— By Metis
Guimaras, bright stars.
This is supposed to be the last blog for this wonderful journey. As a response to the expectations posted in my first blog, I am going to do a self-assessment here with 10 Q&A below.
The first five questions (q1- q5) correspond to what I am expecting to this journey proposed in my first blog. Other five questions consist of the overall comment and review of what we did in the past twenty-five days. I hope my answers to all the self-made questions could help not only myself and my group mates review our wonderful time and improve our future capabilities along with the process of introspection, but also future students get a deeper idea of what they are going to encounter and therefore make themselves well-equipped.
- What’s the difference between this course and other service projects?
The major difference between this course and other service projects is its wonderful combination. Comparing to social voluntary service, this course offers course credit and professional instruction; comparing to other summer course, this course provides with overseas consulting experiences and friendship among a nuclear group of elites, highly diversified students.
- Is the local environment the same as what is in mainland rural areas?
For our team’s task, we are assigned to help a local organic farm for its better sustainable operation. Compared with what I did one year ago in mainland rural areas for local honeysuckle business, this time, we faced a greater challenge in effective communication with local people. This pushed us to learn some local language to better approach to local community, and forced us to sharpen our English in a way that could UNDERSTAND any kind of regional accents, and get yourself UNDERSTOOD effectively by them. In this way, English presents more fully a communication tool that is not targeted only at its original regions i.e. the United States and the United Kingdom, rather it now is, and always should be used among people who can speak this common language and use it for effective mutual understanding.
- Do Philippines people possess the same demand concerns?
When we tried to understand the business, common language and effective communication are the most important prerequisites for constructive solutions to improve current situations. When we gave business suggestions, understanding local people’s demand concerns and knowing what they truly want are far more important than a fancy final business report that is compatible with classic business models. This is the first thing we were required to keep in mind in the opening lecture, which in fact turns out to be the most difficult thing to keep when we were truly in Guimaras, Philippines.
In the beginning, we thought that Rosy, the owner of the farm, just wanted to expand her business and earn more profits, which seems to be all businessmen’s lifelong goals. As we observed that she was highly occupied by the daily trivial stuff, such as cutting the leaves to make organic meals, which we thought could be done by other employees and thus save her valuable time, we tried to recommend to her that she may shift some of her current tasks to employees and give herself a break to thing about things that are more valuable, such as long-term goal for her farm.
When we spoke to her about this idea, she smiled and said that she just liked this organic style of life. She likes farming and finds things beneficial from organic farming. She and her husband, in total more than 120 years old, still do things for themselves and they are happy about that. Indeed, what we think as burdensome and time-wasted stuff is what they value most. Rather than what we regard as profit-oriented business, they take their business as part of their pursued organic life. In this way, they really demonstrate a unique demand concern.
- Will the regional, political and cultural differences influence our advice to the local client?
Definitely, failure to consider local elements would surely impede the process of achieving the best consultancy. Unlike Hong Kong and mainland China, the Philippines possess its unique culture. This uniqueness not only justifies the existence of Philippines, but also positions the way of its future. In a sense, all our solutions should meet our client fundamental demand, which would never go against its historical and cultural uniqueness.
For example, when we considered whether our internship package fully tackled the shortage of labor faced by Rosy, we couldn’t come to the conclusion from our preliminary idea that this idea works well in our own regions. Rather, we had to talk with the local people, visit local schools and consult with the education department, which we had all done before we finalized our internship suggestion. Thanks to doing that, we avoided taking July and August as students’ summer holiday, since in Philippine, this is the school months.
And for the local snacks, it’s hard to find a place like Philippines where snacks enjoy much higher prices than cigarettes! For a small bottle of coca cola, 10 pesos is enough to purchase one, no more than 13 pesos. For a pack of potato chips, usually 7 pesos is good enough. As for cigarettes, it’s incredible to have it at 1 peso! No wonder why Rosy shared with us her concerns about the young generation. And such a price difference, to a lesser extent, sociological difference can matter a lot when we give considerations to the local business plan and its further implications.
- How would the home stay help with our business plans?
Rather than staying in hotels and dormitories, we are assigned to different local host families with two students per host. Each host family is not far away from others, and sometimes two and more are just besides each other. We had one big host family as our WiFi house, which is not around my host family. Thus from time to time, Christine (my dear roommate) and I would walk along the way to the WiFi house to work and talk with others, and walk back together with some other students. We chatted, sang songs, enjoyed the remarkably gorgeous sunset scenes, and even PECK to the so-called wild Indian Mango Trees to see who has the best scores. There are also times that the sun is gone suddenly and darkness with drenching rains comes to us at once. We screamed and dashed back. If we are lucky enough, we can catch a motorcycle and squeeze ourselves on it for an incredible “one motor, three persons” bundle. All of these are impossible to have without living in the host families.
