3 Perks Your Virtual Staff Will Go Crazy For!

by Chris C. Ducker · 41 comments

Filipino Virtual Assistant

As most readers of my blog know, I have been involved in the outsourcing industry for over 10-years.

The ‘game’ has changed a lot over that time. And when it comes to working with virtual assistants, particularly home-based virtual assistants, the game has changed more than in any other area in the entire industry, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s not about working with an offshore VA anymore.

It’s about leveraging the power of the global economy and what that means to small business owners in western countries, such as the USA, Australia and the UK (the three countries that I hear from and cater to the most). We’ve come a long, long way since to publication of the 4-Hour Work Week, people.

It’s time to look at this a little more seriously.

No More ‘Cheap Labor’ Attitude

The biggest change I’ve seen, and its been more evident over the last couple of years, is the perception of the virtual bosses that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. It used to, and still does, madden me whenever I hear ‘Hire a Filipino for $2 an hour’.  Thankfully things have changed (and continue to!), like I said, people no longer think of working with Filipino VA’s as a cheap option to finding ‘help’.

If they do have that attitude, I change their minds pretty quickly!

Sure they understand and appreciate that working with Filipino home-based VA’s is more cost effective than hiring locally 9/10 times, however, the mindset has shifted from ‘cheap labor’ to simply having ‘overseas employees’ – and that excites me more than words can express, I tell you.

I have one client who has now hired six VA’s through Virtual Staff Finder (Disclaimer: VSF is my match-making company), set them all up with their own computers, their own small ‘office’, at one of their homes (purchasing equipment, etc.) and now considers them very much part of his companies team – an overseas support arm, so to speak.

That stuff just gets my juices flowing!

Compensation – It’s Not All About the Salary!

Another thing thats changed quite a bit is the compensation that home-based VA’s are now getting here in the Philippines. Think about it logically, with demand comes supply – and the VA’s are not silly. They know that if they have the skills to help business owners (no matter where they are based in the word) help run, support and grow their businesses, they should get paid fairly for them.

The playing field is still very much ‘level’ in the grand scheme of things, of course. However, a VA that would have been a $350 monthly investment 3-years ago, is now earning $500 for a full-time role, per month (this is a salary example of a General VA with around 1-year working experience – check out my guide to paying home-based Filipino VA’s for more salary guidelines).

Everyone enjoys getting perks, right? If someone does a job well, if they perform above and beyond the expectations of their employer, they should be rewarded. Likewise, in an increasingly competitive market, if you want your virtual employee to stick with you, to be loyal to you, then you need to ‘look after them’ properly – above and beyond their monthly salary.

With this is mind, and based on experience in working with and training hundreds of VA’s – as well as hearing from virtual bosses and some of the benefits they give their VA’s, I’d like to present to you three great perks that your VA will go crazy over (in a good way!).

Perk #1 – Paid Holidays

Just because you pay your VA a flat rate every month (and no local taxes and benefits) doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t a) give them holiday time, and b) not pay them for it. The standard that I give my personal VA’s 5-days paid holiday in their first year (normal Philippine employer behavior) – after that you can decide what to do on a year to year basis. That means they can genuinely take the time off (usually when I am traveling so not to effect the flow of business anymore than needed) without worrying about the lack of income.

Because of your virtual set-up in working together, and the fact that your VA isn’t employed by a Philippine company, you are not ‘forced’ to pay the compulsory ’13th Month’ benefit, either. This is a yearly bonus that is paid in the middle of December to all Philippine employees, and is pro-rated back throughout the year. However, if you want to be a nice boss, and put a huge smile on your VA’s face just before the biggest holiday of the year, pay it. I always do and my VA’s are always super appreciative of that fact.

Perk #2 – Health Insurance

Remember, your home-based VA is working directly and exclusively for you. They are not being employed by a Filipino company, and that means they’re not getting their usual Philippine government mandated contributions and benefits, such as Social Security (known locally as SSS), Pag-Ibig (a local fund that allows Filipinos to get housing loans, etc.) and PhilHealth (local heath care payout in case they get sick / become hospitalized).

On the subject of health insurance, this is something that not many self-employed (like your VA!) Filipinos think of. And its a great shame. The great thing about your VA having private health insurance is that they can also include their dependents - such as children and parents (at an additional cost, obviously). You’ll find that most home-based workers in the Philippines will be the bread winner for the family. So, if they can get health insurance sorted out for their immediate family, along with being the main source of income in the household then they are even more of a superstar!

