Friday, December 28, 2007

A different kind of giving

All these Saturdays of December, I have been advocating the Christian act of giving. But there are certain acts of giving that I do not support. Remember that familiar saying: Give a man fish and he will eat fish for the day; teach a man to fish and he will eat fish the rest of his life.

I noticed that a lot of meaningless, sometimes downright degrading, giving is done particularly during the Christmas season. One example is giving alms, in cash or in kind. Do you notice that around December, there are more children in the street than at any time of the year, including "mothers" carrying babies? These "mothers" are still children themselves. I asked one and she said she is only 10 years old. Whose child is she carrying? So she gets a lot of sympathetic alms (Php1 to 5 per motorist). The Ifugaos used to occupy all Metro Manila street corners, I wonder where they are now. For as long as there are people who give alms, there will always be beggars or parents who make they children beg to support their family.

Another example is the kris kringle. Ask anybody who participates in such office favorite activity why they do it? Nobody even knows where this forced gift-giving originated from. Maybe if you do it once in five years, it gets exciting. But when you do it yearly, the novelty and the meaning of gift-giving is lost in you. You hear nothing but complaints from people who participate in this futile exercise. In the long run, it becomes expensive, especially when your "baby" is one of the bosses. The one advantage is that participants are given the liberty to shop for gifts during office hours after all it is an "officially" sanctioned activity especially when the boss is into it.

Another futile gift-giving tradition is the exchange gift. Okay, the rule is to bring a gift worth Php100 or Php200 or whatever. So I normally buy a useful gift that is more than the stated amount, say Php150 or even Php200 for a Php100 exchange gift. What do I get? A box of brownies (Php60), a ceramic cat figurine (Php50) or a hastily wrapped something, anything. Or some simply put money in an envelope saying that they have no time to shop for a decent gift. Huh?

It gives me a lot of pleasure giving gifts on Christmas or on occasions or any old time of the day whenever I happen to see something that I think my family or friend could use. My house, they say, is a virtual library cum warehouse. I usually give books as gift and they are always appreciated because when I buy a book I know exactly to whom I would give it.

When I give I don't normally wait for something in return. This Christmas, my mother and the street sweepers in our baranggay are all too happy to eat the many cakes, cookies and other eatables that I receive as gifts. Except for chocolates, I am not glad about receiving food gifts that easily spoil. I consider as insincere gifts those that are bought without the gift recipient in mind. I have accumulated balikbayan boxes of candles when candle as gift was in vogue. Votive candles, tall, fat, scented, different colors, different shapes, different containers, all candles. Tell me, how many candles can one person use in a lifetime? I normally keep gifts until I could use them or they rot or I had to give them away because they are occupying precious real estate. The candles have to go as soon as I get them.

Some buy gifts according to their budget or disposable income. That's fine, but there is no dogma or rule or chapters in the Scripture that requires one to give gifts. The three Kings did bring important gifts for Jesus. The shepherds gave their gifts of faith and joy.

One vicious gift is to give everything a child wants or needs in excessive quantity. This gift will go back to you in the form of a spoiled brat—one gift you never want to endure.

It's the New Year. It is the time to rethink our giving habits. There are many people in need of our gifts of love and all forms of assistance. Let's give to them in a meaningful, helpful, joyful way. Let us give to make us and the recipients of our gifts become better persons.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas is about Jesus and his birth

One poignant Christmas story is "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by the brilliant Charles M. Schulz. Some memorable lines in this Emmy-winning Christmas special:

"Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer, fun for all that children call their favorite time of year. Snowflakes in the air, carols everywhere, olden times and ancient rhymes of love and dreams to share."

"Charlie Brown: I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel. I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed."

"Linus: Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem."

"Lucy: Don't worry. I know how you feel about all this Christmas business, getting depressed and all that. It happens to me every year. I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that."

"Linus: Christmas is not only getting commercial, it's getting too dangerous."

"Lucy: Let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know."

Now, put all those lines parallel to the top story of The Sunday Times last December 16 headlined "Black, bitter Christmas for 6M poor Pinoy kids." Reading on you realize that these kids come from families who started out poor and yet had 6, 7, 8 or even more children that their parents could not afford even to feed a single decent meal a day.

Is Christmas to blame? Or the crass commercialism of Christmas? Or irresponsible parenthood?

One staunch advocate of population control is the Lopez Group patriarch, Oscar M. Lopez. His take on this issue is: "Arresting our population growth is an imperative in getting our country's economy to move faster. Today, the country's average per capita income and labor productivity are at about the same levels as it was in early 1980's because of our rapid population growth. We doubled our population from 36.8 million in 1970 to 75.6 million in 2000, and if we don't do anything now, our population will exceed 100 million in less than 10 years time. Where are we going to put all these additional millions? We are all going to be on top of one another and on top of trees, assuming there will still be trees at that time. It is our responsibility as Filipinos to confront this problem squarely.

" I feel like we are in a small leaky wooden boat, a batel if you wish, that is overloaded with passengers and buffeted by big waves in a turbulent sea and, therefore, in danger of sinking at any moment.

"The Lopez Group, in collaboration with the USAID Prism will strengthen their reproductive health and family planning program by gaining the support of their CEOs and senior officials through education and information campaigns on the benefits of investing in the FP program. They will install a program that is employee-centered and will have activities that include profiling of employees according to their FP needs, customizing a FP program design and implementation plan, the evaluation of clinic facilities and service provider capability to provide FP services; and the setting-up of a peer motivators program. Additionally, there will be capability-building activities, regular evaluation to determine the progress of the program and to make it a sustainable component of the human resource and corporate social responsibility agenda.

"We have learned from our Asian neighbors that their sharp reductions in poverty were a result of sustained economic growth, attributable to good economic policies coupled with a strong population policy. The appeal to our political and church leaders must be reinforced until our country has a workable and consistent population policy. We need the cooperation of all groups in society to successfully confront this very serious problem."

And back to Christmas, Linus reminds us to fear not, "for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you."

Christmas is about being responsible citizens, parents and individuals. Being a parent is gift, a privilege, and a responsibility.

Christmas is not about any one of us. Christmas is about Jesus and his birth. There is no connect between everything that we are doing to ourselves and Christmas. Let us not blame Christmas for our woes.;

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas is giving, serving and loving

Dale Evans, aka singer, actress and songwriter Frances Octavia Smith, aptly said, "Every time we give, every time we love, it's Christmas." Coincidentally I found the book, "The Power of Serving Others," by Gary Morsch and Dean Nelson.

From their experience as relief worker and physician, the authors concluded that:

1. Everyone has something to give.

2. Most people are willing to give when they see the need and have the opportunity.

3. Everyone can do something for someone right now.

University scientists who study the brain are discovering that serving other is as much as a part of our genetic code as self-interest is. As a medical doctor, I have seen this firsthand. Kristen Monroe, a professor of political psychology at the University of California-Irvine, says that people act with altruism, a devotion to the welfare of others, when they see their common humanity. When we see others as human beings, their needs become real to us, and we respond.

Then Vice President Al Gore, said, "Volunteerism is good for the soul, and it's good for the country." While the scientific evidence shows we are wired toward altruism, there is still a choice involved. The beauty of the choice is that, when we choose to serve others, something wonderful happens.

How do we turn on the magic of giving, serving? The authors suggest that we simply "get in the boat." It is not about waiting for a disaster to hit. It's what you can do for the widow next door or the single parent on your street. It involves an awareness and lifestyle shift that occurs when you simply look at what is within your reach and start where you are. Another way is to "get over yourself." Serving others is not about how much I know, how many degrees I've earned, or what my credentials are. It is about attitude and availability to do whatever is needed—with love. "Look in your hand" is yet another way of serving—looking at others as people who could use a hand. It's about looking at our hands and realizing that they already contain what others need. Mother Theresa's own words: "We can do no great things, only small things with great love. "Think small" when serving others. Sometimes people don't consider serving another person because the problems of the world seem too big. What's one act of service going to change? Every thing! We don't live each day in macro systems. We live in micro systems. Frame by frame. Moment by moment.

