Saturday, January 26, 2008

Doing something for the Philippines


Nanette Alcaro, with her husband Jonno Alcaro, are fast becoming familiar names in the Internet sector locally.

Prior to becoming an Internet entrepreneur, Nanette had a 20-year hotel career having worked in Manila’s Intercon, Hyatt and Peninsula, and later in Peninsula New York (NY), Plaza Athenee NY, and Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, as Director of Sales and Marketing. "I was very fortunate because all these were deluxe properties so I enjoyed the perks and glamor of the job!"

Nanette left the Philippines in 1984. Admittedly, she always envisioned herself in NY in the ‘80’s. "I decided to go there myself. In fact, when my family moved to the U.S., they all settled in San Francisco. But as soon as I got to NY, I just loved the energy and felt at home!"

Adjusting and loving NY
Like most Filipinos who moved to the US, Nanette had her culture shock and exclaims that there's no place like the Big Apple. "When I got here, everything was so big – from the cities and buildings (in Manhattan), to serving portions in restaurants, to chicken in the supermarket, and even a head of garlic was so much bigger than what I was used to!

Everything there is on a grand scale and truly an overpopulated melting pot of all nationalities! I don’t know if I would call them fears and apprehensions as much as I would call them adjustment periods. I definitely had to adapt because you had to do everything by yourself! No maids, no drivers. I learned how to cook, do laundry, clean the house and commute in Manhattan by subway and bus, because taxis were so expensive! And yes, one had to be tough to survive NY!"

Nanette lived a hectic life as she worked 14-hour days and traveled every other month. First around America, then Europe, and South America as part of her job. "I had no life but I did what I had to do. I guess traveling and having the perks in my job was how I coped. I traveled business class, stayed in leading hotels of the world, wined and dined in the best restaurants on a corporate expense account. Not bad!"

She was also involved with Opus Dei and that made her very focused and strong. "In NY, there is so much that could distract you because everything is available at a price."

Missing the Philippines
Despite enjoying the life in NY, Nanette cherishes her good old days in the Philippines and friends. "I missed the parties, hanging out, and the food! New York City was really tough. It was simply hard work at first and I eventually got burned out. That was why I came back for a year to try and bring back the good ol’ days.

But things had already changed and so have I then. God always has a reason which is not always apparent to us at the moment but certainly takes on a different meaning in hindsight."

She has gone back to the Philippines for a vacation in 1997, and then again in 2005 with Jonno and daughter Marion. "Since then, I’ve gone on business trips in 2006 and 2007. Hopefully, Jonno and I can come together every summer."

Doing something for the Philippines
When Nanette met her husband, Jonno, she dropped her entire career and became housewife, mom, and domestic goddess. When Marion started full day schooling, they established Archipelago 7107, Inc., an Internet company building communication tools for all Filipinos worldwide. Their websites include Kababayan.ph, Barangay.ph and soon to be launched FilipinoYellowPages.ph. These projects aspires to serve as a resource and community center for all Filipinos overseas.

The idea started when Nanette took her family to Manila for the first time in 2005. "I saw all the real estate development and technology advances but was shocked at the poverty that still existed there. I came home telling my husband that having been so blessed, I would like to do something with and for the Philippines. So I convinced him to work with the Philippines instead of China or Vietnam which was where he was gearing to."

Giving in to Nanette's request, Jonno conceptualized Kababayan.ph and Barangay.ph as he had been in the Internet business, having co-founded and co-owned part of YellowPages.com. (sold to SBC and BellSouth in 2004)

"We wanted to do something that would somehow help support the economy in the Philippines. He conceived the business model for the market of Barangay.ph and we later expanded it to include other 'buildings' so eventually made it a village."

Today, Kababayan.ph functions as a global Filipino white pages where one can search for long lost family and friends. While Barangay.ph is their global Filipino village portal that showcases all things Filipino.

Lessons learned
Nanette reflects on her lessons learned from what she heard from a Filipino priest in NY. "During his sermon, he said that 'when we want something so badly, we should work like only we can make it happen, and pray like only God can make it happen!' Doing this, you simply cannot fail!"

As of this writing, Nanette plans to retire in the U.S. but would love to go to the Philippines regularly with Jonno and Marion.

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