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Top 5 Ignored (But Deserving) Posts from Smalltime’s First Year

Top 5 Ignored (But Deserving) Posts from Smalltime’s First Year

So it’s been about a year since I first posted on Small Time on June 29, 2015. On the right is the first image posted on Smalltime; red tape which everyone, especially small business owners like myself, hate.

Red tape - the bane of everyone.
Red tape – the bane of everyone.

That’s not a bad length of time to be blogging regularly, especially considering the average life span of a web page (note page, not site) is 100 days.

Of course some posts are more popular than others. While I’m gratified that some people have found some of the things I’ve posted useful, even asking for advise in the comments, there were some posts that I thought should garner more readers than they have so far.

So, for all the fan’s of Smalltime (that’s me, my fiancee and our dog), here are the Top 5 Ignored (But Deserving) Posts from Smalltime’s First Year:

1. Epigraph for Sarajevo – I used to teach writing at university and there was one class I just couldn’t connect with. The unlikely bridge which finally allowed me, just for a day, to inspire them was Sarajevo.

2. The most disappointing job applicants – Filipinos are always blaming the government for the failure of economic growth to trickle down to the masses. In turn politicians trip over themselves to promise that economic gains will be felt by the majority. As a small business owner though I routinely comes across people who simply do not want to work. Sure they have a whole host of excuses, usually a variation of laziness (I can’t be bothered to show up for a job interview I already said yes to) or ego (that job is beneath me, I won’t do it). No work no pay. No pay, no betterment in one’s economic situation.

3. Most overlooked customer service person in your business – It’s not who you think.

4. Security Theater at NAIA Terminal 2 – Security theater actually taps into many popular Filipino cultural traits. There’s the aspect of the moro-moro, a staged fight where everyone know the outcome well in advance. There’s our habit of looking busy without actually accomplishing anything. Finally there’s our love of once we gain the slightest modicum of power we lord it over everyone else. Heck, security theater could be considered our national art form.

5. How to compute Vat – It’s not as simple as you think.

Philippine tourist scam: Escorts claiming to be minors in order to extort their clients

Philippine tourist scam: Escorts claiming to be minors in order to extort their clients

I’m involved slightly in the tourist industry in Manila and Cebu and recently heard a report on escorts and their clients. Specifically the censoredescorts would do their job, wake up the next day and allege to their clients that they were minors and thus that the clients were guilty of statutory rape.

It’s an old enough scam, one that doesn’t take too much imagination to set up. It seems to be alive and well though and particularly organized as the report detailed that the clients, who were Korean, were actually vacationing in Cebu but the escorts came from Manila.

In this particular case, when the escorts began their extortion, the clients went to the Korean consulate. In turn the consulate enlisted the aid of the local police. The police turned the tables on the escorts and pointed out that if the escorts were lying about their age then they could be the ones facing charges. The escorts dropped their complaints and disappeared.

I have no information if this is a common scam although the officials involved seem to well practiced in how to handle it.

Review: Getting a housing loan from BPI

Review: Getting a housing loan from BPI

I’m a fan of BPI. I think the bank tries to offer innovative products (eg. one of the first, if not the first, to introduce internet banking in the Philippines) and their service is generally good. For my business I even use a BPI mobilePOS.

Recently though I got a housing loan from BPI and unfortunately it wasn’t smooth sailing. This was surprising as loans are  traditional bank business and you’d think BPI would have such a process optimized for speed and convenience while at the same time taking the necessary safeguards that the bank won’t lose money.bpi logo

It took forever to get the loan and the bank insisted we secure documents which were redundant.

The facts: My fiancee and I bought a piece of land with an existing townhouse on it. We borrowed some money from my family in order to afford the purchase. Complete payment was made and the title was transferred. The sale went smoothly, we had no problems with the seller.

After the sale we approached BPI and said we wanted to get a mortgage on our property. We would use the loan proceeds to pay back some of the money we owed to my family. I thought the mortgage would be a relatively simple thing as we had all the documents necessary to prove our ownership:

  1. Title of the property
  2. Certificate Authorizing Registration (CAR) from the BIR – The CAR basically says that all the necessary taxes have been paid on the sale and title can be transferred from the sellers to the buyers (ie. me and my fiancee). Title will not be transferred without a CAR.
  3. Real property tax (RPT) receipts from the local government unit proving that the RPT for 2016 has been paid. The title would also have not been transferred if there were still outstanding RPT due on the property.
  4. CENOMAR – Certificate of no marriage from the NSO that me and my fiancee are not married

propertiesSo, we apply for a real estate mortgage from BPI. The initial terms were for a loan amount of 6 million, with a loan period of 10 years at an interest rate of 5.8%. (Eventually BPI lent us less than this but at an interest rate of 5% for the first 3 years, we lucked out as they were having a promo at the time.)

First annoyance, several phone calls were made to me to verify the information I had submitted in the loan application. Once or twice is fine but I must have received 5 phone calls all asking me the same thing. The worst part is that the person calling to verify basic information had the wrong information! For example, one of the callers did not understand that we had already bought the property, she thought we were borrowing in order to be able to buy the property.

Eventually, BPI finally decides it has enough information (which it already had from when I first filled up their initial form, if they just bothered to read what they made me full up) and dispatches an assessor to the property. I meet the assessor at the house, everything is fine, he does his job and goes.

