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

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.