-By Hou Li Wei, Clarence
With the boat leaving for Iloilo bumping in the stormy sea, here comes the end of our journey. In the past 25 days, our team has provided our client with a 3,000-word report, a 3-minute promotion video, templates for internship and study tour invitation, template for post card design, all the contact information of the primary, secondary schools and colleges on Guimaras island and the information of the solar panel/wind turbine provider. These are built upon 20+ hours of meeting with the client, 80+ hours working in a group, and our long-lasting business relationship and friendship with our client, Ms. Rosario Griesser, owner of Guimaras Wonders Farm.
Apart from working, we also had fun. A few of the highlights are island hopping in Raymen beach resort, day trip in Iloilo city on Pilipino Independence Day and two-day vacation in Mambukal resort, Negros island. Many of us have tried for the first time in life snorkeling, cliff diving, zip-lining and bicycling (especially for Tina). While living with our host families, we have grown emotionally attached to each other. They provided shelter for us, cooked their best cuisines, some of them even did our laundry and took us to family friends’ party. Cultural exchange also took place in dinner table, in the farming field, on the motorcycles or tractors, and for my host family, several times at the drinking table when I made them cocktails. We learnt Ilonggo, dialect spoken in Guimaras and Tagalog, Philippines’ national language. They also learnt from us interesting facts and beliefs about Chinese, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Malaysian, Indian, Pakistani, American and British culture.
A general impression of the Pilipino society is that government plays a major role. Bank loans are hard to obtain and often come with a high interest rate, while the government sometimes provides interest-free loans to certain businesses. Thus it is of crucial importance for businesses to have a good relationship with the government, which our client Rose successfully did and evidently benefited from. But for other less fortunate business owners, they are trapped in a situation where they either choose not to expand their businesses or as the Chinese proverb goes, quench thirst with a poison by turning to those de facto loan sharks.
Another impression is that the country is agriculture-oriented. Even though young people are all striving to work in tertiary sector, it cannot change the fact that the country’s future lies on farming with, perhaps, more added values. The geographical feature, composition of natural resources and climate condition makes the country a perfect land for farming, and in certain regions, tourist destinations. With many Pilipinos working abroad and remitting money back, many families are broken apart and these oversea elite Pilipinos are only building someone else’s country. Thus, these oversea employments are arguably not the best solutions. A better solution, in my opinion, is high value-added and specialised, tech-savvy agricultural production such as organic farming.
In terms of culture, Pilipinos are among the most hospitable people I have even encountered in life. What they care about most is how foreigners perceive their country and themselves. That is why I have been constantly asked the same question by almost every local person I met—“How do you find the Philippines?”. This nation has its national pride and they spare no effort to maintain and elevate its image. It is very important that you wholeheartedly feel and appreciate their culture. A month’s time passes very fast but the beautiful memories, experiences and knowledge I gained here will forever be engraved in my head. I highly recommend this course as it gives us a unique chance to live and work in a totally new environment, where people trust you unreservedly as they believe you come from a more developed business society. This gives us a lot of autonomy and it opens many doors. Such perks are highly associated with the reputation of HKU. Therefore, let us defend its good name so HKUers can continue to enjoy this invaluable goodwill and leverage it to make positive impact to the global society.
Here are a few tips for students coming in next cycle:
-Adapt to the lifestyle. People in the countryside rise when the sun rises and rest when the sun sets, which means in the summer get up at 5am and sleep around 8pm. It is a sharp change compared to your Hong Kong biological clock. And trust me, such transition is beneficial to you. Sleeping too late or getting up too late may disturb your host families and ruin next day’s agenda.
-Appreciate the culture. As said, the Pilipino people are very sensitive to their image in your eyes, which means they will treat you very well. But be careful not to make irresponsible remarks. It is always a good gesture for you to learn several useful phrases in local dialect.
-Be prepared. A good living condition and English proficiency of the local people are not guaranteed. Be ready to accept challenges and by overcoming them, you will grow stronger.
I really enjoyed this course and sincerely hope that you will also have the passion and opportunity to embark on this amazing journey in the future!
Our Team and our client, The loving parents Me and my
taken in her farm of my host family. Pilipino brother