Abroad by Dr. Robert Gerwig

My days in Southeast Asia are numbered not quite in single digits, but close. As I wrap up my assignment in Cebu, Philippines, I’m reminded of many things. Things about the people, the culture, and the work environment. Things about the overall experience. Things I will take with me forever. These “things” will make a me a better person, a better husband, a better father and a better leader. In sum, I will serve others better because of my days spent in the Philippines.

Today, I took the picture of the flower above by the pool. It is symbolic (to me) of my time here in Cebu. It is exotic beauty. Raw. Natural Powerful. It represents opportunity and energy. It is colorful and unique. Yes, there are other pictures that could remind of my time abroad, but this was easy to capture and share. And I love flowers.

This week’s brief article is a reflective bit. A piece about a few of the major learnings (or takeaways) from my time here. As leaders, you know it is beneficial to take stock now and again, to learn from life’s experiences, to apply these lessons, to grow and become a better leader, a better person.

The first major takeaway away I have is the work ethic of the Filipinos. I have never worked so hard in my life or seen others do likewise. At times, it felt like all we did was work. Early, late, on weekends, on holidays. If there was something important to accomplish, it was done, without complaint. I have been positively stunned at how dedicated people are here in Cebu to the task and to the customer. My hats off to them. It challenged me and it changed me.

The second major takeaway I have is the easy-going nature of folks here. They are friendly, helpful and enjoy socializing. I remember one of the mottos from my days at Intel, “work hard, play hard.” That seems like a good motto for people in Cebu as well. Everywhere I went, people worked hard and then played hard. I picked up on this as well. On the weekends when I wasn’t at work or in church, I was with friends, usually diving. We worked like crazy and, when there was time, we enjoyed ourselves. Nearly every occasion here is cause for celebration. Again, I am amazed and stand in awe of the ‘joy of life” people here display. Just today I was talking with a foreign GM about this unique attribute of Filipinos.

The third major takeaway I have is creativity and ability to adapt displayed on a daily basis. It only takes a short drive around the city or province of Cebu to see this innovative ability on display. From the unique vehicles, such as the jeepney, to all manner of transporting goods on a small motorbike, the ingenuity of the Filipinos is ready apparent. I sometimes say, ‘they can take anything and make anything from it.’ This is, of course, a bit of an exaggeration, but it makes the point. Items that are discarded by one are used by another. It’s quite inspirational to see all the different ways in which ordinary items can be used.

The last key takeaway I’ll share is the love of family. It is impressive to see family gatherings. Family members hang out together, play together, work together and worship together. No doubt there are family disagreements from time to time, but the families here really stick together and help each other out when needed. They have a bond, a commitment, to each other that is honored.

In sum, my short time here in Cebu has changed me. I work harder, laugh louder, and appreciate my family more. I don’t know if I’m any more innovative, but maybe that will come with time.

What stories do you have? Have you lived abroad or in another culture? What did you bring back with you? What did you apply?


Photo by Pickled_Newt, City of Motorcycles, 3 June 2009. Available at www.Flickr.com

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

2 thoughts on “Abroad

  1. This post reminds me of my own story. In 1976 I surrendered to the ministry to serve Jesus Christ, Ordained, (Set aside) and mentored by Dr. Dean Dickens. For about two years after that step, was the most wonderful years of my life. I can still remember the love and attention that the Filipino People gave to the word of God as we ministered. Indeed it was a heartbreaker to get on that plane back to the USA. Awe the negative part of a military career, the saying good by, but the worse part is that God never allowed me to be part of full time ministry. I look back and with questions of why not, Now at 69 years of age, the CEO of Love Worth Finding Ministries, saw it best. He opened his bible and read somewhere, then looked at me and said with clarity, God has been preparing you for what you are now doing. Do it as God leads. And so it seems that what God Started in the Philippines 37 years ago, is now understood as the foundation of a wonderful at the end of life ministry. As you my fellow servant leave the PI and go to wherever you taken, I suggest you hold fast to what God has started in you, listen to the holy spirit and don’t be overwhelmed with personal goals. We never know what God has in store for us. We judge ourselves sometimes according to secular rules, and my point is that God demands us to follow Him. God Bless you my friend as you will face many more challenges.

    • Thank you for sharing your story and for your encouragement. I certainly pray that I will be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life.


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