So after a heavy night of packing and 12-hour journey end-to-end, I finally reached Bohol. A spoilt kid who never did his laundry or slept without Air Con, was in a remote island unknown to all these superficial pleasures. The purpose of this blog is not going to be about how I did stuff to help the people in a rural village but quite the opposite, it’s how these people have shown me a different way of life, not just metaphorically but quite literally. I arrived here on the top of a jeep, dodging branches with little accuracy and enjoying the picturesque landscapes. As soon as we arrived, we met our homestay families, which had 3 sons, mom, dad and an old grandma. Oh! and not to forget a super naughty Lil’ puppy called Boloi.
The first day we met locals and after being in a place like Hong Kong for a long while, greeting random people with a huge smile on the road seemed all too strange to me. The warmth and kindness of the locals, whom I didn’t even know, was a mild reminiscent of my hometown which eventually forced me to think that is a modern city with all the comforts of technology really better than a simple human touch of friendliness?
( Yeah, I was kinda annoying him with the camera 😛 )
Moving on to Monday, we were introduced to our businesses. Mine happened to be a homemade cookie store called Vicky’s cookies. The store has been operated by the family since 3 generations. Although, the store sells but it doesn’t bake the cookies themselves, they buy it from their in-laws and earn a commission of 5 pesos per packet.
The store owner Malu, is a seasoned lady, in the business for a couple of decades, but there was something that distinguished her from any other store owner in Bohol. She had a drive to excel and expand. As one of the first recommendations, we asked her to make smaller packets of cookies and she had only one size which was quite huge. She was really quick to incorporate the change and next morning, she had a packet half the size of the original one.
The basis behind recommending her a smaller packet was that she would be able to sell more and also earn a higher profit per cookie on the smaller packets. According to my calculations, she earned the same amount of commission (5 pesos) on a smaller packet relative to the larger one whereas the number of cookies were half. As she is selling half the number of cookies and the cost per cookies is always the same, she earns twice as much commission per cookie when she sells the smaller packet.
After having hours of long chats with Malu about her business and way of life, we were finally able to understand the many such problem of doing business here. First of all, would be the culture – Filipinos rarely save, account or manage their money. This is therefore reflected in the way they do business, living hand to mouth. They don’t possess even a rough idea of their earnings, sales or inventory. So the first step for us was an obvious one, to help her establish a basic accounting system that would help her keep track of demand in different seasons, account for her earnings and provide a rough estimate for inventory in the next cycle. For this purpose, I bought her a tally counter and accounting notebook to help maintain a basic record. Give a man fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Keeping this in mind, the idea for me was fairly simple, to teach Malu to account for stock and sales rather than doing it for her. In the easiest possible language, I made some columns in the notebook and explained her how to do it. Being a quick learner, she was quite enthusiastic to learn a better way to count, later I nailed the tally counter next to the cashier so she remembers to punch it after making a sale.
After teaching her the method, we actually chatted for a long while about why they don’t save and manage their money. My partner and I ended actually ended up talking to Malu about personal aspects of our lives and sharing anecdotes to make her realize the sheer importance of saving money. It might seem really rudimentary and easy for us to judge and tell a person to save money, but after walking in their shoes you can truly see the how difficult it is to save without a constant source of income dependent on luck. She literally had tears (not in a bad way!) by the time we finished the talk after which I gave a hug and assured her that she can do it. Later she took us to the place where the cookies are made and gave us few of the hot and fresh cookies they baked.
Fun Fact: During one of our meetings, Malu’s relative caught a live iguana off the beach. I got a chance to hold and play with it!
Try to figure out what this means 😛