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Insight: A glimpse into the lives of Filipino marketing and advertising leaders making a splash in Southeast Asia’s best kept secret – Jakarta

words by Patrick Miciano | photos by Taffy Ledesma

JAKARTA, INDONESIA– Much has been said about Filipino white-collar professionals around the world. Wherever it is that they are stationed, kind words of admiration such as intelligent, resourceful, visionary and hardworking always seem to stick to their reputation – not just as individuals, but as a collective workforce.

The same can be said about Filipino professionals based in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital and financial stronghold. Over the past four decades, Filipinos working in finance, consultancy, energy, academia, and even advertising and marketing, have left a lasting imprint on one of the region’s strongest economies.

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But what is it exactly that separates Filipino expats in the Big Durian – especially those working advertising and marketing – from other Filipino expats based in other markets?

Simply put, it’s the icing on the cakethe cherry on the sundae… or more precisely, the peanut sauce on the satay.

Advertising and marketing professionals in Jakarta hold top leadership positions, making them more than just middle-management bees, but queens (and kings) of their respective hives, making critical decisions that will write the future of their respective companies.

adobo magazine spent some time with some of Jakarta’s trailblazing Filipino advertising and marketing personalities to ask them these questions, and at the same time, take a closer look at their homes that they’ve creatively converted into functional working spaces.

“Full-Time Mom” Redefined

Sarinah Edralin, Vice President – Category Marketing Manager at Nestlé Indonesia holds Jakarta with a sense of familiarity.

“Jakarta is very metropolitan. As a city girl I love it,” Sarinah confesses.

“I feel like Jakarta has developed so much… there’s so much progress going on. Not just in terms of infrastructure but also in terms of culture. Indonesians are now less conservative and more progressive,” she added.

 

Upon entering Sarinah’s 3-bedroom apartment, the first thing you’ll notice is the happy and energetic presence of her son Noah. His infectious smile, raw energy, and welcoming vibe are telltale signs that Sarinah is slaying motherhood. But for Sarinah, the mommy role also extends to her career.

As an industry leader in the infant milk category, her ultimate goal is to nourish her most important stakeholder – Indonesian children. Moreover, Sarinah’s nurturing leadership style is the right kind of leadership that her diverse and talented team needs.

Aside from her full-on mommy approach, it also helps that Sarinah is half-Indonesian. Unlike most expats in Jakarta, her adjustment to a completely new working culture was extremely quick and painless.

Embracing Life is a Full-Time Job

In Kartika Guerrero‘s 10 years in Jakarta, she has the deep understanding of the country, culture and people. Living an independent life in Indonesia gives you the freedom to explore this amazing country – from the notorious party scene of Jakarta to diving with the Manta Rays to trekking mountains and hidden waterfalls or just chilling with the locals and learning their language and humor.

Her 10 years allowed her to witness the evolution of the digital scene in the country. And as the head of Unilever Indonesia’s Digital Hub and U-Studio, Kartika handles a team of digital specialists leading the next stage of digital revolution – Digital Data Transformation and CRM and finds excitement in how they are trailblazing into the future.

She leads with a Filipino touch – Nurturing, Mentoring, Compassion and Fun which has led to the success of the team. As they say, it is more fun with the Filipinos.

A Pillar of Jakarta’s Digital Revolution

Crisela Magpayo-Cervantes‘ Jakarta journey started eight years ago, right before Indonesia’s tech boom exploded to what it is today.

 

What started off as a “let’s-see-how-it-goes” engagement has fully bloomed into a success story that places her at the center of Jakarta’s fast-paced digital ecosystem.

Now a Partner at Digital Mindshare Indonesia, Crisela shares the most rewarding thing about being an expat in Jakarta:

“I’ve been part of almost every stage of Indonesia’s digital evolution and that has been very fulfilling.”

“Our light touch as Filipinos is a very good trait that makes us thrive in Indonesia. A country where harmony in the workplace is taken very seriously.

