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

Philippines: Doing Business for Good

GIP Philippines class at Ayala Corporation

We visited about 15 companies in Manila, Philippines. These industries vary from food to fashion to telecommunications. And despite varying areas of focus, they did have one thing in common and that was to improve the lives of Filipino Citizens.

The Philippines has a population of 107 million people across its 7,000 islands. And half of the population is younger than 23 years old. While the Philippines economy is growing annually at 6% +, there is still much to be done to help the Filipino people. Local corporations are not leaving it in the hands of the government along but are working in partnership with the government.

Ayala Corporation is the Philippines’ oldest and largest conglomerate. Ayala Corporation was founded in 1834, managed by 7 generations of Ayalas and there are currently 3 family members working in the business. The company’s business portfolio includes real estate, telecommunication, water, energy, infrastructure, health care, and education. Ayala Corporation prides itself on its commitment to social causes,  being the Philippines’ partner in its pursuit for progress and building the nation and innovation.

ABS-CBN is the Philippines leading news organization. ABS-CBN also has a public service framework, where they aim to be in service of every Filipino through the following key areas:

  • Humanitarian Relief and Rehab
  • Child Welfare
  • Education
  • Health and Wellness
  • Overseas Filipino Welfare
  • Environment

It was definitely inspiring to meet with these companies and to see that a company can be both successful industry leaders while operating with a social mission in mind.

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

Taste of the Philippines!

Day 2 of the Philippines began at the home of Secretary Mar Roxas. with a Filipino style breakfast prepared by Asia’s Best Female Chef, Chef Margarita Fores (affectionately known as Tita Margarita). Breakfast was comprised of Garlic Rice, Chorizo, Lumpia, Mangos and more! While different from a traditional American breakfast, you could tell that the group embraced it, as at the end, all of the plates were clean!

Immediately after our breakfast meeting with Senator Mar Roxas, we proceeded to a local farmers’ market, that was a few minutes walk from our initial starting point. At each stop, Tita Margarita gave us a colorful explanation of each food item and then often followed by a demonstration from the local vendors.

Keep on reading for highlights from our tour!

Stop 1: Filipino Fruits!!

Upon entrance of the market, we were greeted with lots of colorful fruits. Our fruit taste test began with mangos, locally referred to as mangaa, the Philippine’s national fruit. We then had samples of the following fruits: Lanzones, Chico, and Guyabano, which is also known for its “miracle” properties.

Stop 2: Coconut Milk + Coconut Water

We then moved to the part of the market where we watched the process of taking coconuts to create coconut milk. The coconut milk was both very creamy and flavorful. We then observed the process to cut young coconuts to obtain coconut water. Tita Margarita reminded us that coconut water is a good beverage choice after a long, late night (wink wink) due to its natural hydrating properties.

Stop 3: Lumpia

At breakfast, we had our first taste of Lumpia, a spring roll native to the Philippines. Lumpia could take shape as either a sweet or savory snack. At the market, we observed the process of creating a lumpia wrapper. The process was similar to the creation of a crepe. Lumpia wrapper is traditionally made with egg, flour, and water with a bit of salt mixed into a wet dough. We watched the chef take the ball of dough and press it into a large heated metal plate several times, to make the wrapper.

Stop 5: Yellow Fin Tuna (and more)

We then entered into the “wet” portion of the market. Upon entrance we were greeted by a very large yellow fin tuna fish. Where we learned that this fish is typically exported to Japan. We had the opportunity to taste the tuna, along with some shrimp and crab, ceviche styled.

To close, we then offered parting gifts! We had local treats to take away, for us to munch on while we were in route to the day’s company visits, as well as a straw bag and hat as souvenirs!


To follow along with us, stay tuned for more blog posts from me (Jacinta James), and be sure to follow our journey on Instagram @columbiachazen.

Ready for the Philippines!

Photo Courtesy of Michele McCauley

In just a few days, students of the Global Immersion: Philippines – Asia’s Rising Tiger, will arrive in the Philippines for both company visits and cultural exploration. I am Jacinta James, a second-year at CBS, and I will be your official Chazen Student Travel Blogger for our trip to the Philippines.

I can’t recall if it was Prof. Singh or Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown Philippines Episode, who informed us that the Filipino people are among the happiest people on earth. Of course, I had to confirm this, and indeed according to a survey conducted by Gallup International in 2017, the Philippines has emerged as one of the happiest countries in the world. As a child of islanders (from the Western Hemisphere), I am always curious about the culture and life of other islanders. And, the Philippines makes this even more interesting, with its Spanish and American influence juxtaposed in South East Asia and as an island nation comprised of over 7,000 islands.

The first part of the week we’ll be in Manila, both the country’s capital and one of the most densely populated cities in the world. We will visit companies across varying industries. Our week will then conclude in Bohol, the Philippines’ tenth largest island and popular tourist destination for its many beaches.

Photo Courtesy of Michele McCauley

I know I speak for my fellow classmates when I say we’re super excited about this trip. From visiting several companies, networking with alumni and having our TA, Joey Osmena, welcome us to his home!

To follow along with us, stay tuned for more blog posts from me, and be sure to follow our journey on Instagram @columbiachazen.