Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Days of Yesteryear: Newspaper Edition

In high school, I eagerly awaited Sunday's newspaper so I could read syndicated columns by Dave Barry, Mike Royko, Thomas Sowell, and Charles Krauthammer, as well as the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. I didn't care about anyone's political affiliation. Most writers who made it into the Sunday paper were undeniably authentic and had in-depth personal knowledge. I was interested because each of them cared about the topic discussed and provided relevant research, even if only anecdotal. If any journalist had a chip on his or her shoulder, I couldn't feel it on my ink-stained fingers. I would save articles I loved in my cabinet, a shrine to the many words of wisdom I felt lucky to read. 

A few days ago, when a newspaper--from the same publisher--unexpectedly arrived on my parents' porch, I went to throw it in the recycling bin, asking my mom along the way whether she wanted it. She demurred, and off to the bin it went, unopened. How times have changed. But why? 

Despite more information publicly available than ever before, I learn more about a scientific topic by speaking to my sister, a PhD scientist, for 5 minutes than anything online. Writers can fit only so much context in a short article, but they don't have much competition--the number of experts able to provide "big picture" context is extremely limited. As the always interesting Nassim Taleb might say, oftentimes, it's not what you say, but what you leave out. 

A lawyer/analyst recently published an article arguing record consumer debt wasn't a cataclysmic problem but missed an issue: are his numbers and data based on organic, sustainable growth--such as steady, predictable tax receipts--or artificial, unsustainable catalysts, such as government borrowing at ever-increasing interest rates? Without knowing the answer to the aforementioned question, the entire article as well as its research is useless. This author, the editor of the blog, The Big Picture, somehow missed the big picture--despite doing considerable research and using diverse data sets. 

I emailed him, saying, "You... failed to list overall liabilities, such as pension and other local gov obligations. If local and state govs borrow more and transfer their debt/revenue to local residents, of course the overall picture will appear better." 

He responded, "These are current, not future liabilities." 

This expert accepts an analytical approach where if 100 people owe 1 million dollars now and have jobs that can reasonably cover the interest on their debts now, it doesn't matter if their government--local, state, and federal--or their private sector employer owes 100 billion in bond or other payments due tomorrow. 

But without knowing present and future liabilities, one cannot determine whether last year's tax receipts and accompanying job growth are sustainable. If governments or private employers owe 100 billion tomorrow, they might require higher taxes, fewer new hires, and more debt (presumably at different interest rates, impacting present-day revenue). 

If the debt is pension-related, then more revenue would be needed to replace the retired workers as well as to pay ongoing pensions unless the pension fund was 100% funded. In short, future liabilities can dramatically change the assumed rates of job growth, tax revenue, consumer demand and inflation, rendering prior data almost useless. It's as if there's a Black Swan event we can actually predict, but no one wants to do the additional math because it's too complicated. 

So I wrote Barry Ritholtz back: "[I]f we have a bill due tomorrow, analyzing only today's liabilities and GDP makes no sense if the entire structure depends on rolling over massive debt and other financial engineering." 

That's when it got interesting--and slightly snippy: 

My response: 

The value you were trying to provide was context, not knocking down a strawman, I hope. 

If since 2007, govs have borrowed more money and transferred that money to their residents on local, state, and fed levels while doing little to resolve systemic issues such as lowering pension obligation interest rates, etc., then the result won't be the same. It'll be different, of course, but serious problems will remain, meaning your article promotes complacency rather than true context.  You want the "big picture"? So do I. 

Barry: "See how it's totally not the same because of a lack of defaults and overall population and other changes that I'm going to examine without trying to see if the growth is merely because govs borrowed more money?" 

Skeptical Guy: "Dude, analyzing only today's data makes no sense if you're unable to determine that consumer/mortgage borrowing wasn't merely replaced by gov borrowing, which then was transferred to residents, leaving systemic issues alive and well, but with a larger fuse and more dependence on low interest rates."  

Barry: "Dude, I was just analyzing why it ain't exactly the same." 

Guy: "What value is that if your goal is to analyze the big picture?"

And that's where the conversation ended.  

