MANILA, November 3, 2003  (STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - I attended a symposium last week at the Ateneo Center for Continuing Education at Rockwell Center that sought to hold hands with entrepreneurs who feel that their businesses are "held hostage by political events." It took the whole afternoon and by the time I stood up to battle the traffic home to Quezon City, one message was stuck in my mind: Ignore the bastards who run our government and just go on, mind your business and make money.

Nice advice, I thought. Maybe we are just too preoccupied with politics because we are addicted to our newspapers and television. Maybe, we should really just ignore excessive politicking and think of all that as mere background noise.

Yeah! Sure! As if we can ignore a bad toothache! Thatís what our politicians are... bad toothaches! Logically, we should go right out and yank them out so we can go on with our lives. But it is not that easy. Like a bad habit, our politicians are irresistible. Life would be so different without them. Because we are a country of masochists, what would we do for entertainment?

Ateneoís symposium had a number of speakers but the best was entrepreneur Robert Kuan. He had no Powerpoint presentation, just a compelling story to tell about what it takes to make money as an entrepreneur. Kuan is the man behind the ChowKing chain, before he sold it to Jollibee. He now chairs St. Lukeís Medical Center and is leading its aggressive expansion drive.

Mr. Kuan recalled that he started ChowKing at the worst possible time in recent history, shortly after Ninoy was murdered. The economy was going downhill and politics has reduced the country into a basket case. Capital was flowing out of the country. You have to be a nut to start a new business.

But Kuan had no choice. He went into ChowKing because he had just left his familyĎs Ling Nam restaurant business after some family disagreements. He thought getting involved in a family squabble was a waste of time so he just turned over his shares of stock and left. He was not paid for his stocks nor was he paid separation benefits. And interest rates at that time, if banks would even lend you, was in the vicinity of 30 to 40 percent.

With a bare minimum in start up capital, he opened one outlet based on his concept of a Chinese fast food. He took care of developing a good brand image and made sure he maintained quality on all fronts. EDSA 1 came around and he sold fast food takeouts to groups supporting those keeping vigil on EDSA. He pursued his dream business through the darkest of days in the local political environment and by the time he sold his chain to Jollibee, there were over 150 outlets in all.

Vision. Determination. Knowing your business. These are all the basic stuff that makes successful entrepreneurs. And regardless of the political environment, there is always the opportunity begging to be exploited that could make you a lot of money. Maybe, this is the business equivalent of the saying about lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

Then again, given the quality of our politicians today, you could be forgiven if you spent time cursing them too. And despite what Mr. Kuan has said about how he made good during a time of strife, nothing beats having good politicians in control of our country. We still have to do our duty and that is, throw the bastards out. Pulling the bad tooth is the only way we can live without the misery of a throbbing toothache.

WOW Philippines

I have been writing so much in support of domestic tourism because I know it is a great job creator in the countryside with a high local value added. But when the time comes for me to go on vacation with my family, I end up abroad because it is cheaper to be a tourist abroad than to be one here in this country.

Last week, I finally put my money where my computer keyboard was and spent all of P77,000 on a WOW Philippines package tour to Bohol. I donít regret going to Bohol because it is a fantastic province with great potentials for tourism. But I feel terribly shortchanged with the accommodations I got at Bohol Beach Club. It was more expensive than alternatives, but I chose it because I was traveling with my family and wanted to give them the best.

Unfortunately for me, I did not know that Bohol Beach Club didnít have a good reputation for world class standards in the hospitality business despite its world class room rates. I got two so-called "superior rooms" but that was sheer mislabeling.

From the e-mail messages I have been getting, my experience is apparently not that surprising.

I got this e-mail from a travel writer for an Asean regional travel publication.

I read your article today about WOW Philippines and the Bohol Beach Club. I sympathise with you completely. Three years ago, I stayed at the BBC intending to do a review on it. But just like you my room was so bad and so horrible, my mattress was thin and uncomfortable, room was smelly, walls were thin, bugs were everywhere, noise from the next room was horrible. I could not sleep cuz the room was so bad, I had to take sleeping pills and shut off the lights as soon as I entered the room, so I wouldnít see the wreck I was sleeping in.

At that time, they told me they were renovating rooms. They showed me some of the new rooms they were constructing at the far end of the club. I think they placed you in one of their older rooms. It sounds like my room!

When I went the place was deserted. Very few guests.

I was just in Malaysia for two weeks and I got an excellent room in a nice lodge... queen sized bed, brand new room, new and well working bathroom, very clean, quiet for the equivalent of 700 pesos plus per night.

Iím tired discussing Philippine tourism... itís so exasperating!!! Dick Gordon does not work closely or well with the tourism private sector. That is one of the biggest problems.

Yea, you should have gone to Pattaya instead!

Hereís another e-mail from Juan Jose Berenguer-Testa, who runs a travel and tour agency.

Congratulations! Excellent! We need more leading journalists to open the eyes of many resorts owners.

Yes, the quality and the price do not go hand in hand. The solution lies in local governments working together with the Department of Tourism to have a monitoring and regulatory capability to check that the price and the category of a tourist establishment conforms to international standard. Better we start soon even if we have to downgrade a good number of our resorts. Best regards.

Paging Dick Gordon. Please realize that cheerleading isnít enough. You have to make sure that tourism industry participants get their act together. The objective should be to have happy guests and not just separating them from their money. For me, I think I am going to Thailand for the Christmas break.

Damn Politicians

Dr. Ernie E must have read my mood from across the Pacific Ocean. He sent me some thoughts about the bastards who ruin our days.

** In the beginning, God created War, Famine and Pestilence. Did he then create politicians to ensure that we all get our fair share?

** All politicians claim they know what it was like to be poor but why do they insist on the rest of us learning too?

** Why do people refer to them as Ďcheap politiciansí? Donít they realize how much it costs us to support them?

** Why is it that so many beautiful species go extinct but politicians, rats, and cockroaches go on forever?

** If itís true that a nation gets the politicians it deserves isnít it time we looked at ourselves and determine what we did to deserve this?

Boo Chancoís e-mail address is

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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