Afterwards I get an email from the loan officer handling the transaction. The loan has been approved. Great, I arrange to meet her at a BPI branch for the signing.

Second annoyance, when I get to the bank branch I find out that the loan officer still needs more documents from us before the loan can be processed. (Why didn’t she just tell me this over email instead of having me go to the branch.) Moreover the documents I was being asked to supply were redundant. As I explained above I already had sufficient documents to prove clearly my title to the property. Yet BPI still asked me for, among others, proof of full payment to the seller as well a certified true copy of the cancelled title.

I had already presented to BPI the original deed of sale where the seller acknowledged receiving full payment. Also I had presented the CAR from BIR authorizing registration of the transfer of title. With these 2 documents basically everything else they asked for was redundant.

When I complained I got the usual run around that it was bank policy, there was nothing they could do, it was BSP policy; it was the RDO’s policy, etc.

In the Philippines having a clean title in your hand is apparently not enough proof that you own that property.

Red tape - the bane of everyone.
Red tape – the bane of everyone.

We should just throw the whole Torrens systems out if everyone else keeps requiring other things to be presented along with the title.

Third annoyance, since I was speaking to my loan officer in person at this point, I asked a question about the computation of the loan. She couldn’t answer me. (To be fair after this meeting she did check and got back to me on my question. It doesn’t inspire confidence though when your loan officer can’t answer how your loan was computed.)

Fourth annoyance, we were asked to sign forms that were missing key pieces of information, such as the expiry date of the loan being offered to us. To be fair the documents we were signing were standard contracts and big companies often leave many portions of these standard contracts blank (eg. when you sign up to buy a condo from a developer). Still, this should not be standard practice. The documents I signed were incomplete with the missing information only being supplied verbally by my loan officer. Yes, I’m a chump though and signed the documents anyway as if I didn’t sign them there was no way for the loan to move forward.

Fifth annoyance, I handed over original copies of my real property tax receipts as well as the real property tax assessments. I specifically asked my loan officer if I would be getting these back (they’re important when you have to pay the real property tax at the start of the year). She assured me I would get them back. As it turns out I did not get them back when the loan was finally released. I was promised something and instead got the exact opposite. Gosh.

Finally, the process took much longer than I thought.  I inquired about a bank loan in October 2015, I finally received the loan in May 2016. Granted the delay in the first 3-4 months was not the bank’s fault, neither was it mine. The transfer of title was delayed because BIR got the assessed value wrong and then Register of Deeds wanted to weigh in on it so it took a couple of months for the bureaucracy to correct its mistake. Still, that it still took 5 months in 2016 to get the loan through is ridiculous.

I’ve gone on at length about this because in a way I do feel aggrieved that BPI was such a pain in the ass to get a loan from. I don’t think I’m entitled to a loan but I do think once I’ve established that I’m the rightful owner of the property to be mortgaged, that I have the capacity to pay for said mortgage, that the bank is interested in granting me said loan; then at that point I don’t think it’s too much to ask as a customer that my case be dealt with efficiently without making me jump through hoop after hoop after hoop.

Again, I’m a fan of BPI. I’ve had an account with them since I was a teenager. All of my primary accounts are with them. But honestly after this experience if ever I needed a loan in the future I would seriously consider other banks.

SSS Online Employer Enrollment – How To

SSS Online Employer Enrollment – How To

The SSS has jumped on the bandwagon of government agencies (technically SSS isn’t a government agency but since you’re required to remit money to it monthly its bureaucracy can be just as bad as the government) requiring clients to file returns/payments online.

Specifically, all employers are now required to enroll online with SSS. (Note that you are required to have an online account but you can still file your returns offline, ie. pay at a bank and then go to SSS with your USB with the R3 files on it.)

I’m dubious about these forced online migrations since the technical infrastructure underlying most government servers can’t cope with the sudden influx of new users. Take for example BIR’s fiasco this year where it had to keep pushing back the deadline for online filing since its servers kept crashing.

The SSS online enrollment had its WTF moments but surprisingly strong support from the call center hotline got me through. Here are the steps for online enrollment.

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MTRCB – Our befuddled guardians who protect us from sex, violence and anything interesting in movies and TV

MTRCB – Our befuddled guardians who protect us from sex, violence and anything interesting in movies and TV

I’ve complained about the MTRCB before.

Shit MTRCB Permits Say really brings home the point though that one wonders what goes through the minds of our censors.

Read it, have a laugh. And then ponder if you want these guys thinking for you.


Photo Credit: it´s a sin [censored] via Photopin and a Creative Commons License

Review: PLDT Fibr

Review: PLDT Fibr

I’ve been talking a lot about telcos so I thought I would share my experience with the home broadband plans of both PLDT and Globe.

I was with PLDT Fibr for many years then switched to Globe’s Fiber offering. (The “Fibr” is not a typo, that’s how PLDT is marketing their Fiber connections. Wrong spelling is hip.)

Some background first, we’re a family of 5 and all of us use the internet to varying degrees. I download a lot of TV shows (720p or 1080p), my brother watches a lot of online videos and plays a lot of online games. My mom uploads a lot of stuff to Facebook and she’ll be the first to complain if the internet is slow.

Most of the business of Alcoves is also done online so a reliable connection is paramount.

As such we don’t mind paying for internet that is speedy. It’s a luxury but one, for us, that is well worth it.

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