When I opened my newspaper in the 1990s, I never once suspected Mike Royko wasn't an expert on everything Chicago. When Peggy Noonan taught me politics is all about "Whose ox is being gored," I knew she was speaking from a reservoir of personal experience. Today, in contrast, when I click on content, I sense people consider themselves experts after one-hit wonders or because they know the "right" people. Worse, I sense journalists and experts no longer have power behind their pen. Even if they manage to capture eyeballs, the public's threshold for outrage has risen so high, nothing will be done unless an army of paid meme creators and politically-connected groups manufacture simplistic slogans that fail to capture any complexity. 

Maybe that should be the modern journalist's motto (and epitaph): "So simple, you'll be outraged and demand change without really understanding a damn thing." 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

3 Nights in Brunei Darussalam

I'm in Brunei, and I'm pleased to tell you more about this city-state because almost no independent literature exists to assist tourists. In a nutshell, Brunei is a combination of Malaysia and Indonesia, with many features borrowed from Singapore.

Where to Stay/Quick Overview

If you're rich or enjoy the finer things in life, stay at the Empire Hotel and Country Club in Gerudong. You'll be on the beach, see beautiful sunsets, swim in a lagoon-shaped pool, and receive excellent service. 
No filter. Right outside Empire Hotel about 7pm.
If you want an upscale hotel near the locals instead of a beach resort, try the Rizqun International Hotel in Gadong. It's connected with a mall frequented by locals, and you'll be closer to lots of activity, including a fun amusement park (Jerudong Park). 

If you're a cheap bastard like me and have a budget, consider the Jubilee Hotel, where I stayed. (I booked on Agoda and got a great deal.) It's within walking distance of most tourist spots and Bandar's major bus terminal. The taxi drivers loitering in the bus station appeared to be unlicensed but offered very reasonable prices. Away from competition, most taxi drivers tried to charge me inflated prices. As a general rule of thumb, going from Bandar--the city hub--to any well-known tourist destination should cost between 5 to 15 Brunei dollars. If you're going to a different district, like from Bandar to Jerudong, which is a 15 to 20 minute ride, then you're looking at 25 to 30 Brunei dollars. Your hotel will generally have access to a shuttle, which can take you almost anywhere for around 10 Brunei dollars.

As of August 2017, Brunei doesn't have Uber or Grab. Brunei is one of the smallest countries in SE Asia and doesn't have tons of tourists, so it's not yet a cost-effective destination for companies whose business models depend on economies of scale (i.e., lose money up front, but eventually become profitable as more customers use your service--a strategy easier to do in China than Brunei). Brunei does have an online taxi app called Dart, but phone service from the local carrier, PCSB, is out of network for my T-Mobile plan, so I wasn't able to use it. The good news: Brunei's bus system is fantastic--you can get to and see many places in an air-conditioned bus for just 1 Brunei dollar, including the spectacular Jame' Asr Mosque.
Not supposed to take pictures. Oh well.
Too beautiful not to share.
In any case, let's get you familiar with Brunei.
Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Salfuddien
1. Brunei's Dollar is Pegged to the Singaporean Dollar

Brunei has a central bank, but its dollars are interchangeable with the Singaporean dollar. (I don't know if the reverse is true in Singapore.)  If a business gives you Singaporean dollars back instead of Brunei dollars, don't fret--they're the same because their value is pegged exactly to your currency based on the Singaporean dollar's strength.

2.  It Should Cost about 15 to 22 Brunei Dollars to Get from the Airport to Your Hotel

I landed at 10:30pm, so half the airport was closed, and only two taxi drivers were available. One offered to charge me 25 Brunei dollars to go to my hotel, but I counter-offered 22 Brunei dollars, and he accepted. It turns out my hotel would have picked me up for 10 Brunei dollars, but that's what I get for not planning ahead. Oh, in case you're wondering why 10:30pm seems late, almost everything closes by 10pm in Brunei. If you want nightclubs and cheap beer, go someplace else.

When you arrive in the airport, once you exit security/immigration, go to the second floor. You'll be able to withdraw money from the ATMs there. 

Even with a non-ASEAN passport, I had zero problems with Brunei's airport or its security. Everyone was courteous.

3. Brunei Embodies Asian Fusion

As I said earlier, Brunei is basically a micro-sized combination of Indonesia and Malaysia, but with more money per capita. Everyone speaks at least some English, but quite a few people are more comfortable with Malay. If I had to guess, English is the official language of instruction in schools, but the farther away from the city center, the more people speak Malay exclusively in their homes. 

