Stocks in Asia for the most part slipped in Wednesday morning exchange following medium-term advancements on the US-China exchange front.

In territory China, the Shanghai composite stood minimal changed in early exchange, while the Shenzhen part included 0.33%. The Shenzhen composite additionally climbed 0.229%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng list slipped 0.38%.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 0.48% in morning exchange, with portions of file heavyweight and combination Softbank Gathering dropping over 3.5%, while the Topix shed 0.16%.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi exchanged 1.07% lower, as chip producer SK Hynix saw its stock fall past 1.5%, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.51%.

In general, the MSCI Asia-ex Japan list slipped 0.21%.

Asia-Pacific Market Lists Outline Singapore fares tumble

Singapore’s fares dropped considerably more than anticipated in June, with information on Wednesday indicating non-oil residential fares in June diving 17.3% year-on-year, broadly missing the normal 9.9% compression by market analysts in a Reuters survey.

It was likewise the biggest decay since February 2013, when fares dropped 33.2% when contrasted with the prior year, as indicated by Refinitiv Eikon information.

The Straits Times file exchanged just underneath the flatline in the first part of the day, while the Singapore dollar was minimal changed against the greenback at 1.3583, after levels beneath 1.356 seen yesterday.

US-China exchange butterflies

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Washington and Beijing have far to go on exchange, including that America could place duties on an extra $325 billion worth of Chinese merchandise “in the event that we need.”

Trump’s remarks come after China and the U.S. made a deal to avoid tightening up exchange strains to restart arrangements, with the two nations previously having slapped billions of dollars worth of levies on one another’s merchandise. The extended exchange battle between the two financial powerhouses has raised worries over its potential effect on monetary development just as business certainty.

Medium-term stateside, the Dow Jones Modern Normal finished its four-day series of wins as it slipped 23.53 focuses to 27,335.63. The S&P 500 shut 0.3% lower at 3,004.04 and snapped a five-day series of wins, while the Nasdaq Composite shed 0.4% to complete its exchanging day at 8,222.80.

Then, U.S. Central bank Administrator Jerome Powell on Tuesday emphasized his promise to “go about as proper” to prop the financial development up. His remarks come in the midst of desires that the national bank could cut loan costs at its money related arrangement meeting later in July.

In any case, information on Tuesday demonstrated U.S. retail deals expanded more than anticipated in June, indicating solid purchaser spending, which could dull a portion of the hit on the economy from frail business venture.

Retail deals progressed 0.4% a month ago, higher than desires for a 0.1% expansion in June by financial analysts in a Reuters survey.

Oil and monetary standards

Oil costs saw sharp decreases on Tuesday after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran was prepared to arrange with respect to its rocket program. Pressures between the US and Iran over Tehran’s atomic program have recently loaned help to oil prospects, given the potential at a cost spike should the circumstance crumble.

Toward the beginning of the day of Asian exchanging hours on Wednesday, oil costs made a restricted recuperation. Worldwide benchmark Brent rough fates added 0.39% to $64.60 per barrel, while U.S. rough fates were 0.16% higher at $57.71 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar file, which tracks the greenback against a container of its companions, was at 97.341, after its ascent from levels underneath 96.9 seen not long ago.

The Japanese yen exchanged at 108.15 against the dollar, debilitating from levels underneath 108 contacted yesterday. The Australian dollar was at $0.7016 subsequent to exchanging a range somewhere in the range of $0.700 and $0.705 for a great part of the week.

AMHERST — College of Massachusetts authorities, including Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, will go to the formal opening Friday of the 70,000-square-foot Business Development Center expansion to the Isenberg School of The executives.

Despite the fact that the office has been being used since January, the college had effectively arranged the April 12 festivity of the $62 million undertaking, which starts at 1 p.m. along 121 Presidents Drive.

“The new development and fractional redesign of the Isenberg School of The executives about duplicates the school’s present size to address Isenberg’s great development in the most recent decade, while presenting new offices for workforce, staff and 5,000 understudies in undergrad, master’s, and PhD programs,” UMass said in a readied explanation.

