blogging again. will surely bookmark this!

  19. Raffy Pekson II says

    Hi Salve.

    I landed on your website because of Randell (just giving credit to Randell.) Anyway, there are 2 things I’d like to add to your article and share to your readers:

    (1) “Rich” can also mean “gaining through non-monetary means.” Rich in recognition, reputation, accomplishments and attainment, to name a few, can lead to financial rewards, too. A stroke of free advise to someone can someday rebound back to a new project by the same person or within two to three degrees.

    (2) If one wants financial rewards in the quickest way possible, ergo “Do I have a chance of getting rich,” I’d suggest this mission statement that I’ve always used in life:

    To make it very easy to (in this case, Myself):
    – Very easy to start
    – Very easy to stay
    – Very easy to earn (or gain)

    Literally done, chances are getting rich may slowly or quickly happen — and you have fun, too.


  20. Tsa says

    Congrats Salve! Looking forward again to your stories. :-)

  21. Taya says

    Just wondering what happened next after he said, “Buti pa nga po kayo, nakabili na ng notebook at mga gamit.”

  22. salve says

    Ei Jem! Ano na pinagkakaabalahan mo?

  23. salve says

    Hi Drick! Saw your wealth warrior blog. Cool! Will link to you too. Do you do seminars now?

  24. salve says

    Ei En! Kamusta ang dyosa ng kagandahan? :)

  25. jem says

    Congrats Salve! :) You’re back where you belong :)

  26. Kendrick says

    Great to read your posts again, Salve! I’m bookmarking and linking this!

  27. salve says

    Joe!!! Thanks for the welcome comment. May i also resurrect our janitor friend who can afford to splurge once a year in ways 50% of Filipinos working in Makati can’t? :-)

  28. En says

    yay you’re back! congrats on your new home :)

  29. Joe Ferreria says

    welcome back Salve. More Mang Tonyo stories we can learn from please!!!

  30. salve says

    hey karen! It’s taken some time, but yes, finally I have my own blog. Thanks for taking on the moneysmart challenge :)

  31. salve says

    hi number one fan, i love your cross-eyed avatar :)

  32. Karen says

    Salve!!! You’re back online :) Saw the link on ShopTalk. :)

  33. #1 fan says

    yay! my “favoritest” blogger is back 😉

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