You can get your VA to arrange private health insurance (which goes well above and beyond the PhilHealth benefits) through a number of different Philippines-based health care providers (Maxicare & Intellicare) that have experience, and that are very dependable as a source of health insurance. It will cost you around $300-$400 a year to get your VA that piece of mind for the whole family, and you’ll be forever in their prayers.

All my employees have private health insurance set-up, and are very thankful for it.

Perk #3 – Incentives and other Bonuses

Along with holidays and health insurance (something that is very much the ‘norm’ in the western world), incentives and other types of bonuses are obviously always welcome.

Monetary bonuses are usually the first thing that pop into mind, understandably. I know that a lot of our clients offer bonuses for their VA’s for a number of reasons such as getting a product launched on time, or finalizing a design project. These are good ideas, however, personally I don’t like to overdo the cash bonus idea – plus, if you do it too often and your VA doesn’t get it at the end of one particular project, they will be a little upset.

I like to get as creative as possible with my bonuses and employee gifts.

In the past I’ve arranged things such as:

  • iTunes vouchers
  • Flowers and chocolates on birthdays.
  • Overnight stays on wedding anniversaries.
  • Baby clothes for a newborn.
  • Restaurant gift certificates.
  • Books arriving out of the blue from Amazon.

The idea is to motivate and reward your virtual employee so they work harder, become more productive and ultimately bring you the ROI that any employer wants – lets be honest – NEEDS to see, in their employees.

Get Creative and Build Culture

The perks mentioned in this article are not ‘requirements’. They are what they are – perks. Bonuses. Incentives. But, they are also highly appreciated and will, as the title of this post suggests, make your VA’s go crazy.

When I read ‘Delivering Happiness‘ by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh it got me thinking about company culture. It changed the way I look at working with and caring for my employees so much that we ended up creating a whole new set of ideas and values. It also urged me to start a dedicated company culture website for all my employees, too. They love it.

Just because your virtual employees are that – virtual – doesn’t mean that you can’t create culture in working with them. I know of a few of our Virtual Staff Finder clients that use the private social media network, Yammer (its 100% free), to keep in touch with them in a way that really resonates with them – Facebook style. If you haven’t checked out Yammer, do so – your VA’s will love it, and its a great way to communicate with them and break down a few barriers brought about by the distance between you.

Keep an open mind, be a cool boss and try introducing a few perks to your virtual team – I guarantee they’ll thank you for it. And then, you’ll thank me!

Have you offered your VA’s incentives and perks before? How did it go? If not, why not? Are you a VA reading this and thinking ‘Wow, I’d love that!’, then let us know why! I’d love to hear what you all have to say on this subject below.

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Turner April 13, 2012 at 19:16

Hi Chris
I haven’t spoken to you since we met in London last year! – If anyone cares – 2 of the VA’s I currently employ were sourced from Chris & VSF in 2010 – still working very well today

Great article and good hints and tips. I do and have paid the 13th month salary, though hadn’t thought about the health insurance part – I actually hadn’t considered the implications.

Interesting idea on the part of the bonuses – I have paid cash normally – though I like the idea of things that make people smile a bit more, celebrating a birth with relevant gifts – do you have any recommendations of good online stores to find real world gifts from ?

Either way, good idea for an article, is good to have these more personal insights and what has worked for others, thank you

Take care, regards, Mark

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Chris C. Ducker April 13, 2012 at 23:04

Hi Mark

Yes, I remember – the VBL Meet-Up in London. Great evening.

So happy to hear that:

a) you found two VA’s through the Virtual Staff Finder service, and
b) They are both still with you and working out so well.

That’s what its all about.

I’ve asked Paul, who commented after you for the resources he uses locally. As I’m here, its a lot easier. Maybe there’s a business in there somehow…..?!?!!!

Chat soon, buddy – don’t be such a stranger.

C

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Camille May 5, 2012 at 03:05

Hi Mark!

We met in Kolkata last September, just wanted you to know I took your suggestion and hired a VA through Chris’ company and it’s working out wonderfully.

Chris, can you provide any companies that handle private health insurance and are reputable in Manila? I am in healthcare and very much want my VA & future VAs to have access to the coverage I provide my stateside staff. Thanks for this post, it was really timely.

camille

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Chris C. Ducker May 7, 2012 at 06:44

Hi Camille

I’ve now got information on a few companies that I will add to the bottom of this post in the next week or so. I’m just having the info put into a digestible format and then it’ll be live.