Established in 1947, the Isenberg School of The board on the College of Massachusetts’ Amherst grounds, has 42,000 graduated class in 86 nations.

About 1,300 understudies are taken a crack at the Isenberg MBA and can center their examinations in human services organization, enterprise, fund and showcasing.”

Notwithstanding Subbaswamy, Interval Dignitary Tom Moliterno, Partner Senior member Nefertiti Walker, and the task’s Engineer Bjarke Ingels will be close by for the festival, the school said.

business opportunity

Last month saw a Franchise Expo at Ayala Mall, hosted by Franchise Agents RK Franchise Consultancy. Rudolf Kotik, the founder of RK wasn’t there, but his Visayan representative Buddy Villasis was. Buddy is an intelligent, personable professional who was very open and forthcoming about the Consultancy and the franchise opportunities they managed and offered to potential franchisees here in Cebu. They have business opportunities going from a little more than US$1000 up to major investments in big name franchises.

I looked at the franchises on offer and noticed how there is a growing number of coffee shop opportunities. To me this proves there is a spreading trend to enjoy what is really a bloody expensive drink when you realise most cappuccino’s and latte’s start around P50 and go up from there! The Coffee Beanery, Indulgence Coffee, The Java Man, and a couple more are all on offer.

Food franchises do take up the majority of those offered but there were also educational and consultancy type franchises offered, as well as service oriented businesses such as massage studios. Wraps!, Rai-Rai-Kan, Kookels’, Ice Castles and others handled the food section. PC Quick Buys were there for computers, House of Praise for religious CDs and lots of other brands on show.

My favourite food franchise that was on offer is Dunkin’ Donuts. Me and the Anonymous Bear both love the Bavarians! We could buy into a franchise in Mindanao somewhere, but sadly everything on Cebu is taken! With Dunkin’ Donuts you can’t just buy a cart or kiosk or open a store, you need to buy the are or regional master franchise and then run things in the region, including setting up your own bakery. Big Money!

Out of all the 20 or so booths on display and the 70 or more franchises RK manage my favourite was the Kuryente Electrical Shop franchise. This is a nice looking concept that really should be looked into further because you could own a shop from around US$10,000 that will do well because light bulbs blow! What I couldn’t believe is they don’t have either a web site or an email address! Now that could be an opening for an intrepid web designer to leap in and make some money. If you want to know more, I would suggest you contact Buddy and ask him about Kuryente, I really think it just might take off! Otherwise, call Daisy Rafal on 0927 916 0565 and ask why they haven’t got a web site in this day and age!

It didn’t take too long to check out the entire expo, but what I saw was promising. There are much larger trade shows I Manila, but it was good to see someone trying something here in Cebu. I would suggest anyone with the intention of getting into a small business, either for themselves, their Asawa or an inlaw, contact Buddy and tell him you heard it here first!

Dairy produces taken for granted by most of us; at least until we come to the Philippines! I remember my first trip here in the eighties; I craved a milkshake and a decent ham and cheese sandwich! You could order both from Room Service at the 1-star does house I was staying at in Manila, but the milk made from powder, and the bread was sugar infested Filipino bread, with strange purple ham and high-temperature cheese!

factory
Factory.

Nearly twenty years later the situation has changed considerably. While you can still get the same bread, ham, cheese, and powdered milk, you can also buy a much more full range of quality dairy products in just about any supermarket. Note the location is the “super” market, not the “native,” “local” or any other kind of market. Dairy products imported, new to the diet and thus more expensive than the average item on sale at the “Mercado” or local market.

Currently, the Philippines is about only 2% self-sufficient in dairy production. The National Dairy Authority is aiming at increasing that to 5% this year with an innovative program called “Palit Baka,” more about that later. Imports of milk from Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Europe in various forms set the economy back nearly US$400 million in 2003. As the acceptance of dairy products grows in the A, B, and even C classes, we can expect to see that figure rise.

