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My Business And The Philippine Culture

Having been in the Philippines for 2 years at the time my US company made me walk the plank, I decided to make a go of it here, and thought that I could, with my western-style business acumen and decent savings, make just about any business work.

Boy, was I mistaken!!

My wife and I have bought several working plantations, some real property, built a couple of speculative homes, and started a money- lending business. None of the businesses produce anything close to their full potential.


I think it is the large, sometimes unbridgeable cultural gap between most western countries and the Philippines. All those wonderful Filipino traits we ex-pats love here go directly at odds with standard western business practices. Take the lending business. Setting standard practices to follow when evaluating customer loan applications was easy, but the first thing the loan manager did was lend large sums to her extended and poverty-stricken family. And even now she sees nothing wrong with that. The strict rules we discussed for days and days clearly did not apply to family!

Being a foreigner definitely does NOT help the businesses. The price of copra at the local dealers goes down a few pesos on the day my product goes to market. My rice fields are inexplicably more expensive to run a caribou plough across.

Is it a failure? Absolutely not! But it was, and remains, full of unexpected pitfalls. I certainly wish I had a military pension, like some of the respondents on this thread, to help me meet my monthly living costs, because the businesses as a whole are barely net positive and look like being so for the foreseeable future.

But the thrill of the chase, and the pleasures of living in this wonderful country more than compensate for our declining fortune!

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained, eh?

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