When I reflect on where I am today, I remember the journey that I have been through — my childhood in the humble hometown of Catbalogan (in the Philippines) where our parents raised us three boys. I see how the daring dream of parents, nurturing love, and early childhood lessons can shape a wonderful life. I know that by truly knowing who you are, your strengths and core values, you can relate to others better, gain more friends and be successful in life.
This is the time of the year when you reflect on what happened during the year and the years that have gone by. Christmas is always filled with emotions and longing to be with your family and loved ones. I have spent 31 out of 33 Christmases in my life with my family in Catbalogan. Last year, I was there too. This Christmas is the second one that I won’t be spending at home. We are pregnant with twin boys and obviously, the doctor won’t allow my wife to travel. So we are spending this holiday season in Florida for the first time.
I would like to dedicate this post to my parents, Ignacio and Leonita Remoreras. They are the best parents in the world and I attribute most of what I am and what I have become to them. These are the values and lessons they have taught me and my two other brothers, Lemuel and Ryan, when we were growing up.
The importance of hardwork was a lesson I learned early in life. Leading to Christmas, at this time of the year, I remember my brothers and I would be busy helping our parents operate the store. My parents own a small store in our hometown in the Philippines. We initially sold mostly school and office supplies but eventually offered more and more gift items, especially in the months leading to Christmas. December had always been a special month for the family — a month of lots of preparation and work. After school breaks for Christmas, my classmates looked forward to vacation while my brothers and I looked forward to working everyday during the Christmas break. Our parents instilled in us the culture of shared responsibility. They did not hire store helpers early on and they expected us to help in every aspect of the business.
About 30% of our store’s annual gross sales come from the month of December. That’s how important the month is for our livelihood. You can just imagine the amount of work that it represented to us. It was a family affair to help out, and it was a tradition admired even by other friends of the family. My parents tasked us to help in the store in different ways — wrap gifts, man the cashier, assist customers and move stocks around. It was just the five of us operating the store. When I was in high-school, my parents began to entrust me with managing the store during the summer when they both travelled to Manila to buy inventory for the school opening. When I went to university in Manila, my younger brother Lemuel took over this role. (I think he was better at it than I was.) When my brothers and I moved to Manila to go to university, my parents started hiring people to help in the store.
“Cenintavo” and Malasakit (Deep Caring and Empathy)
During the store’s off season, the business mostly concentrated on retail of school and office supplies. We sold ballpens, pencils, scissors, crayon, and many others. We even sold paper (typewriting paper, yellow pad paper and the like) by piece to customers — mostly to students of Samar College (located across the street from our store). I wondered why we sold paper by piece. My father explained that it’s about earning “cenintavo” (meaning — earning by centavo or the cent) and centavos put together make a good sum. That’s how we earn a living — “cenintavo”. That’s how my father taught me the value of working hard for small things. My parents were raising us to be responsible and self-motivated, to understand the value of initiative and caring, to appreciate the value of money and earning a living the hard way. Filipino values were inculcated in our upbringing. Values such as “pagmamalasakit” (deep caring and empathy) and “kusang loob” (initiative).
Again, when I reflect where I am today, knowng the journey is far from over, I see that my next step is daring to dream big for my children, pursuing the same lessons and discipline, and passing on the same core family values my parents taught me.
I am citing a very old poem that I wrote during my childhood (this one is from 1992, when I was 15 yrs old). I will leave you this year, with this poem about me, my parents and my hometown. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!
My mother lives by the sea,
eats fish, crabs, shrimps for her everyday meals
She wanders the Samar island.
Walks with bare emptiness.
Crying with droplet tears of pearls.
My father braves the bridges and the soars.
He leaves home through a nightingale cast
and reaches the island of dreams,
searching pearls from oysters undersea.
the last day of the first month known,
the mild brook begins singing songs.
The billowing wind excites
the crystal water to fall downstream.
No mural drawn, no trumpet sung
no fuming incense and amber cunning.
My rapture to the gates of the world
bears no wonder and warmth.
The firmament where I seek residence
is a town of willow and grass.
Treat and retreat come the waves
ashore to the town of wedge.
Strait of San Bernardino to the north,
the great Pacific to the east,
Strait of San Juanico to the south
the Maqueda Bay to the west.
Waters I see in every point I trudge.
Water I see in every edge.
I can go nowhere without the sea I see,
I can’t live without the sea.
I print the map of my hometown,
roaring through, the pins print
the old town’s map.
Printing pins, printing pins,
It prints the narrow street of Rizal,
Del Rosario, San Francisco and San Roque.