One thing I have always found intriguing is the total absence of goat’s milk and goat’s cheeses. Given every spare plot of dirt has a ruminant or three grazing away and the market rarely has “Kambing” for sale (usually just a hind quarter, co where does the rest of the beast go?), how come nobody milks them and sells the milk or makes cheese or yogurt?

I turned to the Asawa for guidance, and she merely shrugged and said that no Filipino would buy goat’s milk or cheese. No reason, they just wouldn’t. I have learned not to argue with her too much, especially on matters like this. Still, it seems pretty strange to me, especially when there are some great goat’s milk cheeses to be had and surely fresh goat’s milk is better than nothing at all in the calcium stakes?

However, back to the baka, or cows. The NDA website is full of fascinating information and indeed should be visited. These people are making a very definite effort to improve the health and diet of the average Filipino. They are determined to bring fresh milk and dairy produce within the grasp of just about everybody.

The Palit Baka program has farmers borrowing cows and keeping them for a period of a few years. (They can also buy selected animals and at P70,000 each, it might be worth investigating if your in-laws have a few spare plots of grassy land around their house). During this time the breeding program the NDA sponsors is monitored, and new cross breeds developed that can survive the tropical climate. All milk produced that consumed by the farmer sold to the local dairy center, and much of it goes back to the poor of the community through subsidized feeding programs for malnourished children.

Some of the milk, of course, ends up in the supermarkets and here in Cebu, I can buy fresh juice for about the same as “fresh milk,” i.e., UHT long life milk. My Asawa calls the UHT (ultra heat treated) milk “fresh milk” as opposed to powdered milk. Growing up in the province they never had (and her parents still never have) UHT “fresh milk.” Powdered milk was the best they could afford, and that wasn’t as often as it should have been. Real fresh juice is a novelty, and yet slowly she is getting more used to having it around. I find that you need to finish the raw milk off in a day or two, whereas back in Australia, even at the height of summer, fresh juice would last three or four days if refrigerated. Also using the same refrigeration practices, local raw milk turns a little sour within 48 hours of opening.

If you see a bottle of Cebu Fresh Milk in the dairy department of your Gaisano, SM, Robinson’s, Food or Rustan’s supermarket, buy it! Help this fledgling industry get off the ground and help improve the diet of the average Filipino. The more real fresh milk that produced and sold, the more chance there is that dairy products will become more affordable and more available to everybody in this country.

Here’s my latest and greatest! It is going to be huge! I have gift baskets full of shells that will sell for US$20 to US$30 in a craft shop back East, all day long! How much did I pay for them? Would you believe a buck? One Dollar! Moreover, I bought them retail, remember!

business deal

The significant expense is shipping, of course. I think you could add US$2 each basket if you shipped by sea, in say a Balikbayan type box. You could easily fit fifty baskets in and that would price it around US$100, so I guess that is within reason. Smart operators would ship for less, much less.

So you add US$5 to each item, by now they cost you US$8 each, landed in the USA and before customs duties, taxes, etc. are heaped upon them. Even at US$2 a basket, the shop is paying ten bucks and making 100-200% on top.

What is the secret? The secret is to have the outlet in the USA or Europe or Australia where you can sell your box of gift baskets. I admit US$250 per box isn’t a lot, and maybe it will take the shop a season to clear its stock of seashell gift baskets. Of course, if you can find one shop to make a box, then you can see two, and three and four. One day, you’ll get that long-awaited call from the giftware buyer at Wal-mart and before you know it.

The employment practices in the Philippines promotes the very annoying “Out of Stock” syndrome that drives most of us, foreigners, at least slightly mad from time to time. It is not the staff members’ job to re-order, but they can’t remind the manager whose job it is that stock needs re-ordering as that would make them appear to think they are smarter than the manager.

edsa ave

The manager should know when things need to be re-ordered and bringing to their attention their failure to have done so invites wrath and revenge, usually in the form of dismissal. Filipinos can be very (to us foreigners) childlike in their behavior when slighted, and many wouldn’t hesitate to be spiteful and wield their power to fire for such infringement as telling the manager basically that they aren’t doing their job! I know, to us it would make sense to advise the manager as the manager is human and can’t be expected to know everything, but it doesn’t work like that here!

