My plane landed at 5pm on Monday, which left me just 2 hours to claim my bag, clear customs and immigration, take the train into Central, get a cab to my hotel, check in, iron my wrinkled and frumpy suit, get dressed, and find a taxi to the banquet at the Marriott. It turns out 2 hours was just about right, and I arrived at my table minutes before the event commenced.
The banquet was quite impressive. I was seated at a table with some bigwigs from major corporations such as Coca-Cola and HSBC. I also sat with ICM's director of Health Education and was glad for the chance to get to know her a bit. There was an auction that included seven very elaborate vacation packages, one for each continent on the planet.
The highest bid was for a trip (first class) to Vegas to meet Manny Pacquiao, sit in on his sparring match the day before the fight, stay in the same hotel as him and visit his room for an autograph, and then sit ringside for his upcoming fight at the MGM Grand. Pacquiao is pretty much the #1 boxer in the world right now, and happens to be from a city only a few hours south of Davao. That auction item fetched 160,000 Hong Kong Dollars (more than $20,000 USD).
While it was fun to see rich people fight over fancy trips, the main benefit for me was to get to know ICM a bit better. I must say that I am pretty impressed. In several different regions throughout the Philippines they are doing preschools for children, meaning kids are much better prepared for grade school and far more likely to succeed. They provide health teaching and medical clinics to those living in abject poverty. They help people prepare government documents so they can apply for federal aid. They have livelihood training. They are doing more than I can list here and I am pretty excited to be working with them.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear a brief mention of our clean water project during one of the presentations at the banquet. The next day I met with a couple of their executives, and it is becoming clear that they are very much interested in including the biosand water filter in their programs. I'll tell you more about that as it develops. I'm excited for two reasons. The first is obvious. ICM has a pretty big reach and will help us to get clean water to a lot of people.
The second positive is a financial one. In one evening, ICM raised 7 million Hong Kong Dollars (nearly 1 million USD). They flew me out to Hong Kong just to have a 40 minute meeting with them. These guys are serious about ministry to the poor and they have the money to get some big stuff done. I'm not saying it's all about money, but the reality is that it takes money to do what I do. The filters don't build themselves. By partnering with an organization such as ICM, I can get lots done without having to think as much about the bottom line.
After my meeting on Tuesday I went back to my hotel room and grabbed my camera and tripod, stuffed an extra lens in my pocket, and headed out for an evening of sightseeing. I headed up to the peak for a great view of the city that I shared with a heck of a lot of tourists and other photogs. I then wandered Central for a while and had fun making some images while getting myself completely lost. The next morning I crawled out of bed to shoot some more before heading to the airport by 11am. I wish I had more time to see the city. I really only got to see one district, and I know there is so much to see across the harbor and on some of the other islands but I didn't want to risk missing my flight.
I'll post a few pics here, and a bunch more on Facebook (click here). I'm not thrilled with them. They don't make me feel anything, and that makes me feel sucky. But whatever. At least I had fun making them.