Two months after embarking on our research journey to Manila we have now returned to Sweden with a lot of new insights and knowledge. In total, we conducted 20 interviews with both social entrepreneurs as well as various actors within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. In addition, we immersed ourselves in the environment through field trips, events, informal conversations and observations to gain a deeper understanding of the Philipino context. We have so much praise and admiration for the people we have met thanks to our research topic. Through our interviews and conversations, we had the privilege to hear hugely inspiring stories from people dedicating their careers and lives to start social businesses with the primary aim to help others.
However, we have an equal amount of admiration for some of the “ordinary” people we met throughout our stay in Manila. Some common traits among the locals we met were an incredibly welcoming attitude, uncompromising friendliness, as well as relentless and contagious happiness. In honour of these people, who brightened up our days on a daily basis, we want to take the opportunity to dedicate this post to them: The humans of Manila.
The Doorman at Grass Residences
As you come to notice very quickly in the Philippines, people are incredibly polite. Wherever you go, “Sir” and “Ma’am” is how you address each other. To us, the doorman where we lived, in an apartment complex called Grass Residences, embodied this politeness like nobody else. He was constantly enthusiastic, happy and beyond everything else, a real family man. Despite working long hours – 12 hours a day, with only one day off every 14 days – he never failed to brighten up the lobby with his big smile. We often heard him from the distance shouting “Mr Luuuundberg” (This seemed to be the collective name for both of us) as we entered. Like many other people we met, the main motivation for his hard work was his family. He often mentioned his kids and that he wanted to provide the best possible opportunities for them. A true legend!
Carlson and August at Agor’s Co-working space
As we arrived in Manila we started looking for a co-working space where we could do some writing for our thesis, and we really hit the jackpot straight away! Two guys with big ambitions, and even bigger hearts, made sure even our less exciting days became memorable. Apart from the free-flowing coffee, we were equally inspired and energized by their endless curiosity and willingness to learn new things – and we learned just as much from them. We also had the privilege to join these lads for some nights out in Quezon City, taking us to some local gems – and Carlson showcased yet another talent as he completely baffled everyone with his outstanding beer pong skills.
Abigale “Apple” – the Bakery girl
The days when we worked at the co-working space we had a special routine where we first went to the local street food stand for lunch, and then proceeded to the local bakery on the corner. In fact, there were a few bakeries in the area, but Abigale made our choice incredibly easy. Her big smile could be spotted from several blocks away and she never failed to brighten up our day with her kindness and humour. Her charm naturally made her a great saleswoman too, as she always managed to add one or two extra pastries than our original plan. Without a doubt, our favourite was the “pan the coco” – a local specialty in which a sweet bread is stuffed with a coconut paste.
Sagi – The Indian Masterchef
As mentioned previously, our contact organisation in Manila was ISEA (Institute of Social Entrepreneurship in Asia), and they had their office at Ateneo University. Hence, we normally spent 1-2 days a week at their premises. Interestingly, several food outlets on campus were run by students and after a few attempts, we were lucky enough to find Sagi’s booth – a PhD student from Southern India who dished up amazing curries on a daily basis. But what really made us come back was Sagi’s outstanding energy, customer service, and charisma. We have seldom met anyone with such a genuine personality, and it was no surprise his booth was the most popular on campus. To further shed light on his generous character, he ran his business with a social agenda as well. Ateneo is one of the most prestigious Universities in the country and most students come from wealthy backgrounds. However, there are also those students who have received scholarships to get the full tuition paid. What Sagi noticed was that these students often come from poor backgrounds and struggle to have enough money to buy a daily lunch. He therefore implemented a discount for these students as well as a scheme where people can put in money towards a free meal them. Sagi’s karma is looking very promising!
These are only a handful of the countless of fantastic individuals we encountered during our stay in the Philippines. We wish all of them the best of luck in their future endeavors. They will without a doubt remain within our memories for a long time!