Guimaras has proved to be quite close to what I had expected. The people have been exceedingly welcoming and the activities organized by Beau have definitely been interesting. However, finding new ideas for Z-Network, our assigned business, has not been straightforward due to varied challenges that are usually not very obvious.
We travelled to Iloilo City on Independence Day and spent the whole day visiting different historical sites including the century-old mansions on Calle Real, Iloilo City Market, Jaro Cathedral and Lizares Mansion. As President Aquino was visiting the city, his ever-smiling face was plastered across most billboards in the area. Unsurprisingly, his political opponents were also out in force as demonstrated by the familiar sight (for Hong Kongers) of an energetic protest rally smack in the middle of the city center.
Sonny Gamarcha and his new partner, Eduardo , who is also his brother-in-law have helped us fully understand how their computer business works while simultaneously informing us of their plans for future expansion. I had naively assumed that working for the business would be similar to how our courses in HKU are run with pain-staking precision. A couple of days spent on bookish business concepts have taught me different. Waiting and musing are of minimal benefit and results can only be achieved if we shed the image of uptight consultants who can’t get their hands dirty.
The business already works regularly with a number of schools in the municipalities of Jordan, Sibunag and San Lorenzo. Nueva Valencia and its 25 schools are still uncharted territory though so our team decided to visit the Department of Education in order to glean some information about school names and contacts. My experience with government offices back home had made me slightly hesitant before entering the foreboding building on the main avenue through San Miguel but my concerns proved to be unnecessary. Mr. Jardeleza, Principal of Nueva Valencia Central School, saw our confused faces in the reception area and pointed us in the right direction after inviting us to visit his school the next day within a span of three minutes. The officials in the department answered most of our queries very willingly which could be attributed to their curiosity about us as international students. Being foreign has oiled our interactions on multiple occasions here because Guimaras is not as international an area as Manila or Boracay. However, our visits to the departments of education, trade and tourism proved to be of limited overall usefulness because we were unable to scout new clients for the business. Relationships and practices in the government sector are not very yielding which means that we might need to focus our energies on the private sector.
Our visits to two schools today furthered our understanding of how computer equipment is usually purchased and repaired in the region. Most official purchases go through the bidding process whereby different businesses submit tenders with the contract going to the least expensive ones. Orders typically go to established stores in Iloilo City because of a lack of awareness about local options. This presents a potential opportunity for us to work on with the ultimate goal of emerging as the foremost computer equipment store in Guimaras.
Planting trees at Ms. Nena’s house was a fun exercise for the whole group. While some of us did get a little overexcited while handling the fertilizer (Anson, I’m looking at you), we managed to do some good work; the fruits of which we can hopefully reap in a few years’ time.