PHL, my friend?

(continuation of PHL is no chicken) 

By Marifi Jara 

THE concept of direct selling is not new in the Philippines. I remember tagging along as a little girl more than three decades ago to a “party” where there were a lot more mothers than children and more plastic containers than food. I also have childhood memories of leafing through an aunt’s collection of small magazines with colourful photos of beautiful and sexy women, obviously promoting cosmetics and underwear products, trying to imagine myself into the future when I would be able to buy and use all those cool-looking stuff.

In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the number of direct selling companies offering a wider range of products including shoes, clothes, bags, fashion accessories, home care supplies, vitamins, and all sorts of health supplements. And yes make-up and underwear are also still leading items.

The growth or at least the survival of the direct selling industry is taking place despite the rise of so many shopping malls from the giant operators and local players as well as the bazaar-type shops (tiangge) around the country.

One factor that keeps direct selling attractive is the hulugan mode of payment (installment basis), and, I think more importantly, it’s the personal touch in this type of shopping. Direct selling clients usually, if not always, make their purchase from a friend, relative or at least someone they know from a familiar circle of acquaintances. Direct selling agents, on the other hand, would of course rather take minimal risk in the hulugan by supplying only to those whom they personally know. There is a matter of trust both ways.

Now that’s something that we can use in our tourism campaign.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez has said that he wants tourism to be the “people’s business”, meaning every Filipino could, should, become selling agents of our country to potential tourists.

I saw Shamcey Supsup, recently crowned 3rd runner up in the 2011 Ms. Universe pageant, being interviewed on TV just before the coronation event. She was talking about enjoying the experience, having a lot of fun with the other contestants, and becoming very good friends with some of them that they vowed within their circle to go visiting each other’s countries. Now, that’s a beautiful (pun intended) example of direct selling for you!

But of course before we can go peddling the Philippines, we have got to build up pride in our product.

The “I love Pangasinan” campaign of the provincial government is a very good example of how local government units can contribute to the national tourism program by taking that important first step of assessing what we actually have (clean toilets at the very least!) to offer visitors through a scorecard method and instilling in the people a sense of appreciation and delight in what is ours.

We would not want to risk friendships — and bad impressions that could easily spread through word-of-mouth and the Internet — by a disappointing holiday experience which we recommended.

Never mind the bloggers hired by the Tourism department to promote PHL online, our big community of Filipinos abroad could prove to be a more valuable and productive pool of sales agents who can encourage their friends to come and discover the Philippines, perhaps beginning with their hometown.

For starters, we can talk about how we got delicious chicken dishes around here. And seafood and pork and beef. Fruits! And fresh, sweet buko juice, and beer that’s at par with the best in the world. Cheers to Tourism Month!

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