Everywhere in the world, the office place has changed in the past decade or two. The Philippines is no different. I have seen dramatic changes in the Philippines in the years that I have lived here.
I originally moved to Davao City in 2002, after having lived in GenSan for a couple of years. When I first moved to Davao, you would rarely see people out around town with a laptop computer. Yes, from time to time you would see one, but it was rare. I can recall times when I would see somebody in a Coffee Shop with a laptop, and others in the shop would even mention to them something like “oh, you have a laptop! How nice!” A laptop was a real luxury item, which was quite rare, and somewhat of a status symbol.
Oh, my, how times have changed in just 6 or 7 years.
Davao is, I have often said, sort of the Seattle of the Philippines. Coffee is big in the Philippines these days, but much of that coffee trend got started in Davao City. Davao is Ground Zero (or should I say Grounds Zero?) in the Coffee Culture of the Philippines. Another thing that is tied in with all of this, and is also something that was pioneered in Davao City is WiFi in the Coffee Shops. WiFi? For the uninitiated, it is Wireless Internet, which can be used by pretty much any laptop on the market today to connect to the Internet. No, WiFi was not invented in Davao, but Davao City was the first place in the Philippines where free WiFi was available in virtually every coffee shop in the City. In many parts of the Philippines, you still have to pay for WiFi use, but in Davao it has been free for years. It’s a thing that is used to attract people into your business.
A few weeks ago, I was in a coffee shop in Davao one morning. I glanced around the shop and noticed that nearly a dozen people had laptops open and in use, surfing the net. The thought came to me about how things have changed since the day when I moved to Davao, and a laptop was a real luxury item. These days, a LOT of people have laptops.
On my last few trips to Blugre, in the Landco Building in Bajada, Davao City, I have noticed that there is a group of people who seem to have basically set up an office there. The same people are there every time that I visit the place, sitting at the same table. They have several laptops and are obviously engaged in business over the Internet while also holding meetings there and enjoying Blugre Coffee. This would have been unheard of just 5 years ago, but these days, nobody gives it a second thought. The coffee shops have virtually turned into the new Philippine Office!
One of the reasons I really feel good seeing this kind of development is because so many people back in the States always tell me how far behind the Philippines is, how it is such a poor country and the ways of business and life are so “way behind” the rest of the world. My friends, it just isn’t so. The Philippines is not moving into the 21st Century, it is already there! Cellular phone use is huge here. Laptop use as I describe is huge now too. At least some of the people here in the Philippines are taking full advantage of technology and using it to improve their lives, improve the amount of money they earn, etc.
It’s a good thing to see.