Once a woman is 25 or 26 it is presumed she will be married and if she married then, of course, she would want only to breed, so why advertise for anyone older? Confident professional women may be available for hire into their 30’s, but it presumed they have a YaYa looking after their children and thus are free to focus on the job. Alternatively, the post will clearly state the incumbent must be single! What happens after 35? In three years of monitoring the position as I have only twice seen ads for someone aged 40, one was a senior accountant and the other a top chef. Both were for men, of course!

Perhaps one possible explanation for this age-ist mentality is that many Asian families expect that once the children graduate college, they will support their parents. If you have four or five kids all handing over most of their pay cheque each month, you can live very well without looking for another job. You make sure you keep control of this income source so that as they marry, they bring the new spouse into the family home or compound, and then you exert your influence over the new spouse and strengthen your position using the grandchildren. The alternative to that is that the employee stays with the same company up until retirement age, but often this is only possible for those lucky enough to be in professional positions. They probably enjoy some security from inherited wealth also, so they advantaged than the average Filipino.

Regardless of whether they employed at home or abroad, the Filipino with a job is a happy soul! Even happier it often seems it is Filipino without a job! Somehow they always seem to get by, one day at a time and they have a smile on their face and a ready laugh. Perhaps we can take a leaf from their book and choose to be happy, no matter what life might throw our way. After all, those of us too young to have a pension or retirement income can always fly back to the States or the UK or Aussie and get a job. For the Filipino that is often not an option. Even those who do win a coveted place as an OFW know that their income producing years limited including the clock is always ticking!

filipinos playing chess

Overseas Filipino Workers are numbered at about eight million or so. The actual workforce of the country, not counting these “lucky ones” is about the same, according to an article I read in “The Expat” newspaper a few weeks ago. This suggests that out of a nation of 86 million or so, once you take away the over 65 retirees and the under 18 school age citizens, that means only 16 million or so are actually employed. Close to 70 million Filipino’s are out of work or not eligible for work or past their working prime! 70 from 86 as a percentage is 81%.

Overseas Filipino Workers numbered at about eight million or so. The actual workforce of the country, not counting these “lucky ones” is about the same, according to an article I read in “The Expat” newspaper a few weeks ago. It suggests that out of a nation of 86 million or so, once you take away the over 65 retirees and the under 18 school age citizens, that means only 16 million or so are employed. Close to 70 million Filipino’s are out of work or not eligible for employment or past their working prime! 70 from 86 as a percentage is 81%.

Eighty-One percent of the country is living off the efforts of the other 19%, and half of these are not even working within our borders! I just finished reading the Sunday issue of The Manila Bulletin and worked my way through the job ads. Page after page of jobs listed for the Middle East, KSA, UAE, Qatar even Azerbaijan, and Sudan. What is it with these Arabs, can’t they wait on their tables or train their people to staff their hospitals? Surely not all of them are busy barrelling up the oil their kitty litter countries float on? I would say none of them work as the list of jobs encompasses just about everything you can imagine a society needing to perform.

Add to this the numerous ads for caregivers for the USA and Canada, nurses for the UK and domestic helpers for Hong Kong, entertainers for Taiwan and teachers for China and you can see why so much of the workforce is heading to NAIA! Those who are left compete for tooth and nail for the still numerous jobs available, at least that is how it seems on the surface.

Several major full-page ads are asking for call center operators. I even saw one ad offering training in improving your “American Accent,” which apparently would guarantee a better salary and successful placement. Since the course offered by “expand-your-mind.com,” I have my doubts as to its’ validity! It is an indicator of the lengths people will go to to get decent work here, however.

