Experiences with Outsourcing to the Philippines
(Francis’ Full-Time VA)
This is an audio recording of my thoughts regarding typhoons here in the Philippines. I find this topic relevant for employers outside of the country and never have been in this part of Southeast Asia. I hope this article will give an idea about the geographic attributes and weather conditions in the Philippines.
I just want to start by describing that this kind of natural occurrence is common here in our country.
The Philippines is hit by an average of 15-20 typhoons per year. And people, especially from the northern parts like the Luzon area as well as in the middle part, the Visayas area, are practically expecting typhoons to hit their area any time during the months of June to February.
Luckily, I live in the southern part, in the southern island of Mindanao wherein our place is rarely a landing point of typhoons.
In the last couple of years, I think, there were just a couple of typhoons that hit our area, but still it was considered to be a rare event here.
Because basically, when typhoons start in the Pacific ocean, they usually hit our country in the north-eastern parts of Mindanao, which is about 10 hours away from where I live; and it goes through the Visayas area and then to the Luzon area – where it also will be exiting the country going to Taiwan and the eastern part of China.
Now, going back to the experience of having such natural events here in our country, typhoons (particularly), I would say—in describing a typhoon you can imagine a really, really bad weather with strong winds which is mostly accompanied by heavy rains.
So, basically, when the typhoon hits inland, it is pretty much sure to say that a large area would be destroyed or devastated and it is expected to have some casualties.
Considering our country is an archipelago and we are pretty much surrounded with bodies of water; like the majority of areas in our country. These bodies of water could get elevated whenever a typhoon hits and strong winds are extremely strong where homes, buildings, and even natural structures could be destroyed causing landslides and widespread flooding.
A certain percentage of the population will surely be affected whenever a typhoon enters the country’s Area of Responsibility. Here in the Philippines, we are practically prepared and expecting that kind of natural disasters will hit our country anytime. Nevertheless, casualties keep on coming whenever typhoons hit our country.
Comments for Typhoons—A Part Of Life for Virtual Assistants from the Philippines
(Virtual Assistant from the Philippines)
In the Philippines, if you happen to know someone in a private company of a higher rank and even in the government offices, you are likely blessed to know them.
They are going to be your reference in applying for a job. And mind you—hassle free!
This is a common knowledge, an open secret to every Filipino, most especially in the world of politics. But, let’s go back to our main topic—job application.
Getting a job is not as easy as counting one, two, three. It will take you heaps of effort, leave a big hole in your pocket, require long hours of walking and a queue for job interviews before you can get a decent job.
But, wait! In the Philippines, “Palakasan” is a system where you are allowed to get a job without hassle—only if you’re a family member, good friends with, or referred by someone you know from the inside.
Yes, this is going to be a great opportunity for those who are looking for a job without going through the hustle and bustle.
The “Palakasan System” has been the most notorious, corrupt and dirtiest system for decades and centuries in the Philippines. It is common knowledge, but no one could ever bring it down, nor tear it up and put off this kind of system because the people practicing this infamous system have gone too far to let go of the fame and wealth they are experiencing.
Politically, the “Palakasan System” is an open secret where political families pass their throne from one generation to another. Yes, it is like a dynasty, a tradition that’s chronically eating the government of one’s greed and thirst for fame or wealth.
It’s not that I have selfish desires for myself and that gave me a reason to hate this ill fate system, but if you will just look around our surroundings, even on our streets, you’ll see lots of less fortunate people sleeping at night hungry and waking up in the morning hungry and your heart will crush and melt because there’s nothing that you can do to help them.
This kind of battle won’t win if I were the only one with this kind of guilt and concern.
This has something to do with the governing body of the state and that they should create a master plan to help minimize this kind of problem, which has been growing in numbers over the years.
And it’s not just those less fortunate, but it also affecting us as regular and common citizens of the Philippines. We need a job that will help us live and get a little leisure out of life.
Will you believe me if I tell you that a worker’s minimum daily wage only at PHP 350 ($8)? Let me say it again, three hundred fifty pesos, or eight dollars only, per day.
by Full-time Virtual Assistant
During the summer months, we hardly experience any rain here in the Philippines. There came a time that we didn’t experience rain for weeks. Our power supply provider can’t accommodate the energy that our city requires 24/7.