Another way of serving is simply "be there." The authors quote Anne Lamott's Travelling Mercies,

When all is said and done, all you can do is to show up for someone in crisis, which seems so inadequate. But then when you do, it can radically change every thing. Your there-ness, your stepping into a line of vision, can be life giving, because often every one else is in hiding. So you come to keep them company when it feels like the whole world is falling apart, and your being there says that just for this moment, this one tiny piece of the world is OK, or at least better.

It is not always possible, or even necessary, to cross major cultural or physical barriers to serve others. Sometimes the people are right next to us and need something very small. Sometimes all they need is for us to be present with them—simply be there.

Finally, serve others by "loving anyway" and "pulling out the arrow."

By pulling out the arrow, by serving others, by loving others, we provide apiece of life's puzzle that every one is searching for. We help someone and discover there is power in doing so—power to live as we were meant to live. Loving enemies, or loving and acting despite the circumstances, involves a decision our part. But everything is too difficult if we only think about doing it. Things become simpler when we decide to try something, and then actually try it. We can start where we are.

There. You don't need to wipe clean your savings to give, to love, to serve and to celebrate Christmas. Simply give and love and celebrate!

Please join me in praying for my friends Marivic Vergel-Roldan, Dante Vinluan and Diana Ladaw-Sales who will undergo kidney transplant that they too will have many more merry Christmases with their respective family.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's that magical time of the year

Bart Simpson observed that "Christmas is the one time of year when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ."

This is especially apparent in a global culture like Singapore where citizens and tourists of different ethnicity are busy preparing to celebrate Christmas their own way. Orchard Road, in particular, is all dressed up in dazzling dancing lights to welcome this distinctive season. As Norman Vincent Peale puts it, "Christmas waves a magic wand over this world and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."

As usual shopping favorites such as Ikea, Giant, Vivo, Daiso, Sim Lim, Funan, This Fashion and others are teeming with shoppers and they are really buying!

One unique shopping experience is 24-hour Mustafa Centre. It is huge—150,000 square feet of shopping area in four levels of a six-story building along Syed Alwi Road. My traveling companions, Susan Valencia-Samaco, Berna Ronduen and Zeny Rivera, and I spent six hours in two evenings there and, yet, we had not seen all supposed 75,000 different products on display. People traffic rivals that of Orchard Road—they serve 15,000 shoppers at peak times—it was difficult to walk around without bumping into another shopper, mostly Hindi, or knocking some goodies off the shelves.

They sell every imaginable product and service one needs for the house, office, for a lazy or busy day, for the garden, backyard, farm, for casual or formal occasion, for all seasons of the year, etc. These are sourced from different parts of the world. I had to look at several rows of eight-foot tall shelves just to look for Pearl Drops toothpaste.

There are check out counters all over, not just at the exit points. They take precautions against theft by sealing shopping bags really tight, you couldn't even insert a toothpick inside. As one Singaporean concludes, they don't trust their own. And I am sure there are CCTV cameras all over because there are very few visible store workers though they claim to have 1, 270 employees. I wanted to buy a beautiful cashmere muffler that has no price tag. I walked the entire 3rd floor, but the only one store worker I saw dismissed me like, "I don't know, that's not my department." The cashiers shrugged me off and told me to find help somewhere.

They also offer travel, hotel, remittance and foreign exchange services with their shop and stay business model. The Centre houses a hotel with 130 furnished rooms. They continuously monitor their customer needs and try to cater to them. I was told that the owner of Mustafa started by peddling ready made garments from a "kariton" and now is the 8th wealthiest Singaporean. Mustafa makes SGD302 million (aboutPhP10 billion) annual volume.

Talking of volume, Mustafa is relatively quiet despite the number of people around. There is no blaring music or announcements; you can still chat in whispers. Surprisingly, prices of most goods are much lower than our local shops offer.

Having experienced Mustafa, I remember the last time I checked out some malls here in Metro Manila. They are very noisy with their ear-piercing music broadcasts and usual noisy chatter of Filipino shoppers. What I like about shopping here, though, are beautifully displayed products, tasteful interior designs of stores, wide lanes and alleyways and the nice-smelling shoppers.

Nonetheless, Singapore is a shopping paradise. Singaporeans are generally respectful and helpful to tourists. And you have that feeling that nobody is taking advantage of your being not from there and not speaking their language. At Sim Lim and Funan, for example, you could get a variety of original electronic items at very low prices and guaranteed quality. At Pek Kyo Market along Owen Road, they offer some of the same goods sold in Mustafa, but of smaller volume and lower prices.

Well, as we go on this Christmas shopping frenzy, let us all remember what Roy L. Smith once said, "He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Keeping Christmas

Veinte-tres tulog na lang at Pasko na!

It pains me to hear people say that this Christmas will be a sad one because they don't have money. Christmas, they say, won't be the same because there will be less food on the table, no new dress and shoes, no gifts, etc, etc, etc. CNN anxiously reports that people are spending less for Christmas gifts compared to previous years.

Since when did we need money, lots of foods, new clothes and shoes, gifts galore and other material things to celebrate Christmas?

When I was younger, the centerpiece of our Christmas celebration was precisely the commemoration of the birth of Christ. We made plans for attending the Misa de Gallo so that we could take the good seats in the church and enjoy the two-hour high Mass. We took a long afternoon nap, neatly laid down our Sunday's best to wear for the Mass and check our secret cache of gifts for family. For the Media Noche, we had real thick tsokolate ah, quezo de bola, Excelente ham and hot pandesal. Then simple gifts were exchanged among family members and friends in attendance. Then, we made the rounds of relatives in the neighborhood, kissed their hands and, hope for the best gift or a certain amount of money. The morning after was spent going around the neighborhood kissing the hands of adult neighbors with hope of receiving some money-gifts. At the Christmas dinner table, everybody recounted their happy experience during the pleasurable day.

Now, that didn't require a lot of money. It only required all the faith.

We could be frugal and still find bliss in remembering the birth of Christ. For me one word captures the spirit of Christmas—giving. Giving of oneself, be it material, talent, skill or spiritual.

Gather family, friends and work mates and give of yourself to your church, your community, your school, your less fortunate co-employees, charitable organizations, your park, to whoever could use what you have and are happy to share.

Pro-Life Philippines will be happy to have extra hands in their various projects such as their halfway home for unwed pregnant girls. You could volunteer to teach them some livelihood skills like bead making to give them something to work on to support their incoming child. Or share your own and your children's clothes and things. Or simply hold their hands and encourage them to keep their baby and move on.

The Scouting movement, Red Cross Philippines, Caritas Manila and other such organizations would be happy to work with volunteers in their numerous projects. Don't just give money—that's an easy thing to do. God gave more than he could—he gave His only Son to us.

Get your neighbors together and clean up the public areas and facilities in your community—streets, park, Chapel and others. Volunteer to clean up the public day care center, elementary and high schools to make them more conducive to learning. Give the housekeeping staff a break and much needed extra hand instead of simply giving them your usual gifts. Donate your children's used books and some of your own for the teachers. For decorations, please emphasize the Nativity and lessen those that commercialize Christmas.

Organize Christmas Caroling Evenings one hour every evening starting tonight until Christmas Eve. Ask your neighbors to gather at a certain hour at a certain place in your neighborhood, bring with them any portable musical instrument they could use and start singing. You could prepare the song list with lyrics. Or in your office, stop working 15 minutes before knock-off time and every body sings Christmas carols until you all go home. The children would love this. The idea is to spread the word around, but it won't hurt to put a bowl nearby for your neighbors to drop some money into it—you could use the money towards other Christmas projects.

