Scouting Calbayog City
When we visited Calbayog City in the Spring of 2012, we had already begun construction of our home a few years earlier. Now that it was crunch time and we needed to speed up finishing the house, we had a lot of questions. Where, what, how, and mostly a lot more where’s! Before arriving here, there was no way of knowing what to expect or where to go to get anything. It’s really hard to tell somebody to go get something when you’re not exactly sure of what it is that you are sending them to get, let alone where to send them to get it. I’m sure most expats feel the same way about moving to and settling into a new area. Since moving here one year later (Summer of 2013) and over the last couple years ( aside from searching any defunct online directories for anything that resembles reliable information) I have had my boots (okay, flip-flops) on the ground so to speak…exploring Calbayog City and beyond – learning where everything is located. Back home, searching for anything in need was much easier as most stores were branded and you knew exactly where to go to find what you were looking for. Honestly though, back in Tupelo, Mississippi, if you couldn’t find what you were looking for at Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, or Sears, you probably didn’t need it anyway.
Living here in the Philippines has been an exercise in higher learning (I don’t remember any of my college courses being much more difficult). In addition to melding general cultural differences, learning bits and pieces of the language, new terminology, new products, logos, brands, and where to go to find them, I have been caused to feel like I have entered refresher training at the School of Hard Knocks (the Foreign Edition). I also deservedly feel like I should be meritoriously awarded my PhD in “Sanity Management.” Anyone who has ever searched for a Bungee cord in a non-english speaking environment knows what I am referring to. Often I have scoured the city looking for something only to hear “sorry sir, out of stock” a number of times before locating my item. Even if I could have had access to phone numbers, I could have saved so much time (language barriers notwithstanding). On the surface, it seems like it would be easy to make the adjustment of living a retired life in the Philippines, but when everyday experiences of locating, buying, and using things you purchase is equivilent to accomplishing a search and destroy mission during a total blackout, thoughts can emerge that sound like “I need a break from all this retirement.” Some days you are easily reminded that the status you worked so hard to attain – “Retired” (it’s just a word), includes the word “tired.” So you work to become retired and then you are tired. I digress…sorry. It was supposed to be much easier than this.
Over the last few years, I’m not sure what it was that led me to believe that the digital age that is upon us, and all the grand technology that it entails, was supposed to make life easier. Many expats will concur that when you first arrive to settle in a new area, just locating a good grocery store or a decent hardware store is a real challenge. Back home, the phone book or the internet was where you could begin your search for many things. Here…no phone book, no Yellow Pages, and no local business directory is available from a Chamber of Commerce or even City Hall. You are basically on your own, with the help of all those who struggle to understand your terminology or even speak your language.
The Online Directory
Elsewhere, but not here on my island, you would be lucky to find an online business directory with everything under the sun listed. There have been some very successful startups of online business directories by some well capitalized companies like Yelp, Yellow Pages Online, Hubspot, etc. In smaller markets though, many regional online directories are nothing more than a landing page for ad placements by the company that developed the page. Most of these sites rely on the public and local businesses to enter their own business information or ‘claim’ their listing with the idea of becoming highly visible through/and by enhancing their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results and page rankings. In reality though, it is mostly as I just described…a landing page for advertising revenue. “Build it and they will come” is the mantra of the majority of those sites. Don’t believe it? Try searching for anything in your area through one of these online directories and you will understand the ineptness of it all. Unless you are in a large city where someone has taken the time and made the large effort required to build a solid directory, you will usually come away disappointed. And after you search one of these empty directories, you should not be all that dissapointed…because I warned you!
Calbayog City and Beyond
Fast forward two years from our date of arrival and NOW the initiative has been taken to launch a business directory for Calbayog City. It is not the first one mind you, but it appears it will be the first successful attempt at a complete and comprehensive source of local information. While this directory build is currently underway, the fact that it is locally owned and managed, means it is a serious effort. If it succeeds, it will be a good thing for this area. It would have been really nice to have a comprehensive online directory when I first got here. It would have saved me from wasting a lot of time (and sweat, and flip-flops) with all those old-fashioned search and discover methodologies. For all newcomers to the area, this will be a first hand benefit, and also to travellers and tourists alike. Calbayognons will also benefit by being able to shop and target their venues online. Phone numbers and locations will be accurate and up to date. Once fully functional, it will allow consumers to rate their favorite places and share with friends. It will also be helpful to local businesses as the business climate here heats up. With new businesses arriving weekly and with expected new restaurants, major grocery stores, two new malls and more all coming soon, already established businesses will need to realize that while competition may be healthy, it will also be time to ante up with some new efforts (advertising) to keep their existing customers and gain some new ones. And where should all that new concentration and focus be directed….online of course! Calbayog City is upping the game and business will become more competitive. While increasing numbers of the younger generations are carrying a smart phone, businesses will need to turn to the internet as a new mode to attract customers. And as the Calbayog Info directory builds and grows, I can only hope that the effort is well received because I think it will benefit everyone going forward. I have a feeling I will come to rely on it…and I’ve got my fingers crossed!
You can check out Calbayog City’s new Information and business directory online at Calbayog Info.