Funding your COL account

Paid using Metrobank online

Here goes my COL application update! A week after I mailed my application packet, I received a confirmation email from COL Financial which included my account number and a guide on how to fund my account.

You can pay using online banking or the usual over-the-counter bank deposit. Since I'm not in Manila, I used my Metrobank online account. I took a screenshot of the transaction receipt and emailed it to a COL representative. The day after, I received my log-in details. Be sure to change the password as soon as possible for security measures.

You may visit this page for a more detailed information.

Opening an account even if you're not in Manila is extremely easy. COL representatives are efficient and respond to emails. I can now open my portfolio and start buying shares when the Philippine market opens after the New Year. Crossing my fingers that investing will be a good way to start the year. A happy and blessed 2014!

Merry Christmas!

It's the second consecutive year that I celebrated Christmas here in Taipei, away from my loved ones. Although I really miss my family, my second family- church family- made sure that we celebrate Christmas the Filipino way. We had a very solemn Christmas Eve Mass and ended the night with a small salo-salo. It's the time of the year when our church's international community gather as one and help each other to prepare for the festivities, from foods, singing Christmas carols to putting up Christmas decors. 

I was moved to tears during Mass. I was reflecting on the past 12 months and all the joy and struggles that came my way. I kept on thanking Jesus, the little Baby in a manger, and prayed before Him that I may become like Him- the true example of humility.  I'm always amazed at the irony of Jesus Christ being born in a stable, and yet He is our King. 

Merry Christmas and let us always try our best to be Christ-like in words and deeds. Love, peace and joy to you all!

Now time to unwind after all the merrymaking, for next week will be another round of binge eating. 

Taipei Series: Simbang Gabi

Taking a break from work. I have gazillion things to finish but in the spirit of Christmas, I'd like to pause for a while and remember the reason for the season.

Tonight will be the fourth night of simbang gabi. The nights are getting colder, with rain showers for several days now here in Taipei, but my friends and I all promised to try our best to be there despite the rough weather.

It's the first time that I'm taking part in this Filipino Christmas tradition, and doing it abroad gives me an inspiration and strong will to complete the nine masses. This short feature article I wrote below about our nine morning masses appeared at The China Post last year. I'm re-posting it because what Fr. Nilo said during the interview- about Filipinos being faithful and resilient- remains true and relevant after what the country has been through this year.

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- There are no colorful lanterns lining the streets. No little children going from house to house clutching improvised musical instruments of cans and bottle caps and joyfully singing Christmas carols. Not even boxes of honey-glazed hams and bright red queso de bola. This is Christmas in Taiwan for every Filipino. Although lacking in spirit, homegrown traditions, like the Nine Mornings, play a big part in the Filipino community during this most wonderful time of the year.

Spanish evangelizers brought the Nine Mornings ritual to the Philippines in the early 1500s. The tradition consists of nine daily Novena Masses from Dec. 16 till 24, marking the beginning of the Christmas season for the predominantly Catholic nation. The nine days of Masses resonate with the story of Christmas — the Nativity of Jesus — and prepare people for a meaningful celebration.

Because these Masses are held at the break of dawn, when roosters begin to crow, they are called Misa de Gallo — a Spanish term which literally means rooster's Mass. In the old days, farmers and fishermen rose at dawn to hear Mass before starting the day's work. Today, the tradition has evolved to accommodate more people in church. Filipinos now celebrate this religious event at night; hence the practice becoming popularly known in the Filipino language as Simbang Gabi, or simply, Evening Mass.

The ritual has spread from the Philippines to every corner of the world where Filipinos are present. Fr. Nilo Mantilla, parish priest of St. Christopher's Church, the Catholic Church with the biggest Filipino community in Taipei, shares: “The Nine Mornings are a tradition from Spain, but when it reached the Philippine soil, we cultivated it, added local flavor, and exported it to other countries with the Filipino touch to cater to migrant worker communities.”

In Taipei for example, Filipinos treasure the nine days of Masses, as it provides them comfort from the pangs of nostalgia. For some who cannot make it back home to be with their families, they look forward to going to church on this special occasion. Mantilla explained that Eucharistic celebrations bring overseas Filipinos a sense of home, referring to the social dimension of the tradition. After every Mass, there's a salo-salo, a simple feast prepared for churchgoers so they can spend time together.

This is reminiscent of the usual practice after Mass in the Philippines, with people rushing to food stalls outside churches for seasonal delicacies like puto bumbong (purple-colored glutinous rice cakes topped with shaved coconut) and bibingka (rice cakes smothered with butter and muscovado sugar), which all go well with a mug of hot, chocolatey tsokolate.

Apart from the ritual and its festivities, there is one more reason the Nine Mornings has become more than just a tradition for Filipinos. The faithful say a reward from heaven is given to those who have completed all nine Masses, entitling them to one special wish for the coming year.