Stage a Nativity play or tableau and enlist your neighbors or officemates as actors. This will not only remind everybody about the real Christmas, but it will also be a venue for thespians in your team to showcase their talents.

Meanwhile Theody Dimaisip sends a invite to the final run of the highly acclaimed play, Dogeaters, based on Jessica Hagedorn's best selling novel about the Philippines during the dark days of Marcos reign. For show details, pls call Atlantis Production at 8401187 or Ticketworld at 8915610.

Again, let's fill ourselves with the spirit of Christmas and enjoy the season with giving of ourselves just like Jesus.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Five, Six, Seven, Eight, CLICK!

Anywhere you go, here or abroad, you are likely to see Filipino tourists merrily posing for their camera. Every adult member of the Filipino family, and some teeners, would likely own a camera. Every OFW family would have a camera or two.

We have this narcissistic fascination for our own image and nostalgic remembrances of places, occasions, material possessions and others. In my younger days, I used to go to Velez Studio in San Juan whenever I have a new hairdo or dress or whatever. We don't just take pictures of views and interesting subjects; we must be in the picture as well.

So Picture City was put up by Eliseo Santos, erstwhile president of Camera World, and his family with some loyal colleagues, to indulge this picture-mania of Filipinos.

PC has now 60 company-owned branches in malls from Baguio to Davao. They choose to locate in malls because from their studies people tend to go to malls for their one-stop shopping, including printing of their pictures—maybe because of airconditioning and parking facilities.

Ronnie Almestas, vice president for operations of Picture City, says that their customers span the wide cross section of the economy, from A to Z, depending on the location of the branch. Their main customers are the Overseas Filipino Workers families. Ronnie says they have the disposable income (compared to the average working class) to spend on cellphones, digital cameras and related products. Many don't have their personal computers so they have their pictures developed and printed and send them to their working parents or siblings abroad. Every day, millions of Filipinos wanting to work abroad or renewing their contracts also require ID pictures for passport, visa and other travel documents.

But competition is rather fierce according to Ronnie. They are competing for the same pie. Since the income of OFWs was diminished (by at last 25%) because of the appreciation of the peso and depreciation of the dollar, their disposable income has considerably shrank.

Their second big customers are the yuppies and students who are very fond of group pictures whether there is an occasion or none at all (basta! Try mo.). Some of them can now also afford to buy inexpensive cameras like Taiwan-made Brica and Aipek whose price range is from Php4,000 to Php10,000. "Basta mayroon lang kaming digital camera."

OFWs prefer the high-end cameras like Canon, Olympus, Samsung, Pentax as they are familiar with these brands abroad. Also those who have "arrived" or salaried employees who have had promotions in position and pay tend to upgrade their camera to signal and "feel" their success. The few can-affords tend to go to trendy stores.

Ronnie says that even sales of their major products such as picture developing and printing, studio (ID, passport and portrait) and film, batteries, memory card, frames and albums have noticeably weakened. Developing and printing have declined because most customers now use digital camera and they store their pictures in computers and CDs and choose only a few for printing. Before, if they have a 12- or 36-shot film in their analog camera, they have no choice but to have everything printed because they could not see the pictures before developing.

Canon still makes analog cameras in limited number and so do small companies in Taiwan and Thailand. There are now also digital albums and home-printers like Canon Selpxy. Copies are more expensive, but people choose to print their own for convenience and instant printing—like the good old Polaroids.

In fact, Ronnie informs, Kodak has closed all their factories for film and paper except one big plant in China. Konika closed their film and paper factory a long time ago. Agfa is now only a brand to remember. Japan's Fuji and Mitsubishi are still operating but, in the future, these two companies need to go into cross production to survive. That is, one can do the paper and the other the finishing; solo factories are not profitable in the long run.

Ronnie cites a case in point is Picture City's branch in Dasmariñas, Cavite—expected to make a killing in film sales because it is in the provincial area. Years ago, it sold 3,000 rolls a month; now it is only selling about 600 rolls/month or 20 rolls a day and waning. Their branches in Manila are definitely only selling about ten rolls a day on a lucky day. Digital camera rules!

To increase per person consumption and keep their customers coming back, they offer very competitive prices and special promos. Moreover they are very finicky about quality of their printed pictures. Every morning and all throughout the day, they use only quality chemicals and follow set-up procedures by the book, no shortcuts. They also do spot checks and other management control processes.

Check them out. With a little prodding they can make you look like a movie star in your next ID picture.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Issues in sourcing from China

Part of the Mega Macau Trade Show last month was a lecture by China business expert Francis Yuk of Intertek Group PLC on the subject "Critical Issues in Sourcing from China: Product Safety and Quality."

Yuk said that the whole of China is busy as a bee manufacturing all imaginable sundry products. But I might say, there isn't much creativity there and most of their products are not original designs except for their native handicrafts and arts.

In South China, particularly Guandong Province, they make toys, children play articles, lighting products, electronics, textiles, precious stone jewelry and others. In the Shanghai Delta, Central China, they make electrical appliances, plush toys, home textiles, silk and other textiles. Custom-made fashion jewelry and apparel to name a few are made in Tianjin, Qingdao in North "China. And there are thousand more factories in Dalian, Harbin, in North Easter China and Szechuan, Inland China.

That is why there is a growing number of Chinese billionaires and millionaires and many of them have made Macau their playground. Macau thrives on wealthy tourists from Mainland China. Even in the plush The Venetian there are very few English speaking hotel employees except for their Filipino expatriates. Why bother when their VIPs are mostly Chinese. Macau is beautiful, but the language barrier is excruciatingly frustrating. Even their facial expression and body language are inscrutable. The only means of communication they understand, when dealing with non-Chinese visitors, is the calculator. And when they, likewise, become frustrated because they couldn't understand you either, they simply shoo you away. But Macau people are generally gentle and courteous. But their drivers seem to be practicing for the Macau Grand Prix all the time—crossing streets is terrifying. published a special report (Russell Flannery 11.01.07) on China's 400 Richest: Another increasingly common "Made in China" item: money, and lots of it. We found 66 billionaires while researching our China rich list this year, up from 15 last year. The total net worth of the 400 richest people in China is $288 billion, up from $116 billion a year ago. Still, the future looks bright for China's richest. Of the 40 richest, all but two built their fortunes from scratch. After all, many of these young entrepreneurs (average age 46, versus 66 for the Forbes 400) have much of their lives ahead of them. Read more at

Yuk identified ways to get ahead in the global supply chain; namely, price, product safety and quality, product innovation, quick response and service. Hands-down China wins with very competitively low price and quick response (According to the manufacturers I talked with, they can manufacture and deliver in 1-3 months.). The big pulldown for China-made products are product innovation, product safety and quality and service. You've heard about those horrendous stories about deaths among children using toys made in China and many others cases of safety and health related product recall.

The Chinese government response to these cases, according to Yuk, is that "Chinese Foreign Ministry sets up climate change international working group." (??????)

Yuk says that many countries have reacted with mandatory regulations and standards for imports from China. USA has activated their Consumer Product Safety Commission, American Society for Testing and Materials, Food and Drug Administration and California Proposition 65. This Christmas many American children will miss their favorite toys and things. Canada has instituted their Canada Hazardous Products Regulations and Canada Hazardous Products Act. Britain, Australia & New Zealand are sticking on their own Standards. Germany has activated its Lebensmittle-, Bedarfsgegenstande-und Futtermittelgesetzbuch, DIN.

On the other hand, Philippine authorities are resolving this issue of unsafe and poor quality China-made products in newspaper release, but when you go around shopping malls and big department stores, including those in Divisoria and Baclaran, you see nothing but China-made products in bright colors (lead and formaldehyde fortified?). Could it be that the rejects of the Western countries are being dumped here?