The main reason is that we’re experiencing summer weather along with the El Nino Phenomenon. They’re like a perfect combination to generate more heat.
Living on the Tropical
Summer weather is already too hot to handle. How much more hot does it get if it is accompanied by a phenomenon? It greatly affects our livelihood, especially farmers, who greatly contribute to the whole island; I think no one is exempted from this tragedy. Because of this, our local government decided to utilize cloud seeding.
Cloud seeding is a weather modification where it creates rain with the use of silver iodine or dry ice into a cumulonimbus cloud.
Yes, they don’t just seed it to any of the clouds above. They should look for a particular cloud to have it seeded with the use of a plane.
Its effectiveness is not really satisfactory, considering the earth rotates and they can’t water their prime objective—into the farm.
We, as citizens who are greatly affected, are happy to have at least experienced some rain during these months. Actually, it happened in July of this year where summer has supposedly ended during the month of June.
The reason why I wrote this post is that, it affects my job as well. I am often compromised from my work since the power supply is not enough to provide for the whole city. Four hours brought about a big loss already, and often it will end up making up for my loss.
And if this happens more often, I will no longer be able to have my own relaxation time since I have to spend it catching up.
And it has to do with how we handle Mother Nature. People are becoming abusive and this is why we suffer from our own mistakes. And only if we could fix it easily—but, alas, we cannot.
Please share your thoughts about this post. Do jump in on the comment box =)
Comments for Dilemma in Summer – Weather in the Philippines
Working as a VA in the Philippines and being the apple of my friends’ eyes
My employer, Francis, asked me if as a VA from the Philippines I am treated like a shiny object due to my job. In fact, that is the case. Most of my friends are often excited when they hear about working for a foreign employer.
Why? I am clueless, but I will give you my best answer based off of my friend’s questions.
I was a clinical instructor from a prominent nursing institution before I decided to work full time online. But, what makes my online job interesting is the people that see me like I am a shiny and sparkling object.
Whenever they ask me, “What is your present job now that you’ve retired from teaching?”
My answer is, “I work as a virtual assistant—similar to an office secretary, only virtually.”
And they’re always like, “Woooow…How did you get into that? Can I do part time also? Can you tell me how’d you do that?
And the much awaited question always followed:
“How much do you get from working online?”
And I was like, “Okay, slow down and we’ll talk about it in a step-by-step manner.”
But, the question here is, why do we always get that kind of impression? And why do they see virtual employees in such a high regard?
Filipino with a foreign employer
Most Filipinos look up to such people with much respect, as if they are above them—especially foreigners. And when they hear you are working for a foreign employer, they think you are:
- Capable of communicating in the English language fluently and with confidence
- And the monthly salary is in dollars ($)
It is very rare for a Filipino, especially one just working at the comfort of their own home, to be working for a foreign employer because if you don’t have the qualities to speak and write in English, it’s just like you don’t have the right to such work.
In my opinion, they are just not confident in communicating with English speakers.
If they only delve into the topic, they will know the difference between a regular and virtual employee.
Coffee Shop get-together
Let me take, for example, a friend I met recently and had a chat with at a coffee shop—a small get-together to catch up.
My friend is also an online worker who used to work for a London based employer, but he wasn’t happy with the work because it was too demanding and required him to work in the wee hours of dawn. Long story short, he quit and never tried it again.
Comments for VA’s from the Philippines treated like a shiny object?
(Full Time Virtual Assistant from the Philippines)
If you are outsourcing your work online to Filipino Virtual Assistants, this overview will be very useful to you. Especially if you hire full-time workers.
You are going to learn about the importance and the reason behind the National Holidays in Philippines and it’s like a sort of taking-you-back-to-where-it-all-began. First off,
New Year’s Day (January 1)
After the long week Christmas celebration, New Year’s Day is also a special occasion where families from here and abroad gather to celebrate these glad tidings.
Usually, we celebrate it over a dinner, a feast on New Year’s Eve, then we’ll have fun games while waiting for the clock to strike twelve.
