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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 🇵🇭

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

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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

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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…


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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.

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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

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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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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…


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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