HONG KONG - At 54 and married with two children, Teresita Fung looks back at her failed business in the Philippines with a calming laugh, reassuring those who may have been countlessly discouraged in life that it's never too late - and that one is never too old - to try again.
Fung, now a Hong Kong resident, came to the city as a domestic worker 33 years ago. She was among 400 graduates who received their certificate of completion for a financial literacy program run by CARD Hong Kong Foundation held at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Lockhart Road, Wanchai on November 17.
Founded in 2010, the non-profit organization offers free educational training programs on finance, entrepreneurship, and livelihood, among others.
"Nag-start kasi ako ng souvenir shop, which totally failed kasi nga wala akong knowledge," said Fung with a smile. "Kailangan may knowledge ka talaga, planuhin mo talaga, step by step aralin mo muna bago ka pumasok sa negosyo," she added.
(I started with a souvenir shop, which totally failed because I had no knowledge. You really need to have knowledge, really plan it, learn things step by step before you get into business.)
Fung said she first heard of CARD Foundation Philippines from her siblings who would borrow money from there. She got curious when she saw CARD Foundation Hong Kong on social media, announcing that a seminar on entrepreneurship was going to be held in July and so she signed up for it.
Fung, also a business news enthusiast, said she liked the approach of the organization as fellow participants were highly enthusiastic, and at the same time, the participants' lack of knowledge on business made it conducive for an encouraging environment of learning where no one felt left behind.
Before she became a wife and mother, Fung was the breadwinner of her family of five back in the Philippines, agreeing to shoulder all their expenses, including the education of her nieces and nephews. But when realization hit that she couldn't do it forever, she had to shift her and her family's mindset to a more practical, viable and sustainable solution.
It was hard at first, but she had no regrets.
"Nung umpisa parang na-ignore ka nila, na parang bahala kami dito. Pero hindi naman kasi ako sumawa sa kanila. I showed them more love. More love sa family saka talagang alam mo 'yung ginagawa mo...supporting their studies," Fung told ABS-CBN News.
(At the start, it was like...I was ignored and they said they'd just look after themselves. But I didn't get tired of them. I showed them more love. More love to the family and that you know what you're doing... supporting their studies.)
"So far maganda kasi nag-invest ako sa education nila. Lima 'yung pamangkin ko na graduate. 'Yung older brother ko na hirap ang buhay before, 'yung anak niya all university graduates na. So nakikita ko na 'yung ano na investment na tumulong ako sa pamilya kasi talagang full-time ako ng pagtulong," she added.
(So far, the outcome has been favorable because I invested in their education. Five of my nieces and nephews are graduates. My older brother who had a hard life before, all his children are now university graduates so I see what I have invested in, that I helped my family because I helped them full time.)
Fung is happy with her investments and though she has helped with financing some of her siblings' businesses to get them started, she is happy to see her respective family members with a boosted earning power and successfully running their businesses on their own in Silang, Cavite where the family hails.
She also advised others who wish to help their family members to focus on the needs rather than their wants.
"Na-realize kong need nilang makapag-aral so supporting ng education talaga. Simple lang kami pag-umuwi, wala kaming mga outing o dinner. Pero ngayon siyempre mga professional na sila, share-share kami sa gastos. So kung gusto mong tumulong, more on education talaga," said Fung.
(I realized their need was to go to school so it's really supporting the education. We're simple…when I get together with them. We have no outings or dinners out. But now, of course, they're all professionals so we share the expenses. So if you really want to help, it's really more on education.)
As months of political and social unrest have dragged on with no end in sight in Hong Kong, the completion of financially empowering courses are stoking business prospects for Filipino migrants in the city.
While worries over their job security hover amid looming concerns Hong Kong may soon slip into a recession since the handover in 1997, the migrant workers assure they remain safe and sound. But if worse comes to worst, many of them say they are prepared to go back to start their business.
Some of them include 35-year-old Virgie Vibar, a graduate of CARD Hong Kong Foundation's batch 57. Vibar was the representative of her batch who gave a testimony at the podium on Sunday's rites. She has been in Hong Kong for seven years and has had three employers here.
For Vibar, the program also helps them set for reintegration back to the Philippines.
"Actually before financial literacy, wala akong pakialam sa expenses ko. Masyado akong waldas and nung na-experience ko 'yung financial literacy, parang nagkaroon ng direksyon, nagkaroon ng focus sa akin... kung anong ginagawa ko dito. Nagkaroon ng sense 'yung stay ko dito," said Vibar.
(Before taking the financial literacy course, I didn't care about my expenses. I was unsparing and when I experienced financial literacy, it's like I acquired a sense of direction, have focus with what I am doing here. My stay here made sense.)
Vibar, who is single and supporting her parents, said she plans to return to the Philippines next year when her contract ends. She hopes to open a bakery to further explore her culinary background so she uses her Sundays to learn new skills whenever there is an opportunity.
"As of now, feeling ko safe pa naman po kami dito as long as ‘di po kami nakiki-join sa gulo. Then sabi ng employer ko wala naman dapat po ipag-alala as long as ilayo po namin ang sarili namin sa gulo," said Vibar.
(As of now, I still feel we are safe for as long as we don't join the protests. My employer said there is nothing to worry about as long as we distance ourselves from the protests).
Naneth Leonador of batch 57 thought she would not make it to the graduation following tensions that escalated in Kowloon when Hong Kong Polytechnic University became a battlefield between police and defiant activists.
Protests are into their sixth month now in Hong Kong, with residents in the special Chinese administrative region opposing mainland control supposedly undermining freedoms they were guaranteed after the 1997 British handover.
"Safe naman. Actually 'pag punta ko rito (in Wanchai), walang bus. Tapos maraming naka-suspend na bus galing sa may Kowloon. Nag-bus ako tapos MTR tapos nag-bus ulit. Akala ko di na'ko makakarating," said Leonador, an OFW in Hong Kong for over 20 years.
(It's safe. Actually, on my way here, there was no bus. Then a lot of buses in Kowloon were suspended. I took the bus then the MTR and the bus again. I thought I wouldn't make it.)
With her newly acquired knowledge, Leonador hopes to start either a travel agency or to sell ice. She is also open to renting out a house and lot she had purchased for about P700,000 after spending many years of saving up.
For Leonador's friend Heide Yabut, who has been working as a domestic worker in Hong Kong for five years, she is happy she has started to improve managing her finances.
She admits she can't help but worry about the protests sometimes. Her plan is to finish her contract, but should the unfortunate happen, she says she has enough savings and is ready to go anytime.
"Nangangamba 'yung pakiramdam. 'Pag tapos ko na po 'yung kontrata ko, puwede na ako mag-business sa Pinas, online or t-shirt printing," said Yabut.
(I am worried. Once my contract finishes, I can do business in the Philippines, online or t-shirt printing.)