For legitimate exporters of China-made products Yuk suggests testing in every step of the supply chain—raw material testing, pre-production testing, mass-production testing, pre-shipment testing and on-site random testing. Will our local exporters be willing to undertake and underwrite these tests to ensure that the products they are offering to their Filipino customers are safe, high quality and provide warranty and after sales service.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Macau, Macao

I have my personal list of 1,000 places I'd like to visit before I die. Tops on my list are Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, and countries with significant religious history. I did not plan on going to Macau, but I was influenced by the excitement of Gigie Penalosa and her daughters Iya Prado with bro-in law JP Prado and Carmina about attending the trade shows featuring products from Asia, mostly China and Hongkong. For me, Macau is simply a stopover destination.

And so we went to the huge Venetian Resort Hotel to view the exhibit of Asian craftsmanship and creativity. There were actually two major trade shows ongoing at the same time: 12th Macao International Trade & Investment Fair (MIF) and Mega Macao 2007.

Mega Macao showcased toys and games, gift items, household wares, consumer electronics, advertising and promotional premiums, home textiles, fashion, garments, accessories and lifestyle products. You need more than three days to go around, eye each product closely and talk to the manufacturer to explore possible initial business cooperation.

The toys alone ranged from baby items, baby toys, balls, battery-operated, die-cast metal, educational, electronic, inflatable toys and games, electronic, gaming items, Halloween and carnival items, hobby pieces, plastic toys, pre-school toys, radio-controlled toys, sporting goods, stuffed or plush toys and dolls, toy parts and accessories and travel games. Wow, I did not realize there are that many different varieties of toys and games for all ages.

A buoyant and expectant mood permeated the two shows. Buyers and traders exchanged business cards and promises of future mutual support. Actually the shows were open to traders and buyers only. I was delighted to see a whole row of Filipino manufacturers exhibiting what are distinctly Filipino products made from indigenous materials. They make you proud to be a Filipino. They came from Antipolo, Alabang, Cebu and Iloilo. There were also beautiful local products from Thailand, India, Pakistan, Vietnam and other Asian countries. The products from China are generally common products you see every where you go in the world particularly in Divisoria and Walmart.

At Mega Macao, most products were there for display only but if you insist they sell you one or two pieces. You can order by bulk. It is astonishing to know how cheap the products are from China if you buy them wholesale direct from the factory. They are so cheap and retailers here are making a killing buying from China wholesale and selling those products by piece. They could be marked up a thousandfold. For example, I just bought this headlamp that miners and mountain climbers use (5 LED bulbs) for Php160 from my suki in Divisoria Mall. They retail for at least Php250 in Greenhills. At Mega Macao, they retail for Php20 and the maker told me that if I get them by the hundreds or thousands, I could easily get them for an embarrasingly low price. Whoa Nelly! I will go back to my suki and demand a rebate. Hahahahaha

The MIF by and large offer international trade and investment cooperation opportunities. The exhibitors didn't just sell their products, they looked for business partners. There were seminars on investing in China, Angola, Macao, India, Poland and others. There were also technical seminars on ethanol, methanol, casino security, photography and others. There were vendors of real estate properties all over the world. My favorite were the wine and olive oil tasting from Portugal, Chile, Australia and others. By the time I got out of the Exhibition Hall for lunch, I was merrily prepped for another round of wine tasting at the Venetian Italian Festival. Thank goodness for flat shoes that made walking tipsy a lot easier.

Next column, I shall share with you what I learned from the Forum on Critical Issues in Sourcing from China: Product Safety & Quality. The side stories of the speaker are more intriguing!

My best memory of Macau is eating, by the sidewalk, Shabu-shabu bought from a carinderia in a hole in the wall at San Malo. Yummy! Their number one local delicacy is almond cake laced with sesame seeds or pork fat. It is actually prettily packaged uraro.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Learn from your own employees

What happens when your best employees leave your company? Or they might not leave at all, but you make them just stay there and eventually "figuratively die" there.

When these things happen, you are not managing your organizational learning and you are losing out on knowledge and ideas that might have helped your business in a big way.

Organizations do not learn, individual employees learn. Your organization now needs to capture, evaluate relevance to your corporate ideology and goals, disseminate to all employees who could use them, get feedback on how they applied the knowledge, capture, distill, and so on and so forth.

This is the gist of my paper on "Aligning Organizational and Personal Learning for Excellent Business Results" which I delivered at the enormously successful Summit on Globalization of HR in Taipei last month.

What usually happens in most companies is that knowledge is shared only with an elite group, a.k.a. management team or your own working unit. For example, every year this company holds an Economic Briefing by a well-respected economist in the country. After the briefing, it is business as usual for the attendees as if the briefing never happened. Or they talk about the economic forecasts among themselves and in whispers even. No cascade of learning down to those who need and who could use the knowledge.

Or you send your management and staff to seminars, conferences and workshops and all you require them to do when they are back is to liquidate financial obligations. Or somebody comes up with a bright idea, and everybody else gangs up on the idea and the bearer of the idea with a mission to kill or simply ignore the idea. Or management simply gives idea creators the usual pat in the back then back to normal.

The Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Business Excellence defines learning as a learning that is directed not only toward better products and services, but also toward being more responsive, adaptive, innovative, and efficient—giving your organization marketplace sustainability and performance advantages and giving your workforce satisfaction and the motivation to excel.

Actually learning is embedded in the way any organization operates. They are regular part of daily work; practiced at personal, work, unit and organizational levels; results in problem solving at their source (root cause); focused on building and sharing knowledge throughout the organization; and driven by opportunities to effect significant, meaningful change.

Organizational learning results in enhanced values for customers; new business opportunities; reduced errors, defects, waste and related costs; increased productivity and effectiveness; and enhanced organizational performance in fulfilling its societal responsibilities and its service to the community. It comes from mostly from employees' ideas and also from research and development, customers input, best practices sharing and benchmarking.

Management guru Peter Senge defines organizational learning as the continuous testing of experience, and the transformation of that experience into knowledge—accessible to the whole organization, and relevant to its core.

It becomes imperative, therefore, to extract, capture, manage and use knowledge and ideas from employees. This gave rise to what businesses call knowledge management. It is kind of technical and verbose to be described here.

From my own experience, there are five ways to access implicit knowledge or knowledge that reside in the mind and heart of an employee. This is vicarious learning done through straight talk (written and oral presentations), storytelling, digital (blogs, emails, pictures), crucial conversations (gossips and grapevine) and structured conversations (world café, focus groups, meetings).

I remember this story: I've always been handy at fix-it jobs around the house and I've tried to train my children to follow suit. Recently I asked one of my sons to hold the flashlight while I replaced a faulty electrical switch. Only mildly interested, my son asked me after a short pause. 'How did you learn to do this stuff?' I replied, "By holding the flashlight."

URBAN SPA cordially invites you all to their 5th anniversary celebration tomorrow, Oct 21, 1-3pm, at the 5th Level Wellness Zone, Shangri-la Plaza. There will be a photo gallery exhibit of cool breastfeeding moms (Tessa Valdez, Sandy Romualdez, Tintin Bersola, and others) until Oct 31 and Bench Kids & Blissful Babes fashion show.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

All are potential or virtual global citizens

It seems like our own Overseas Filipino Workers are not the only globally mobile people in the world. Talents from all over are going around to work and live in countries other than their own.

Maury Peiperl, professor of Leadership and Strategic Change, IMD International, gave a very insightful look into global mobility at the Summit for Globalization of HR in Taipei last month.

Prof. Peiperl defined global mobility as the actual and the potential movement of individuals across countries especially regions of the world the world. Movement may be initiated by individuals or organizations and may or may not have a job-related component. He says that people move because they are told to move by their company or other agents; asked to move by employer, potential employer or significant others; perceives specific opportunity or driven to move on own reasons such as economics, political necessity, adventure, cultural interests, learn or develop new skills, develop a strong curriculum vitae and to get away from something or someone.

