Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Anvil's President Mr. Reginald Yu lead the delegation of the Anvil Business Club (Association of Young Filipino-Chinese Entrepreneurs ) in a high-level luncheon with His Excellency, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of the Republic of Colombia during a meeting with Philippine businessmen at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 Summit.
Together with key officials from the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Philippine Exporters Confederation (PhilExport), the Makati Business Club (MBC), as well as select Philippine government representatives, the Anvil Business Club was treated to an exclusive introduction of Colombia by their country's Number One salesman – with such electrifying comportment that he converts the most incorrigible skeptic into a hard-core believer. "Soaring Andean summits, unspoiled Caribbean coast, enigmatic Amazon jungle, cryptic archaeological ruins and cobbled colonial communities, Colombia boasts all of South America's allure, and more," the rousing Chief Executive began in fluent English. "Our country offers an off-the-radar treasure trove of cinematic cobble-stoned towns and villages almost unspoiled by modern progress."
Citing the Colombian government's keen interest in the Philippines for expanding bilateral economic ties, President Santos cited their country's historic economic boom since the 1990s and, in 2015, has become the 4th largest in Latin America, as well as the world's 31st largest economy. "Colombia has the fastest growing information technology industry in the world and has the longest fiber-optic network in Latin America," he boasted. "Not to mention the fact that Colombia also has one of the largest shipbuilding industries in the world outside Asia... in fact, we have the fastest growing major economy in the western world in 2014, behind only China worldwide."
The President has also made known his particular desire to open opportunities for increased trade, especially with their two major export commodities – petroleum and coffee. Petroleum is Colombia's main export, making over 45% of Colombia's exports. Colombian coffee, on the other hand, is often regarded as some of the highest quality coffee in the world. "Colombia has traditionally grown arabica beans and our unique geography makes it perfectly suited for producing a delicious, high quality brew," he said. Colombia has traditionally been second in global coffee production only to Brazil.
For his part, Ambassador Alfredo "Fred" Yao, speaking on behalf of PCCI as its President, spoke highly of the shared history of the Philippines and Colombia, citing their common love for "tele-novelas," as well as their cuisine and religion borne out of a shared Spanish heritage. He expressed optimism that both countries will benefit from Colombia's exports, as Ambassador Yao pointed out the growing demand for coffee and a source of cheap petroleum in the wake of the country's rising economy.
While there have been some concerns regarding Colombia's problems of insurgency – particularly with the Marxist paramilitary group, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) – and the notorious illegal drug trade, President Santos assuaged the business group with their government's significant developments in the peace process, as they are currently in negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, with a scheduled signing of a final agreement in 2016.
All told, Colombia has the potential to be one of Latin America's great success stories. Under President Santos' leadership, it is already a serious emerging power with a diversified economy, a very well educated work force, a growing middle class and a strong, democratic government.
As the Filipino businessmen left the Amethyst Room, they were one in saying that Colombia is, indeed, a promise being fulfilled.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


(Part 1: Tokyo). Noted Monégasque chef Alain Ducasse once said of Japan: “It is impossible to remain indifferent to Japanese culture. It is a different civilization where all you have learnt must be forgotten. It is a great intellectual challenge and a gorgeous sensual experience.”
The 35-member delegation from the Anvil Business Club who participated in the organization’s first-ever goodwill mission in the “Land of the Rising Sun,” couldn’t agree more with the 21-Michelin Star culinary artist, as they easily capitulated to Japan’s quintessential lure – particularly, its genial people and solitary culture, where “everything suggests as well as represents, and less is considered more.”
Taking into account Japan’s unending myriad of attractions, the organizers decided to restrict its eight-day adventure to just two areas: Tokyo and Hokkaido – certainly a study of sharp contrasts. Tokyo (東京), Japan’s bustling capital and the world’s most populous metropolis, mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers and anime shops to cherry trees and temples. The dazzling city is famed for its vibrant food scene, and its Shibuya (渋谷區) and Harajuku (原宿) districts are the heart of its trendy teen fashion scene. Hokkaido (北海道), on the other hand, is known for its unspoiled nature and home to steaming volcanos, caldera lakes, and geothermal springs; it is, by far, the least developed of Japan’s four main islands.