It prints the narrow street of Mabini,
where I live and grow.
I print the map of Catbalogan
its schools, churches, halls and parks.
The pins go tired and weary-
they print for years now,
ever printing the changes of the town.
Photo Courtesy of http://catbalogan.lgu-ph.com/
I’m home! I thought it would be appropriate to write about the Philippines while I’m in town. It’s been 2 years since my last trip here. A family occasion gave me the opportunity to visit home this close to Christmas. I surely miss the vibrant colors, vitality and noise of the streets filled with jeepneys. I miss the company of friends and family. I am currently at a local coffee shop right in the heart of Metropolitan Manila’s business district – Makati. Like so many others, I come here mainly to connect to the internet and the coffee is just secondary.
I am part of a Shared Services organization based in Florida. Due to a scheduling conflict, I am tasked to work during the first two weeks of December even though I am in a different time zone (13-hour difference). Indeed, technology has broken the barriers to work and collaboration. Something that – decades ago – one can hardly imagine doing. I work nights (usually until 1am) to catch-up with the US Eastern Time zone.
It is not as if I am the only one working the night shift in Metro Manila and in many major cities in the Philippines. I am comforted by the fact that I work at the same time as thousands of service agents and consultants providing services to the US and Europe. In Makati, it is pretty common to see heavily lighted high rise buildings at night. After all, the Philippines is one of the main centers of business process outsourcing (BPO) and shared services in the world.
The Philippine BPO industry provides a wide portfolio of services that not only include traditional voice and IT services but also higher value services such as finance, IT programming, engineering, medical transcription and architectural services.
Business Process Outsourcing
According to Tas, J. & Sunder, S. in a journal entitled Financial Services Business Process Outsourcing published in 2004.
“Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a form of outsourcing that involves the contracting of the operations and responsibilities of a specific business functions (or processes) to a third-party service provider. Originally, this was associated with manufacturing firms, such as Coca Cola that outsourced large segments of its supply chain.”
BPO can be categorized into two types—front office and back office outsourcing. Front office outsourcing is typically related to customer services and contact center services while Back office usually refers to support and administrative functions such as human resources, finance and accounting.
Based on service location there are two types of BPO—Nearshore and Offshore outsourcing. For example, relative to United States, BPO service providers in Mexico can be considered a nearshore outsourcing as compared to BPO services provided to US companies from Asia Pacific countries, like the Philippines.
Why Philippines is a First-rate BPO location
Amid the global economic crisis, the BPO industries in the country have remained strong in 2009. Industry experts in the Philippines expect 35% growth this year. According to the Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP), the biggest organization of outsourcing providers in the Philippines, the outsourcing industry will earn about $12 billion to $13 billion and employ close to 900,000 people in 2010.
The Philippines has remained one of the most ideal locations for companies who outsource business processes and services. Filipinos are known to be highly skilled, hardworking, dedicated and loyal. There is a known Filipino trait called “malasakit” (in local Filipno language) that means genuine concern and care. Filipinos are known to exhibit this quality in the workplace. Skills and hardworking attitudes guarantee strong performance and productivity, while on the other hand, dedication and loyalty translates to better talent retention, less training costs and experienced service personnel. The Philippines is also considered as the location of choice due to its less expensive operational and labor costs, as well as having an English-speaking workforce (the result of English being the main medium of instruction in schools and universities in all educational levels). The Philippines, with the help of the Government and private sectors, has also developed a competitive infrastructure in terms of telecommunications, information and technology.
UK body proclaims the Philippines as World’s Best BPO destination for the 2nd time. The Philippines has won the 2009 Offshoring Destination of the Year category at the 4th National Outsourcing Association (NOA) Awards held October 15 at Park Plaza Riverbank in London. The Philippines bested Egypt, Malaysia, Russia and Sri Lanka among others. This is the second time that the country bagged the prestigious award category. The first time was in 2007. This was reported in a press release by BPAP last October 2009.
A lot of top multinational companies have service centers in the Philippines—Caltex, Citibank, HSBC, Procter and Gamble, Deutsche Bank and Dell, to name a few. It’s common for an individual to have at least one close family member who works in BPOs and services centers. It’s just that so many Filipinos nowadays work in BPO-related industries across the Philippines. My new sister-in-law, for instance, works in HSBC service center and my brother used to work there too— it’s where they met. This goes to show that indeed, business process outsourcing, offshore call and service centers are now part of Filipino lifestyle of service. We are known for our service— not just in BPO industries but in many industries— not just in the Philippines but around the world.
Image of Makati Skyline courtesy of Wikimedia.org