From his research, this author of Managing Change, Career Frontiers, Career Creativity and The Handbook of Career Studies has identified the following patterns of global mobility:

· Cross-national movement of labor continues to increase yearly, having doubled in the last 30 years.

· Still, growth in labor mobility significantly lags the growth in cross-national flow of goods and services.

· In some developing countries, the growing local supply of certain skills is reducing mobility needs.

· In others, "surplus" labor is being regularly exported to other countries; such "source" countries have sometimes included Taiwan and certainly include the Philippines, Pakistan, and Turkey, to name a few.

Prof Peiperl emphasized that there is no single entity that can be called global executive. Global executives are those who do global work and global work is found in the intersection of business complexity and cultural complexity.

He observed that expatriates sent from headquarters to foreign locations (or "inpatriates", vice versa), to provide needed skills and/or to form tighter international links, especially with headquarters (whether or not they have global skills). He added that the Japanese executives around the world outnumber all other nationals.

I agree with that because when a Japanese company partners with a local company here, for example, it is stipulated in the joint venture agreement that a number of people from the Japanese partner be involved in the business to protect their interests. So even those Japanese technicians are hired at least at the managerial level and receive the expatriate packages.

He also classified global activities and global citizens as: virtual global citizens (spend a great deal of interaction across cultures and markets while staying in home country); real global citizens (spend a great deal of interaction across cultures and markets and a great deal of time away from home culture and market); global travelers (spend a great deal of time away from home culture and market); potential global citizens (does not interaction with other cultures and markets and spends time at home).

From this classification, we can say that everybody is, indeed, a potential global citizen (dreaming and, maybe preparing, to work abroad) and a virtual global citizen (our colonial mentality sustains this).

Prof Peiperl suggests that the foundation to become real global citizens is global knowledge such as: know who or social capital/relationships; know how or skills and knowledge about work; know why or identification with strategy and culture; and know what or understanding of specifics and facts. He stressed that knowledge is a resource, not a competence. It is essential to all other competencies but not sufficient to any of them. The other global career capital are: cultural breadth, language skills, interpersonal skills, cognitive complexity, cosmopolitanism, systems skills, network and global track record.

More importantly, he accentuated the threshold traits for being global: Integrity, required for respect over the long haul; humility, fundamental to learning from others; inquisitiveness, essential to seeking out and learning from new experience; and hardiness, necessary for the above, and for rising to the unique challenges of global work.

Prof Peiperl speaks from his own experience. He has taught, researched, or consulted in twenty-five countries on four continents and is dedicated to promoting the role of business in sustainable global development and in the resolution of cross-national conflict.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Leading for performance requires courage

The Summit for Globalization of HR in Taipei last week was a huge success. One of the memorable keynote talks was from Joan Magretta, author and editor of Harvard Business Review books. Her latest book is What Management Is: How It Works and Why It's Everyone's Business.

Her strong message is that the purpose of business is the creation of value. Enterprises that fixate on their own bottom line will miss the path to long-run success. No value, no customers, no bottom line, no business.

She went on to outline how organizational leaders lead for performance.

First, define your business models: how do you create value? She says that value is defined by customers, one person at a time. Value takes many forms and comes from many sources—from a product's usefulness, its quality, the image associated with it, its availability and the service that comes with it—making value intangible. Value created, therefore, is the maximum a customer is willing to pay less the cost to produce. The acid test of a business model is that the psychology makes sense and the numbers add up. Everybody wins.

She gave the example of Ikea's unique value to customers: low price (customers are willing to do some of the work, e.g. assembling; Ikea style (Ikea control the design process and buy in large quantities); and instant gratification (customers can bring home goods immediately)

Second, identify your strategy: how do you capture some of the value you create? Your strategy should be towards doing better by being different. There are different choices in which customers and markets to serve; which products and services to offer; what kind of value to create. Also how to tailor value chain that supports those choices resulting in higher prices and/or lower costs.

Some of Ikea's strategy includes: food and childcare that encourage long visits; displays that help more impulse buying, stores promote heavy traffic and self-service, sourcing from long-term suppliers, use of in-house design, use of flat packaging, suburban locations and provision of ample parking.

Ms. Magretta adds that tradeoffs are critical to strategy and to performance. Some of Ikea's tradeoffs are: no sales help in the store, no delivery, no high cost materials, no assembly, no to many furniture styles, yes to in-store meals, yes to in-store childcare and yes to big-store format.

Third, design the organization: where to draw the lines. The design of the organization must be aligned with the strategy. There is no "right way" for all companies to organize. The key strategic dimensions are scale, scope and structure.

Fourth, keep score: what should you measure? Good metrics capture performance drivers and make success visible. It is therefore vitally important to know what to measure, though they are hard to find. Was it profit per car or number of cars sold for Henry Ford? Is it gross margin or return on invested capital for Dell Inc?

Fifth, decide on values: which ones matter and why? Ms. Magretta says that ethical values—trust, integrity—are essential for all organizations. When culture is aligned with strategy, company-specific values provide the context that allows people to manage themselves in ways that contribute powerfully to performance. Inauthentic or misaligned cultures erode performance just as powerfully.

Southwest Airlines' value proposition to its customers comprise of no-frills, reliable service, frequent departures and low price. In choosing these values, they made strategic tradeoffs such as no long flights, no major, congested airports, no seat assignments, no baggage transfer, no connection with other airlines, no plans other than 737s, no meals and no ticket agents.

Finally to lead for performance, Ms. Magretta quotes Confucius: "To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle." Earlier she quoted Terry Gou (Han Hai Precision Industries): "The important thing in any organization is leadership, not management. A leader must have the decisive courage to b e a dictator for the common good."


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Crush competition by investing in your people

I just remember that traditionally September is declared as the month for Human Resources Management and Development. And the People (formerly Personnel) Management Association of the Philippines is tasked to undertake programs to properly honor our human resources. PMAP does this with an annual conference (concluded yesterday in Cebu City).

Year-round, PMAP honors our workforce by championing Investors in People (IiP) to promote best of class people management practices. IiP uses the framework of Plan (Business Strategy, Learning & Development Strategy, People Management Strategy and Leadership & Management Strategy)—Do (Management Effectiveness, Recognition & Reward, Involvement & Empowerment and Learning & Development—Review (Performance Measurement and Continuous Improvement).

Plan-Do-Review. Organizations who consider their people at the center of good business practice good HR practices such as the following.

Business Strategy: The most successful organizations have a clear business strategy, i.e. they are clear about what they do, where they are going and how they will get there. They share this information with their people and involve them in the planning process in order to ensure that everyone understands how the organization aims to improve its performance and realize its vision.

Learning & Development Strategy: A business strategy alone does not guarantee organizational success. People make the difference and it is vital that organizations ensure they have the capability to deliver the strategy. This involves planning, learning and development activities to equip people to achieve organization's objectives.

People Management Strategy: IiP employers create an environment where everyone feels able to contribute and has the opportunity to learn and develop in order to improve their performance.

Leadership & Management Strategy: Management effectiveness is crucial to any organization wanting to achieve its objectives and improve performance. However, in order to be effective, managers firstly need to understand what is required of them and secondly be supported in developing the required capabilities.

Management Effectiveness: Managers clearly play a vital role in helping people to maximize their contribution to the organization. This means that they need to be effective in the way they lead, manage and develop their people.

Recognition & Rewards: An organization's success largely depends on the time, effort and ideas that its people put into helping it achieve its objectives. To make that kind of effort, people need to feel that what they do makes a difference and is appreciated by their manager.

Involvement & Empowerment: Common characteristics of high performance organizations are effective employee involvement and empowerment that enable people to have a greater role in decision making and given opportunities to contribute to the achievement of business results.