Upon arrival at the Haneda Airport (羽田空港) on November 2, the group booked at the Shinjuku Prince Hotel, located at the heart of Kabuki-cho (歌舞伎町), one of Japan's best entertainment districts. Later that day, the main delegation lost no time and proceeded to Ropponggi Hills (六本木ヒルズ), a New Urban Center and one of Japan's largest integrated property developments in Minato (港區), Tokyo, for their first round of shopping sprees. They were later treated to a unique Kimono program entitled, “Kaguwa (ボックス席): Oiran (花魁) and Geisha (芸者) Entertainment Show.” The characteristic show-pub offered drinks and meals, served on traditional low tables. Buttressed by an impressive reinventing stage, Kaguwa incorporates non-stop energy and emotion into both its Oiran-za (花魁座) show, which brings the audience back to the red-light district of the Meiji era (1868-1912) when the oiran (花魁), or Japanese courtesans, were known as masters of entertainment, cultural arts and conversation. The show revealed subtle undertones of homo-eroticism – which the male members of the audience loved – and, in one scene, a group of girls dressed in slinky red gowns turned away from the audience and dropped their satin cloaks to waist height, revealing naked backs and the hint of a bosom curve. But that’s about as risqué as it got though, and generally, the show encapsulated the fascinating traditions and odd paradoxes of Japanese culture.
On November 3, the delegation split up in half to accommodate two major expositions which were simultaneously running on separate parts of the city.
The first was the 44th Tokyo Motor Show (東京モーターショー), is a biennial auto show held at the Tokyo Big Sight Convention Center in Ariake (有明), Tokyo, for cars, motorcycles and commercial vehicles. Hosted by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) since 1954, it is a recognized international exposition by the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles, and has thrilled the automobile fanatics with its glimpse into the future of the automotive industry, whether it be through new autonomous cars, futuristic concepts or near production-ready hydrogen fuel-cell powertrains. For the impressionable vehicle aficionados of Anvil, it was a haven of new metal – from outrageous concepts to nearly-completed commercial transports, always fitted with a new twist.
The other was the “Tokyo Designers Week” (東京デザイナーズウィーク), an annual design event that took place at Meiji Jingu Gaien (明治神宮外苑) in central Tokyo, Japan. The event, which observed its 30th anniversary this year, has developed into an international design event that gathered excellent architecture, interior, product design, graphic design and art from all over the world. This year, the creative festival was held under four main genres – Design, Art, Fashion, and Music – offering brands, companies, creators, and schools with the possibility to present their creative projects to the public.
The delegates’ day ended with a rare dinner-show at the tech-tacky Robot Restaurant (ロボットレストラン|トップページ), a basement in Shinjuku's Kabukichō (歌舞伎町) district, where bikini-clad women stage mock battles using enormous robots – though it's more steroid-enhanced fairground attraction than modern-day Gundam. Fitted out at a cost of ¥10 billion, Robot Restaurant looks like something straight out of Gaspar Noé's “Enter the Void,” all migraine-inducing neon, video screens and mirrors, including a neon tank and enormous female cyborgs – complete with (literally) pneumatic busts. Devouring the not-too-filling bento box of assorted sushi, Anvil members seemed a little too gob-smacked to know what to do at first, but by the end they were waving their glow sticks like hardened “para-para” dancers; the boys were especially entranced by the tarty charm of the short-skirted Japanese “Dream Girls.” After the show, some of the members of the group decided to go for more “serious” food at a nearby Takoyaki (たこ焼き) restaurant.
The following day, November 4, was an especially busy day for the delegates, as the “official business” part of the itinerary began with an orientation of the Japan External Trade Organization or JETRO, a government-related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world. The delegates were briefed by JETRO officials at its Tokyo headquarters in Minato-ku (港區) on a wide range of topics, such as exporting products to Japan, finding a Japanese partner company, setting up business in Japan, as well as unique challenges in running a foreign business in Japan. The delegates were later escorted to other parts of the JETRO offices, particularly, their first-ever, Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center (東京開業ワンストップセンター), an office which unifies procedures that foreign companies and start-ups need to complete to establish a business; as well as the JETRO Business Library, which boasts of a wide selection of materials and resources devoted to international trade, business and investment, including numerous Japanese and foreign books, newspapers and magazines.
