Drying off, business goes on despite Milenyo

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on September 29, 2006

The airport may be a lake, but BPO never stops

Typhoon Milenyo (international codename Xangsane), as it is known in the Philippines, made quite an entrance to central Luzon yesterday, uprooting trees, tearing off roofs, and downing billboards in relentless fashion. Milenyo closed down the airport, but indomitable Filipinos were on the streets, in the malls, and manning their seats in contact centers, BPO operations, and animation studios.

In much the same way that bloggers like my colleague Paul Bograd chronicled Thailand’s coup last week, Filipino bloggers enthusiastically posted their experiences — and those of their friends — hiding from 130 kph winds for an afternoon. For a summary, see INQ7 reporter Erwin Oliva’s story, Bloggers chronical typhoon’s fury in Metro Manila.

As circumstances would have it, I was scheduled to run one of my periodic branding seminars during the height of the storm. About a third of the registered participants showed up, one from as far away as Cebu. The collective decision of the group was that we would ignore the weather, and so we did, spending the day thinking about recall, brand identity, and implementing innovative communication programs.

Over 25 years’ residing in the Philippines, I’ve experienced a lot. Several typhoons — some as bad as yesterday’s — the eruption of Pinatubo, and major earthquakes. Generally when these things happen, we run for cover. Yesterday was different. It was a normal woking day, despite the surreal environment rattling the windows.

I can’t help but compare Hong Kong and the Philippines when it comes to how they react to typhoons. At the slightest hint of windy weather, or so it seems to me, Hong Kong begins to shut down, making it mandatory to send people home and cancel all business activities.

While many people do stay home in the Philippines when a typhoon strikes, an incredible number of Filipinos continue their business as if nothing out of the ordinary were taking place. And for many of us, a typhoon really is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just another day in the office.

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