Much has been written about how jargon hurts the poor, and I do completely agree that a lot of the buzzwords and development bureaucratese should be banned. It’s certainly warped the way I use language. I know I’ll never achieve the same clarity and humour I used to have as a nine-year-old scribbling away at her perfumed Pocahontas journal. Most urgently, I find myself grappling with the question of how good research can be **used** by everyone, especially the people who need it most, in the most non-extractive, collaborative, and fun way possible.

In many ways, the last two years was about beginning to concretely wrestle with these issues: certainly in the peace process work, with UrbanisMO, and with Sandata. I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Some recent work:

1. After two years in development hell, we’ve managed to release an animated video based on the 2016 WB-IOM report on marginalisation through land dispossession for the GPH-MILF Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission. Animation by Janina Malinis, script by Mixkaela Villalon and myself, scoring by Jayme Ancla, Jr. Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon did the English voice-over, but I’m hoping to get Tagalog, Maguindanaon, and other Bangsamoro vernacular versions soonest. This was the idea of our old TTL, Matt Stephens, bless his heart, who was grounded enough to fund an experiment to shorten the long lecture on Mindanao history in the hopes of making things more accessible.

2. The full Sandata experiment is far from finished and so it’s premature to write about it, although this student blog about a short talk I did at the University of Cambridge Centre for Governance and Human Rights (CGHR) last February speaks a little about what it’s trying to achieve.

That said, the Sandata-produced hip-hop album Kolateral, is finally out.

It is available for free on the following platforms:

Soundcloud – http://bit.ly/KolateralSOUNDCLOUD
Bandcamp – http://bit.ly/KolateralBANDCAMP

Free Download:
Mediafire – http://bit.ly/KolateralMEDIAFIRE
Google Drive – http://bit.ly/KolateralGDRIVE
Dropbox – http://bit.ly/KolateralDROPBOX2

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/1RRTfc96TgKLfhLeb7DJA6
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/ph/album/kolateral/1470682367
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kHSbKMO3AzIP5pv2WSkgOq3GgIu5L01WE

The lyrics to the entire album, including English translations and partial policy annotations, can be found here https://genius.com/albums/Kolateral/Kolateral

One lyric video for Kolateral has already been produced by a friend of the team. The fact that other people have volunteered to make their own videos and art as a response to the music is a testament to the artistry of BLKD, Calix, Mix, Tao, Ami, Kartellem, 1Kiao, and the other artists who contributed to the project.

We hope that the art is powerful enough to inspire others to produce their own.

Whether or not we can shift from output-level to outcome-level experimentation and collaboration is another question altogether. Or maybe all one can hope for at this point are these random shouts and pokes in the wilderness end up into a broader tapestry, in the hope that someone hears them eventually.

So this is happening

I haven’t been posting on this blog as much as I should, but this is actually happening. Five years after a priest-friend gently reminded me that one cannot give what one doesn’t have, and that I must try to educate myself as much as I can, here comes an opportunity to train in one of the top universities in the world. Grateful beyond belief.

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Recapitulation: Baguio

Today is July 1–officially the start of the second half of the Aquino Administration, and my first official day as a former government employee. Happily, I am spending it in the rainy mountains of Baguio with my crazy Cordillera-loving friend Shei, where I have been drinking, talking, reading and eating my way into the ranks of the FUNemployed. Hooray!

Beyond a vacation, Baguio has been the perfect place for crossing this kind of Rubicon. Somehow, the last twenty-four hours have had representatives of all my past lives thus far: government, the arts and academe, PAGASA, the lovers, dreamers and the drunks. And so it has been an act of recapitulation–going back from everything that has been in order to move forward to what can become.

As always, the written word is the constant touchstone. I’ve spent a sizeable amount (at least, for a person with zero income on the horizon) on books at the glorious Mt Cloud, and they have kept me good company, alongside Shei’s chirpy patter and the calm Baguio vibe. Not reading fiction this time around, as much as I’d like to go back to the dreamtime. Instead, we have precious Cordillera Studies Center monographs of June Prill-Brett’s on resource management and autonomy, the ones I’ve only seen in the UP Library; the ADMU special series “Agenda for Hope”, looking at ISD and preserving Philippine Identity at the cusp of the GMA-era darkness and 2010 light; various odds and ends.


What has hit me the most though is the jolly wit of old William Henry Scott. The back blurb describes his 1987 collection of essays, Chips, as “short on words but long on meaning”, and “might just lead to self-analysis”. And indeed they have. One particular essay, a riff on so-called “rice Christians”, has old Scotty quoting former President Nyerere of Tanzania:

“Men are shaped by the true circumstances in which they live. Suppose it is true that if they are treated like animals, they will act like animals. If they are denied dignity, they will act without dignity. If they are treated solely as a dispensable means of production, they will become soul-less “hands” to whom life is a matter of doing as little work as possible and then escaping into the illusion of happiness and pride through vice.”


There’s a bunch of crisp, gently barbed shorts on research, ethnography, ethnicity and politics that I wish I had known about when I was still teaching English 10, and I wish I were coherent enough right now to write more about these things. I’m not.

For now, though, it’s enough to stay and revel in this feeling of clean lines, scathing honesty, and funny, yet earnestly spiritual thought. The words are clear, the air is cold and crisp, and the future is a blank space stretching before me. I’m typing this now on an old wooden desk with nothing but a phone and a battered Bluetooth keyboard, and half of me doesn’t want to go back to Manila just yet. Half of me wants nothing better. And for now–dinner.