Friday, January 21, 2011

Climbed my first mountain

...Okay, so not exactly, since there is no such thing as Mount Batad, but getting to and from the place of Batad in Ifugao territory and trekking her steep sides and carved terraces was a mountainous experience, and it's one off my bucket list.

I was so afraid before the trip. Only God really knows how fearful I was the few days beforehand, and how, very partial, tiny and minuscule, I kinda wanted to find a way out of it. I think it's why, on the day of departure, when my "friends" (I put you under quotes because it was not funny) decided to pull a fast one on me and said the trip was canceled... dagnabit, I readily believed. Although there was a tang of pain at the same time, you know? Something broke in me when the thought of not getting away from the city seemed true.

Buti na lang it was joke. I swear it wasn't funny, but when they admitted it was just a prank to get me all panicked and crazy, reality struck. I was climbing my mountain. Batad is one of my dream destinations. I read about the place in some obscure travel club; Batad boasted of the amphitheater rice terraces, luscious greens, colder-than-Baguio weather and the majestic Tappia Falls. After that one write-up, I was convinced I had to go there and see it's beauty firsthand.

I still just can't believe I have. It's no leisure trip, I tell you. If you're thinking about milk and tea with your buttered toast as you take in the view... *BLEH*! So wrong!

Getting there is an adventure in itself. We took the Flo'ridah bus from Manila (Sampaloc) to Banaue from 10:00pm to 6 in the morning. It was not a good night's sleep, even though I was dead as a rock practically the whole way. OH! And one particular province (you know who you are!) really riled me up with a particular provincial ordinance. You cannot ban the simple joys of people! Heartless! You're as cold as your weather.

But anyway... the bus ride ended on a high note. The sun was just brightening the horizon when I peeked out my window and I got the most gorgeous first glimpse of the terraces. They're HUGE! And they're right outside my window. Imagine this: if the bus stopped and I got off, I could hop in one and plant rice away. They were so close, so there, so real! The rice terraces are beautiful to behold. How our ancient brothers and sisters even thought of building them centuries ago, and how their children are still keeping their work alive today... Amazing!

However, Banaue was only the drop off point. After a quick breakfast with a view, we were on a 4-wheel drive jeepney and it was another hour or so of ultra rough road up to Saddle. The "road" was concrete in some places and mud in others. It was not an easy trip either, but nothing would top what came next. When we got to the jeep's final destination, Saddle, we had to trek down the mountains to get to our final destination, Batad. An hour and a half later, with countless "are-we-there-yets" and waterbreaks in our belt, we were there.

Bus-Jeep-Trek was worth it. The view Batad offers is breathtaking, and the hospitality of our host, Tito Ramon of Ramon's Homestay, quickly melted the stress of travel away. I had a lot of firsts in this little adventure, too. First time to experience minimal butiki presence in the province. Boracay had more lizards than Batad! First time to feast on roasted marshmallows. Nom-nom-nom is all I can say. Of course, where else do you roast marshmallows but over a bonfire. Though if was small, my first bonfire was cozy and surrounded by good friends and love. But the best of all firsts is, what can ever top you... my first waterfall!

Tappia Falls is another two hour trek away from Ramon's Homestay. Tucked away inside the winding curves of the trail, Tappia Fall is the huge crash of a treasure in the mountains. She's beautiful, just as awe-inspiring and majestic as all the write-ups have harped her to be. Wait, no. She's better!

These scenery could have come straight out of a Tolkien novel. The dwarfs were probably deep in the mountain, mining their gems and ruffling their beards, and the fall's mouth was their main gateway. Frodo and Sam can easily be using the cloak of invisibility gifted by Galladriel to sneak in for a shortcut. Gollum could be inside with the ring of power!

Of course we didn't just stare at her from a distance. That pool she gathers 'neath her, we swam in it. Those boulders you need to cross to get there, we traversed them. Best part, no one was injured on the way and back!

My first trip to the mountains is perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better experience and I thank my friends for bringing me there. Yes, to be afraid at first is normal (*tilt head*) and to get over the fear is enriching. I discovered limits and thresholds I never knew I could challenge before and only emerged a better individual at the end of it.