Regardless of the language spoken more fluently, every single Bruneian I met was friendly and open. Two separate Bruneians, after no more than two minutes of conversation, offered to take me directly to tourist spots by their own car or a taxi. One of them even paid for a boat to a taxi, then helped me find the Arts & Handicrafts Centre (definitely worth a visit).
Wearing the national hat, the songkok, at the Handicrafts Centre
You must understand--I'm fairly annoying as a tourist. I dress shabbily, assume every vendor is going to defraud me and my heirs, walk everywhere, ignore signs (especially ones asking me not to take pictures), and ask tons of questions. On this trip, I battered the wife of a petroleum engineer with about 25 questions once she told me she worked for the central bank. After a few particularly complicated questions, she said she was low on the bank's totem pole (an excellent way to save face), prompting her husband to remark, "It's the weekend--her brain is turned off and will start again on Monday." We all had a laugh, but if I behaved similarly elsewhere, I'm almost certain the couple would not have driven me back to my hotel and shown me their equivalent of the Royal Palace and Gadong Night Market along the way. Bruneian hospitality is incredible. 

A few other observations: 

A.  Despite lacking a train, subway, or tram system, Brunei does not have the traffic jams familiar to most SE Asia residents. You know what it does have? The most courteous drivers in all of SE Asia. 

B.  I've been to Indonesia and Malaysia, so it's normal for me to see Muslim Asians, but if you don't already know most Muslims in the world live in the Asia-Pacific region or that Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country, you might be surprised to see beautiful Asian women wearing hijabs or headscarves.
C.  Brunei's food is typical Malay: every menu will have nasi lemak, mee goreng, nasi goreng, and teh tarik. Milo is really popular here. I mean, really popular. Nestle has done too good a job advertising the health benefits of its fortified chocolate milk, which plays into Brunei's biggest problem: obesity. With the weather at 88 F (31 C) in August, it's hard even for me, a former wrestler, to walk my usual 3 to 5 miles a day, so less athletic Bruneians can't burn calories naturally when they drive everywhere and do much of their walking straight from cars into air-conditioned buildings. Still, it's depressing to see so many little kids overweight.

4.  ASEAN is Creating Incredible Opportunities for Tourism within SE Asia

It's the 50th anniversary of the free trade agreement originally made with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, now expanded to all of SE Asia between Bhutan and Australia except Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. China and Japan are noticeably absent from the bloc, the idea being that Vietnam, Singapore, and other smaller Asian countries can get a better deal for their people by working together rather than individually. So far, ASEAN has worked exactly as it should. In 2017, it represents a growing population of 628 million consumers and a combined GDP of over 2 trillion dollars. If you visit Brunei's tourist centre, you'll see this picture of Brunei over the years. Notice the rapid jump from 2004 to 2008? 
Politically, America's "pivot to Asia" never happened, and China stepped into the void. Most ASEAN members were stunned when both American presidential candidates rejected the TPP trade agreement. Meanwhile, in 2015-2016, China led the opening of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and lent almost 2 billion in 2016 alone. (I joke that America's war against terrorism isn't over, but SE Asia has already won. I realize it's not a very funny joke.) 

What does this mean for you? If you're part of ASEAN, when you travel to another member country, you will generally have your own separate check-in line and almost all major businesses and tourism operators will cater to you in your own language. This phenomenon is most pronounced in the Philippines with Korean tourists, but as Chinese tourists become more common (as opposed to their younger Japanese counterparts, who seem to prefer long-term travel via student visas), all countries are starting to cater to each other's languages and tastes. The days when people mocked Japanese tourists taking too many photos are thankfully over. Everyone today wants a piece of the tourism pie. 

(People like me, who avoid packaged tours and travel frugally, don't maximize revenue for countries, so we're left to fend for ourselves against hucksters, especially in the taxicab department. As a result, it's hard for me to suppress my desire to assault anyone criticizing Uber or Grab, both of which increase transparency and safety for international travelers.) 

5. Conclusion 

As more people learn about Brunei's hospitality, it will become more popular. For now, it's a pleasant, safe place to stay for two or three nights, especially on your way to KL or Indonesia. Don't miss seeing the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque at night, the Jame' Asr Mosque, and the Royal Regalia museum. Kampong Ayer is much-mentioned on tourist sites promoting Brunei, but I suspect the hype has to do with a unique hotel there called Kunyit7 Lodge rather than the place itself.
No idea why this area is popular with tourists.

