Our Extended Family: The TRAK Team in the Philippines

Bataan PacificWith family there’s no real distance that separates. We are all related in a family,whether we’re in the next room or in our case, 11,000 km (7,000 miles) away! That’s the distance between TRAK HQ in Airdrie, Alberta, in Canadian foothills and the coastal town of Mariveles, Bataan, Philippines. Half the TRAK extended family, ironically, is halfway around the world, across the largest ocean on the shores of the South China Sea. There’s a lot more open water over there and so fitting, because that’s the side of the family that actually builds our kayaks.

Nestled under the lush jungle-covered mountains and in the shadow of a towering dormant volcano, Mt. Mariveles, is a world-class outdoor gear factory and the manufacturing facility for the TRAK Seeker ST 16. This company is internationally respected and sought after by reputable brands. What was important to us, however, is that they have a reputation in the local Filipino community as an ethical and integral employer that invests sustainably in the well-being and professional development of its employees. The result is unsurpassed trust and loyalty.

Housed in a state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled room, the most demanding and skill-intensive production process in the creation of a Seeker is quietly taking place. This is where the skin of the TRAK is born – where the precisely cut hull and deck fabric pieces are hot-air welded and seamed by the skilled hands of our Filipino extended family.IMG_0385

The TRAK Team of about 20 in the Philippines has been training and refining the manufacturing process for almost 2 years now. We had another chance to visit and work with them in December 2013. It is always a joy. There’s such a wonderful balance of beaming smiles then intensely concentrated focus. Filipinos love life. That much is clear. But when it comes to working as a team, the traditional principle of Bayanihan runs the show and everybody works together in concert to build a TRAK. That’s pure magic. That’s actually what it takes to create an exceptional product.

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While the Filipino culture seems to celebrate life in balance, having fun and being in community, there is a different reality in such a developing Asian country, that nothing is taken for granted. A job represents much more than personal career fulfillment or being able to get ahead and be successful. It represents fundamental security for all members of the family and it makes a much bigger difference to life when that security is present. IMG_0491It makes the difference between food being on the table or a roof being over your head, or not. That relationship to “job security” is not the same in most of North America, where it might make a difference between a one car garage or a two car garage. In simple contrast, for what we spend on one latte, your average Filipino will buy lunch for a week.

So, ready to meet our extended side of the family? Let us introduce you to most of the gang: Danilo, Fernando, Jerome, Jimmy, Jojo, Joshua, Lee, Lhevie, Mark, Michael, Myla, Nelson, Nikko, Rachele, Raffy, Ralph, Reineer, Reymond and Vincent.

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Some of them work on the aluminum frame, some on the hydraulic jacks, some on the skin or maybe quality control and final inspection… the bottom line is that they all have a part of themselves in each and every Seeker that gets shipped to us at TRAK HQ. We’ve worked with them side-by-side, face-to-face to make sure they are supported in producing the very finest product possible. We are like family now.

IMG_0349If you’re reading this far, then you can probably feel how proud we are to have this unique relationship with our TRAK Team in the Philippines. We’ve brought some perspective and balance to the fearful perception that offshore factories are all “sweat shops” and the reactions to the pervasive economic damage of “outsourcing” to recognize that the world has shrunk and our family is global now. In fact, for as long as we’ve had canoes (and kayaks), sailors and merchants alike have been navigating across the Pacific and trading all kinds of goods, exporting and importing everything from shells to Seekers. The world is richer for it and it is a direct way we’re connected globally.

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Here in the Philippines, we’ve found a unique manufacturing partner with integrity and compassion. We’ve seen it with our own eyes and felt it in our hearts. This is a work environment that truly values every individual and the unique skills they can bring to the final product. It’s also a facility where you could eat off the floor and where the job gets done so that we can, in turn, make promises to our customers. It is a company that takes care of people, that, in turn, has made every employee into an extended family member with the rights and the values we expect in our own society.

IMG_0419If you’ve recently bought a TRAK or you’re thinking of owning one, there’s a piece of the Philippine Islands and the Pacific Ocean, of that massive volcano and the tropical jungle, of the minds and hearts of the TRAK Team through the many hands that had to work together to make the ultimate high-performance portable kayak to help unleash your life.