What’s so good about New Year’s Day is that we get to see some of our relatives that we haven’t seen for ages. It’s like sort of a reunion may it be small or a grandiose get together of families.
And after New Year, you’ll gain weight more than you could imagine—it’s a fact. Just control your food intake because this is an expected occasion or you can start losing your weight before the month of December.
The Day Of Valor/Araw ng Kagitingan (April 9)
The Day of Valor or locally known as “Araw ng Kagitingan” is a commemoration of the fall of Bataan during World War II, where thousands of Filipino and American soldiers surrendered and fall in the hands of Japanese oppressors. And this is the time where the infamous Death March started.
It was a 90 mile or 140 kilometer walk en route to Capas, Tarlac the place to where they will be held captive. And without any privileges, many soldiers died long before they reached their destination.
Maundy Thursday (April 17)
Maundy Thursday also known as Holy Thursday is a day of observance of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples.
During this day of celebration, devoted Christians will fast and refrain from eating meat and alcoholic drinks.
The highlight of this event is The Last Supper and a customary visit to seven churches also known as Visita Iglesia. Some will visit fourteen churches that symbolize fourteen Stations of the Cross.
Good Friday (April 18)
Since we are one of the world’s largest Roman Catholic countries, this is the day to commemorate Jesus’ passion, suffering and death on the cross. In the Philippines, some will re-enact Jesus’ life here on earth from birth and as far as crucifying themselves to the cross.
Traditionally, Filipinos will refrain from engaging themselves in worldly activities such as drinking alcohol, eating meat, loud music, etc. This is the day for prayer and fasting. Other believers are on their long vacation at the beach.
Labor Day (May 1)
This is the day to commemorate every worker’s rights. But, there’s nothing special about this day actually when I was still working as a regular employee—it’s only a holiday where I can rest for a day from work while paid as a regular working day.
Independence Day (June 12)
This is the “Day of Freedom”, a memorable day for every Filipino from being colonized for over 300 years.
A week before the day of Independence Day, every vehicle (public or private) must put a mini Philippine Flag on their cars and government workers must display an average sized Philippine Flag outside their houses.
And even after this declaration of freedom for over hundreds of years, we, Filipinos are still bonded from being prisoners of our very own government.
National Heroes Day (August 25)
Commemorating the lives of our heroes on “National Heroes Day”, is the only way we can give thanks for their good deeds.
Initially, National Heroes Day was celebrated on the 30th of November which is the birthday of Andres Bonifacio (founder of the Katipunan-Assembly/Brotherhood). But, it was later moved to this date to celebrate also the unknown heroes who shed and sacrificed their lives for the love of our country and freedom
In fact, there are only two heroes who have their own national holidays.
- Jose P Rizal (The National Icon)
- Andres Bonifacio (The Founder of The “Katipunan” Brotherhood)
The reason behind it was moved in August, it’s because this was the month where “The Cry of Pugad Lawin/Balintawak” formally heralded against Spanish colonial rule.
All Saint’s Day (November 1)
It’s The Halloween! To all devoted Christians—Roman Catholics in particular, this is the day of honoring the known and unknown martyr saints and faithful departed believers.
During this day, families will go and visit their departed loved ones in the cemetery in preparation for the offering of prayers for the next day. They are going to clean and paint the tombs or mausoleums, and will have a sleep over until All Soul’s Day (November 2).
Trick or Treat is the most popular activity for the children while wearing their best and/or scary costume, adults will attend parties and others will take this opportunity for a long vacation.
All Soul’s Day (November 2)
Traditionally, the living will offer prayers for the departed, for the intention of assisting them out from the purgatory. Roman Catholic families and relatives will stay and gather in the cemeteries for some reunion and food besides from offering their prayers.
Bonifacio Day (November 30)
Andres Bonifacio is one of the greatest heroes in the Philippines and is known as the Father of Philippine Revolution and the founder of the Katipunan (brotherhood).
Historians believed that Andres Bonifacio is the first president of the Philippine Republic, but was contested by one of his own particular Emilio Aguinaldo (declared as the first president in Philippine Republic) and later tried and executed for treason.
And this argument is still going on…
Christmas Day (December 25)
When it comes to feast—Christmas is the mother of all feast in the Philippines. Filipinos are known to have the longest Christmas celebration.
