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Third World Jewelry Workers


Hi all,

There’s been a lot of discusion lately about careers, business,
wages, opportunities, finances in general. I’d like to ontribute
my own five cents…

Two weeks ago about a hundred Orchidians dropped by to take a
look at pictures I posted of Philippines jewelry workers: . The handful of actual written
feedback amazed me… one said they look ok, not starving or
miserable at all… the working environment while dust filled
from grinding was normal and in fact is good because of the ‘open
air thing’ (actually they don’t have enough money to complete
their shop). There may have been one condemnation, but on the
whole the preception was that that kind of life was not so bad.

So ok, maybe they are not fundamentally unhappy. But these
people own nothing except the clothes on their back, neither TV,
car, ref, aircon, house. If they don’t have contract work for the
week, they may have to make do with just plain porridge (boiled
rice) for food. Imagine them imagining how terrific life must be
for people here.

When I go home, I shall show them letters from Orchidians…
about how tough it is financially to be in the jewelry trade here
despite having everything that they (Philippine workers) are
missing. They don’t know about the kind of stressses and pressure
you go through here.

Above text is just a short introduction… My purpose for writing
now is to suggest the idea of introducing workers and shopowners
of third world countries directly to you guys. I can take care
of introducing you to real people in the Philippines, without any
condition at all on your side or theirs. I can help and advise
you on how to go there, get around, etc. I may ask for email
addressses from back home if there is some interest in this idea
to give to you. (Our dear host Ganoksin might do the same for
workers in Thailand)

But what for?

a) Business… anything you can do, these people could do at
probably 1/30 the cost. Fedex, email, and the WTO (World Trade
Organization) will soon make it feasible to subcontract jobs

b) Lifestyle… imagine having a hideaway in the Philippines
where the folks are really nice, the beaches a wonder, and for
bachelors, the women make ideal wives. The Philippines pride
themselves as a very hospitable people… and you’ll see how true
it is when you go there. And most Filipinos understand and can
speak English. (surprised?)

c) Economy If you had to spend to go away on vacation, what
better way than to just combine business and pleasure. If you
lived there for long periods, you’ll probably find yourself
spending significantly much less for your personal needs.

d) Mental and emotional enrichment… going abroad would expose
you to different perspectives in life. It might also make your
present problems look much less significant.

e) Carrying the business side further, if you’re very good at
this… you can be like a lot of foreigners who have established
big export firms in the Philippines some with thousands of

f) As for my own personal motivation… let’s just say that
there’s really no shortage of people around the world who are
happy if they can contribute anything no matter how small to
making this world a better place. Please tell me this is ok.

I guess I’ve written enough for a first shot, if anybody’s
interested and have questions, I’ll just take it up from your



Dear Brian and Wayne,

Doesn’t seem like the idea caught fire. Still two is a whole lot
better than 0.

I’'ve already told my people at FCQ, they’re apprehensive
because you could go to their compeitiors, but yes they are
willing to take you around and introduce you to as many
shopowners as there are, no obligations. As is the custom here,
if you wish you could give the introducee a tip, (about a dollar
every now and then would be fine), but this is not a

If and when you do make up your mind to go, you can write to me
anytime so we can activate the process of helping you out with
other details. It will be good to have a travel agent do the
airline tickets for you, the best choices are NorthWest, Korean
Airlines, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific and of course Philippine
Airlines, it costs anywhere from $800.00 to 1,400.00 coach, round

And here’s a listing of several websites where you will find
directories of different exporters you can immediately get in
touch with. Except for FCQ I have no control on the other
exporters… but its good for you to have these lists.



I come from that part of the world though not the Philippines
and remember with fond memories school friends whose families
lived just like those in you photo album.

When one lives in the tropics it averages above 80 deg F every
day with the humidity close or at saturation. One dresses for
comfort, the less the better. In particular if the work
involved is messy such a grinding seas shells and other
handicraft requiring the cutting and working of material there
is not much point in wearing business grade clothes or even shop
coveralls (which would be way too hot).

The people are poor but not so destitute that all they have is
what they wear on their backs. Just wait for a religious
festival or a wedding and out comes their finery. But on an
ordinary day there is no need to power dress. There is no one
to impress since everyone is family or an old friend.

We didn’t have the beefsteaks, the turkeys, Big Macs or all the
stuff you see in western supermarkets but no one is starving.
The sea as shown in your pictures provide fish. Everyone has a
vegetable patch. There are coconuts and fruit trees, free range
chickens, goats, pigs and maybe a few cows that taste a lot
better than any frozen meat you can buy.

The huts in your picture look incomplete but they are not living
quarters and are built that way for a good reason. Its easy to
build by hand and its function is to keep out the rain and those
free range livestock. Without the cooling sea breeze blowing
through the wall slats the heat would have been too unbearable
to work or store any foodstuffs inside. And if there is bright
daylight, no number of high wattage lamps inside can quite
provide the same illumination. Why spend the money when
sunshine is free anyway.

The poverty is in the lack of modern schooling, opportunity for
advancement, acute medical care and a few other things only
modern technology can provide. Given a fair price for their
work they can afford to pay for these things themselves.

Kelvin Mok (@Kelvin_Mok1)
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