A handful of people from CBE have made the journey to our office in the Philippines and there have been a few posts about their travels….but if you are up to reading one more post on this topic, I would love to share with you my experience and how I left my heart not in San Francisco, but in Manila.
First of all, let’s be clear, the journey is long. It was a full 24 hours from once I stepped on my first connection to my arrival in the Manila airport. Yes, I was lucky enough to be in business class, and yes the food on the airplane was oddly enough amazing, and yes the way my seat would recline flat and make a bed was awesome, and yes the business class lounge in the airports were pleasant and comfortable….but with all that said, I’m just not used to traveling that long. However, the experience itself made the travel well worth it (which you will find out once you read more).
I arrived in Manila at 8:00 p.m., picked up at the airport by our CBE driver, Wil and Isela, (HR Director and Operations Director) and within one hour I was eating dinner with one of our vendor partners. I immediately experienced the warmth of Filipinos by feeling I just had dinner with life-long friends, not a business partner. After dinner we proceeded to our office and arrived about 11:30 p.m. Most of our Philippines employees work through the night to match the day hours in the US, so our office was full of employees when I arrived.
I was greeted so very warmly by all of our employees. I quickly realized I had to get used to doors being opened for me, everyone calling me “Boss Mary,” gifts being presented to me, Diet Pepsi waiting for me, bananas for my breakfast and employees truly expressing gratitude that someone from the US office was there to visit.
The office was decorated in splendor as extravagant paper flowers and garland lined the cubicles and hung from ceilings as they celebrated Flores de Mayo (a festival Filipinos celebrate the month of May to show devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary). I was put to the test by judging the team that decorated their area the best and then on top of that I had to choose the Reyna Elena which represents the Santacruzan festival where employees dress in elaborate gowns depicting characters from the celebration. It was inspiring to me to see the intricate work our employees did (on their own time by the way) and immediately taught me how the Filipino culture truly cares about their heritage and the desire to express and teach their history and beliefs not only in their homes but in the work place.
The week continued by getting to know our management team, support teams and all the Associates, many of which joined me in round table meetings to talk and express their ideas and thoughts about our office and processes. I learned so much from each and every one of them and gained a new appreciation of how engaged everyone is and appreciative of the company they work for. I continued meeting our vendor partners and business associates throughout the week and gained invaluable knowledge from each of them.
I was able to experience the city of Manila, learned about many interesting modes of transportation including the “Jeepneys” and Tuktuks (a tricycle with a side car).
I found time over the weekend to visit Intramuros, which is the oldest district and historic core of Manila, learned many things here and saw many beautiful cathedrals and churches with weddings going on during our visit (oh and I also got my picture taken with apl.de.ap from the Blacked Eyed Peas – that was a highlight) and experienced shopping at Greenhills (I LOVE my new doily, Isela!)
I experienced sitting in traffic that does not move (and when it does, it seems to move in all directions without paying attention to staying in any sort of “a lane”). I got used to paying in peso’s, being greeted at my hotel as Miss Mary, opening my purse as I entered every building for security purposes and the continuous feeling of feeling very welcomed and safe in their city. And then there was the food – I tried some really great food, learning soon that I loved beef pares, their pasta, pizza, rice and a dessert called halo-halo (thanks Tin). Even though I did try some things that were not on my “gotta have” list, like adobo or lechon kawali, experiencing their cuisine was part of what a first time visitor needs to do.
Oh…and let’s not forget the karaoke. I quickly learned that everyone likes to sing in Manila, it is their passion and a big part of their entertainment. What they did not know is that “Miss Mary” does not sing well, even though I completely stepped out of my comfort zone and sang an old song from The Carpenters (which I understand is a group that many of you reading this have probably never even heard of) with the management team joining in for a sing-a-long at the end. The karaoke night was great and I am still impressed by the talent they all have. A big thank you to the Manila management team for planning such a nice evening for me, again showing their kindness and graciousness to travel from their homes to do this on their day off.
As I look back at my trip, I feel very blessed to have spent this week in Manila, and as a bonus got to help them celebrate our 3rd year anniversary in Bonifacio City. We are an office today of 160, positioning ourselves to double and triple in size, which is exciting to think of our future growth! I am proud to say that we have an office in Manila, and I would recommend this area to any company considering an offshore call center expansion.
Salamat my friends in Manila – until I see you again….