A week before “Christmas Day”, we celebrate parties from here and there. Like for example, the company will hold a buffet party for the employees and do some fun activities and the most awaited raffle draw of goodies from gift certificates, appliances to entertainment showcase.
Then, the next few days, another buffet party and get together with friends and exchanging of gifts and another party with family and relatives and exchanging of gist. It sounds like repetitive, but that’s how we celebrate Christmas.
At the end of the day, it’s always about friendship, care and love we have for each other that has been shared over the years in a workplace and inside our homes and this is the reason why we celebrate this merry occasion.
Rizal Day (December 30)
Do you know that Jose Rizal is not officially declared as a national hero? But, he is the most popular Filipino hero in the Philippines and that gave him the title as the National Icon.
Usually, we celebrate and honor someone’s heroism on the day of his/her birth. But, December 30 is the date when Jose Rizal was sentenced to death by firing squad.
Jose Rizal is an ophthalmologist, a novelist and a man of many talents, but he is more famous for his novels that exposed Spanish regimen’s injustices which fires the Philippine Revolution.
Republic Act 9492 mandates that if the date of a regular holiday falls on:
- Wednesday—the holiday is to be observed on the Monday of that same week
- Saturday—to be observed on the Friday of that same week
- Sunday—to be observed on the Monday of the following week
Internet connectivity problems, power outages, other incidents – my full time VA from the Philippines, Jomvie, has his share of troubles.
It’s important as an employer to be understanding when there is nothing you can do.
But it’s equally important to be creative and resourceful to find solutions when the situation is not unavoidable.
For a Virtual Employee – Inform your Employer of any Problems
Your Employer is planning on your work output. He has his projects in mind and hopes most of all on things going smoothly. Even though you might be troubled with a situation, it’s still important to squeeze in some time to let your boss know. Else, he is likely to make some wrong assumptions.
Here is what Jomvie wrote to me yesterday:
I wasn’t able to finish my shift yesterday due to a combined inevitable event yesterday. There was a very heavy storm that brought heavy rain and flooding and a power shortage. So, I can’t really go out to finish my shift.
Hoping for your kind consideration.
Best and Thanks,
For an employer – think of alternative tasks that can be done offline and of backup plans
Jomvie and I have discussed backup solutions for internet outages many times. From going to an internet coffee to considerations of a secondary internet connection. We also discussed issues of general power outages in the past.
Both are problems that come up regularly in the Philippines.
In my experience, only a minority of virtual assistants from this country try to use this as an excuse. But it’s hard to prove it either way because the productivity of an offline virtual assistant is hard to track. Although there are (paid) solutions for that.
Finding a solution together – for both employers and VAs
I believe you will profit from this discussion, if you are a VA or plan to hire one. Even if you (a VA) come from another country, you can still learn from this.
Different levels of calamity / problems
To you as a VA:
Dependent on how big the problem, you need to react differently.
- Really dangerous crisis:
A taifun is flooding the streets. Houses are broken. There are causalities. What to do? Save yourself! Nothing more important than that. (I tell this because there is a story of a filipino VA who was sitting on the roof of his flooded house, writing to his employer from his laptop which he saved first, that he couldn’t take care of his shift today. That might be a bit extreme)
- Unable to work, unable go out:
Heavy storms and rain make it dangerous or really difficult to go out. Your stuff or your house risks to be damaged. Getting a Taxi would be a big challenge. What to do? Stay put! Make sure your infrastructure is OK, and take care of important phone calls. When you just sit there and there is nothing you can do, work offline and take note of what you do. Log that time as offline time with a short explanation in your daily update later. (I touch on the importance of daily updates here.)
- A plain internet deconnection, no other problem:
Try to get back the internet connection. If that’s impossible, assess how much longer you would need to work today. If it makes sense, go to a backup place or solution for getting internet. Let your employer know (for example via mobile phone).
In all of these cases, when the problem is over, be sure to reach your employer. He might already be worrying about you.
Let’s open the discussion!
There are many other aspects to this situation, but I want to open the discussion to Jomvie and all you readers. Feel free to jump in with your own opinions any time in the comments!