My Philippine Online Marketing Practicum in Manila - From Website Analyses to "Whitening Lotion"

Our Locanto "Working Abroad" series has brought you to great cities and countries spread out in different continents such as New York, Kuala Lumpur, England, Scotland, Japan, Germany, Strasbourg and the Philippines. With this latest guest article from Manuel, we are taking you back to the Philippine Islands and concluding this series at the same time with a little touch of humor. This article exposes the joys and pitfalls of working in Manila in the eyes of a German national.

022klein.JPG My Business Studies at the College of Applied Sciences in Pforzheim brought me to Manila for a 6-month practicum in the summer of 2008 to complete my Marketing and Communications Degree. Manila (NCR) is the capital of the Philippines. Up to now, people are still asking me why I chose to go to the Philippines. Well, I happen to have an affinity for Asian culture and economics. In fact, I have been to Thailand many times before I even started college. During this time however, I opted for another Southeast Asian country for a change. The Philippines caught my curiosity due to the western influence (It has been occupied by Spain and the US for many years.) that has been deeply ingrained with its very own Filipino culture and tradition.

I rented an apartment for around 250 Euros (roughly 14,000.00Philippine Pesos or 316 US Dollars as of article release) in Eastwood City, a prestigious business district where the online marketing agency office where I worked for was located. For the first few weeks, I was assigned to be the project manager of an online classifieds website. At this point I could tell that the website was just half-ready for the market because the agency did not really know its target audience and had no set market strategies to compete with the other existing online classifieds websites in the Philippines that had an edge. This encouraged me to develop a business plan and market analysis for this website I was in charge of and presented the results to the agency. Unfortunately after all that hard work, the website was put on hold as they did not have enough capacity to continue running it.

Off to the next task.
My next projects had something to do with website analyses, evaluation of competitors, market position research and developing new business strategies for clients. After a few weeks, I was able to win a client that availed of our services to have his website done. I was given the authority to lead this project as well as guide all the clients until the end of my practicum. I took care of everything - from the briefing down to financial development. I deeply appreciated the great responsibility bestowed upon me and I enjoyed the coordination tasks that were part of the business. I learned a thousandfold from these projects, as I was able to put theory into practice.

028klein.JPG It was also very interesting to find out how business is done in the Philippines. I was amazed at how composed my boss was while we were on our way to a business meeting set at 1PM. We left the office at 12:45 PM, expecting to get to the meeting place at the "right" time, what with the traffic in typical Asian countries we were about to go through. That was a good 5-10 Kilometers to battle with! And we knew it was impossible to pass through that distance in just 15 minutes. Eventually we arrived at the meeting place 1.5 Hours later. Just as I thought that we were already drastically late, we were still asked to wait a while, as the client was still not ready for the business talk. As a German national who is used to observing punctuality, this was difficult for me to understand at the beginning.
The way the finances were being handled also came as a shock to me. Most of the transactions were paid for in cash, as most of the companies did not have a company account.

Life in the Philippines for people visiting from the west could have its petty and funny pitfalls. Take for example, my experience in buying a facial cream that led to a "whitening disaster" a few days after using the product. It was basically my fault, as I did not really pay attention to the description on the packaging, knowing that I was buying a product I trust from my home country. As it turns out, I bought myself not just a simple facial cream but a whitening cream. I realized then that I should be careful when buying cosmetic products there because the whole market bends according to the general mentality of the public. Having light or fair skin is the standard of beauty in the Philippines, just like in other Asian countries such as Thailand and China. Whitening products range from deodorants to soaps to facial creams, and other products you could ever imagine. My carelessness made itself evident through my alabaster-white face. That was an "in-your-face" punishment indeed.

The same amount of attention should also be devoted to food choices in the Philippines. For western cultures, Filipino food may come across as very unusual stuff that people really have to get used to. (I have heaps to say about this topic, but in order to stick to this blog article, I will not not delve into details.)
As a good example, I would like to mention this delicacy called "Balut". They are partly-incubated eggs that have been taken away from the nesting "moms", cooked and sold normally on the streets. Balut is somehow like boiled egg but with flesh. Those who are brave enough to eat Balut eat the 18-day-old ones, which already have the webbed feet, beak and feathers. Even if one chooses to eat the 15-day-old variety, I still think that a lot of courage, tolerance for unusual (or yucky) things are being called for here. The sight of a chick embryo on a plate is just not everybody's thing.

IMG_1361klein.JPG My conclusion about my practicum and stay in the Philippines: The Philippines is a country with a lot of potential. English is the second language there and I find this very "west-friendly". Working in the Philippines is, apart from the relaxed manner and the "unpunctuality", almost the same as working here in Germany. However, there is a big discrepancy when it comes to the salary. Under normal circumstances, regular engineers and doctors have to make ends meet with just around 200-500 Euros a month. If we would think about the low cost of living in Manila, it may seem to be enough compared with Germany. What I find intriguing is that people are also into luxury items (electronics, cars, etc.) and are paying the same price as in Germany even if the salary rates are low. Add to that, they do not have a reliable social security system. How do they survive when there's an emergency? This is one of the reasons why a lot of Filipinos choose to work abroad. The sad thing about it is that a lot of professionals are "underemployed" abroad. Software engineers end up as internet cafe attendants, doctors as caregivers, and engineers work as production assistants. People from the west would always say that this is due to the low quality of education in the Philippines, that the educational system is not up to par with western standards. But I can attest that this is not true. Right after my practicum, I enrolled in a Philippine University and took some extra units. As far as I am concerned, the quality is just the same as the quality of education in German Universities. This is clearly an issue that has to be cleared out and treated with fairer judgment sooner or later.

We hope that you had as much fun as we did while getting to learn more about different countries and cultures. Although we are already closing our Locanto "Working Abroad" series, the invitation is still open to guest bloggers from all walks of life who would like to share their experience and adventure with us.

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1 Comment

Great post i like it very much thanks for share

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