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

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

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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…


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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…


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Photo by Nabeel Syed on Unsplash

A version of this article was published on Onenews in October 2019.

In one of my recent PT sessions, I had the privilege of chatting up my therapist who needed to distract me from the inevitable pain of fixing my hamstring tendonitis. I told him I got it from strenuous yoga, which I try to consistently do for recovery from grueling hours spent in Manila traffic.

“Traffic,” he said, his face suddenly forlorn, “forced me to take a lower-paying job.”

“How so?” I asked.

“I was paid well at my last job at the Asian Development Bank. But the commute…


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Photo by J Torres on Unsplash

This article was published on Rappler in September 2019.

I recently read “The Effective Executive” and in that book, management guru Peter Drucker emphasized the need to determine where an executive spends his time — a finite resource.

I followed his advice and did a quick calculation. From Monday to Friday last week, I spent almost 12 hours on the road (11 hours and 50 minutes to be exact). And in 3 of those 5 days, I had left the house at 5:15 in the morning.

That is 12 hours of my life I could not get back. 12 hours…


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Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

In 2020, some of the smartest people I know were hard at work sorting out the COVID-19 crisis. From raising funds for frontline workers to physically volunteering at testing sites, they performed their civic duty our inept government could barely muster. Much as I wanted to help, I found myself the youngest and healthiest member of our household during the lockdown. I became an instant slave.

My big hairy audacious goals were suddenly eclipsed by one mission: to remain COVID-free. I bade farewell to finally paying off my student loans as soon as my sources of income left me. I…


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Photo by Rodrigo Ruiz on Unsplash

“Music … stands quite apart from all the [other arts]. In it we do not recognize the copy, the repetition, of any Idea of the inner nature of the world. Yet it is such a great and exceedingly fine art, its effect on man’s innermost nature is so powerful, and it is so completely and profoundly understood by him in his innermost being as an entirely universal language, whose distinctness surpasses even that of the world of perception itself…We must attribute to music a far more serious and profound significance that refers to the innermost being of the world and…


Books provided comfort in this long hard year.

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Just some of the books I read in 2020

We read to know we are not alone.

— from the movie on CS Lewis, Shadowlands

Thanks to the quarantine, 2020 was my year of fanatical reading. My secret dream of prison time so I could read all the books I have always wanted to read without doing time did come true.

I wasn’t about to blow it so I didn’t waste any time. I devoured my to-be-read pile like a maniac, reading 4 to 5 books at a time, 2–3 hours a day, sometimes even more. I would still wake up…


It was hard but necessary

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Photo by Jeffery Erhunse on Unsplash

My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…but love it. — Friedrich Nietzche

It is year-end assessment season, and the verdict is in: 2020 is the worst year ever.

This is true, especially for those who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19, or their homes in the one-two punch of a pandemic and a natural disaster. Footage of houses in ruins left behind by the forest…

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