Philippines: Reflections

The Philippines is not your typical  Asian country. We were often reminded that the Philippines is a country that spent “300 years in a convent, and 50 years in Hollywood”. This phrase is commonly used to describe the countries colonial rule by Spain and then the United States. This rich history adds to the country’s cultural diversity! I am always excited to learn about a country’s culture and its people, and especially the food. I’ve enjoyed Filipino people and its food from the United States, and it was an honor to experience this first hand.

7 days, 20 business meetings, 30 classmates, 1 professor – lots of learning and lots of laughs. We learned how there are various businesses and activities engaging in the pursuit for progress for the Philippines, and the following areas were common themes as we learned more Filipino culture and business:

FinTech – There is a rise in FinTech businesses across the Philippines. Presently 3 out of 10 Filipinos have a bank account, and the remainder keeps their savings in their homes. 68% of financial institutions are pawn shops. Digital payments are low, and consumers take advantage of cash on delivery payments. There are currently a lot of ventures focusing on this space such as Coins.PH focusing on meeting the needs of consumers who do not have bank accounts.

Telecommunications: The Philippines has a population of over 105M people, and about 67M people have access to the internet. The Philippines spends about 4 hours on social media on average (compared to 2 hours in the US). With the average age of Filipino Citizens hovering around 24, the internet and social media will continue to play an active role in politics and the rise of many industries.

Tourism: During our last day, we visited Bohol, the 10th largest island in the Philippines, and home to many resorts. We learned about the tourism industry. Tourism is forecasted to be one of the largest industries in the Philippines. In Bohol, there are many programs in place to help support this growing industry, such as a local school where students grades 8-12 can take part in the Turo-Tourism program and prepare to work in local resorts.

The Philippines is forecasted to be the 16th largest economy by 2050, and I look forward to visiting the Philippines long before then to witness the greatness that lies ahead!

Jacinta James (’19) is an MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School

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