Sidewalk Business


In the Philippines, people make business on the sidewalks. Concrete pavements make the transaction easier, dusty roads and polluted air even faster. I watch those who come and go. There in one corner stands the mango peddler. Somewhere else is the cigarette vendor whom I refused a stick from. I know a man, a carpenter or a plumber (I have forgotten), who wants to repair things that are broken. But he goes for a construction job; repairing broken things is not enough to feed his family. So he’s out on the streets too, covering manholes and putting plasters on bridges.

Not all business happens along the sidewalks: there are people who sign contracts in coffee shops, some who shake hands with others at their own desks. There are those who rarely see the pavement because their offices are found up high in skyscrapers. At times I tell myself, I want to be like these people—to live like them, to work like they do. Perhaps this is why I went for a business program at HULT; then again, perhaps not. I write about people who deal with day-to-day business, even more on the people who do it on the sidewalks. This I know: a lot more deals are sealed where lint and grime meet in the open.

My background is anything else but business, which means I must find a way to connect the dots, to make sense of where I’m going. Maybe create a path where a lot of things can happen and where a lot of things are already happening I can easily get lost. I finished my undergraduate in Math and Creating Writing; these are my sidewalks, where I see myself immersed in the world around me. An unusual combination, as many people would say. Even more unusual, I think, now that I went for a graduate school in International Business.

My father wanted his eldest daughter away from these sidewalks. He suggested I take my master’s degree while I’m young and unburdened by other commitments. I think he’s right. Every morning, I read the reports on the stock market in my country, understand how one news affects another. When things get confusing, I stick to simple routines, in hopes that one day it would matter in the greater scheme of things. I write my analysis on these charts and numbers on a journal, pretend business cases are stories with conflicts and the manager is a protagonist in need of a resolution. Sometimes believe the line cuts, the rhymes and rhythms, are essential to marketing strategies. When words do not make sense, I dive into numbers, make remarks on the statistics in my country: how many people are homeless or unemployed, how many have to live with business on the sidewalks.

At HULT International Business School, I try to learn business ideas from people with different backgrounds and contexts. Grasp their cultures when making deals. Hope that I can make solid and sincere connections with students all over the world. Understand that what may work in another country may not work in mine. Try again after an attempt and be more open to possibilities. Because often times the voice of one isn’t enough and I know this all too well.

I am now miles away from the Philippines. But in every elevator pitch I say, or with every person I shake a hand of, I always remember the sidewalks, those who put their business on it every day, and those who don’t. I cannot promise when I’ll do great things to help them. But for now, all I can do is this: immerse myself into business, understand its language, and realize how the world poses challenges to different people—to those who are making business in concrete pavements and dusty roads, and to the one who tries to make use of both words and numbers.

Submitted this for my Global Ambassador blog post for the month of October. This is the closest thing I have to an essay these past few weeks. I’ve been trying to pitch my social entrepreneurship idea to some people for the HULT Business Challenge, but considering I’m currently in Boston and I want to launch the project here first, I may have to do some modifications.

Update: It has been published on the HULT News with some variations. Read and if possible, share.


Old Manila tour this Saturday!

Mapalakad 4Sig_Pagoda

The Ocampo Pagoda mansion was built during the Japanese invasion. Now, it serves as a boarding house for travelers. Catch a glimpse of the Ocampo Pagoda mansion, along with other architectural landmarks in Old Manila with MapaLakad!

For a fee of P100 (P80 for students), you get to experience the city in its past and present from 2 to 6 pm. Aside from the MapaLakad guidebook, you will also learn the history of the buildings and the city itself.

Comment here for inquiries/reservations or message me on FB . One tour can accommodate up to seven people, so tag friends along! See you there!

Photo of Ocampo Pagoda by Makisig Yu.

FAQs on MapaLakad

I’m glad to say that I’ve finally opened my Old Manila tours to the public!

Get a copy of MapaLakad: A Guide to Old Manila and a walking tour of your preferred day from 2 to 6 pm for the following rates:

  • P80 for high school and university students
  • P100 for young professionals

Final Cover

That being said, some queries have been reiterating from those who are interested in joining. I will try to list what I remember and answer these frequently-asked questions to the best of my abilities:

  • Where will we meet up?

If you’re coming from Katipunan, I usually meet the participants at McDo around 1 pm. However, some people have opted to go straight to Recto since they are much closer to that spot. If you’re a group and you opt to meet me someplace else, then we can do so at the nearest train station.

Whichever is fine, as long as you notify me a day before the tour.

  • Can we reschedule if something comes up on the day itself?

As much as I prefer people not to cancel or back out (for everyone’s convenience), I will accommodate reschedules as long as the next date is final. Again, just let me know at least a day before the tour so I can make the necessary arrangements.

  • Will there be other people joining us?

If you’re less than 5 who joined for a particular day, chances are I will be grouping you together with other people. The maximum number of participants per tour is 7. This is also a great way to meet people from different backgrounds!

  • Is there an orientation or briefing before the tour?

Yes! I will make an FB group chat to orient you on what to prepare for our trip. I will also leave my mobile number in case any of you have a question to ask. On the day itself, I will be briefing you on how my project came to be and what the goals of MapaLakad are.

  • What will we see or do during the tour?

I usually change the route depending on the weather; however, the itinerary remains the same. We will tour Quiapo, Escolta, and Binondo on foot with a quick 30-45 minute snack somewhere in Binondo around 4:30 pm. Using the MapaLakad, I will direct you to the different buildings that were famous during their times as well as share with you what I know about their history.

  • How much pocket money do we need to bring? 

Aside from the tour fee of P80 or P100, please bring enough money for a train ride arriving at and departing from Recto as well as P100-P150 for food. A single pass to Recto will not go above P22. The servings are quite large in Binondo so the participants usually share their meals with each other. If you’re also up to buy a souvenir or two at the First United Building (they’ve got shirts, stickers, postcards, and other cool stuff about Old Manila), then prepare to bring a bit more cash with you, perhaps an extra P200 or so.

  • Is it safe to bring our valuables with us?

I cannot guarantee the absence of pickpockets when we are walking around the place, but our group has never experienced any loss of valuables during the tour. One participant even had his DSLR camera hanging around his neck the entire time and thankfully, nothing bad happened to us.

What I can advise to minimize losses is this: always attend to your valuables, pack lightly with a sturdy bag, and keep close to the group at all times.

  • Can we bring other people along with us? 

They are more than welcome to join us! Just remind them that they will also have to pay the fee of P80/P100.

I am also open to taking photos of you and your friends in the spots you like! This is one of the goals of the project: to raise awareness of the decline of Old Manila and to ask help from people in promoting its maintenance and restoration. The more people go, the better!

  • Is the tour in English or Filipino? 

I wrote MapaLakad in Filipino because I initially thought of it as a literary project in Filipino. However, there have been tourists from other countries who have joined me in walking around Old Manila.

Meaning to say, I can easily switch the tour’s language from Filipino to English, and vice versa.

  • Up until when will the tours be?

The tours are open until the second week of August! I usually hold them during Saturdays and Sundays–in fact there are slots open for the 1st and the 8th of July! If you plan to go on a weekday, let me know and I can check for my availability on that day.


Them taking photos; me explaining the story of the building through the blurb

If you have more questions, feel free to comment them here or message me on Facebook. Let’s experience Old Manila together!