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So it’s thank you and see you again Duty Free Philippines. Farewell Manila.
It’s been a tremendous few days here with Chief Operating Officer Lorenzo ‘Enchong’ Formoso, a man whose handprint (now literally, see image below) is all over the success of this company. I’ve enjoyed working with his amazingly dedicated ‘Coffee Table Book Committee’ on our forthcoming publication ‘Aquino to Aquino – Duty Free Philippines @ 25’.
Yesterday I spent the day conducting interviews with some of the ‘pioneers’ who have been with the company since its birth in the heady, post-revolution days of 1987.
Pictured below are Ernie and Obet, both pioneers, who met at the company, married while at the company and who have raised three children while never taking a day off sick between them in all those years.
“What we have become is all because of Duty Free [Philippines],” Obet told me, her eyes moistening. “Duty Free is my life… I made my career here; I started my family here… and all my children have witnessed my life here.”
“Working with Duty Free was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Ernie added. “I’m a Duty Free man all the way.”
There are several similar stories in the book. There’s an incredible sense of family among the team members and an arguably unique passion about the whole concept of ‘Duty Free’ that traces its roots to what duty free shopping means to Filipinos all around the world when they return periodically from often desperately lonely stints abroad as ‘Overseas Foreign Workers’ and procure gifts for their loved ones.
“For us it’s not just about profit,” says Enchong Formoso. “We’re proud to make people happy.”
It’s been a privilege to be part of the Duty Free Philippines family this week. I’m returning to Manila on 8 May for the high-profile launch of the book. It promises to be a special and emotional moment in the history of a company that was born out of profound political and social change and which has ridden out many testing periods during the intervening quarter of a century. This year’s celebrations have been well-earned.