Thanks for the interest and for using VSF to find the person you needed.

C

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Paul Donovan April 13, 2012 at 22:31

With a bit of digging I’ve discovered online sellers in the Philippines for flowers chocolates candles toys etc. make sure the precise physical address and the domestic courier system delivers.
I’m gonna be searching for private health for my gang (VS’s) when i get there in June for our annual staff retreat — in Cagayan de Oro this year — and make sure they get SSS Phil Health etc. They can get it privately if they r freelancer VA’s.
The other thing is the surprise in the pay envelope, an extra 1,000 pesos it like giving a Canadian $100 (in spending power).
And lastly, thank you — the actual words in a Skype call do wonders for the little things.
Thx as always Chris for motivating discussion.

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Chris C. Ducker April 13, 2012 at 23:02

Hey Paul

Thanks for the comment – any chance you can post details of those resources you’ve found locally. I’m lucky to have staff here that do it all for me (finding and buying the gifts, etc., and then sending them via local courier LBC).

Congrats on the upcoming get-together.

If you’re in Cebu at all, let me know a couple of weeks before hand, and lets see if we can grab coffee!

Glad you enjoyed the post.

C

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Steve Wyman April 13, 2012 at 23:00

Hi Chris

with the gradual increase in Home VA rates over the years is the time not approaching when a VA through a company such as yours starts to be come as cost effective?

I can also see a Niche for you in maybe offering a VA team through VA staff finder. Thats has all the team mambers required t build sites (not just nihce neccasarily?)

regards

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Chris C. Ducker April 13, 2012 at 23:26

Hi Steve

I actually no longer offer in-house VA services for this very reason. I would rather help Filipino’s get good long-term jobs with overseas employers directly – as we do through Virtual Staff Finder.

As for offering ‘teams’. The thought is already there – obviously, they would be in different locations, but yes, the ability to ‘mass hire’ is actually in the works. More details soon.

Thanks for commenting.

C

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Keller Coleman April 14, 2012 at 05:36

Great information, I will be hiring a VA through your company soon.

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Chris C. Ducker April 15, 2012 at 13:50

That’s great to hear, Keller.

We look forward to working with you.

Thanks for the comment.

C

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Rob April 14, 2012 at 06:19

Hi Chris,

Great information as always. We have actualy gone ‘really radical’ with our VAs in the Philippines. As they all worked in the same city. We rented and equipped an office, moved all our VAs in their, and registered a local company, which they manage and own! Win win. It’s working great and they enjoy working as a self managed team, in their brand new office. They really are just the P.I. based branch of our business. The team leader has already visited head office here in Australia, and the others will too at some stage.

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Chris C. Ducker April 15, 2012 at 13:48

Great stuff, Rob.

That’s empowerment in action. Nice thinking – and I’m sure they work harder for you to Make sure they KEEP that set up, than before it was in place, right..!?

Love the story.

C

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Lenore April 14, 2012 at 08:24

Hi Chris,

Great article, I really appreciate all your tips around being a cool boss. I have had my VA for about 6-8 weeks now and it has really helped me build a good working relationship with him.

One of the things I did when he first came on board was send him a card welcoming him to my team, he was so excited when he got it and just kept thanking me, such a small thing really. I have recently sent him a book in the post, which he is yet to receive.

I’d be very interested in a list of local companies that can deliver gifts in the Philippines and also more info in the future about private health insurance, it’s such a great idea.

Thanks to you and your team Chris for making not only hiring virtual team members easy but helping us understand what will make us great employers of virtual staff.

Many thanks

Lenore

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Chris C. Ducker April 16, 2012 at 00:12

Hi Lenore

Sending a hand written card is just so 1990′s nowadays, but – its huge. I love it when I get cards and thank you notes in the mail. It’s just ‘different’ now. I’m sure he loved it! :-)

The PI postal service isn’t the best, so I suggest a courier for books and things like that in the future. Hopefully he’ll get the one you sent – eventually…

I’m so happy that you’re enjoying your outsourcing – thats what its all about. I’m even happier about the fact that we’ve (VSF) have played such an important role in helping you get going in the right way.

Thanks for dropping by.