You can’t blame them when the top few get to go overseas and study, and then the next tier grab the best local jobs thanks to their education and what remains is fought over by the third tier. Below them are the poor “masa” who are lucky if they can swing a job instead of having to go on “standby” or work a sidewalk stall until moved on by the MMDA. Half of the problem, I believe is easily blamed on the attitudes of the employers.

Every ad for a position includes the criteria of age. Few jobs state they will accept anyone over 30. I rang a few of them up and asked why the candidate had to be under 35 or 30 or whatever age was stipulated. The average, mindless, mean nothing answer was “company policy”! I asked what happened if someone got the job and then a month later had a birthday and thus was no longer within the age range specified, would they be fired? I pressed my luck with a couple and asked them to define “pleasing personality.” I also asked if the lucky job seeker would penalize if they had the odd day where their personality was perhaps less than pleasing?

Despite what I, a foreigner, might think of the hiring practices in this country, the reality is this is how it is! They can define everything they want in an employee, from looks to height to even waist measurements! Personality, sex, marital status, everything included in the criteria! It isn’t fair, but then at least it is “honest.” Back home we aren’t allowed to list such discriminatory criteria, but of course, we apply it. Look how difficult it is for a 52-year-old executive to find work after retrenchment. He will go for job after job and fail, but he knows it is because he is “overqualified”. That means the company can hire a kid half his age for half the money and there is nothing he can do about it; they can’t say as much in the job ad!

Working here is a lot tougher than back in Australia. Employers do expect a lot more loyalty from their staff, and this has to be demonstrated in various ways all the time. Staff call the boss Sir or Ma’am, or Sir Perry, Miss Milet, nobody is on first name terms. Staff expects to work overtime and not paid; it demonstrates their willingness to work and do as they told. Nobody likes it. Filipino’s get as upset as anyone at being exploited, they hide it better than we might. A tight employment market and a hungry family will do that to you! The employee is supporting four others at least, remember?

Eighty One percent of the country are living off the efforts of the other 19% and half of these are not even working within our borders! I just finished reading the Sunday issue of The Manila Bulletin and worked my way through the job ads. Page after page of jobs listed for the Middle East, KSA, UAE, Qatar even Azerbaijan and the Sudan. What is it with these Arabs, can’t they wait on their own tables or train their own people to staff their hospitals? Surely not all of them are busy barrelling up the oil their kitty litter countries float on? In fact I would say none of them actually work as the list of jobs encompasses just about everything you can imagine a society needing to be performed.

Add to this the numerous ads for caregivers for the USA and Canada, nurses for the UK and domestic helpers for Hong Kong, entertainers for Taiwan and teachers for China and you can see why so much of the workforce is heading to NAIA! Those who are left compete tooth and nail for the still numerous jobs available, at least that is how it seems on the surface.

There are several major full page ads asking for call center operators. I even saw one ad offering training in improving your “American Accent”, which apparently would guarantee a better salary and successful placement. Since the course was offered by “expand-your-mind.com” I have my doubts as to its’ validity! It is an indicator of the lengths people will go to to get decent work here, though.

You can’t blame them when the top few get to go overseas and study and then the next tier grab the best local jobs thanks to their education and what remains is fought over by the third tier. Below them are the poor “masa” who are lucky if they can swing a job instead of having to go on “standby” or work a sidewalk stall until moved on by the MMDA. Half of the problem, I believe is easily blamed on the attitudes of the employers.

Every ad for a position includes the criteria of age. Few jobs state they will accept anyone over 30. I rang a few of them up and asked why the candidate had to be under 35 or 30 or whatever age was stipulated. The average, mindless, mean nothing answer was “company policy”! I asked what happened if someone got the job and then a month later had a birthday and thus was no longer within the age range specified, would they be fired? I pressed my luck with a couple and asked them to define “pleasing personality”. I also asked if the lucky job seeker would be penalised if they had the odd day where their personality was perhaps less than pleasing?

