Monday, October 25, 2021

Building Blocks

The first time I encountered Job’s tears was in a Korean television show. Not sure anymore if it’s a variety show I followed or a food show I chanced upon, but anyway, Job’s tears—it’s a type of grain, and they made tea out of it, by roasting the stuff, and then grinding it into a powder, which you then mix with water and drink.


I forgot all about it until last week, when my brother brought home a kilo or so of the stuff. His girlfriend introduced it to him; she has it as a substitute for rice, high in carbohydrates (so you’re fuller for longer) but low in sugar. I didn’t even know it was the Job’s tears I had encountered before until we talked about it. He called it “adlay”; he bought it for PHP 300 a pack, which is pretty expensive considering it was planted somewhere in Bukidnon.


And then I remembered one of the perennial complaints supply chain managers make: it’s more expensive to ship from Manila to Cagayan de Oro, than it is to ship from Manila to, say, Hong Kong.

There’s been a lot of talk in the past few years, especially from health buffs, about the next big health food—these products that pack a lot of nutrients in a small package, say, or can help you lose weight, or can help you enjoy your favorite foods without fears of getting an allergy. (Or perhaps something that just tastes good.) In many cases these products are grown somewhere in the Philippines, which adds to the appeal for some, “buy locally!” being a buzzy selling point. But then, these products remain out of reach to the common consumer, for the most part because of high costs and the complex logistics that go with it—there’s no guaranteeing the adlay will come to you in its best quality.


It’s somewhat perfect timing that we took part in the first Mindanao Logistics Summit, organized by Xavier University High School batch 1984 and held a week ago in Cagayan de Oro. The event served as a flash point for the conversation surrounding the region’s future, particularly in the past few years as expanding in Davao has come in vogue. Despite all this talk of finally realizing Mindanao’s full potential, it seems that stakeholders have yet to really lock together and fulfill the mission—but then, these things do take time.


Some of the building blocks are in place. Infrastructure development is at a frantic pace: roads in CDO are being repaired, and several new bypass routes are in the works; there are also port expansion projects both in CDO and Davao to anticipate increased demand. That has resulted in a rush of new mixed-use developments, the most ambitious of which is perhaps Ayala’s Habini Bay development just beside Laguindingan airport. The growth of new retail formats we’ve seen in Manila and other urban centers is starting to happen in Mindanao, particularly as BPOs continue to fuel growth.


But they’re building blocks; we believe —and so do some of the speakers at the event—that more can be done to ensure that the resulting economic growth is inclusive, that it can truly tap into enterprises, in all industries, across the region.


We’ve discussed, in this column, how infrastructure development can be focused towards ensuring a smooth flow of goods from Mindanao’s farms to its major ports. Investment in agricultural facilities and cold chain networks will go a long way in maintaining the quality of these products as they make their way out of the ports and towards the rest of the Philippines. (Maybe that’ll drive down the costs of adlay—that, and promoting its cultivation: we could be exporting the stuff, after all.) Also critically, these developments should not be biased towards moving these products out of Mindanao: those in the region should still be able to buy their homegrown crops at a good price. It would be a shame to not be able to buy dragon fruits, for example, at just a hundred bucks per kilo.


Of course it’s not just all about infrastructure. As we’ve discussed in recent events it’s the people that spell the difference. While supply chain education has yet to pop up in the region’s academic institutions the local economy’s gearing towards trade has led to key leaders in Philippine supply chain calling Mindanao home. (Take, for example, the organizers of the Mindanao Logistics Summit.) Here, training programs for warehouse personnel and truck drivers are also common. But while in Manila the appeal of becoming a Grab driver has led to a shortage of truck drivers, in Cagayan de Oro it’s the appeal of working as a truck driver in the Middle East. If we’re to stress the importance of supply chain to the economy, it should pay well. But, again, these things take time. I just hope we all stick together to see it through.


Upcoming events: We’re busy in the regions in the coming weeks. This Friday, SCMAP Visayas will hold a General Membership Meeting at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino, with a line-up led by TESDA regional director Atty. Andrew Bido. And, on November 15, we will be mounting our third Supply Chain Perspective at the Apo View Hotel in Davao. More information is available online at


Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications executive of SCMAP. A former board director, he is also editor-in-chief of the organization’s official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at



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