I have long wanted to write a series of articles on the lives of our financial literacy advocates. I’ve read books on the life stories of Warren Buffett, John C. Bogle, Benjamin Graham, George Soros, Peter Lynch, Jesse Livermore, Suzy Orman, and many more. Knowing how they grew up and how they lived (and continue to live) their lives gives me a rich insight into what they stand for and what propels them to do their work.
Today I start with the life story of Salve Duplito. Salve is the Resident Financial Adviser of ANC’s On The Money, a daily show on personal finance. I first met her in 2009 when her daughter Alix and my son Anton were guests at Shop Talk to discuss saving and investing among kids. She had known my husband Marvin several years ago in her coverage of the finance industry as a writer for another daily. Sometimes there are people you’ve only known for a while but feel comfortable with, and Salve is one of those. When we finally had that coffee one Friday afternoon, we had an honest to goodness marathon tete-a-tete that extended to dinner!
I wish to share the life story of Salve Duplito, a narrative worthy of an episode in MMK (Maalaala Mo Kaya).
Salve traces her roots to a small town in Donsol where her father, Manuel Ibanez, grew up as a son of a well to do landed family. Her mother, Marciana Musa, grew up in Camalig, a town near Mayon. Her father was the principal while her mother was a teacher in the same public school in Bicol. Unfortunately, at the early age of five, her parents separated. Her mother has had enough maltreatment from their father that despite the threat of zero support, she packed up and left him, bringing all five daughters with her.
Salve recalled, “Grabe yong situation. We really experienced extreme poverty. Dumaan kami sa point na kanin lang ang kinakain namin.”
As I listened to Salve narrate her story, I could not find any trace of bitterness. Maybe it’s her nature to be jolly and positive. She truly admires her mother’s strength during those trying times, “My mom continued teaching in the same school, had to earn from sidelines left and right selling different things in order to feed us, build a house and send us to school. That’s why right now, we all spoil her. She can travel wherever she wants.”
“We” refers to all five daughters Sho, Marilou, Charity, Fe, Salve and adopted son David.
School Life and Two Defining Moments
Salve went to Bicol University. She remembers being quite popular in school. When I asked if she was cute (Salve is very petite at 4 ft. something), that people were fond of her she said, “No, in fact I remember not being the pretty one. I was short and kayumanggi while my sisters were tall and fair skinned. But maybe I was smart. In Bicol University there were also rich students and I was a scholar and I remember this elementary drama. Alam mo ba yong inaagaw yong best friend mo? I had that experience.”
Salve went on to narrate her own story of Mean Girls Grade 3 Bicolana version, “One time our teacher asked us to bring lunch to school. We were supposed to have lunch together as a class. At that time naagaw na yong best friend ko and I felt ostracized. All my classmates were cozily sitting at one table and I was sitting at another table, walang katabi! Nakahiwalay! Even my so-called best friend was at the other table. I was already feeling sorry for myself. Then that girl came and looked over my shoulders to see my baon. E siempre poor, my baon was either laing or tuyo. She cried out loud for everyone to hear, ‘Ay, yan lang ang baon mo?’ Then she left. Do you know that feeling when you really want to cry? Iyak na iyak na talaga ako non pero hindi ko mailabas at ayaw ko ring ilabas kasi dapat malakas ako. There was a painful lump in my throat. But you know, I think that was a defining moment in my life because while I tried to hold back my tears I said to myself, ‘I will never feel this way again.’”
Tears rolled down Salve’s eyes as she narrated this story. She continued, “Ayan, naiyak na ako ngayon. I’ve never told this story to anyone until now.” So I asked, “Is it ok for me to write about this? I think this is your childhood money memory!” She said, “Yes you may, I’ve already said on national television that I grew up poor.”
The great thing that came out from the Mean Bicolana Girl’s attempt to embarrass Salve was that she turned to books to empower herself. She was always in the library that there was a point when their librarian said, “Salve nabasa mo na yata lahat ng libro dito sa library.” She read books to gain knowledge, to have something that couldn’t be taken away from her. This was her way of becoming a better person so no one could step on her again. She was enjoying all the knowledge she gained that she didn’t care anymore what the mean girl and the other people had to say. Of course, the teachers were also delighted to have her as their student. But again, the reality that poverty has its way of depriving opportunities was still there. One teacher said, “Dapat itong si Salve ang valedictorian pero paano naman mangyayari yon kung incomplete sya sa mga projects nya kasi walang budget for materials.”
It’s not only the hurtful encounters with people that became the turning points in Salve’s young life. She narrated another story, “I was in Grade 4 and at that time my teacher would assign what we called as a “marketer” for every long table to get the orders of the students and buy at the canteen. This way there was order in the canteen. My teacher, Ms. Merle Lucila, found it strange that everyday I would volunteer to be the marketer. Akala ko walang nakakahalata. Wala akong baon na cash or food for recess.One day, she met me at the door and said, ‘Eto ang 10 pesos. This is for you, akala mo hindi ko alam yong ginagawa mo.’ I got the money and cried all the way to the canteen.”