Batad, I'll be back. As La Union is my home by the sea, you are my home in the mists.

Monday, January 10, 2011

In An Advanced Stage Of Readiness To Buy

The hoopla of 2011 planning is almost over, and the title of this entry is forever ingrained in my memory. It's the constant one liner our marketing consultant loves to use over and over again, and despite the fact that that single line has caused so many revisions to my plans for the brands I'm in charge of, I must say its the perfect take-off point of my campaign.

In a country that's drowning in mass media advertising; where major thoroughfares are flooded with giant billboards after another and wifi access bombards the regular surfer with multiple online ads, talking directly to the end-user who's practically a hop, skip and jump away from buying your product may be key in pushing you further apart from competitors and closer to profitability.

Imagine you're the brand man of a tampon. For 2011, you're asked to break the stereotype that using tampons hurt and you've only got a hundred thousand in your budget to make that happen. A print ad in a glossy teeny-bopper magazine can amount to P100,000 here in the Philippines. That magazine can have a distribution rate of, say 50,000 copies, with pass-on readership on 5. That assumes you'll be hitting 250,000 individuals without the assurance of a purchase. You were able to communicate your message in the ad but how many from the 250k hitrate were you really able to convince?

Say you go the guerilla way and use that same P100,000 by giving away tampon samples in universities or call center offices. You get to induce trial of your product, and have direct interaction with a possible buyer. Then you point out the stores you're available in within a 5-minute walk radius. The university student and the call center agent would have the open-enough mind to readily accept your product, and at the same time, you reel them closer to the sale by showing them where to buy!

Promotion can't be about awareness and credibility all the time. And being present in tri-media advertising doesn't prove you're credible or that your market is aware. Sometimes, it's just one giant waste of untrackable spending.

So why is it that so many FMCG corporations still go for the print ad, the TVC and general online advertising? Has it become the simple and easy, but expensive, cop-out? Is tri-media somehow related to credibility to consumers?

Thankfully for the brands I'm taking care of, that isn't the case. Being niche products that talk and carter to a very specific market, giving up most Above-The-Line efforts was a no-brainer. My driving force now is to talk to the end-user who is in the most advanced stage of readiness to buy. Now, since avenues of point of purchase is covered, the name of the game will be creativity. How, in that venue of readiness, do I induce the sale and somehow keep hold for loyalty?

Guess that can be another entry for another day. Planning now almost 100% finalized. 2011 is looking mighty good.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Proud to be Google Earth

Sometimes, even I'm surprised with my sharp sense of direction.

Like today.

I was brought to this really cool, treasure nook of textiles and stuffs somewhere at the back of Kamuning Road by our liasons personnel. Had to buy ribbons and other craptastic things to wrap a gift pack our company is giving to a celebrity endorser and my initial move was to go to the nearest NBS. Liasons officer said, "Na-ah!" Said he knew of a better place, with more choices on cheaper prices. Little Chinese me was all for it!

He drives down Morato and turns into Kamuning, and immediately turns right into the first street, the one with the MDC. The street was alive with shops and loiterers. Kids were mulling by the sidewalk, delivery trucks were unloading cargo by doors; if I had to define "busy street," that would be it.

He drives to the end and enters this palengke-like compound, but instead of raw meats and veggies, merchandise were mostly textile and decor. It was a handicrafter's goldmine! We quickly found a stall that had practically everything I needed, bought my stuff and headed back to the office. I would've stayed longer if I could but work of course had to be done for the day.

It wasn't until a few hours after working on my wrapping project did I realize that I needed more ribbon, and unfortunately liasons officer had left already for other errands. No one else could come with me so I had to suck it up and go back on my own. I was nervous. I'd only be commuting my ass there and I wasn't sure if my brain memorized the way.

Took a jeepney to Kamuning, got off and walked down busy street til the compound and voila! Here and back again, with everything I need to complete wrapping project, in more or less thirty minutes. Kinda want to give myself a pat on the back for being the batang-gala that I am, for not getting lost and for knowing exactly how to get back to a place I've only been in once before. Other people would've given up and passed on the task to another day when liasons officer would be available, but what's the point in that? No adventure, no risk... no reward.

This is my reward, pumped up pride for being Little Miss Google Earth.