After a hearty kaiseki-ryōri (懐石料理) lunch at the 110-year-old Ganzo (ガンゾ) Restaurant, the assembly was later welcomed in the afternoon by the top officials of Marubeni Corporation (丸紅株式会社) at their Tokyo headquarters in Ōtemachi (大手町), Chiyoda (千代田). The company is one of Japan’s biggest integrated trading and investment business conglomerates engaged as an intermediary, importer/exporter, facilitator or broker in various types of trade between and among business enterprises and countries. They were introduced to the company’s concept of “sōgō shōsha” (総合商社), Japanese companies that trade in a wide range of products and materials. In addition to acting as intermediaries, “sōgō shōsha” also engage in logistics, plant development and other services, as well as international resource exploration. Unlike trading companies in other countries, which are generally specialized in certain types of products, “sōgō shōsha” have extremely diversified business lines, in which respect the business model is unique to Japan.
Taking advantage of the full afternoon’s free time, the delegation separated into small groups. Some proceeded to Shibuya (渋谷區), one of Tokyo’s famed shopping districts for a spending spree; others decided to go to Akihabara (秋葉原), a major center for household electronic items, video games, anime, manga, and computer goods; while the rest of the pack contented themselves with an unplanned city tour to the Meiji Shrine (明治神宮) in Shibuya, the Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリ) in Sumida (墨田區), and the Sensō-ji (浅草寺) ancient Buddhist temple in Asakusa (浅草).
The group later converged at the Sengoku Buyuuden (戦國武勇伝), a Samurai-themed restaurant set in the Sengoku Period, where the Anvil delegates invited officials from JETRO, the ASEAN-Japan Center, as well as select Japanese entrepreneurs and businessmen for dinner and fellowship.
The final day in Tokyo – November 5 – was just as hectic. After checking out from the hotel, the group quickly advanced to the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines at the Roppongi Minato-ku (六本木港區), where they were accepted by no less than His Excellency, Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez, who also arranged an hour-long, formal business networking session with some of Japan’s most prominent entrepreneurs and businessmen in the Small and Medium-scale Enterprises sector.
Fifty representatives from the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), SME Support Japan (the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industy or METI’s Small and Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation Arm) Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan (PCCIJ), Philippine National Bank, Metrobank, participated in the networking activity.
In his speech, The Ambassador encouraged Japanese participants to take this opportunity to network with Anvil delegates as they are “...young, exuberant and all armed with faith in the value and returns of entrepreneurship, are ready to discuss opportunities in a multitude of sectors.” The event provided an opportunity young Filipino entrepreneurs and established Japanese businesses to develop new partnerships in various sectors such as trading, agribusiness, manufacturing, construction, real estate, garments, packaging, jewelry, health care, food and ICT.
After a quick but refreshing soba noodle lunch, a small number of officers broke away from the main delegation and rushed towards the airport to catch their 3:00pm flight back to Manila, while the rest of the group forged ahead to their last stop in the Tokyo itinerary: Kao Corporation (花王株式会社), a 128-year-old chemical and cosmetics company headquartered in Nihonbashi-Kayabacho (日本橋茅場町), Chūō (中央區), where they were treated to an exclusive factory tour in their four-hectare plant and orientation of the company’s high-tech products – such as a hand-held device that can magnify one’s skin if it’s healthy; a handy machine to measure one’s hair strand; and a breathable yet no-leak diaper. The cosmetics monolith also gave each delegate a set of attractive gift packs as souvenirs.
As the main Anvil group departed for Narita International Airport (成田国際空港) to catch their 6:00pm flight to Sapporo (札幌市), many of the delegates had mixed feelings on leaving Tokyo. Indeed, in just a few short days, most of them already fell in love with the city, even when they barely scratched its surface. What wonders did they miss? What other secrets does Tokyo have to offer? From Okutama (奥多摩町) to Edogawa (江戶川), their minds darted to all the sights on their list that they didn’t get to see. On the other hand, they expressed excitement for a totally different exploit in Hokkaido, where an entirely unique kind of charm awaits them.
Kudos to the "Japan Mission" Committee led by Vice-President for External Affairs Reynold Siy, Director for Internationalism Leoncio Lei Yee Jr., Committee Overall Chairman Christopher Yae, Programs Chairperson Claudine Sy, Alexei Coseto, Hillary Ang; Fellowship Chairman Edward Kirby, Kevin Ong Tai, Wilbert Uy; Logistics Chairman Richmond Co, Clarisse Pua-Tan, Carl Yao; Marketing Chairman Charles Ng, Erika Rellera, Charles Lim; Finance Chairperson Ian Cheng and Publications Chairman Dewey Tan.