C

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The Beach Bum Entrepreneur April 14, 2012 at 08:28

Hey Chris.
Nice post very insightful. Actually Just about to organize my first VA for my new business. Was looking at your VA services, interested in this. When are you proposing to put this together or have any details on this? Looking forward to working with you again.
cheers

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Chris C. Ducker April 15, 2012 at 13:46

Hi Kyle

Put what together exactly, mate?

For VA’s visit the virtual Staff Finder site. we’ll hook you up with someone solid.

Glad things are going well for you.

C

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Adam Stanecki April 14, 2012 at 08:42

Great ideas again, Chris.

I like to offer paid holidays and ALWAYS pay for my VAs to take the day off on their birthday.

Also, when we hit targets the income is shared as bonuses.

Health insurance is a great idea I never considered. I’ll implement that.

-Adam

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Chris C. Ducker April 15, 2012 at 13:44

Hi Adam

I’m looking into the health side of things a little more. The company we use not works with corporations, but I’m hoping to find someone that will work with individuals. I’m sure there is some company here that will do it.

Happy to see you enjoyed the post.

C

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Sheyi April 14, 2012 at 14:57

If i am the VA and any of these is been given to me, especially travel stuff, my coming back to the work will be great as i will do more to make sure i get more bonus next time.

I agree with you 100%

Sheyi

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Chris C. Ducker April 15, 2012 at 13:43

That’s the whole point, buddy.

Motivation is key.

Glad you enjoyed the post.

C

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Charles Harman April 15, 2012 at 05:01

I’m an American living in the Philippines, you mentioned maybe there is a business somewhere in this. I may be open to buying gifts from the market and distributing them from inside the Philippines, shipment is not too bad for small items like pens, t-shirts as long as it is all done from inside the Philippines. Then again is there enough demand for this sort of thing.

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Chris C. Ducker April 15, 2012 at 13:42

Hi Charles

It will be minimal, that’s for sure.

I was merely thinking out loud. We could perhaps start something as an add-on to VSF, but as a stand alone business – not enough margin involved to make it worthwhile.

Thanks for the input, bud.

C

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Peter April 15, 2012 at 11:30

Great post Chris! I am going to implement that stuff soon!

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Chris C. Ducker April 15, 2012 at 13:40

That’s great, Peter.

Glad I could help out. Any questions, just let me know…

C

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Paul Williams April 15, 2012 at 21:27

Terrific Info as usual. Another thing that I always try and remember is that my VA is basically a day ahead of me (Im in the Eastern Time Zone). I pay him on the 15th of the month, but try to make sure that I have sent money to his Paypal on HIS 15th not MY 15th.

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Chris C. Ducker April 16, 2012 at 00:08

Hi Paul

Excellent feedback on the timezones.

I’ve actually spoken about the pay side of things before, time wise that is. I even suggest paying a few days earlier, so that when the VA withdraws from their Paypal account and it takes a few days to hit their bank account, they are still getting paid very much ‘on time’, so to speak.

Appreciate the input, bud.

C

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Randall Smith April 16, 2012 at 04:53

Hi Chris

Great article mate!

I have found some information on private health care called PhilHealth http://www.philhealth.gov.ph/members/individually_paying/ whilst there is the ability for corporations to pay this would not work for O/s employers however there is the ability for the individual VA to pay. The premiums are calculated on their income which could bring their employment status to the attention of authorities.

Not sure if this is a solution.

Cheers

Randall

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Chris C. Ducker April 16, 2012 at 09:08

Hi Randall

Yes, PhilHealth is the government mandated health care that I mentioned in the post – and yes, all based on the employee’s income.

I am having my VA (smart, aint, I..?!) do some additional calling around today on this VERY subject. Will update the article accordingly with links and additional info hopefully.

Thanks for dropping by, mate.

C

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Dale Mercer April 17, 2012 at 08:08

Awesome artilce Chris. I too would be interested in the links to Private Health Insurance companies in the Philippines. That’s a great idea.
Thanks,
Dale

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Chris C. Ducker April 17, 2012 at 16:21

Hi Dale

Still searching, my man. But, getting closer, I believe.

Stay tuned – and if you haven’t already sign up over at http://www.virtualstafffinder.com – you’ll get another free eBook of mine, and THIS info once I get it, promise.

C

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Sergio Felix April 18, 2012 at 10:21

Dang Chris,

Those VA deals are WAY better than having a regular job here in Mexico.

I speak English/Spanish, hold a degree on Systems Engineering, have a few certifications under my arm and proven records on taking companies to rock stardom on the projects I work with and can you believe that I had to work for under $100 USD biweekly?

