Today marks the start to our new Global Series – where we uncover destinations and discover how to create meaningful and impactful travel experiences, while supporting socially-minded, local businesses.
I am familiar in a sense with our next destination. Well to be fair… I am familiar with several individuals from the next country in our global guest – the Philippines. And as I always like to say,
“A country is its people.”
Coincidentally, several of my ship mates during my first job on a yacht were from this beautiful Southeast Asian nation. While working alongside them or simply passing them in the corridors, I quickly became rather fond of their warm smiles, sense of humor and sticky rice congee breakfasts. There love of singing and family. Their strong work ethic and deep-rooted faith.
But what I remember most is that Filipino’s care. They are acutely aware of others around them and always make you feel as if your life matters when they speak to you. I can’t quite describe it, but I feel as if I have lifelong friends that formed from simple interactions. It’s not often that you meet someone like this. And yet, when you meet a Filipino – it will certainly be the case.
This compassion for others is paired with another wonderful trait: creativity. Although this may be peculiar coming out of one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia that has been shaken throughout history by natural disaster and political instability, Filipino’s think for themselves, are thrifty in tight situations, and take matters into their own hands.
It’s no surprise that the social enterprise movement has become a magnetic force that is gaining strength, to potentially make this Southeast Asian country the world wide capital of social enterprises.
Yes, it’s true – the Philippines may very well be the future Social Enterprise Capital of the World. And even now as it gains its momentum, it’s the place to watch.
What I love most about their movement is that it has anticipation and excitement behind it. There are several communities, like well-established Gawad Kalinga, that are massive movements that retain their human connection and vibrancy (check out this video below to see what I am talking about). It’s compassion like this that inspires other small start-ups to form with vigor behind them as well.
Lifting the Base
There are two main trends emerging in Philippine’s social enterprise market. Number one being the fight to end poverty. As Gawad Kalinga puts it,
“As our country experiences rapid economic growth, there is a great need for us to reflect on the realities that confront the least amongst us―the poor (landless, homeless and hungry) at the “base of the pyramid.”
A recent article by the large national newspaper Philippine Star explains that even though the country has experienced an economy boom in the last few years, income inequality and poverty will continue to be an issue. Social enterprises therefore are desperately needed as the wealthy lift up the poor with innovative and self-sustaining solutions.
The nice thing for travelers is that there are several social businesses that cater to visitors. You won’t just find micro-finance and green initiatives here (although those are great too!). As you travel through the islands, you will likely be able to engage and experience several of the country’s grassroots social enterprises, ranging from farms and restaurants to fair trade factories and retail outlets. All helping to educate and employ those living in immense poverty throughout the country.
The second trend that is appearing among Filipinos within this realm is a desire to bond and mobilize the 10 million dispersed Filipinos around the world, rekindling their national pride. This is a powerful tool that social enterprise Kaya Collaborative hopes to tap into – bringing together the resources of Filipinos who now reside and study in the West to support and engage in local support for issues at home.
It’s clear to see that the winning combination is here – compassion, creativity, a need, and a community. It is not doubt that the Philippines is going to be a leader in the social enterprises movement and I can’t wait to be a part of it!
In the coming weeks, I will be sharing spotlights on Filipino social enterprises, tips for how to go in-depth with the people and places as you plan your trip to the beautiful islands, and how to more fully understand this under-appreciated country and people group.
Let’s get to know the Philippines!
Feature Photo: Flicker – Anton Diaz, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Lincense
The Children of Digyo: Flicker – Jun Pinili, Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License