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Former presidential speechwriter, still a musician; writes about urban gridlocks. Will work full time for the planet. Harvard Kennedy School ‘14 🇵🇭

Adapt to remote work, we must.

Sir Winston Churchill (source: Wikipedia)

Long before I went on my own, I had invested ten years of my life in public service as a speechwriter, executive assistant, and ultimately as Assistant Secretary and Chief of Staff for Presidential Communications. In that high stress highly political post, I was a kid suddenly thrown into the snake pit.

I didn’t want to die, so the first order of business was to abbreviate my learning curve. …

You do not have to read this essay, just the books.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

You do not have to read this essay. You only need to scan. At least, given so short a time on this planet to read all the books that I want, that is how I would do it.

But if you are still reading and likely curious about my reasons for curating what follows, you are probably a writer. You know how conjoined writing is to reading, how reading makes us better writers. …

Transportation issues are social justice issues. — Jody Rosen

Photo by J. Tewell on Flicker

When you have lived long enough in Metro Manila as I have, and have been forced to get around its mean streets for many years, you have probably developed your own commuter ritual that more resembles a guide for survival.

Regardless of your preferred mode of conveyance, you most likely leave for an appointment an hour in advance (or more) in anticipation of heavy traffic. You may even have gotten used to being the first person at your office to greet the guards.

You carry on your person a canteen of…

Photo by Diane Sy on Unsplash

The most basic and probably the most effective strategy to prevent road traffic incident[sic] is to start with the most critical component in the road transport equation — the driver.

- Edgar C. Galvante, Assistant Secretary/Head, LTO

In a recent rendezvous with two expatriate friends based in Clark, Pampanga, we briefly touched on my “favorite” topic: Manila traffic. It is an instant conversation starter because one, every resident of Metro Manila and its outskirts surrender to it. Two, everyone hates it so you tend to empathize with newfound strangers in your strange land. …

Public shaming is nothing new, but social media took it to a whole new level.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

You have the luck of a comedian. Bad luck in things that matter. Good luck in things that do. — Andrew Sean Greer

My online shaming experience happened a decade ago and might seem ordinary by current standards. In 2010, the number of Facebook users in the Philippines alone was around 10.5 million whereas today, it hovers at around 80 million. Facebook and other social media networks such as Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube have since grown significantly in popularity among commuters here who, prior to the pandemic, would spend on average 66 minutes of idle time a day in traffic…

And why being cultured — finally — has mass-market appeal

Photo by Kin Li on Unsplash

When it comes to music, I have a split personality: I am a lead singer for a blues band and a closet classical pianist. The former could have been a by-product of the latter, while the latter stayed despite a long hiatus from formal training that ended at age 12. It just sat there, somewhere in my subconscious, the fruit of years of endless frustration during my childhood. Both paths remain divergent from one another but are deep personal passions nevertheless. They never crossed for one reason: singing and playing…

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

This article was originally published in October 2019.

I live in the urban jungle of Metro Manila, Philippines. The metropolis is divided into seventeen cities and municipalities, the largest of which is Quezon City in the north, the city I call home. Its distance of at least 20 kilometers from the key business districts of Makati and Taguig makes the air I breathe largely soot-free, but traveling that distance also means at least 2 hours of driving in traffic. My health is in a bind wherever I go.

But as with every problem, there is a solution, one that is…

Mai Mislang

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