Philippines Fellowship: First Impressions

Sunday 24th July

Baguio City, Philippines

Despite only being eight days ago, it seems like our arrival in Baguio happened far earlier than that. Baguio itself is a place like no other, a bustling city in the mountains with an amazingly kind and generous population. Like the UK, Baguio also has biblical levels of rainfall.

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Jeepney: The local way to get around

All of us are so excited for the next few weeks, and hope to make this inaugural fellowship programme in the Philippines a genuine success, both for us and for the entrepreneurs we’ll be working with. The entrepreneurs we’ve met are just as passionate about creating socially beneficial and sustainable businesses as we are.

Most of the time so far has been spent being taught the Balloon Curriculum by Dougie from Balloon. The Curriculum includes two practical tasks; these required us to stop locals in the street and talk to them about hypothetical business ideas (following the methods we’d been taught), so these were great opportunities to learn more about them. Talking to university students in Baguio, for example, I discovered how their student lifestyle was very similar to my own: lots of work, amazing social opportunities and not much sleep…

The intensity of the Curriculum during the first week meant there was little free time to immerse ourselves fully in the town. Our exploring was limited to mostly shopping trips to the mall and the market (where my haggling skills were so appalling that I ended up paying more for a t-shirt than what the vendor had initially offered). But this weekend gave us more of an opportunity to explore other parts, including engaging with the Philippines’ most famous pastime, karaoke, to celebrate a fellow’s 21st birthday.

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Sunset view from our accommodation

It’s clear that the next 5 weeks will require a lot of hard work with our entrepreneurs, and at times it will be difficult – but all of us are looking forward to the challenge. At the same time, as was made clear from the very beginning, the Balloon Fellowship is not a one-way transfer from us to the entrepreneurs, but a two-way exchange for everyone to learn. We are looking forward to learning more about Baguio, learning from its people and taking advantage of all that it has to offer in order to fully experience life here. We’ve all learnt about and experienced so much of Baguio already, but if this is only the end of the beginning, who knows what else is in store?

Gordon Hao

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