The Fongs Settle into their Land of Opportunity

December 24, 2002, Manila, Philippines - The Fong's recent move to the Philippines has so far been very fruitful, although it's not quite the experience that the early Chinese settlers had. The Fongs immediately checked into a two-bedroom apartment and bought a 12-passenger minivan. Compared to their former life, however, the Fongs have significantly scaled back on their lifestyle. "There's not as much to spend your money on over here. Everything is so inexpensive anyway," says Marielle Fong.

Ted and Marielle came here to open their own business. The Fongs saw hidden value in the Filipino workforce and started a company called Boma Corporation (www.bomacorp.com). They set out to provide "outsourced marketing and production services" to none other than the kinds of companies they used to work for in the U.S. They cite the low cost of doing business and the vast pools of creative talent in the Philippines as their main competitive advantages. "We can save U.S. companies thirty to fifty percent on their marketing costs, compared to what tradition U.S. agencies charge," says Ted Fong, Boma's self-appointed general manager.

At the present time, they have two customers, one of them is Russell's company, Nahava. Boma is creating their corporate identity, building their web site and producing some marketing materials. "Russell has been a good customer, a test case if you will," says Marielle. "He's helping us get the kinks out of our system." Nahava will launch its new web site in January.

The other company is BoardVantage, a technology startup in Berkeley. Come January 2003, Boma is going to launch a marketing campaign to sign up new customers. They're also planning to raise money, so they can invest in their production system. Right now Boma has five employees, including Ted and Marielle. The founders work up to twelve hours a day. In the Philippines, Saturday is also a work day.

On the home front, life has become routine. Nina and Maxwell are fully engaged in different schools. They have their own friends and their own schedule. Mario stays home with Josie, the nanny, and waits eagerly for his siblings to return from school. When they get home, pandamonium breaks out. All three have a bad habit of shouting at each other during normal conversation. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad are in the office seven floors below working to make ends meet.

Mario, who just turned two, has gotten big and brawny. He's built tough, and he turned out to be a chatterbox, just like his brother and sister.

On the weekends, the Fongs visit Lolo and Lola's house, a forty five minute drive south. The kids always look forward to playing with the chickens, doing arts and crafts and learning how to cook. They also go there to get their dose of TV, namely the Cartoon Network which they don't get at home.

Last month, the Fongs went to Hong Kong and hooked with with Jamie's famiily. The kids couldn't be more excited to see each other. Maxwell's pal Jamie had grown so tall. The two stared at each other for a few minutes to check out all the changes. Nina reconnected with her girl cousin Valerie and held her hand every minute of the day. Gong Gong, Po Po and Judy were also there. The Fongs did a lot of shopping and walking and eating together. They also spent a day at Ocean Park, an amusement park built on a mountain that has a sweeping view of Discovery Bay.

The Fongs won't be home for the holidays, but Marielle and the kids will be back in March for "summer vacation." Ted will be back in May for Ye Ye's party. So, now when are they planning to return for good. "It all depends on our business," says Marielle. "If it takes off, we might be here for a few more years. In the meantime, we welcome all visitors. We'll show you a great time."

Oh, and another bit of news. Marielle is expecting again.