My best ‘gig’ was about $2K a month but for the things I did was way underpaid.

Sometimes I still think why the hell did I even go for a university degree.

Cool stuff that you’re such a cool employer. I’m pretty sure your VA’s adore you! ;-)

Sergio

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Chris C. Ducker April 18, 2012 at 20:50

Hey Sergio

I hear you loud and clear.

There are a lot of roles in certain countries that are vastly underpaid – but, that also goes the other way, too! :-)

These perks are just that – perks – employers dont HAVE to offer them / give them away. But, it sure helps to do the odd nice thing every now and then to help keep the productivity levels nice and high!

Thanks for the comment, buddy.

C

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Jan April 19, 2012 at 01:39

Hey Chris, I should’ve worked for you! :) But really, these perks are just ‘oh la la amazing!’ My previous client used to pay me a 13th month bonus and I was very grateful for it. As a VA, we really become loyal to clients who treat us right.
I’m particularly interested in the health insurance you gave your VAs. Is it possible for you to give me the name of the insurance company you are doing business with? I’d like to get myself covered.

Thanks!

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Chris C. Ducker April 19, 2012 at 20:23

Hi Jan

I’m actually still looking for a company that will accept individuals (other than PhilHealth). All my employees go under a corporate insurer, and they don’t work with individuals.

Stay loyal, my friend… :-)

C

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Lia Wilson April 19, 2012 at 13:28

This is an awesome article Chris!

I’m a VA from the Philippines and its a breather to read about an employer genuinely promoting a new mindset on working with a virtual team.

I love my job and it saddens me whenever I hear about some VAs getting 2$ per hour, its like running a virtual sweat shop!

I totally agree with you, purchasing computer equipments for you staff is big help, I suggest doing it after 6 months though.. to see if you want to work with your staff long term, and also to see if you can trust them.. You dont want people just vanishing in cyberspace with a new laptop you purchased. Again, its all about earning trust. And you could always tell when you are working with someone virtually after a while, albeit not seeing them. Call it a virtual hunch!

At the end of the day, its not about cheap labour but all about free market. Getting $500 – $900 a month only works for us because the cost of living in the Philippines is pretty cheap..

Cheers

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Chris C. Ducker April 19, 2012 at 20:19

Hi Lia

Thanks for the comment – glad you liked the article.

Good luck with being a VA. Sounds like you’re a smartie, so I’m sure you’ll do well. :-)

C

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Nica Mandigma April 20, 2012 at 20:56

When I saw the subject of your blog on my email, my heart literally skipped a beat. This could be a big break for us VAs here on the Philippines.

I see so many Filipino VAs who work for as low as $250/month, full-time, without other benefits. This is just heartbreaking because I know that it’s difficult to live by in such a meager salary, much more raise a family.

I really appreciate that someone like you is educating virtual bosses around the world on how they should treat their Pinoy VA.

As always, great post Chris!

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Chris C. Ducker April 21, 2012 at 19:10

Hi Nica

I’m just doing what I think is right – in regards to promoting the Filipino VA as the best choice for long-term, professional support.

Of course, there are plenty of ‘bad eggs’ here in the country masquerading as experienced VA’s, but they usually don’t keep a job very long. The types of VA’s I’m looking to motivate with the types of things discussed in this article are good quality, highly competent types that have long-term in mind.

I appreciate your appreciativeness. It means a lot.

C

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Charmaine December 21, 2012 at 19:32

Although I do not have a VA at present I do outsource website design and development to India. I have been with the same company for over two years.

It amazes me to this day that I can purchase a cake at 10pm at night online in India and it is delivered the next morning.

My developers enjoy a Christmas buffet dinner every year plus this year, 2 movie tickets each. For my main contact who I deal with everyday I purchased a watch on Indian ebay.

Looking forward to expanding my team which will include a VA or two!

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Chris C. Ducker December 21, 2012 at 23:56

Sounds brilliant, Charmaine.

You’ve obviously got things set-up well, and I’m happy to see you taking care of your team. Awesome stuff!

If you need any help / have questions – just let me know.

Cheers,
C

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Harold Dodd February 11, 2013 at 15:51

Well, what makes ME jealous, is that all of YOU on that archipelago, get to REAL homemade ADOBO, PANCIT and LUMPIA! I am on Planet Phoenix. I don’t get any of that. Maybe I need to visit the PI again…

Reply

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