Despite what I, a foreigner, might think of the hiring practices in this country, the reality is this is how it is! They can define everything they want in an employee, from looks to height to even waist measurements! Personality, sex, marital status, everything can be included in the criteria! It isn’t fair but then at least it is “honest”. Back home we aren’t allowed to list such discriminatory criteria but of course we apply it. Look how difficult it is for a 52 year old executive to find work after retrenchment. He will go for job after job and fail, but he knows it is because he is “over qualified”. That means the company can hire a kid half his age for half the money and there is nothing he can do about it, they just can’t say as much in the job ad!

Working here is a lot tougher than back in Australia. Employers really do expect a lot more loyalty from their staff and this has to be demonstrated in various ways all the time. Staff call the boss Sir or Ma’am, or Sir Perry, Miss Milet etc, nobody is on first name terms. Staff expect to work overtime and not be paid, it demonstrates their willingness to work and do as they are told. Nobody likes it. Filipino’s get as upset as anyone at being exploited, they just hide it better than we might. A tight employment market and a hungry family will do that to you! The employee is supporting four others at least, remember? 

When I was in the Army I managed to do some fun things, like leap out of perfectly good airplanes. One of the rather interesting characters I met doing this was a Corporal in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment. A rather tough, nuggetty character, he spoke in rapid fire Pom and had a vocabulary even many of us ex-Brits had difficulty following. One word he did use a fair bit and that I understood was “tabbing”.

Tabbing, to tab, to tab it, etc, means walking. Mind you it is at a decent pace that covers a kilometre every 12 minutes or so, or up to 5km an hour. You can go faster, but then you usually arrive in a condition less than fit to fight, and that is what tabbing is all about. Rapid movement forward to the battle by heavily leaden infantry troops.

passport.

The Parachute Regiment demonstrated this in 1982 when they tabbed across the Falklands and kicked the stuffing out of the Argentineans. The Royal Marines were doing something similar but called it “yomping”. Hmmmm, I’ll stick with tabbing. Anyway, tabbing is the single best way to get fit and discover the wonders of your neighbourhood.

Recently I accepted a position in Quezon City teaching English to Korean students. I spend three weekends out of four here and then get to fly home to Cebu, at least that’s the plan. So every morning I have been tabbing around the neighbourhood discovering all sorts of interesting things you just simply miss when in a car or jeepney.

For instance, I noted on my EZ-Map of Manila that several streets nearby were named “Sct Mendez” or “Sct Reyes” and so on. What did “Sct” stand for? Scout! They are all streets named after brave Philippine Scouts who died in battle. In fact the area is known as the “Scout” area when looking for houses to rent or buy in the newspaper. If I hadn’t been tabbing the streets I would not have been able to read the little plaques and signs that told me this.

My tactic is to divide my available time in half. I wake up at six am, have a stretch and a yawn and toddle off. I tab briskly in one direction for fifteen minutes, then I turn around and tab back. In thirty minutes I can cover a fair distance and I know I can make it back before breakfast. Sometimes I will meander, just following the streets and then the ten or twenty minutes still up my sleeve for cool down time may get used up if I am farther away at turn around time than I thought or the way back isn’t as direct etc. Usually though the theory holds and I get back in the same time it took me to go out.

So far I have tabbed the main streets and discovered the local swimming pool, tennis court and a really quaint little group of shops and carinderia stalls. Next week I will begin the exploration of some of the twistier minor streets too small to have names on my EZ-Map.

Tabbing is not a stroll. It is a purposeful, military like march that works the cardio-vascular system and gets the blood pumping as you cover ground. When I have every street within fifteen minutes covered, my next plan will be to tab out the jeepney routes that radiate from the next door jeepney terminus like the spokes of a wheel. I will go the full thirty minutes by tab, then hail the first jeepney coming back down the route and get home in a few minutes and five and a half peso’s!

I always carry some ID with me and a few peso in coin and small notes. I drink a lot of water when I get back, but I’m thinking of carrying a bottle also. Tabbing for half an hour consumes the same calories over the distance as if you had run the 2km or however long it was, it just takes longer than running. Tabbing, though is a lot safer on the joints and also if you are overweight and over 40, like me, safer than jogging into an early grave. Give it a try, and discover your neighbourhood!