Learning & Development: An organization can only truly learn and develop effectively. This means ensuring that people's learning and development needs are met and that they are given the opportunity to apply their new skills or knowledge in their role.

Performance Measurement: Any business investment needs to see a return. It is no different with investing in people. The ultimate objective of managing and developing people effectively is to improve organizational performance and organization's need to understand their return on investment.

Continuous Improvement: A culture of continuous improvement is at the heart of most successful organizations as people make the biggest difference between success and failure, it is particularly important to continue making improvements to the way an organization manages and develops its people.

You want a successful business venture? The Lopez Group of Companies has embraced both Baldrige Criteria for Business Excellence and Investors in People. FPHC SVP and Asean Eye Institute President Ben Liboro presented the alignment of people and results at the PMAP AC. He says, "Competitiveness is not just the pursuit of profit; its measure goes beyond the financials. Business Excellence, as a tool toward competitiveness, requires unmatched performance in all aspects of the business. An investor in people is investing for competitiveness."


Friday, September 21, 2007

Excellent people deliver excellent business results

As I am finalizing my presentation to the 2007 Summit on Globalization of HR in Taipei, Taiwan, September 28-29, I came across some interesting materials I got from 2007 ASTD Conference & Exposition last June in Atlanta, Georgia.

ASTD President Tony Bingham asserts that there’s never been a better time to be in learning. The knowledge, skills and abilities of organization’s talents are top of the mind for senior executives today. No longer are systems and processes the differentiator for organizations; there are becoming commodities. Today people are THE differential advantage for organization. This is one case where senior executives universally agree. And workplace learning and performance professionals have a huge impact on the learning, and thus the success, of those people.

Tony asks, “so how can we improve the learning function in our organizations? One way to look is at examples of best practices from ASTD’s BEST Award winners.” The award program started in 2003 to recognize organizations that understand and demonstrate the critical connection between employee learning and achieving business results. Since 2003, ASTD has recognized 80 organizations in eight countries with a BEST award. There is no awardee from the Philippines yet.

Tony continues, “Four of ASTD’s 2006 BEST awardees—Computer Sciences Corporation, Equity Residential, QUALCOMM, and Wipro—shared some insights with ASTD about these key messages and how learning impacts results in their organizations. These winners:
• Demonstrate the connection between learning and organizational strategy.
• Can articulate the value of learning and its impact on the bottom line. They
• understand the value of learning and protect the investment, even when times are
• tough.
• Ensure that the company’s leaders are heavily involved in learning, and model
• leaders as teachers.
• Are, in most cases, focused on global development.
• Share a sense of urgency around developing a competitive workforce and having
• enough talent in the pipeline.
• Understand learning’s role to lead talent management – especially in recruitment,
• development, and retention.

One of the hottest topics in the profession today is talent management. Tamar Elkeles, vice president of learning and organization development for QUALCOMM, a two-time BEST Award winner, notes that it’s important for companies to create a learning brand—something that no one else has—to attract and retain talent in an organization. She notes that providing great training and development is top reason employees join organizations.
Azim Premji, Wipro Limited Chair, a three-time BEST Award winner, explains that learning is an integral part of the company’s strategic direction. He notes that because Wipro is in the hi-tech industry, their people need to be refreshed and challenged all of the time to participate and contribute to customers’ requirements in determining and applying solutions, which is the heart of their business.

The ability to recruit, develop, and retain talent is and will continue to be one of the biggest and most important challenges in the learning field.

Almost every CEO talks about the importance of leadership development. They understand that developing more effective leaders means a more effective staff. Highly effective leaders and staff result in happy customers who want to do business with their companies.

Another aspect of talent management is the skills gap. Some of the BEST Award winners are focused on creating career paths and developing emerging skill sets in new technologies. Premji notes that it is important to thoroughly select the right workforce and constantly teach that workforce. Wipro’s multi-month learning programs connect closely to the company’s career growth paths and competency training systems.

Demonstrating value for learning is how they link learning to organizational results. Tony Pusateri, Equity Residential SVP, one of only three organizations to have won a BEST Award every year since the program’s inception in 2003, notes that because of Equity’s dedication to training, the company has realized results, including happier customers and more financial success. Elkeles asserts that companies must understand that people are the largest asset they have, and investing in and developing people—even during tough times—is critically important.

With these best practices of BEST Award winners, what can we learn from their expertise?
• Create a learning culture and a learning brand. Leverage this brand to help recruit, develop, and retain your staff.
• If you’re not dealing with the skills gap, it’s time. To fill the skills gap, learning professionals must understand the current and future business needs and identify the skills required to address those needs.
• Get your leaders teaching to engage your staff and your leaders. BEST organization employs the “leaders as teachers” model.
• Become a business partner. The fastest way to demonstrate that the learning function belongs at the leadership table is by linking learning to the organization’s key metrics and/or key strategies.

Learning must be aligned to business results to be considered relevant and successful. There’s never been a better time to be in the learning profession. People are the competitive advantage for organizations throughout the world, and, senior management knows it. And, people development is the core competency of learning professionals. With the attention of senior management, now is the time to clearly demonstrate that your work is aligned with your organizations’ initiatives and helping to drive organizational success. No other business function can better impact its people than learning!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cut flower farming is good business

Last column we discussed earning from your hobby farm planted to vegetables. This time, we will share with you another entrepreneurial farming hobby.

Johnny Advincula owns one such profitable venture devoted to cut flower farming. It is so generous of Johnny to share with us his business secret:

"Cut flowers is considered one of the best income generating business today. Yes, there are indeed beautiful varieties in shapes, forms and colors of cut flowers, however I choose Malaysian mums. Though sensitive in nature because of the present changing climate, simplified care and attention can result to a good production.

"Generally, the whole system in producing such is not as expensive as first-timer farmers would fear.

"All one needs is an area for a mother plant, a place for a rooting bed and a bigger enclosed place which is called the green house.

"A mother plant is the source of your materials for rooting bed and production. Here you cut the young stem and with the application of a rooting powder to the cut portion of the plant it is then planted in the rooting bed. When roots develop in 10 to 15 days after which your plant is now ready to be transferred to the production area.

"Certainly, soil preparation like clearing, cultivation and application of urea to the production area is done earlier to help the faster growth of the plant. Weeds and grasses will sprout more quickly than you can pull them out so you need to be very vigilant.

Proper schedule of watering, lighting, blacking out are necessary during the process of growth. If you want dark colored flowers, you need to deprive the plants of light. If you want them to grow tall, you need to give them lots of light. You can grow the flowers big, brightly colored, long stemmed or whatever depending on how you take care of them.

"A production area of 500sqm can have three (3) bays of four (4) plots totaling to twelve (12) plots. Each plot can produce 3,000 plants or equivalent to 250 dozens. You can produce 36,000 plants or 3,000 dozens of Malaysian mums for a period of three (3) months in an area of 500sqm."

Malaysian mums sell at Php180 per dozen at Dangwa and Php300 per arrangement of three at Holland Tulips. Less expenses on wages for helpers, water, electricity, fertilizer, pesticides, green house and others. Buyers will pick up the flowers from your farm. Do the Math. Still, that's better than your monthly salary you draw from employment. The bonus is that you have full control of your time and resources. And you don't have to jump at the whim of a boss. You are the boss.

Johnny now commutes as he pleases between his Metro Manila residence and his John's Farm in Tagaytay and another one in Baguio. On the side, Johnny also grows coffee for personal consumption and vegetables like lettuce and eggplant for extra income while waiting for the flowers to bloom.

But Johnny's passion, though, is singing and he is happiest when he is singing with his band, The Bedroom Boys, every Thursday at Chef & Brewer, Emerald Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig. Catch him there and ask him more questions about his cut flower farm.