My favorite place, after the Jame'Asr Mosque and Royal Regalia museum, isn't on the official walking tour map, but it should be: the Brunei History Centre. You shouldn't miss it if you want to learn more about Brunei's history. 

Happy travels! 

Monday, August 21, 2017

On Midlife Crises

It is now clear the United States is a shell of its own values. It admires freedom of speech but not tolerance. It showcases the Statue of Liberty while ignoring the inscription on her pedestal’s lower level. It blames foreign powers for election interference, a charge Mossadegh, Castro, and Chavez would find interesting. It believes globalization is responsible for at least some of its economic woes, even as it has benefited handsomely from globalized trade, especially in oil. It claims to honor freedom of religion while making it difficult to donate to Islamic charities or to build or attend mosques. Above all, it loves freedom itself, more so than any other nation’s people--while having the most student loans, incarcerated criminals, and credit card debt.

We can certainly argue about all of the points above. For instance, America is around tenth place, not first, in worldwide debt rankings if we view household debt as a percentage of its GDP. It may have the most student loans, but international students clamor to attend its universities, indicating value. It has massive debt but also considerable wealth, ranking in the top twenty-five worldwide in median wealth per adult. It houses the most criminals, but outside of St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans (one of my favorite cities), and Detroit, most American cities are far less violent than international counterparts. (So far, I’ve only been mugged in Paris, France, where a French police officer refused to assist me, blaming the Moroccan mafia.) On average, Muslim-Americans are more educated and make more money than average non-American Muslims, an effect we can attribute to selective immigration, but no less true.

Despite the availability of reasonable counterarguments, no reasonable person today believes America is on an upswing at this juncture in its relatively young history. One astute British journalist says America is experiencing a horrific midlife crisis and how it emerges from this period will determine its fate. I think it’s much more complicated than a midlife crisis, and I say this while arguably going through one myself.

1.  Unstable Job Markets, More Debt, and Fewer Permanent Relationships in Developed Countries are Causing Unintended Consequences

I promise I won’t generalize too much if you agree to hear me out. Prior to the age of 40, men tend to be more prone to risky behavior. In some instances, young men become calmer and less interested in risky behavior when women take an interest in them. As men age, they generally reduce risky behavior on their own, meaning a woman’s influence on a man at a young age is often immeasurable—whether positive or negative. (Note: one premise behind America’s incarceration of so many young men is to age them out of unstable behavior.) I don’t mean to imply men are total or unilateral winners in relationships, or that all relationships follow gender-based patterns. Obviously, everyone benefits if two people meet, fall in love, and have a lasting relationship.

But does the relationship last? In modern society, very few people are romantics, especially if they've read a Family Code. The world is filled with divorcees who will share fiendishly unique parables of woe and arbitrariness—and that’s before they discuss their experiences in divorce court.

In an era where almost nothing is permanent, risk management causes most people in developed countries to marry later and have children later, which requires governments and communities to find new ways to occupy people’s time. It turns out there are only so many taco trucks and outdoor music festivals one can visit before searching for something more meaningful. Indeed, almost all of the Western world’s culture wars come down to this simple fact: people are no longer busy influencing their children so they seek to influence others and society. Case in point: what sane American counter-protests neo-Nazis in a town unheard of pre-protest unless s/he genuinely believes s/he’s influencing society in a positive way?

Of course, nothing is inherently wrong with attempting to influence others and your own community, but the shrillness behind such attempts feels new. If you spent 140,000 dollars buying a law school diploma, I suppose you’d better believe you can use it to change the world in your own image, or you’re a sucker. Problematically, someone down the seating chart also spent the same money as you and thinks she can influence society too, and if her community doesn’t validate her belief system, the forecast calls for social strife or self-imposed segregation—both with a high chance of stormy weather. And that’s just within one law school, not even one community, nor an entire nation.

2.  Where Do We Go from Here?

As some of you know, I’ve been traveling since two years ago, when I sensed a disturbance in the Force. Just kidding. (For the record, I’m a Star Trek fan. Picard, not Shatner.)

In any case, I bought several one-way tickets and went around the world with no set plan. I came back to California—home to the most active hate groups in America—to vote, casting my lot with a candidate who failed to capture even 5% of the national vote—then left town again.