The other day I had to take a cab from one end of Makati, (Jupiter and Makati Avenue intersection), down Sen. Gil Puyat/Buendia Avenue to the LRT station on Taft. Straight run down one road, more or less. I entered the cab at 09.21 am, as proven by the printed receipt I have in my possession! Yes, a Manila cab with a receipt printer on the dash! The driver said he mainly works the Alabang area and sadly had to bring someone into Makati when I snaggled him. He promised he was heading back there as soon as he dropped me at the airport. I wasn’t going to the airport. He swore. I digress, where was I? Yes, in a cab at 09.21am heading down Sen Gil Puyat Avenue.

I arrived at my destination at 10.44am, 83 minutes and just 4 kilometres later! At a cost of P152 I had spent 71 minutes of that time standing still. At least the cab was stationery, I was squirming a fair bit in frustration! The “waiting time” is recorded via this machine the taxi was fitted with and this is how I know we didn’t move for exactly 1 hour and 11 minutes, in total. I wonder how long the journey would have been if I had taken it right in the middle of the peak “hour”? Of course peak hour in Manila lasts from 6am to at least 10am and then again from about 3pm to 8pm!

When I arrived in Manila the other week I took a taxi from NAIA2, the PAL terminal. I had to go upstairs to the departure drop off area as the airport management have cleared all taxis away from the arrivals area so they can maximise their revenue from airport “limo” services. In other words, the official going rate for a ride into Makati was P345, yet my cab cost me P120, and that included stopping twice to repair a busted fender and change a flat tyre! And this was at 7pm, the very height of peak hour!

edsa
EDSA.

When I came back to Manila this week I grabbed a cab at 9am for the trip to Quezon City. It took 90 minutes and cost me P200. The meter said P172 but the driver had asked for an agreed upon fare. I didn’t mind but I insisted he run the meter just so we could compare. Now maybe he was trying to get as close to the agreed P200 as possible, just so I didn’t do a Filipino on him and change my mind, but another person on the same flight arrived at the same destination as me 30 minutes sooner and for P150! His taxi took him via the “very traffic” EDSA route whereas my driver ducked through the middle of town following for the most part the northern railway line and squatter camp.

Traffic in this city is heavy, no doubt about it. It is, however, better disciplined than Cebu traffic, of that I am certain. Far more policing and more effective policing as well as more stringent road rules do make some difference. My favourite giggle is the “color coding” system used to limit the amount of traffic. On Mondays, cars whose license plates end in 1 or 2 are prohibited from being on the road. Tuesdays its 3 and 4, Wednesdays 5 and 6, Thursdays 7 and 8 and Fridays 9 and 0. Sensible system and one day a week is easy enough to overcome, arrange a lift with friends, work at home, use the other car, swap plates whatever. Now, can someone tell me where the “color” comes in to this system of coding? Another case of Taglish at work, methinks!

I have only been living and working here in Manila for a few days now but already the traffic is the locus of control over my life. Where I go and when I go, even if I bother to go anywhere, all is determined by the time of the day or night, the position of the stars and the planets and the omens in the entrails of the sisig soup the jeepney driver is having for his lunch! Where I am working and staying is right across from the Pantranco Jeepney Terminus, or Bat Cave as I call the dark and dreary dive. What it means is I can hop on any one of several jeepney lines and ride them to the end of their route, then simply ride back the same way and know I will never pass my stop!

Naturally, the best way of beating the clogged streets is to rise above it all and ride the LRT or MRT. These light rail systems are terrific. For less than P20 you can go from one end of town to the other, then swap lines and go somewhere else! The LRT has two carriages at the front reserved just for women, as I found out the hard way! I didn’t follow what the security guard was trying to tell me (move along, the first two carriages are women only you stupid foreigner!) and I stepped into a clean, quiet, orderly carriage…….full of women! I knew something was wrong and, concerned it was a trap set by my wife to tempt me into cheating on her, I quickly leapt out and ran to the next carriage. I was then able to stand at the end of the carriage and look through the large window into the women only car all the way to my station.