For most leaders, the journey would have been daunting and exhausting. But for Crisela, it has been nothing short of rewarding. Armed with a strategic mindset, and her almost obsessive need to optimize her tasks and goals, she can confidently claim that she has eased her way into Jakarta’s cutting-edge digital world. The fruits of her success can be seen through the smiles of her biggest cheerleaders – her husband Miguel, and her daughter Selina.

There’s a New Kid in Town

Student protests, riots, a pinch of hysteria, and a dash of anarchy – These were the events that welcomed Rina Simon when she moved to Jakarta in September of 2019.

A week or so into settling in, Jakarta’s business districts were hit with hard by protesters seeking for legislative change. For a brief moment, Rina felt like hitting the “undo” button.

 

But luckily for her, the real face of the city decided to introduce itself under more pleasant circumstances. Rina has since then become the Content Lead at GroupM Indonesia.

“I like how every nook and cranny reveals something new for me [at Jakarta]. Since I’m fairly new, everything about this country feels like an adventure,” she added

“I have fallen in love with Jakarta. It feels like home now.

She shares, “Compared to Manila I need to work five times… eight times more to build relationships. As the foreigner or outsider, I need to work harder for my nurturing side to get across.”

Fast forward to today – even with the pandemic still in full swing – Rina is still finding pleasant surprises in every corner of the city. She loves the fact that Jakarta feels so familiar, yet so different at the same time.

“Jakarta feels same same but different. The people here at the same [as Filipinos] in terms of values… but somehow they are also very different.”

Simply put, the overall creativity and charm of Jakarta has made it easier for her to adapt and settle in, especially in the highly competitive world of content planning, management, and creation.

Been There, Done That

Manila –> Jakarta –> Manila –> London –> Jakarta –> Manila –> Jakarta.

Since 2012, Taffy Ledesma, Managing Director at DDB Indonesia has been on the move, in a conscious attempt to maximize his full potential not just as a marketing professional, but as a “student of life,” marketing director, trailing spouse, father, loving son, life coach, photographer, medical researcher, chef, make-believe New York Knicks general manager – these are just some of the roles that he has gladly embarked on over the years.

 

Each one giving him a fresh take in life, both from a personal and professional standpoint.

“I’ve always been a fan of Jakarta,” Taffy admitted. “Adoption of technology has always been fast here. Too see how fast how Indonesia has come in terms of conveniences and technology is very impressive.”

In 2019, Taffy dived into the world of advertising, giving him a new set of challenges to face, and new blank canvas to play with and learn from.

Challenging might be an understatement, granted that he has never worked in advertising in the past. But he’s extremely confident that everything will be pan out just right. After all, his two WHYs in life – his wife Christine, and his son Isaac – will always be there to put everything into perspective.

A Fresh Take on Creativity

OLIVER Agency Indonesia’s Executive Creative Director Patrick Miciano is no stranger to Jakarta. Having lived in the city during the formative years of his childhood, Patrick’s fondness for the sights, sounds, and most especially the flavors, can be expressed in volumes.

“The country has a very rich creative culture,” shared Patrick, “and there are so many nuggets of inspiration to play with. Making Indonesian creatives realize this fact— that there are so many idea starters within their borders – is the best part of my 9 to 5.”

 

When he returned in 2019, this time to embark on a new creative leadership journey, he quickly realized that Jakarta’s creative scene is a bottomless pit. With every brief that he worked on, a fresh new experience or insight would present itself, revealing more about Indonesia’s potential.

Every day is a rich cultural exchange for Patrick. In exchange for every new “Jakarta Experience” that his team introduces him to, he pays them back with a little something from Manila.

To date, he has shared the wonders of Good Shepherd Ube Jam, San Miguel Pale Pilsen, and Delimondo Corned Beef to his teammates and clients. His free time is mostly spent with his perpetual food hunting buddies – his wife Kate, and his son Xander.

 

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