My name is Simeon Bochev and I had the great fortune to be part of the first-ever HBS Manila cohort last year. My team’s partner company was ZALORA, a Rocket Internet fashion e-commerce startup. FIELD 2, rebranded as Field Global Immersion (FGI), was an unparalleled opportunity to dive deep into an emerging market and create meaningful impact, but my most vivid memories come from the embarrassing circumstances of my visit to meet with President Benigno Aquino III.

It all started during my team’s pre-immersion prep work. We asked the ZALORA team if we needed to pack suits, to which they responded, “Of course not! Wear your favorite T-shirt.” I was thrilled because not packing a suit or dress shoes meant that I could travel light. Lo and behold, my bliss was quickly dispelled when I arrived in country. As fate would have it, HBS had arranged a meeting with the President of the Philippines on our last day and all I had to wear was a t-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. I immediately logged onto the ZALORA site, ordered a new suit and dress shoes, and waited. And waited. And waited. I woke up on the morning of our Presidential visit and still didn’t have my suit. I was prepared to miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime when at 9:15am, 15 minutes before we were set to depart for the Presidential Palace, I get a call from the front desk saying, “You’ve received two packages.”

I dashed downstairs, relieved. With less than 10 minutes until our departure, I didn’t have time to change in my room so I went to the lobby bathroom. I ripped open the packaging and my heart sank. Apparently, waist size 34 in the Philippines equates to size 30 in the US! I now had a suit that was four sizes too small. I wasn’t about to let a mismatch in size stop me, so I summoned my full willpower and made myself fit into the “size 34” pants. “Fitting” involved robotically walking with my legs completely straight, lest I bend my legs and my pants rip. I also had to strategically configure my belt and shirt to provide maximum support. The two-hour round trip bus ride through Manila traffic to the Presidential Palace was anything but comfortable. On top of that, the hour sitting front row during the press conference with the President was excruciating, but I was there. At the end of the press conference we had the chance for a photo-op to memorialize the visit (I’m in the back row directly behind to the left of the President). When we arrived back at the hotel I literally ripped off my pants, breathed an enormous sigh of relief, and smiled.

Lesson: Always pack a suit because you never know when you’ll meet the President.