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Cel Ardales’ Story: ‘Done Everything Wrong, Time to Set All Things Right’

Augustus T. Añonuevo

Araceli Ardales, 39 years old, hailed from North Cotobato, the Philippines. After her marriage to Ryan Ardales, she and her family moved to Bicol. In 2013, Cel, as Araceli is fondly called, went to Singapore to work as a domestic worker. She dreamt of building a house for her family and securing their son’s education. Admittedly, she also wanted to take time off from a not-so-good relationship then with her husband.

After ten years of working abroad, Cel felt that she had not achieved much as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and was clueless on what she had to do to turn things around for the better. She said: “Narealize ko na ang tagal ko na pala dito sa Singapore at ang lahat ng desisyon ko sa buhay, sa pamilya, sa pagmamanage ko ng pera ay mali.” (I realized that I have been here in Singapore for a long time and it seemed that all my decisions with regards to managing my finances and handling my family relations were all wrong.)

Such a realization that she erred in handling her finances and family came to her after she attended the Reintegration and Financial Planning in Singapore in 2022. The financial literacy training was conducted by Pinoy WISE, an organization of Filipino financial literacy advocates in Singapore. They were trained as trainers by Atikha, an NGO in the Philippines, through the Safe and Fair Project: Realizing Women Migrant Workers’ Rights and Opportunities in ASEAN Region Programme, with funding from the European Union, led by the ILO with UN Women in collaboration with UNODC. To Cel and other Filipino and Indonesian training participants, the training was a wake-up call. Cel reckoned that it was about time to make all things right for her and her family.

Cel cherished what she had learned from the financial literacy training. She realized that she had been spending mindlessly her hard-earned money, spending more for what she wanted and not for what she really needed. After the training, she applied what she learned. She regularly saved money and allocated amounts for emergency, insurances, time deposits and businesses that she intends to set up when she comes home for good. She has two savings accounts, one intended for emergencies and the other, for her future needs. She takes pride that she now consistently pays for the premiums of her Social Security System and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation accounts. She also maintains a Modified Pag-IBIG II[1] time deposit account.

Cel also learned from the training to say “No” to the persistent financial requests and demands of her siblings, relatives and friends. She had to say No, “Wala sa budget.” (Not in my budget), to their monetary pleas. She received insults and unwanted comments like “Kuripot” (Stingy), “Yumayabang ka na.” (You have become a braggart) “Ayaw mo nang tumulong.” (You do not want to help us anymore.)

Although deeply hurt by the remarks of those she had helped before, Cel remained steadfast and was glad that eventually her saying “No” paid off. Her siblings, relatives and friends stopped asking money and raised the money that they needed on their own.  Not only was she able to save more money, she has also cut the dependency of her siblings, relatives and friends on her.

From the Reintegration and Financial Planning training, Cel also realized that she could have invested her money wisely. She said: “Ang natutunan ko ay pagiinvest ng tama. Dahil dati kase inuna ko ang bahay kesa negosyo. Mali pala ang desisyon na yun. Dapat pala inuna ko ang negosyo. Inuna ko ang bahay ay wala namang nakatira ngayon. Sayang lang ang bahay kasi ang mga anak ko ay nakatira sa in-laws ko. Kaya ngayon, after the training, mayroon na sariling piggery na ako at may online business na ako.” (I learned that I could have made a better investment. Instead of setting up a business, I opted to build a house, a house that nobody lives in because my husband and son live with my in-laws. It is a bad investment. After the training, my husband and I focused our attention in building our piggery and I am also running my own business, selling beauty products online.) Unlike other financial literacy trainings, the Reintegration and Financial Planning seminar did not only teach migrant women workers how to manage their finances but also taught them how to handle their families well. Cel shared: “Ang natutunan ko ay kailangan pala ayusin ang communication mo sa iyong pamilya at dapat intindihin sila. Dati kasi lagi akong galit kapag tumatawag sa kanila hanggang iniiwasan na nila akong kausapin.” (I realized that we should strive to develop good communication with our families. I should have strived more to understand my husband and my son and what they were saying to me. I was always angry when I talked to them. Hence, they refused to talk to me for a long time.)

Often, Cel’s 12-year-old son pleaded to her that she should hear him out before getting angry at him. But Cel bossed around her family, always insistent of what she thought and wanted, at times, totally neglecting to hear out her husband and son. Realizing her mistake, immediately after the training, she changed. She revealed: “After the training, nagsorry na ako sa kanila. Aayusin ko na sarili ko at paguugali ko. Natuto na akong maging mahinahon at intindihin sila. Until now, ang communication namin ay maganda na.” (After the training, I apologized to my husband and son. I promised them that I would change. I learned to talk calmly and to understand them. Now, our communication has vastly improved for the better.) Recognizing the change in her, Cel’s husband and son appreciated her more and learned also to talk to her nicely and with respect.

Cel is pleased that all is well with her family. Now, Cel, her husband and son talk about their family finances and plan for her eventual return to the Philippines. Cel longs to come home to Bicol for good but recognizes that she could not come home soon. She and her family had to prepare for her return. She plans to come home for good in five years but she and her family need to set all things right.

She said: “Hindi pa ako makakauwi pero pinaghahandaan ko na ito. Inaayos namin ng asawa ko ang piggery namin. Ang asawa ko nagma-mange ng piggery pero nagtatrabaho pa rin siya sa construction. Nagtitipid na rin kami kami, pati anak ko. Dati sa private school, ngayon nilipat ko sa public school. Nagse-save na ako sa balak naming business pag-uwi ko, burger stand at dried fish store.”  (I know I cannot and could not yet return home. We are still on our way to make our piggery profitable. My husband manages the piggery but still works in construction projects. We are saving and cutting on our expenses, and that includes my son. He was in a private school, to save some more, he now goes to a public school. I am saving for the businesses that we intend to set up when I return home—a burger stand and a dried fish store.)

Cel had learned from her mistakes and started to set things right. She is on her way to returning to her home and family for good.

[1] The Modified Pag-IBIG II (Pag-IBIG MP2) Savings Program is a special voluntary savings facility with a 5-year maturity, designed for active Pag-IBIG Fund members who wish to save more and earn higher dividends, in addition to their Pag-IBIG Regular Savings.