Filipino Presence on the Internet
by Annalyn Jusay
Manila Bulletin, November 8, 1997
Powerful, revolutionary, comprehensive, mind-boggling - these are just some of the words used to describe the Internet and undeniably,"westernized" qualifies as one of these objectives.
Considering that the Internet was first used in 1969 to facilitate the sharing of data among American scientists, researchers and institutions, plus the rapid information technology advancements in United States and Europe; it is not surprising that present Internet content is predominantly influenced by the West.
But with millions of Asian households, businesses and computer hobbyists hooking on to the Net over the past three years, there has been a growing need for web sites that cater to Asian tastes.
Locally, one company at the forefront of providing Filipino content over the Internet is Web Philippines, Inc., a (1) year-old company which is targeting to open web sites that will benefit local commerce and Filipinos everywhere and European companies which are, for example, selling flowers, computers, sunglasses, beauty accessories, and a wide range of other products over the Internet. Ten years ago, booking for hotel rooms, flight inquiries and restaurant reservations over the Net were unheard of. "Now, it is fast becoming the standard rather than the exception," said Ramon Canumay, Web Philippines president.
Among the sites that have already been opened by Web Philippines, Inc. are kasal.com (http://www.kasal.com), a wedding information web site which offers a complete list of local churches, gown designers, flower shops and restaurants to facilitate the wedding arrangements of altar-bound couples, and phisix.com (http://www.phisix.com), which contains information about listed issues, members and upcoming initial public offerings at the Philippine Stock Exchange.
"By the end of the year, we will also be going full blast with tindahan.com (http://www.tindahan.com) where surfers can buy locally-made products through an electronic payment system that was developed in coordination with top Filipino banks," Canumay revealed.
According to Canumay, the most challenging task in putting up commerce-related sites is soliciting the cooperation of commercial establishments and the financial institutions since Internet commerce is relatively new in the Philippines.
"What they (companies and banks) need to understand is that making their products and services available over the Internet will open up new markets and will draw in new clients. Instead of numerous phone calls or manually searching the phone directory, their prospective client can find out about their products and services with just a click of a mouse, " explained Canumay.
Undoubtedly, the Internet has already evolved into a marketing and selling tool because of the wide range and depth of information that can be stored in just a single site. A company that manages to attract its target market into going to its web site can, with a few megabytes of disk space, extensively explain the benefits and advantages of a particular product or service.
Education and Employment Opportunities in Cyberspace
From age five up to 60, most, if not all individuals are either studying or working, Because of this, Web Philippines, in its mission to provide relevant Internet information for Filipinos, has produced such services.
"We figured that throughout the live of an average person, he is either studying, working, looking for a school to study in, or finding a job. The most prestigious universities in the US are all showing-off the over the Internet the quality of education that they can provide and there are already several reputable sites that posts job openings in Asia, the US, and Europe," Canumay noted.
"When we opened our two sites, trabaho.com and iskolar.com, our vision was to provide a comprehensive listing of jobs and educational grants that are available locally. It's very exciting to work or study abroad but the chances of landing an international job or scholarship is rather slim for most people. Our sites present them with the same job and academic opportunities that are right here in our very own country," he added.
Trabaho.com (http://www.trabaho.com), which was activated in August of last year, currently posts job openings in top local and multinational companies while iskolar.com (http://www.iskolar.com) lists scholarship grants and educational assistance packages available to Filipino undergraduate, post graduate and vocational students.
Digital Entertainment and Humor
"Another market we saw for Filipino content web sites are the overseas Filipino communities be they contract workers or our kababayans who have just decided to migrate and stablish themselves elsewhere in other countries, " he stressed.
Komiks.com (http://www.komiks.com), which was conceptualized and built by Web Philippines in consultation with top Filipino cartoonists and the Samahan ng Kartonista ng Pilipinas, contains an archive of classic comic strips drawn by professional cartoonists and the works of budding cartoonists who are polishing their talents with their respective school organs.
The site maintains a list of the personal profiles, past achievements and awards received by some 40 professional cartoonists and editorial illustrators such as Larry Alcala of "Slice of Life" fame, Manila Bulletin's Norman Isaac, Philippine Daily Inquirer's Jesus Abrera, and Manila Chronicle's Jose Notel Abendano. Amateur strips from the University of Santo Tomas's Varsitarian and The LaSallian Spoofs from De La Salle University can also be found in komiks.com.
"For any product or service to move in the market, the key is exposure. Komiks.com is like an 'electronic gallery ' that give exposure to both professional and amateur cartoonists. Filipino cartoonists are so talented that they are hired all over the world and that's why we have the guts to put up a site that will show to the world how witty, refined and optimistic Filipino humor really is," Canumay said.
Web Philippines fervently hopes that added exposure will make cartooning a more rewarding profession in terms of international exposure, recognition and financial gains, while bringing a taste of homegrown humor to overseas Filipino communities.
A Digital Win-Win Situation
While the mad rush among companies, institutions and individuals to be part of the World Wide Web makes the Internet more powerful, it also makes searching for specific information more difficult.
"Of course most surfers are already familiar with search engines such as Yahoo! and Alta Vista. We have also come up with our own search engine, sentro.com. As the name implies, we want it to serve as the center or the hub from where users can access Filpino content web sites," Canumay said.
Sentro.com (http://www.sentro.com) is constantly updated with new Philippine-related web sites which are arranged according to key categories such as Business, Arts & Entertainment, Education, Government & Laws and Others.
"It is not enough knowing that there is a lot of information on the Internet. For the information to become valuable, the researchers, teachers, businessman and students must be able to find it, fast," Canumay commented.
Viewing the concerted effort by Web Philippines to expand and increase Filipino presence on the Internet in a wider scale, it becomes clear that the local information technology (IT) industry may possibly reap numerous benefits.
With more people made aware of the massive potential of the Internet, more individuals and companies may be enticed to purchase computers and sign up with internet service providers thereby boosting the local IT industry.
"Web Philippines employs the battle cry, "Internet para sa Pilipino, Pilipino para sa Mundo." What we are essentially trying to do is to present a win-win situation among everyone we deal with. Those surfing the Net can now find more easily the local content that they are looking for, while companies and professionals win through added exposure of their products and services," emphasized Canumay.
"And when our services become beneficial in the day to day business transactions and leisure time of these companies and individuals, then Web Philippines also wins." Canumay concluded.