I’m now in Cebu, Philippines—a wonderful place—and excited to be able to visit the Middle East soon. For now, my next stop is Brunei. I’m most excited about Qatar, and it's not only because their basketball play in the recent FIBA Asia tournament reminded me of the San Antonio Spurs. By coincidence, I’ll be there during World Tourism Day—yes, that’s a thing—and I’m especially pleased to see and support Qatar when it's going through some challenging times. (If the United States is going through a midlife crisis, then Qatar, founded in 1971, has yet to reach puberty.)  No one knows what the future holds, but maybe the secret to happiness is finding a young, rebellious country and convincing it to have a lasting relationship with you. Let's make it so. 

© Matthew Mehdi Rafat (2017)

“The day we stop looking, habib, is the day we die.” – Lt. Colonel Erfan Saad 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Interviewing Cebu's Countocram

Countocram is the online moniker of Marco Paulo, one of Cebu's best bloggers. Surprisingly, he is originally not from Cebu, but from another province, Pampanga. I had the opportunity to speak with him in IT Park, and we covered a wide range of topics. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did. 

How did you come up with the name Countocram?

Count is like European royalty, and it’s kinda cheesy, but you can always count on me, and “ocram” is Marco reversed. Regarding my personal domain, I was a developer, and I did graphic design. So I had the domain already, and I decided to do not just travel blogging, but anything and everything under the sun. 

I don’t know how you do it, but you have a full-time job in addition to blogging. How many hours do you work in your regular job?

9 hours a day, 5 days a week. I usually work on my blog on weekends or if I feel like writing, I do it after work. My food blog [Lami Kaayois the most popular. I usually just upload the content and that’s it. I don’t do SEO. I’m happy if people find me on their own.

You’re not from Cebu but you’re one of the foremost authorities on it. 

When I moved here from Pampanga, I didn’t know anybody. When I started working, I got to know my coworkers, one of whom had a blog. Everything started when he invited me to attend Cebu Blog Camp, an event that helps aspiring bloggers.

Tell me about your hometown and how you came to Cebu.

In Pampanga, there used to be Clark Air Force base, but it experienced a volcanic eruption nearby in 1991, and all the servicemembers left. When the city recovered, Clark was converted into a special economic zone called the Clark Freeport Zone.  
My hometown, Angeles City, is a highly urbanized city, but not as progressive as Cebu. 

I was working as a home-based web developer for a year and a half. The company decided to set up a company in Cebu, and I was asked to relocate. 
There’s a direct flight from Cebu to Clark, which made it easier to relocate

Also, there's a huge population of Mormons in Cebu, and the company I worked for is owned by Mormons. I think that's one of the reasons my boss chose Cebu. Anyway, when I moved here, I already had the job. 

I’ve been living here now for more than 7 years.  There were only 5 people in the company when it started, and now we have 200+ employees. The majority are web developers. The income generated from web developers is equivalent to 3 to 5 call center agents, so the business saves a lot of space and has more opportunities.

What advice do you have for people who want to come to Cebu?

I think Cebuanos are very friendly people.  The friendliest are from Palawan, though. Cebuanos are the second friendliest. You need to be friendly to fit in here. Cebu looks big but it’s a small city. If you know one person, you probably have someone in common. It’s easy to build a network.  You only need to meet the right people. 

How's the blogging community in Cebu?

There are many blogging groups here. I’m a member of Cebu Fashion Bloggers. Cebu Bloggers Society is the first group here, a pioneer of sorts. The newest group is called C3 or Cebu Content Creators. Their members are not limited to bloggers but also video creators and social media influencers and personalities. We see each other at different events

I didn’t expect to stay in Cebu this long. Because of blogging, I stayed. I made a lot of friends, and it opened a lot of opportunities for me. 

What are the financial benefits of blogging?

I haven’t gotten to the point where I actively monetize my blog.  I just enjoy doing it. I have Google Ads, but I haven’t earned much from it. I do receive social media campaigns from digital media companies. They usually ask for one blog post and at least one social media post. You’d get a minimum of 3000 pesos, but it depends on your stats. For the top bloggers, they can command 1,000 USD!

Sponsored posts are another way to make money.  I will receive content from different marketing agencies, and the minimum fee is 50 USD, and it can go as high as 150 USD.  They will customize the content based on your blog. They’re basically paying to rent space on your blog. 

