One hears a lot of lamentation (and in others, self-congratulatory) when retirees converge and would compare notes. They have the money already, well limited comparatively speaking, but the means to spend something for a while. Call it a reward for surviving but of course, it would eventually dwindle and the ghost of sickness hovering somewhere. They have just received their lump sums and how it would support them until they reach heaven is one hell of a riddle they must have to solve. This was the theme of my peers; they would recently retire, on their way to spend a week end in the fabled white beaches of Davao.
And since I was left out, my early retirement application on hold and therefore still in the active duty, my friends just designated me to facilitate some kind of a brief conference. And, collectively we called it a “Business Trip.”
Much as we wanted to hold it in some adventurous spots like what we usually did during youthful days, like on top of the tallest mountain, or in some uninhabited and hostile rain forests, or in an abandoned islet, or in a rebel infested caves, we merely decided to content ourselves in a small space in my office where coffee is overflowing. We have forgotten audacity already. Advancing age has a deleterious effect not only on our hormones but also on our capacity to challenge the ligaments in our knees and in stretching the air sacs of our lungs.
And so the cards were laid down. They have a cash outlay courtesy of retirement benefits. They can splurge it the way they want it but it is the only one left to fend for their narrow future. One of them is still undecided to pursue a capital intensive enterprise. His children, all grown up, still depend on his support, he could not gamble what he already has secured for himself and his loved ones. The rest of my friends in the circle is similarly situated. They all wanted to roll their cash if only to earn for them additional traction or interest. In other words, they wanted to be like Chinese merchants whose money increases for every exposure by 20%. Forget the local businessman who wanted to instantly get 100% return, he gets it done alright but the next day, he is somewhere cursing his fate.
I had a lot of friends who made good and the most I could do was to share how they fared. My point there was for my friends to pick up some approaches too in their determination of what to conduct later. They came with only a handful of experiments and still would find such attempts as wanting. They were excited to explore Davao thinking that they could formulate or develop some kind of a money-making venture.
Davao is site of the biggest banana plantation in the world. Around the corporate activities are several farms handled by individual growers of bananas too. If at all there is business on the side, it would be limited on reject bananas already since the principal product goes for export. The reject bananas (the oversize and undersize ones) previously were grated and thrown in canals. Now, these rejects are dumped in marginal communities where it is translated into a small scale industry for banana chips. (These are not the banana chips that we munch. Those chips were that were made into snack came from the cardava variety or saba. The rejects are from the Cavendish variety.) The chips are sun dried and placed in sacks. These dried chips are bought by merchants to be grounded and made into powder. The white powder is bought by pharmaceutical companies to be used as gel in the production of medicinal tablets. The residue, a bit discoloured powder is separated and sold to companies manufacturing animal feeds as pellets. The remaining scum is marketed in lumber yards for use as industrial adhesive in the fabrication of plywood.
Buying and selling of powdered banana chips is a dollar earner. The problem however is the deficiency of supply. Importers wanted the powdered chips in tonnage quantity. That is almost impossible to contain since the raw material depends upon the delivery of reject bananas. That is the most one can conduct as a commercial venture in this side, well, aside from procuring tuna, repacking it and distributing it in small frozen packages. Or, buying fruits in lots, like durian, mangosteen, pomelo, marang, lanzonez and shipping it to where it is intended to be marketed.
I reminded my buddies that at our age, at our situation, a commercial venture that would require physical endurance is no longer feasible. That we already have surpassed that stage already. That at the most our role should be like Bob Arum to a Manny Pacquaio. To start with, we can choose a street fighter, groom the fellow and get into the groove of boxing tournament as manager. We have to start somewhere in the middle but never at the bottom. “Buy and sell”, is most likely a profitable venture but it is fraught with a lot risks. Same is true with informal loans or 5-6.
In the concluding part of our coffee talk, my friends, resigned at the thought of merely guarding their savings, would rather strive harder to reinvent themselves into businessmen after years in public service.
This is but a glimpse on the travail of a retiree.
It’s an almost impossible shift but they have no other alternative.