SGHR 2007. You still have time to sign up for the upcoming Summit on Globalization of Human Resources this September 28-30 in Taipei International Convention Center, Taiwan. For details, please go to or email Ms. Bronte Hsiao at or

Just in: "This is Vincens Cheng with Losang Precision Mold Co., Ltd. I am writing to explore possible cooperation.

"Losang Precision Mold Co., Ltd. belongs to Long Group and we specialize in plastic injection mold. Our sister company Losang Plastic Products Co, Ltd also undertakes injection molding and the secondary processes such as dust-free spraying, silk screen printing, hot stamping, ultrasonic welding, assembling and etc."

I don't know him or his company, but check them out. If you are interested, do visit Vincens' website or email him at

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Earn from your hobby farm

I am very much an inner city girl having been born and lived all my life in Sta. Mesa, Manila, center point of Metro Manila. Daily, I contend with all kinds of noises, hustle and bustle of 24-hour non-stop activity around, pollution, masses of people passing by my window, floods and others that I welcome every opportunity to get to the suburbs or the province as a big treat.

When the members of Institute of Management Consultants of the Philippines (IMPhil) decided to visit the Villegas Organic & Hobby Farm of Meganomics Specialist International's Pabs Villegas in San Pedro, Malvar, Batangas, I immediately joined them.

Pabs' farm consists of 3 hectares for the whole complex which he has subdivided into nine farm modules, each with a farm land area of 3,000 m2, while Pabs retains 5000m2. Pabs is now selling those farm lots (0917-8211548). Pabs confides that he bought his farm from his retirement pay as vice president of Land Bank of the Philippines in 1991.

Pabs enthuses that each farm module has a provision for potable and irrigation water, road system, parking spaces, techno-managerial and marketing assistance and logistical support, readily available technologists and farm workers, access to a greenhouse, nursery and demonstration farm technologies, pay amenities and natural fencing hedge rows amidst the cool and balmy weather of Lipa-Malvar. "The farm has been topographically-mapped and soil-tested to provide contour information and suitability indicators on a variety of farm enterprises. Farm enterprises could range from mixed lettuce crop and herb production to the breeding and raising of naturally-grown and free ranged colored chickens, ducks and goats as well as fish. This includes organic fertilizer production, vermi-composting, post-harvest handling, food processing, and natural and indigenous food gourmet demonstrations. The naturally fertile and long fallowed farm has huge deposits of humus and earthworm castings. The already developed farmlots have existing fruit bearing mangoes, coconut, santol, jackfruit, bananas, mahogany, narra and gmelina trees which serve as a value added asset for each farm module.

"The farm seeks to establish a community of sustainable and ecological agribusiness and recreational, cottage and homeland (SEARCH) ventures set in the heart of Batangas. The complex is accessible via SLEX and STAR Highways or old Sto. Tomas-Batangas City Laurel Highway. An organic farming community will evolve within this landscape of naturally grown farm products amidst the ambience and rhythm of the clement weather and naturally balanced ecosystems. It offers a wide array of technological and market possibilities for the establishment of naturally-grown crops, herbal, culinary and medicinal plants, livestock and fishery enterprises within the techno-demonstration farms and each micro-farming module.

"Set apart and atypical from the rest of other "leisure" farms, it seeks to set-up prototype sustainable and ecologically friendly farming systems. Each farm will be distinctly characterized by a standard traditional bahay kubo that is landscaped with indigenous food crops, culinary and medicinal herbs, fruit trees and ornamentals. The farm also features nursery sites and a provision for technological demonstrations and training for the development of a viable and profitable smallholder commercial farm.

"With the passion to go on from pesticide-free and natural production process to a full-pledged organic farming venture, the farm adheres to the strict use of biological (natural) crop nutrition and protection system to aid healthier lifestyle. Hedge rows will delineate its borders and flowers and ornamental plants will bloom season to season thereby providing the aesthetic beauty and bounty of a natural land ecosystem blending well with a sustainable and ecological agriculture.

"It will maintain a mini-market (pick and pay) for organic food products and in future a mini-restaurant serving natural and indigenous foods, where timely and much needed innovations for the growing and expanding interest for wellness and healthy lifestyle will be promoted. Through its SAGE Learning Center, it will reach out to children and youth in school as well as health care institutions to pursue the culture of sustainable farming and wellness lifestyle.

"Serving as training ground for farming and healthy lifestyle enthusiasts, smallholders, professionals and agribusiness companies who share the same vision as the farm, it has a greenhouse, for high-value and off-season crops, nursery and techno-demonstration facilities."

Congratulations to Engr. Robert C. Rubina, the newly elected president of National association for Scrabble in the Philippines (NASCAP). To join scrabble tournaments, call Robin (0917-505-1304) or email ( or Other members his new Board are: Chair Nene Lambino, Sec Susan Carag, VP Gener Camiling, Treas Mildred Santos, Willy Padua and Francis Mallari.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Let's go back to eau de faucet

I shared with friends two recent internet articles about going back to the pipeline to quench thirst with pure water. I got this reaction from Ray Laudano of Chicago:

"I agree that the consumption of bottled water drives phenomenal wasting of the earth's natural resources, causes metric tons of trash and litter (not all bottles are recycled), and is fantastically expensive (most bottled waters cost more per gallon than gasoline in some countries).

"I've adapted the "Think Globally, Act Locally" saying to better fit and bring attention to the problems caused by bottled water processing and consumption. If you think it is appropriate, please promote the saying, "Think Globally, Drink Locally", to reflect the idea that it requires less energy and natural resources to drink the local tap water than it does to drink 'fancy' waters from exotic locations."

The World Health Organization website says: "While the term bottled water is widely used, the term packaged water is perhaps more accurate. Drinking-water may be contaminated by a range of chemical, microbial and physical hazards that could pose risks to health if they are present at high levels. Examples of chemical hazards include lead, arsenic and benzene. Microbial hazards, include bacteria, viruses and parasites, such as Vibrio cholerae, hepatitis A virus, and Crytosporidium parvum, respectively. Physical hazards include glass chips and metal fragments. Because of the large number of possible hazards in drinking-water, the development of standards for drinking-water requires significant resources and expertise, which many countries are unable to afford. Fortunately, guidance is available at the international level.

"WHO publishes Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality which many countries use as the basis to establish their own national standards. In applying the WHO Guidelines to bottled waters, certain factors may be more readily controlled than in piped distribution systems and stricter standards may, therefore, be preferred in order to reduce overall population exposure. This has, for example, been argued for the case of lead. Similarly, when flexibility exists regarding the source of the water, stricter standards for certain naturally-occurring substances of health concern, such as arsenic and fluoride, may be more readily achieved than in piped distribution systems.

"Contrary to this, some substances may prove more difficult to manage in bottled than tap water. This is generally because bottled water is stored for longer periods and at higher temperatures than water distributed in piped distribution systems. Control of materials used in containers and closures for bottled waters is, therefore, of special concern. In addition, some micro-organisms, which are normally of little or no public health significance, may grow to higher levels in bottled waters. This growth appears to occur less frequently in gasified water and in water bottled in glass containers compared to still water and water bottled in plastic containers. In regard to infants and other vulnerable individuals, as bottled water is not sterile, it should be disinfected - for example, by boiling for one minute - prior to its use in the preparation of infant formula.

A few facts about bottled water from

· The containers are made of plastic or glass. When full, both become very heavy. It costs a fortune in oil to ship heavy bottles around the country, much less around the world.

· Close to 2 million tons of plastic was used to make bottles for water last year. That manufacturing involves an enormous about of petroleum, since it is a key ingredient in plastic. Recycling them costs another small fortune in gasoline to haul them to plants.

· Bottled water is being promoted all over the world by a host of companies who are staking their future on getting you to drink water from bottles since it is getting harder and harder to persuade you to drink soda and other sugared water from their cans — and it's working.

