As the van slowly pulled into Potter’s, we were immediately welcomed by Ate Ming and Ding’s delicious food and Yumi’s affectionate smile. Though we were sad to bid goodbye to the new friends that we had made during our weeklong deployment at the various resort operations, four weeks spent in El Nido had made Potter’s a home away from home, and we were more than happy to be back.
After rising bright and early to the symphony of animals, insects and school children’s joyous laughter, we reported back to the Central Office Monday morning. With the same sturdy wooden table, fixed green fan, and muted white walls, the Central Office looked just like how it had been since we first arrived – even the gecko appeared to stay in its usual place, towering over everyone with its watchful eyes. However, as we reconvened in this familiar space, we were now entering a new and unfamiliar stage of the program. In the past four weeks, Ms. Marigs and Ms. Han had arranged all our work day logistics. Under their guidance, we took our time baselining, sensing, feeling and absorbing all things that were new to us. Moving into the fifth week of the program, we were at the midway point where it was time to take off our training wheels and get into the action. We were now given the unfamiliar freedom and responsibility of determining our own work schedule and assignments.
This newfound freedom jolted a new force of energy into the team. Everyone was eager to delve right into work. How should we tackle an assignment as broad and as vague as designing a communication platform for our partners and stakeholders in El Nido? With high spirits, an intense brainstorming session ensued. Annie C., our resident minute taker, swiftly typed on her laptop keyboard, diligently capturing every idea spoken out loud by all the clearly excited and somewhat caffeinated fellows. Sam, who despite not drinking coffee naturally radiates rays of energy out of his light amber eyes, stood next to the white board as our scribe, adding a much-needed structure to direct all the words that bounced from wall to wall. The discussions generated great points but stirred tensions that pushed us to seek guidance in synergizing with each other’s work style.
As the sun slowly dipped into the seas of the west, we wrapped up our first day of fruitful independent work. We woke up the next morning with the same excitement but also nervousness to navigate yet another day of self-regulated work. Annie B., whom I have come to see as my fairy godmother, sensed the previous day’s tension and channeled our emotions into “warm fuzzies” by starting the morning with a reflective team-building exercise. With the suggestion of multiple team members, we also learned to use an agenda to guide our work day. The day flew by even faster than the day before.
Diving deeper into our work, it had come time for all of us to decide on what our final output would be, something that we hope will take a life of its own even after our departure. We were fortunate enough to have Kamar’s nexus of computer science knowledge and came to decide on designing a website as the backbone of our communication platform.
At the same time, after four weeks of forming, storming, and norming, we also came to realize that each member of our team possesses a wide variety of talents. To learn from each other and synthetize all our skills and knowledge, each of us fellows will host a workshop. As a Marketing major, I had the honor to facilitate a Marketing 101 Workshop. Standing in front of the group of much older and very qualified teammates to present my own knowledge in marketing and consumer behavior was daunting. Nevertheless, despite my doubts over my own competency, all my teammates were supportive and engaging. Next to be featured was Annie C, presenting a beautifully crafted and very detailed slide deck on Branding and Styling. As a true master on the subject, Annie delivered a workshop that stood as a branding master piece. Job, our wonderful in-house photographer and dog whisperer who never fails to capture the surreal natural beauty of El Nido, will soon teach us about the essentials of phone photography. Our beloved Giorgi will be next to enlighten us about the business behind sustainable tourism. One by one, we are learning more about each other as the day goes by. Youthful Nikki will present on Consumer Psychology, Kamar will show the tools of satellite mapping, Annie B. and Ty will reveal the corruptive pitfalls that sometimes mar conservationism, and Sam will teach us how to be a more effective interviewer and communicator.
After all, coming back to Potter’s felt like a homecoming because it meant reuniting with each other, all the fellows whom I have come to see as brothers and sisters, kuyas and ates. I am thankful that I have gotten to know and still have more time to get to know this family, the members of which truly make El Nido a home in my heart.