At this point tears were flowing down on Salve’s face again, “Ayan, napaiyak mo na naman ako! But you know what my teacher did to me is what makes me want to also help other people. In fact, some people are telling me, ‘Alam mo you can make a lot of money from consultancy, mag-mentor ka na lang, you don’t even have to be on tv. Actually, I’m a reluctant tv personality.”
At this point I said, “Why, gusto mo movies?” To that she laughed, “Ikaw talaga o!” So I said, “Pinapatawa lang kita.”
But looking back now, Salve recalls a lot of positive memories of her childhood even the hard parts, “I walked to school everyday. And it was a rather long distance, around 30 minutes and it was not all on paved roads. Nakakabutas ng sapatos! But I loved those long walks. I remember the fields, the skies, and feeling that the world is a lot bigger than me. Those long walks cleared my mind.”
Those long walks might have allowed her to come up with entrepreneurial inspirations, “When I was in High School I told my mom, you don’t have to give me allowance anymore, just give me 40 pesos now as my puhunan. I went to the market by myself, bought peanuts, oil, garlic and plastic wrappers. I cooked adobong mani and packed them in small plastic pouches which I sealed using our gasera. I sold them in school. And my teachers were my suki. They always bought from me, kahit sunog yong mani maybe because they just loved me. This small business provided me my allowance.”
“But my mom saved up for my prom because she wanted me to have a nice dress. However, when we went to the local mall, I kept saying no to the nice dresses she was picking for me. I was conscious about the price so I said I just want a simple dress.”
Realizing the values learned from her difficult childhood, she said, “You know your article on creating hunger for our children (Cllck link to read article) resonated with me. I believe that we should not make it too easy for our kids. The difficulties that I went through really shaped me.
The Bicolana goes to Manila
Salve’s efforts to study well to empower herself paid off as she was accepted to UP Diliman as a scholar. She was not just the typical Iskolar ng Bayan that all UP students call themselves, as she landed among the top UPCAT takers that when she arrived in the Diliman campus she saw her name posted on a notice that advised them to go to the office to claim a check. She received a stipend every month from the school. On top of that her paternal grandparents started giving her allowance in dollars. All of a sudden, from her peanut business earnings for allowance in high school, she was now receiving allowance from two sources. She felt rich!
“Nagpakaluho rin ako at some point. Pero pinakaluho ko na noon yong Selecta ice cream with nuts and chocolate, hahaha! But seriously, I almost fell into the trap too. Remember the brand Kashieca? To me that was like a big brand already as I saw some dormmates come back after shopping with their pretty shopping bags of Kashieca. I also wanted to buy my pair of jeans. But I’m proud to say that I was able to overcome it. I went to Cubao and looked for a pair of jeans using my dollar allowance from my grandparents. You know, probinsyana naglalakad sa Cubao, nagpapalit ng dollars to pesos. It’s a good thing nobody took advantage of my ignorance. I was able to buy my pair of jeans, and I was happy with it so I realized that brands are not that important.”
The college life of Salve was of course made colorful by the man of her life, Dan Duplito, a dead ringer for Bamboo.
Salve was taking up Journalism and Dan was a Mechanical Engineering student, who grew up in Butuan City. When family problems started coming back to Salve, Dan was a shoulder to cry on, “He was very patient with me. He would listen to my problems about family, finances. Oh by this time my dollar allowance already stopped. One time he told me, ‘You feel so bad because you don’t have shoes, you feel so sorry for yourself until you see someone who doesn’t have feet!’ Somehow, natauhan ako don. I really saw in him the sincerity. He really wanted to help me. He gave me the comfort and solace. And you know how young people are, maybe the intensity of emotions, one thing led to another. I got pregnant while in 4th year college.”
But Salve was determined to finish college so she bravely walked the campus in her super pregnant glory until she gave birth shortly before her final exams, “Hay, buntis na buntis pumapasok. We were blessed because all the things we needed for our baby were given by friends. In fact, I gave birth at V. Luna Hospital and the doctor didn’t charge us. For us to save on supplies, Dan had to run off to the nearest pharmacy to buy alcohol, cotton, gauze, etc. A week after giving birth I was back in school to take my finals. I almost graduated cum laude, I missed by 0.02, the reason: one of my teachers moved to Cebu and lost my papers.”
I asked, “Didn’t you complain?” to which she answered, “Naku, at that time I had bigger concerns, nagpapadede na ako noon!” We both laughed at this comment.
The big concern of having a family too soon was eased by the help of her mother-in-law, described by Salve as a beauty queen from the south. She gave them a yaya and increased her son’s allowance to finance their family’s needs.
