‘Tingbitay sa iro’

Translated literally that means “hanging of the dogs.” Growing up I would hear Daddy say that from time to time, usually over lunch or dinner and especially when milling season was off. During this time (if I remember correctly, this would be from June to early November), the fields are brimming with activity; planting is heavy and busy. It also means that all the money goes into making sure as much land as possible is planted and nurtured to produce the best crop yield. It is a time to tighten the belt, pinch pennies, pugong usa sa gasto (put a rein on spending) because the funds are out of the banks and into the land. It is the lean season. This is the time to save, to absolutely spend on the necessities only.

Tingbitay sa iro. I do not know how the image of a dog hanging by its poor neck can have even a remote connection to hard times. Maybe the one who coined it in the first place had so hard a time that he did not even have money to buy food and had to kill his dog for that purpose instead? I’m just guessing. Note to self: Call Daddy tonight and ask him what the expression means.

Anyway, life and business being cyclical and all, after about five months, when harvest time is around the corner, all the money that went out comes in again plus more. The sugar mills roll and the planter will get back his investment in the shape of crops he can then sell. It is a time that allows him and his family to spend finally, not only for needs, but for wants as well. Daddy is a very prudent man and that sort of rubbed off on my siblings and me. Even if all four of us pretty much earn our own keep now, we still think twice about splurging on the really-not-so-necessary because of a teeny bit of guilt that always, even if it is not so welcome, factors into our purchases like a built-in financial conscience. Daddy always says that simply having the money is not enough of a reason to just go out and spend it. He is all for quality, and thinking carefully about each major purchase, even if it is a reward for yourself. But that is another story altogether, good enough for another article on another Sunday.

For now let’s return to tingbitay sa iro. I remembered that a lot this week because the headlines of all the major dailies have depressing news about the economy tumbling down like Jack and Jill, the stock market crashing, and a global financial meltdown taunting all of us from a very near corner. Very obviously, the “hanging of the dogs” moment is real and present, happening in the now. Now is the time to save and be prudent in our spending habits, if only as a sign of empathy and oneness with all those who are worst hit by this crisis.

Where is the bottom? Have we even scratched it already, at least? I’m thinking it cannot possibly get any worst, right? There has to be a divine factor in all this, and even if, let’s say, it does get worse (God forbid), we can always have faith in divine redemption. Pure hope cannot be such a bad thing. Maybe man does not have to try too hard to single-handedly figure this all out. In times like this, we can just allow God to be the Superhero that He truly is and make everything fall into place. In His perfect plan and time.

Forgive me; I am very Pinoy that way. We pretty much all go along our smiling and happy way, resilient even as we acknowledge that, yes, there is a financial storm happening. When the rest of the world is in a state of panic, the Pinoy can still smile and find reason to eagerly look forward to when times will be better. Because that will come; we must believe that. What goes down must go up, eventually.

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Until then, we can all do our part even if they take shape in ways that are more small than big. Even if it is a scary time to start, I now really make an effort to read the business section. I want to be financially literate, even if I am reading about money and conglomerates that I am not part of and have no part in. I read and re-read Bo Sanchez’s book entitled The 8 Secrets of the Truly Rich and it is very enlightening at every turn, to say the least. It got me all excited to take saving even more seriously. I like rules for the security and sense of order they provide. This is a saving rule I am happy to adapt. There are no mind-blowing revelations between the pages, really, just truths so simple and practical that we almost forget about them because they have become muddled by more sophisticated information. But it invites one and all in a very compelling way, I must say, to just go back to the basics, the major difference being that what we save we do not necessarily have to put in a plain savings account. My favorite is saving the “Joseph way” (yes, Joseph from the Bible, who had brothers who sold him as a slave in Egypt but who eventually rose to oversee the land very wisely). In a dream, God told Joseph that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. He further instructed Joseph to save 20 percent of the produce from the time of plenty so that everyone in Egypt would still have enough during the time of famine. That is part of the “10-20 principle” Brother Bo writes in his book and during his appearance many months back on The Sweet Life. The 10 comes from the biblical teaching that you have to give back to God a tenth of your first fruits and He promises to fill your vat to overflowing. That is perhaps the only “invitation” in the Bible that is followed by the words “Test Me on this.” We were told never to put God to the test but for this one, He is allowing us to. Hey, all you skeptics out there, now is your chance! Tithe means tenth (I asked a priest; that is why it is called tithing in church). By the way, your 10-percent tithe does not have to go solely and entirely to the projects of your parish. You will soon find that God strategically places people in your path — friends, family and strangers alike — who are in most need of your help. What we do to others we also do to God; we were all taught that as far back as kindergarten. That said, it is easy to see that every day can be a chance to help someone; even with whatever little you have. It follows that those who have more must also help more. That is simple mathematics. Yes, even in these hard times we still can afford to share. There is even more reason to share and there should be enough to go around for everyone. I leave you with that thought, at the risk, of course, of sounding preachy.

The 10-20 principle is a great deal. Read Bo Sanchez’s book, and find out for yourself, especially now when it is tingbitay sa iro time.

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