Thursday, 26 August 2010

RP flag flies proudly in overseas plants

Written by Lito U. Gagni / Market Files

It was a sight to behold: the Philippine tricolor flying proudly in a 20-hectare complex in Shanghai, headquarters of the hugely successful Oishi brand that has become associated with the kind of marketing savvy that catapulted a Filipino entrepreneur to the hall of China Famous Brands. Contrast that with the small Philippine flag at the Philippine Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo, put there at the performing stage more like an afterthought, and the disconnect registers.

Indeed, the patriotic fervor with which Oishi founder Carlos Chan conducts himself in China is much more profound than thought. The man, very unassuming and soft-spoken, has his heart very close to the Motherland. It shows in various ways: Philippine flags waving high on poles in various China plants and sales offices that include Harbin, Hubei, Zhengzhou, Xuzhou, Jiangxi, Xinjiang, Beijing, Chengdu; Filipino engineers lord it over their Chinese counterparts; and the Filipino flag flutters at the hood of Mr. Chan’s car.

There is an unmistakable glint in the eye of the Oishi founder as he played host to the Tuesday Club, headed by Philippine Star managing editor Tony Katigbak, in a six-day swing of Shanghai, Yangzhou and Nanjing last week. And the pride shows in a complex way of revealing to the visitors the sea change in the economic landscapes of these places and hinting at the possibility of having these changes incorporated in the Philippines for the benefit of the country and its people.

The love for country is very much evident when Mr. Chan talks of how, some five years ago, a progressive place in China was considered a backwater of sort until government bureaucrats and businessmen charted a course for a vibrant economy. Then there is that sigh and optimistic tone that someday the Philippines will wake up from its long slumber and draw up a similar road map that would thrust it to the 21st century. He has solid ideas and if the government only cares to listen, the time is now, lest Vietnam, where Oishi is an emerging brand, overtakes us.

We understand that the Philippine flag also flies proudly in Vietnam, much like in Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand. Mr. Chan’s heart is firmly rooted on Philippine soil and where he can be a factor, he makes sure that Chinese businessmen get to invest in the country. There have been overtures from big conglomerates in China but some legal hurdles proved pesky for the entry of renminbis. Nonetheless, the Oishi founder continues to promote the Philippines’ investment potentials even as he strives for newer places to promote the company’s expanding product base.

To get a glimpse of the patriotic zeal of the Oishi founder, one only has to go beyond the invites that he makes to Filipino professionals for them to catch firsthand the many changes that have happened in China. While on the surface, Mr. Chan only wants to play host to the numerous visitors he had invited to the former sleeping dragon, the message he wishes to impart goes in this roundabout way:

“You know, this booming place used to have entrepreneurs lined up along the sidewalks with their wares. Then they developed the capability, expanded their businesses and forthwith contributed to the immense growth of the place. This transformation can happen to the Philippines, too.” And then he would point at the frenetic pace of infrastructure buildup and dwell on a wish that the Philippines can play catch-up. The only thing that is needed is a patriotic zeal never seen before.

Mr. Chan goes about his own little way contributing to various ways of promoting the country. Unknown to many, he contributed in a big way to the private-public-sector fund pooled together to ensure the success of the Philippine Pavilion. But he is secretive about the extent of his contribution; it is enough that he played a part.

In a way, he spreads the tourism potential of the country subliminally. The Oishi packages show the Philippines’ major tourist draws like Bohol, Boracay, the Hundred Islands, the Banaue Terrraces and other notable places. Not only that. The Oishi advertisements, both in print and on TV, feature the major tourism attractions in the country and, in some instances, the singing pupils of the Loboc choir of Tagbilaran, Bohol, form part of the ad material that is shown in China.

Oishi’s patriotic mindset also shows in the ongoing development of the Loboc River as a major tourism draw in Bohol. The food-and-snack conglomerate is funding the lighting project of the entire river attraction to ensure that nighttime boat rides become part of the tourism package. The program has been fairly successful, thanks in part to the enthusiasm of the local government unit to promote the place. As a result, the conglomerate is pushing the envelope further and it has printed brochures about the tourism site that includes the famed tarsier.

Patriotic zeal can be infectious and it can infect other people in no time. This can be said of the Loboc experiment that Oishi undertook as part of its commitment to the country’s progress and which has been embraced and endorsed by the people in the area. The result is a deluge of visitors. Tourists waiting for their turn for a boat ride on the Loboc River form long orderly lines from a building where they are dispatched to various boats that are also lined up to await their passengers. Even the souvenir shops are “lined up” so that tourists don’t have to wangle with ambulant vendors selling their wares.

Along the river ride, there are shows that greet the boat riders who gamely disembark and dance or sing with the performers. There is a floating port at the midway point of the ride from where food is distributed to all the boats that have been dispatched. Here, there is order amid the disorder of tourists trying to take photos of the tourism attractions along the way. One cannot help but believe that somehow, Oishi was able to stamp its own brand of tourism onto the place.

For it is characteristic of Mr. Chan to see to it that the best practices in China’s booming cities are transplanted on Philippine soil. The Loboc experiment seemed to be a prelude to the big things that Mr. Chan has in mind, although in the meantime, he would rather that his accomplishment goes unnoticed beyond that of having the Philippine flag fluttering in the wind, proud of its place, and hopeful of an economic renaissance the country sorely needs.


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