· Then there's the cost. Why pay dollars per gallon for bottled water packaged with a fancy name and aesthetically impressive label when you can get pure and healthy New York City, Geneva or Singapore (or MWSS) tap water for pennies without adding to environmental problems?

In other words, if you want to do something to really reduce global warming and cut down the earth's pollution burden, stop buying bottled water. The containers mean oil in the shipping, oil in the refrigerating and oil in the recycling, not to mention the oil that's also needed in the manufacturing of plastic bottles. That's a whole lot of oil to quench your thirst in a most unethical way.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Feeding minds and souls

The Baldrige Criteria for Business Excellence are built on a set of interrelated core values and concept. One of which is social responsibility.

It states, "Practicing good citizenship refers to leadership and support—within the limits of the organization's resources—of publicly important purposes. Such purposes might include improving education and health care in your community, pursuing environmental excellence, practicing resource conservation, performing community service, improving industry and business practices, and sharing nonproprietary information. Leadership as a corporate citizen also entails influencing other organizations, private and public, to partner for these purposes."

Long before the Baldrige Criteria was even established, the Lopez group of companies has already gotten on their version of corporate social responsibility.

According to Rosan Cruz of Benpres Holdings, "The Lopez Memorial Museum was founded on 13 Feb 1960 by business tycoon Eugenio "Eñing" Lopez, Sr. He built the museum in order to provide scholars and students access to his personal collection of rare Filipiniana books, manuscripts, maps, archeological artifacts and fine arts, particularly his collection of Luna and Hidalgo.

"Up to this day, the museum carries on Eñing's mission to promote arts and letters, Philippine heritage by opening up its collections to the public. It hopes in the process to instill a sharp sense of inquiry, and personal and collective stewardship that leads to engaged responses to past and present Philippine social contexts. In the pursuit of cultural excellence rooted in informed citizenship, this museum continues to seek Filipino intellectual expertise contributing to the critical analysis and reception of Philippine history and contemporary culture.

"Curatorial consulant Rileen Legaspi-Ramirez says that the challenge has always been to bring in what is today with what is in the past. The museum is still very much into heritage conservation and the challenge is getting younger audiences to look at pieces that have been in the museum since the 1960s.

"Thus, for its current exhibits, the Lopez Museum presents its invaluable collection (both library and art) in a new light in an exhibit called "Cut and Paste" and "Dime a Dozen" . Both exhibits hypothesize on how rarities propped up as fine and precious, easily slip into the domain of pop.

"Cut and Paste showcases the library collection of advertisements from the 1800s to the present. "Dime a Dozen" worked with three contemporary artists – Alwin Reamillo, Gerardo Tan and (video artist) Tad Ermitaño– to look into the notions of replication and reproduction of the 19th century masters into the 21st century. To showcase treasure trove of modern art (20th century) and Rizal collections, the film of Nick de Ocampo ("Edades", 2002) goes back to the post war debate between Edades and Tolentino regarding modern art. And Mike de Leon's film (Bayaning Third World) is surrounded by computers dedicated to Frenster account of Jose Rizal and Rizaliana items from the museum collection to depict the various incarnations of Rizal as hero in popular consciousness.

"Both exhibits will run until September 22, 2007. The Lopez Museum is at the ground floor, Benpres Building, Exchange Road corner Meralco Avenue, Pasig and is open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., except Sundays and holidays."

I like the fact that this museum is open on Saturdays when parents and children could get together and do their bonding in a cultural way.

For companies planning on their own CSR project, let us remember that CSR doesn't simply mean doling out grocery items or doing one-day medical missions. It entails a continuing service and interaction with the community where you operate. You need not be a big organization to do CSR or hire people or organizations to do it for you. Contributing to curbing global warming in many creative ways is a good project.

Baldrige asserts, "Social responsibility implies going beyond a compliance orientation. Good citizenship opportunities are available to organizations of all sizes. These opportunities might include encouraging and supporting your employees' community service."


Friday, August 10, 2007

Important HR events in September

September will be an exciting time for human resource professionals and other organizational leaders.

The first is PMAP (as in People Management Association of the Philippines, aka Personnel Managers Association of the Philippines) 44th Annual Conference & Exposition on September 26-28 in Cebu City. Ric Abadesco, FPM, PMAP vice president and conference chair, says, "People practices is the main context of this conference. As we explore the theme 'People Deliver', we look into the various aspects of effective people management approaches that deliver excellent bottom line results."

The keynote speaker will be Dr. David Spong, the current chair of the Board of Directors for the Baldrige Foundation. He holds the distinction as the only business leader who has won for his company in both manufacturing and service categories the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the highest award giving body for business excellence and for strengthening national competitiveness of US businesses.

The conference will explore opportunities in foundational issues like values, compensation, industrial peace and talent management; promises of new trends in talent acquisition, work-life balance, risk management and knowledge management; excitements in people practices such as executive coaching, performance management, training and development, succession planning, conflict management and employee wellness; tradition-breaking institutional tools such as Investors in People, Balanced Scorecard, perception management and other integrating approaches to business excellence; and prospects of nation building such as corporate social responsibility, building ethical companies, business results that impact Philippine economy and a roadmap for national competitiveness.

On the second day, these topics will be discussed by a powerhouse of speakers: Dr. Art de Guia (EVP and group head, FPHC), Raffy Alunan (Lopez Group wellness czar), Rey Angeles (economist, author, entrepreneur), Bing Portugalisa (HR authority, CP Kelco ), Regina Clamor (Food for the Hungry Minds Philippines), Dr. Pacito Madrono (inventor, entrepreneur), Dr. Jojo Mutuc (professor, business planner), Dr. Ed Garrovillas (professor, marketing expert), Dr. Victoria D. Caparaz (professor, work-life balance advocate), Dexter Mendoza (organizational peacekeeper, mediaman), Chit Ventura, FPM (human capital expert), Faye Corcuera, FPM (organization development expert), Capt. Art Gatbonton (chief learning officer, PAL), and Dr. Poch Macaranas (adviser to Philippine presidents, AIM policy maker) among many notable presenters.

Dr. Wyna Medina, president of St. Paul University; Cecilia Flores Oebanda, president of Visayan Forum and Francis Monera, president of Cebu Holdings and Cebu Chamber of Commerce will take part in the CEO Forum to further thresh out the ramifications of the theme, People Deliver.

The Conference will be very interactive and will use such new technologies as World Café, a strategic dialogue methodology, and Learning in Concert, a learning activity that combines music, dancing, theatre, IT and inspiring talks.

Cacay de Leon and Malou Bustos will be happy to give you more details when you call them at 726-1532 or email and

In Taiwan, just across Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte, two other HR events are creating excitement among HR professionals in the region. These are the 2007 Summit for Globalization of Human Resources (September 28-29) and the Train-the-Trainer Boot Camp (Oct 1-2) with Bob Pike, a leading star in the firmament of learning and development.

The Summit will feature a mix of international speakers on the topics of leading for performance, global mobility, leadership, talent management, innovation in HR, workplace and global learning, organizational and personal learning, change culture, human capital for global competitiveness, HR in Mainland China, trends in globalization, managing SMEs for global competition and many others.

Two Filipino speakers will be featured. One is Roger Collantes, regional training and development director for Citibank Asia Pacific, Global Consumer Group, based in Singapore. He is a multi-awarded organization development consultant, international professional trainer and human resource professional.

The other speaker is this columnist.

Trainers will have the very amiable and revered trainer-of-trainers Bob Pike as Boot Camp Director. In 2003 the more than 80,000 subscribers of Training Magazine voted The Bob Pike Group the best "Train-the-Trainer" company in the industry. In 2007 Bob received the Instructional Systems Association's "Thought Leader" award for his outstanding contributions to the field. I attend Bob's sessions at the ASTD Conference every year and he has always something exciting and new to share.

For details please visit or email Bronte Hsiao at