If you really think these happy experiences contribute nothing to our business plans, I have to say that living with local people does help us get deeper understanding of local culture and Philippines’s universal values. It’s quite common to find churches in Guimaras, no matter how remote the area is. It’s also not surprised to see the comparison between how fancy the church is and how dilapidated the nearby house looks like. Without going to church together with our host family and understanding their personal stories, it is sometimes really hard to regard such a huge discrepancy as rationality. The day I went to church with them is Father’s Day. Though I couldn’t understand what they were saying in Pilipino dialect, I still sensed a strong warmness when flowers were presented to the fathers on stage and everyone hugged around. Our host family, Gloria, she lived with her little cute granddaughter and her husband left them behind quite long ago. When I looked at her in church, I felt a deep connection to her and her place, her country. Something she wouldn’t have told us was talked with us in church and we felt that she did get inner peace here.
Maybe this can partly explain why Philippine people still live a “non-aggressive” life, as Tony, the main character in Samson’s, once expressed that poverty is one characteristic of Philippines. And this may also explain why it’s so easy for Philippine people to accept Rosy’s life style whereas they are so surprised at our thoughts and life styles.
Sometimes when I am reading behind the books, it’s easy for me to argue that such “easy-to-meet” satisfaction is largely due to their inability to alleviate their poverty. When you are immersed into their environment, however, probably most of the time you will feel the same as them: the climate, the limited use of electricity, the horrible hot weather and crazily drenching rains, the haunting mosquitoes and bugs everywhere, and the well-recognized poverty, but setting in such tranquil and serene backgrounds. Same hopeless but same enjoying. And you will feel more beyond logics and reasoning. This can be called real life.
- What is your team’s task and how well do you help with it?
Our team is assigned the task to help Rosy and her farm. Based on what we understood about her and her business, as well as Philippine culture obtained from home stay experiences and Samson reading task, we completed the following items as our first-stage consultant work this time.
- Overall business report
- Promo video
- Internship package
- Postcard design
We believe at the current stage, these things are of essential help to meet Rosy’s goals. And what excited us all is the overwhelming influence of the Internet, which we have long known, but which at least for me is the first time to feel. We uploaded the promo video to YouTube on Saturday, and two days later on Monday, which is our last meeting with Rosy as we departed on Tuesday, Rosy received a call from Iran saying that he had watched the YouTube video and would like to import some mangoes and pineapples. Rosy was so happy and we three students were excited as well! Our efforts did pay off, especially in such a short time period.
- Three best experiences that you have never tried before.
- Waterfall jump
In fact, I am the loyal audience to this excited activity due to my limited swimming skills. But sitting aside and taking photos for other brave group mates can bring the same fun! I was always happy to see them challenging themselves, especially when I caught some wonderful moments of their crazy facial expressions, hahahaha.
- Mango harvesting
Harvesting mangoes is definitely one thing that fancies me most (proved by the video)! It couldn’t be missed to enjoy mangoes and mango shakes in Guimaras, and neither could mango harvesting!
- Crazy Motorcycle
How many people can you imagine sitting on the same motorcycle? How fast can you guess a motorcycle can run? How crazy your facial look can be when you pass the muddy mountain road sitting at the very back holding tightly of the shoulders in front of you feeling the bumping and holding more tightly and facing the crazy speed together with crazily heavy rainfalls? Come and enjoy. It’s really a new life experience. I would never recognize who the girl was when I heard shouting and screaming crazily like that.
- Three toughest challenges that you have never thought about.
- How to live without electricity
This ranks the first since this is the kind of things that’s really hard to imagine until you truly find yourself in the situation. There was time when we faced a full-day shortage of electricity. It happened for no reason. But even with reason we still couldn’t do anything more except accepting it. The change of my mind that day and the things I successfully completed are shared in my fourth blog. To save pages and time, let me summarize it as “a thing that you may never encounter, but a thing you must experience”. Until then will you truly feel how technology has changed and immersed into our life, and fully come up with your own judgment to whether this is a good thing or not. One thing to mention here is that, I successfully changed my bed time: 8:00pm to 5:00am!
- What to do when you are on the motorcycle and meet heavy rainfalls
Nothing else, just shout and scream as you want. Follow your heart and your will feel how lucky you are that you are still alive.
- How to communicate with others
The importance of communication can never be overestimated. In Philippines, you have to handle things like, how to communicate with your group mates with diversified background, how to talk with your client, how to live with your roommate, how to share with your host family, and how to talk to yourself. There are quite a lot sparkling points you can find from your peers and the local people. The peace and tranquility there provide you the best condition to introspect and self-analysis. The duration of over 25 days offer you enough time to talk, ask, understand, and share with your peers and professor. You will find yourself learn far more beyond the scope of business.
- What would you change if you have the chance to go back and do it again?
If I can go back and attend this course again, I will bring the spicy sources from my hometown to make dishes better for the farewell lunch. I was unknown about it and thus found nothing helpful with me. When I went to the “supermarket” with my roommate and my host family, I felt surprised at the local food and same hopeless to find out what I want to buy there and what the “customers” reaction few hours later……
- What would you say if this course could continue next year?
As we are the first group of students for this course, things reasonably could not go perfectly. Sometimes we faced the threat of exceeding budget (but professor always treats us to big meals haha), and sometimes we had to deal with unexpected arrangements (often the time is an unexpected ocean relaxing day). But all of these would definitely get improved in the next year.
Unwilling as I am to say good bye to this wonderful journey, I have to conclude now and this really marks the end of the marvelous trip for last month:
BEST COURSE AND SUPERB PROFESSOR. EVER.
And you won’t regret.