It can get crowded and those stairs leading up off the street are steep and many, but the MRT/LRT system can’t be beaten. There is a new east-west MRT line I will take one of these days, just to say I have done it! My only hesitation is to warn that pickpockets love the crowded conditions and they are very, very good at their craft. Never think for a second your wallet or purse is safe whenever you are within spitting distance of an MRT/LRT station or car. Then again, keeping one hand on your wallet is a small price to pay for missing out on sitting in the traffic for hours at a time.! If you have plenty of time to spare then why worry? Of course Manila is hardly an ideal retirement destination so most foreigners here are here for work and time is important.

An alternative might be to have a driver so you can sit in the back, read the newspaper or a report, make some calls on the cell phone and generally get some business done while in the traffic. At least it hasn’t degenerated into what Bangkok residents were forced to do a few years ago; basically live in their cars! They would leave home very early, give the kids their breakfast from the back of the family van parked outside of the school at the crack of dawn, then head for work, drop off hubby then fight back to school for the kids then back to work for hubby and then home so late it was re-pack car with the meals for the next day and hit the sack! What a life!

Manila’s traffic problems won’t go away, even as gasoline prices rise higher than ever before. More and more people are buying cars and more marques are opening dealerships to offer their wares to the car buying Filipino public. As the population moves upscale and can afford more and more luxuries such as personal vehicles, the only question left will be where can they enjoy them? More freeway systems are called for but the disruption caused during construction can be immense. I remember back in 1997 while the Skyway and the Ortigas overpass were being built, the traffic was just as bad as today, and there were fewer cars on the roads! Getting rid of the jeepneys and death-rattle buses is one answer, but hard on the lower income earners who need cheap mass transport. More light rail is another possible solution, but again construction will be a pain. Meanwhile, be as Filipino as you can, smile and go with the flow!

Hot Coffee.

I have been watching the steady growth in coffee shops in this country over the past few years with some interest. I do like a good cup of Java and when I first came to these shores 20 years ago it was a hard thing to find. Even today you will be lucky to do better than a sachet of Nescafe Instant, a sachet of creamer and a small cup of tepid water. Why the dumb mongrels don’t put the coffee in to the cup before filling it with water beats me! At least then it would have a chance to blend properly but why am I expecting western standards of civilised behaviour from someone who has never been exposed to such?

The reality is that Filipino’s enjoy a decent cup of coffee too, although maybe more for the fact it sends a message of affluence to others rather than the taste of the brew. At P50-60 and up (my café latte grande is a P100 cup of coffee) not every Dong and Dai out there is rushing to Starbucks, although more than enough are and new stores open all the time.

As well as Starbucks, there are Bo’s Coffee Clubs, Figaro, Seattle’s Best, Moccha Blend, Gloria Jean’s, Coffee Beanery and maybe four or five other franchises to choose from if you want to go into the coffee shop business. They all follow a similar theme, started by Starbucks back in the early eighties and itself modelled on the espresso bars of Italy, relaxed, casual and expensive! I wonder if the first recorded coffee shop, “Kiva Han” in Turkey in 1421 offered a mocchalatte or a frappucino?

In upscale areas they are everywhere and growing. It really is a market niche oriented business, you need lots of A, B and C class Filipino’s willing to spend relatively big money on a drink they really don’t need to get through their day with. At least not the fancy version on offer. Of course most places actually sell more iced drinks than hot versions, although this it is so cute to see Filipino’s wearing coats and jackets and sitting in the (still steamy for me) evening sipping hot coffee and pretending it is cold this time of year.

A decent coffee shop franchise will set you back around P2 million and up. You could get away with less but more will usually be needed. The way things are going though, it looks like a way to print money only a McDonalds franchise could beat. Or a Jollibee!