Salve immediately looked for a job right after graduation while Dan studied for one more year to finish his 5-year course. After her short stints at Creba and other writing assignments, Salve landed her job at Business World and that’s where she learned about Personal Finance, “I had access to a Bloomberg terminal and I was bewildered by the stocks and the personal finance articles I read. Then I observed the increasing OFWs, the second wave of brain drain. Sabi ko, these people who will be sending money to their families back home, will think that the solution to all their problems is money. But if they don’t know what to do with it, they will create a bigger hole, a bigger problem if they don’t know how to save and invest. This was another defining moment for me. I wrote a petition to management to provide me with one whole page every week, which I will fill up with personal finance stories so that the OFW community will know what to do with their money. What I did was unheard of at that time, but I was so happy when management approved my petition, even with no budget. That’s when I asked the likes of Efren Cruz, Vince Lazatin, Omar Cruz, Noli Depala to contribute articles without compensation. And then my weekly Personal Finance page was born. Ang saya non. It came out every Monday with articles from my contributors, my own articles, tips on how to budget, invest, my interviews with the likes of Lance Gokongwei. Even with no budget, we had good readership. I ran it from 1995 until 2000 when I left Business World. It was continued for another two years after I left.”
Family Life, etc.
When Dan graduated in 1996 he started working and they were on their own. Just like a lot of parents, Dan and Salve started planning for the future of their children’s education, “Imagine, we invested half of our income in CAP to insure the education of our children. That really hit us hard and I thought if people only knew that they can save and invest on their own, they won’t buy products like this anymore! It’s just that they’re not empowered enough. And this is why financial education has become an advocacy for me, because I was also a victim.”
When did you attain financial freedom?
“When I started that Personal Finance page. Efren Cruz was not only my regular contributor (masipag sya magsulat), but was also my first teacher in investing. When he told me about mutual fund, I started putting money there. We eventually used this money as downpayment for our house. Ang saya ng may sariling bahay.”
Enjoying this home with her are their four children Alix (18), Seth (13), Ethan (7), David (4), and of course husband Dan who’s now an IT specialist at PS Bank.
How do you teach your children about money?
“We don’t give allowance to our children. They earn it. We have three categories of work for our children at home:
- Category 1 – “I do it because I love my family;” No pay for this; Examples are wash dishes (2 credits), read story to brother (1 credit), fix own bed (1 credit).
- Category 2 – With P50 payment per chore; Examples are fold clothes after laundry, cook eggs, organize toys.
- Category 3 – With P100 payment per chore; Examples are clean/disinfect toilets, dust and clean room, iron 20 pieces of clothes.”
Once the kids deposit their money, they also double the amount because of the parents’ counterpart deposit. Salve knows that having the above work for allowance scheme is more expensive for them since they already have three domestic helpers including a yayafer (yaya cum driver). Sometimes her oldest earns as much as P2,000 per week. They think this is a good training ground for them. And I guess since she grew up not receiving allowance but working for it, she also wants to pass on this value to her children. Moreover, their oldest son Seth has decided to go on a mission where he will work for two years as a missionary away from home. These skills will be useful to him. Salve and her children are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints while Dan is a born-again Christian.
Where do you invest?
“50% in Equity UITF, 20% in direct stocks, 30% mix of real estate and other assets. I will shift some to fixed income when I reach 45 maybe. Dan has some investments in bonds and a few stocks. He also wants to have his own portfolio.”
Back to the Why
A lot of interesting discussions ensued. She shared her ups and downs with her consultancy clients, paying or otherwise; how some unsuspecting people who want to improve their financial well-being are duped by self-proclaimed investment gurus, losing good retirement money or buying the wrong financial products. She also asked Marvin (by this time it was already dinner time and my Fridate had joined us) about the US shut down and its implications, afterwhich she exclaimed, “Ang galling mo mag-explain! That ADB study just became clearer to me.”
Then it was Marvin’s turn to ask her, “Salve, why are you here? Why do you do what you do?”
There were so many more interesting things I gathered that day but I wish to end with Salve’s reply to Marvin’s question:
“You know, I find myself in certain stages of my life which I didn’t really exert much effort for. Before one job ends, there’s another one that opens. When I left Inquirer, the following day I was a World Bank consultant. Things fall into place. When I was done with Synergeia Foundation, I got a call from Tata to do an ANC Show. Feeling ko it’s such a gift for me. Honestly, it’s not the money nor fame nor the job itself, but it’s really the helping part that excites me.
I like talking to people, looking at their eyes, their reactions if they’re lying or not. I like working on spreadsheets. I get strength from the people I help. Like this couple who followed my instructions to set aside their emergency fund (EF) despite their temptation to buy a washing machine to ease the pain of doing laundry by hand. I didn’t mind receiving a text from the wife in the middle of taping to ask for my permission to use their EF to have hair rebonding. I was so happy when I learned that they followed my advice not to touch the fund, which eventually helped them when they both lost their jobs. Things like that.
I don’t mind being behind the camera. It’s the helping that motivates me. As I said, I grew up in poverty and I see the urgency to educate the masses. I believe that there is no shame in inheriting poverty. There’s only shame in not doing something about it.”