Mantilla says Mass-goers have a feeling that their wish will be granted, and that this stems from their faith. To this day, Filipinos still hold on to the centuries-old promise of a wish coming true after giving themselves to God for nine mornings, a clear indication of the depth of their faith.

“Filipinos can still smile amidst all the struggles because we are faithful and resilient. And Christmas is a time for us to be happy because of God, our Savior,” Mantilla concluded.

May this beautiful tradition of Nine Mornings fill our hearts with hope, faith and love as we celebrate the birth of Christ, even without lanterns, Christmas carols or hams. Maligayang Pasko po!

Simbang Gabi (Evening Mass) will be held at St. Christpoher's Church, in Zhongshan North Road Sec. 3, at 8 p.m. from Dec.15 to 23. Christmas Eve Mass will be celebrated at 9 p.m.

Christmas Eve Mass at Holy Family Church in Xinsheng South Road Sec. 2 will be from 10 p.m. Christmas Day Mass will be at 9:30 a.m.

Financial Fitness

I recently asked a good friend of mine what he does with the money that he earns- that's after setting aside money for daily allowance, rent (if you live far from home this amount takes quite a huge chunk from your salary), electricity, phone bill yada yada. He said he invests in the stock market. Ahhhhh i thought to myself, you are one of those people who are into those things.

He then went on and explained why he chose the stock market. He cited time deposits and dormant savings accounts. He did most of the talking, or typing rather because we were chatting online. I told him I'm guilty that I put everything into my savings accounts, and the money just stays there.

And so I've read about inflation and how the money in my account can lose its value. This friend sent me some materials to read, which I did. You see, I'm not the type who loves to take risks (well living abroad is the biggest risk I've taken so far and I want no more). So when I've learned that you can lose money with the up and down trend of the market, I figured maybe investing is not for me.

Then I had this talk with my dihia, my brother who is so into all investment-related matters. He encouraged me to just try and take a baby step towards investing. He sent me a 50-page ebook in pdf format that I stared at for a good 3 minutes. He told me he likes reading those materials compared to novels and other stuff that I read. (He said he *tried* reading Dante's Inferno on his iPad and didn't bother opening the ebook again after chapter 1.)

I spent some time to read the material he gave me which can be downloaded at this website. I took note of the things that sounded alien to me and did a quick research. After a short FB discussion with my brother and my friend, I have finally decided to sign up for COL Easy Investment Program (COL EIP), which uses the peso-cost averaging method.

I printed and filled-out an application form, but since I'm based in Taipei and will have to send the application packet via courier, I sent a scanned copy to COL and asked them to check if I missed out on anything. They replied after one or two days and gave their feedback. Now I'm ready to mail my application and start my journey to financial fitness. I'm excited to start investing but I hope this excitement wont die down.

To know if investing is for you, try reading the ebook and visit the COL website.

Photo borrowed from

Trip to Tokyo

Travel opportunity is among one of the many reasons why I said yes to my current job. Last week, I was in Tokyo to assist in the training program that our organization and partner Japanese institutions organized for Asian bankers.

After several months of coordination, from sending out notices, to processing invitation letters, meal planning and writing evaluation reports, we are finally done. All the preparation involved was just so tedious and at times frustrating, but after seeing how the delegates were satisfied with how our event went, I can say that all efforts from both sides paid off.

Our training program took place on December 2-3. We arrived Tokyo on December 1 and left December 4, giving me quite an ample time to visit some places and do some shopping (which our previous program and conferences did not allow me to do).

I met up with my classmate from NCCU Mandarin Learning Center, Ryota. He fetched me at the hotel and brought me to a lot of places, took me to a really good-I'm-at-a-loss-for-words sushi place near Ginza, and then some udon in Shibuya. Tokyo subway is as convenient as Taipei, although older and can use some renovation.

My mom also asked me to meet Ate Annette, who is working in Tokyo and the kababata of my cousin, Ate Juvy. I was free after our morning session on December 3, so while waiting for Ate Annette, I took my own sweet time in Ginza and located the flagship stores of Uniqlo and Muji. They were humongous. Uniqlo has 12 floors, while Muji has 3- but each floor is as spacious as a warehouse.

Japan will really make your wallets empty, until the very last minute that you're in their territory. I still managed to squeeze in a quick trip to Matsuya Ginza after checking out from the hotel, just to buy  this famous chocolate-coated biscuit. Went back to the hotel and waited for the airport bus. And more shopping at the airport. Really, you have been warned. If you dont want to go bankrupt, just bring one credit card so you wont over-swipe (hahaha). The airport is a Kitkat heaven. It carries different flavors from matcha green tea, strawberry, sakura, cheesecake, down to wasabi. I bought a few boxes just to try, but skipped the wasabi. I wish my brother went with me because I really needed someone to carry the bags, dang those boxes of Kitkats were heavy.

I would want to go back someday but hopefully for leisure, not work. It was overall a great trip and a successful program, I hope the next ones will even be greater!