In Manila, some bloggers who attend events get paid a minimum of 3000 pesos. Imagine, in Manila, there can be 2 to 3 events in one day. Here in Cebu, when we attend events, we only get freebies, not money, but I enjoy attending since I get to see my friends and experience different events. I also enjoy sharing the experience on my blog.

Are there problems you’ve encountered because of blogging?

Yes, a lot. In the blogging community, you meet a lot of people, and each of them has a different personality. Some bloggers blog because of freebies and to attend events, but for me, blogging is foremost an opportunity to share what you're passionate about. Getting invites to events and freebies should not be the primary reason for blogging.

Another problem is some bloggers fake their social media stats by buying followers and likes. This is very common on Instagram. Having good numbers on your social media account can open a lot of opportunities. I think this is the reason why some are faking their stats.

Some bloggers are too aggressive. One blogger once blocked the view of other media participants at a cooking event. Others are so competitive to the point where they bash other bloggers. 

What do you think about the future of Cebu?

I think it’s slowly becoming Manila. I’m excited to see all the developments.

It sounds like Cebu is your new home.


What are your favorite countries to visit? 

I like Japan. I’ve visited Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Nagano, Yuzawa, and Kawaguchiko. When I go, I maximize my time by doing research beforehand. My favorite city is Nagoya. I love Nagoya—it’s like Tokyo but laid back and not as crowded.  I hope to travel more, but it’s hard for a Filipino. Our passport isn’t that powerful. It’s hard to get visas.

I love to travel. Most of my travels are funded by personal expenses. I rarely get sponsored travels. 

If you were Mayor Osmena, and you could do two things to help Cebu, what would you do?

Fix traffic. Do you know about the transit controversy we have here?

A little.  It seems very complicated.

LRT is mass rapid transit—basically, a train. I think the national government proposed an above-the-ground train for Cebu, which is costly compared to the BRT. Osmena doesn’t support the LRT; instead, he supports BRT, the bus rapid transit. It’s like three buses combined together. Osmena is battling committee members who think the MRT can worsen traffic. The argument is that smaller cars can barely navigate Cebu’s smaller roads, so why would a large bus make traffic better? [My note: Of course, the counterargument is that fewer smaller cars will be on the road if more people took the bus.]

The second would be solving corruption. It’s a problem in the entire country. I think all politicians in the Philippines are corrupt.

What does corruption mean to you?

Corruption to me is when the government uses the money of the people for their own benefit. I used to work for the government, and I saw how corruption works. The government can double or triple the value of a project above the actual cost. That way, they get more money even as they pay only the actual value of the project. Sometimes, the auditors are also in on it, so it’s hard to uncover the corruption, which is led by different agencies.

You work in outsourcing, right? In America, a lot of people are complaining you are taking our jobs.  What do you think about that?

In our company, we call it offshoring, not outsourcing. For us, the advantage is that we have jobs that pay well relative to our cost of living. With technology, it’s becoming more and more possible to outsource jobs. 
We are doing many of the jobs Americans dislike, so I’m not sure why they're complaining.

When it comes to web developers, the salary we get here is 1/5 of what Americans are being paid, so companies that outsource here save a lot of money. If you want to find online or consulting jobs, try 

Do you have student loans?

No. My mother paid for my college degree.

But aren’t public universities free, a policy recently maintained by President Duterte?

I went to a private school, not a public school. The policy of free tuition only applies to state universities.

Why didn’t you attend a state university?

I applied. The number one state university in the Philippines is UP, the University of the Philippines. It is extremely difficult to get in. I eventually attended a private college in Pampanga. Tuition was 25,000 pesos a semester, or 50,000 pesos a year, which is about 1,000 USD annually.

Is it easy to get a credit card here?

It’s hard to get one here. I was working for 5 years, applied, and got rejected! They really want to make sure that you can pay. We don’t have a credit score [FICO] here. The interest rate on my credit card is 3.7%.

That’s it?


Wait, 3.7% a year? It’s at least 18% a year in the U.S.

No, 3.7% a month.

Whoa. That’s about 44% a year!

That’s high.

Getting back to blogging, your Facebook, IG, and other media platforms look professionally done. Are you paying for professional assistance?

No. Some of my pictures were taken by other bloggers. You’re seeing the effect of filters and my favorite photography app, VSCO. I’m also a FujiFilminfluencer. There are 15 of us here in Cebu. I really enjoy photography. 

Thank you for your time, Marco.

My pleasure.