Thursday, November 17, 2005


If Pilosopong Tasyo was of this day and age, he would point out with utmost cynicism what gambling chips and credit cards have in common – plastic. And that plastic actually obscures the true value of money. Therefore, one tends to gamble or spend more with a piece of plastic than with actual cash as in Suzette’s story.

On the day she received her credit card, she took her boyfriend out to dinner after work at Friday’s in Robinson’s Malate. It was to celebrate her entry to the world of privileged adulthood: a major bank has entrusted her with a credit line twice the amount of her monthly gross salary.

Ronald had burgers with fries and a couple of bottles of imported beer while she had Fettucine Alfredo and two glasses of her favorite cocktail of gin and tonic. The dinner cost more than two thousand pesos.

Feeling a bit woozy from the gin, while strolling in the mall after dinner, she spontaneously dragged Ronald inside the Lacoste shop. She bought him a pricey pair of sneakers and a plaid short-sleeved shirt. The total came close to six thousand pesos.

Ronald was so happy for the unexpected gifts on top of a great dinner that he, too, spontaneously dragged Suzette to a nearby hotel for some mad love to express his gratitude. She was in heaven. While checking out, still giddy from Roland’s show of gratitude, she insisted that the bill of almost two thousand pesos be paid with her card as well.

That first night out with her credit card, she accumulated a debt of about ten thousand pesos. From that night on, Suzette never left home without it.

Eventually, she found herself maxing out her credit line. However, she managed to pay at least half of her accumulated charges by drawing from her savings. Unfortunately, instead of taming her spending habits, she pursued it with the same fervor and after a few months, she had used up her credit and depleted her savings. At the end, she could only afford to pay the minimum amount due. She now has to leave home without it.

In the interim, another bank had issued Suzette a credit card. Although its credit line was not as much as the first, it was still good enough. She promised to use it more wisely; however, she and her boyfriend started having problems.

In order to preserve their two-year relationship, Suzette suggested they spend more quality time on weekends. She and Ronald had taken into driving out of town and staying at nice resort hotels.

Only a couple of months later, she had tapped out its credit line as well. The stress from diving deeper into debt made Suzette jumpy and tense in which no mad love could alleviate. After a series of hurtful exchanges, Ronald thought it was best to separate just until they find a way to work out their differences.

Less than two years after receiving her first credit card, Suzette found herself in dire economic circumstances and without a boyfriend. Collectors started aggressively hounding her at work and at home. Embarrassing messages would be left with her officemates whenever unable to reach her. Calls to her house came in late at night when most households had gone to bed.

The collectors didn’t hesitate suggesting to anyone who answered the phone that Suzette might have become a woman of loose morals and ill-repute — the type that wanders aimlessly along the dark alleys of Avenida Rizal in their sheer skimpy clothing and red stilettos looking for cheap trick. And that was the reason she was never home when they called late at night. Actually, Suzette would be entirely covered by her blanket with her head buried under the pillow to avoid hearing the ringing telephone.

The tactics used by the collection agents were so harsh and brutal Suzette would be reduced to tears. Unable to deal with the humiliation any longer, she begged her father for a loan to pay off her debts. The father had to dip into his savings, including selling his treasured Callaway golf set at a loss – a 50th birthday present from her mother – just to help her.

Over dinner one night, her mother finally told her, “Ever since you got yourself a job, you never once helped out with the household expenses. And because you were too retarded to make any smart decisions, the only thing that gave your father much pleasure had to be sold to pay for your selfish, idiotic habits!” Suzette could only cry in response.

Ironically, inside Suzette’s closet were a couple of shopping bags full of brand new clothes with price tags intact; traces of past shopping sprees. Apparently, she never really needed most of those things; she just bought them for the rush it gave her from making the purchase.

Ronald never reconciled with her. He’s now living with a much older woman; an entertainer in Japan who has saved enough money to retire early from the profession. He is enjoying the fine clothes, jewelries and a brand new car from his new lady friend.

As for Suzette, as a means to pay back her father sooner, she took a second job on weekends at her friend’s restaurant. With her new boyfriend, Ramil, an attorney, she’s exploring the idea of setting up an advocacy group against abusive collection tactics.

It may be argued that the plastic card itself is not at fault here. True. But it did, however, facilitated an inchoate aberration to manifest as a harmful pattern of behavior.


Article: Credit Card 'Sales' People Remain Untamed

Article: You Might Be a Shopaholic

Pilosopong Tasyo a character in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere
Translated in English by Maria Soledad Lacson-Locsin)


posted by Señor Enrique at 6:40 AM


Anonymous NoelG said...

What a nightmare! Your point is well taken. The people who devised credit cards surely knows human nature and perceptions.

As far as Suzettes story goes, why go after the debt collectors? It seems that they were the ones who scared her straight.

Nice blog.

November 17, 2005 1:30 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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