Vico Sotto helps Pasig kids learn money basics | Inquirer Business

Vico Sotto helps Pasig kids learn money basics

By: - Business Features Editor / @philbizwatcher
/ 04:02 AM June 28, 2021

Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto attends the virtual graduation of 100 Pasig City students who completed the “Peso Smart x RecoveREADS” distance learning program on financial matters.

MANILA, Philippines — For Pasig’s millennial Mayor Vico Sotto, encountering constituents who need help because they are broke, saddled with debt or unable to pay bills has become an almost daily reality. There are market vendors, for example, who earn well from selling their wares and yet have remained neck-deep in debt to loan sharks.

“Sometimes when I sit down and talk to them, I realize that they shouldn’t have been in this situation if only they managed their finances properly; if only they had the discipline to save; if only they budgeted and wrote down how much their expenses are, how much their income is, and how much they can spend for other things,” Sotto said in a recent interview with the Inquirer.


“If they just did the basic things that are in the work book in the program—what they taught the kids, it wouldn’t have happened.”


Sotto was referring to the Peso Smart financial literacy program brought by global life insurer Manulife to two public primary schools in Pasig. That morning of June 16, Sotto attended the virtual graduation ceremony for more than 100 public elementary school students who completed the distance learning program “Peso Smart x RecoveREADS” — Pasig City’s first financial literacy program specifically for children.


The first batch of graduates came from Francisco Legaspi Memorial School and Buting Elementary School. The students had been given Peso Smart learning kits that included an activity journal based on modules that teach children the basics of saving, budgeting and investing. The kits also contained Manulife’s Peso Smart storybooks “Manny and Liv” and “Yaman Bayan,” which aim to make learning smart money habits more fun, as well as promote meaningful family interactions as parents teach their kids at home. The distance learning program with Pasig was launched in August last year and ran for about 10 months.

“The program starts with very basic concepts, like history of money — so there’s a little bit of financial history. Then we take them into how to earn money. We take them through how to save, how to budget, also what debt is, what credit means, and then how to invest, and the different ways to protect yourself financially, so both investment and insurance. Those are the concepts that are part of the module. So it’s quite comprehensive but presented in a very, very basic way that actually is also fun for children to understand,” said Melissa Henson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Manulife Philippines.

Sotto himself had learned about financial literacy early on, thanks to the foresight of his mother, actress Coney Reyes. “I think that’s one thing my mom did right,” he said.

“The role of financial literacy is critical as it instills financial discipline to help you make informed decisions, lead better lives, and even thrive in a crisis. So, we need to start early in teaching children smart money habits, because it makes a big difference in the kind of future they will build,” Sotto said.

“For this particular program I think it’s correct that we target the children, so once they have their own jobs, their own businesses, they’ll be able to manage their finances well,” he said.


Opportunity amid crisis

Peso Smart started in 2017 as a weekly in-person classroom program, where Manulife employees volunteered to teach public school students the value of good financial habits. Since then, Manulife has produced materials targeting 10 to 11-year-old kids or those in grades 5 and 6.

“But we also created some storybooks, which are like comic book-based. These are books that are also based on the Peso Smart concepts, but are so much simpler, and can be read to younger children. Our Peso Smart kids from Pasig also received these storybooks, but we have read them out to children who are as young as about five to seven years old and those comic books resonate with that age group as well,” Henson said.

The coronavirus pandemic presented an opportunity for Manulife to evolve the program to support young students, even while they studied from home. Manulife teamed up with Corazon Sanchez Atayde Memorial Foundation (CSAMF) to launch Peso Smart x RecoveREADS in Pasig with the support of the local government.

CSAMF volunteers and teachers from Francisco Legaspi Memorial School and Buting Elementary School used Manulife’s Peso Smart storybooks and modules as tools to help guide young students toward smart financial habits.

“The Peso Smart financial literacy modules have truly enriched our existing RecoveREADS program, because these add to our wealth of learning materials so we can help more children in marginalized communities bridge the learning gap, and become more financially savvy by applying basic math and reading skills,” said Margarita Atayde, executive director of CSAMF.

Apart from working with Pasig’s elementary school students, Manulife had also worked with De La Salle University (DLSU) . A version of the online learning program had been designed for college or university-level students.

“So we continue to evolve the program, find new schools that we can partner with to bring this to their students—not just at the elementary level, but also throughout different stages of their learning journey,” Henson said.

While some may think that taking this financial literacy program to distance learning mode may not be ideal, Henson said the silver lining was that the parents have been very involved in the students’ learning journey.

Family budgets

“A lot of the activities that we’ve worked into the program and their workbooks and the modules actually involve the family. So they’ve looked at family budgets. They study their family income. They study their family expenses. They work with their parents to budget and I think coming out of this, when we talk to the parents, we also hear from them that they have learned as well,” she said.

During the graduation ceremony, the mother of one of the students shared that since taking the Peso Smart program, her daughter had been diligently keeping tabs on her. Whenever she would buy something, her daughter would quiz her on whether it’s a need or a want and ask for justification whether she should buy it.

As such, Henson said the key learnings from the program are cascading to the family precisely because the students are at home while doing the program and the project involves studying their family’s finances and working with their parents to figure out how they can save a little bit more as a family.

As Pasig has 28 public elementary schools under the Department of Education, Sotto is hoping that after this pilot run in two schools, the program could be scaled up to more schools in the city.

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“The topic of money is sometimes, or usually, in our culture, [something] we don’t really teach to kids. So this is a really good program to start doing that. And hopefully, we’ll be able to scale up the program moving forward, because I’ve seen that the kids really learned a lot. Even from the testimonials of the students earlier, these are life-long skills and knowledge that they will be able to carry with them until they get older,” Sotto said.

TAGS: manulife, Vico Sotto

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