2020 Stock-take

The last year has been horrifyingly difficult, and for my main collaborators and myself, the path towards survival seems to be channelling the rage and frustration from all of these things into working as hard as possible. Since the Philippine population will only get mostly-vaccinated by 2023 I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to keep this up. Maybe we can survive (and thrive) out of spite?

In the meantime this is a rundown of a few publicly-available things that’s been released in my world(s) in the last twelve months:

COVID-19 work/as UrbanisMO.Ph

  1. March 2020, as UrbanisMO.ph – “In Metro Manila, Fighting COVID-19 Requires Helping the Poor—Now” Published by the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism and other major news networks. https://pcij.org/article/3890/saving-metro-manila. This was picked up by GMA’s documentary group into a spin-off episode + we’ve got a few COVID-focused episodes on the UrbanisMO Podcast, in partnership with Young Public Servants.
  2. August 2020, with Tanya Quijano and Abbey Pangilinan – “Misplaced Priorities, Unnecessary Effects: Collective Suffering and Survival in Pandemic Philippines. ” The Asia-Pacific Journal 18(16). Available at: <https://apjjf.org/-Abbey–Pangilinan–Maria-Carmen–Ica–Fernandez–Nastassja–Quijano/5435/article.pdf>
  3. ·October 2020, with Justin Muyot, Abbey Pangilinan, and Tanya Quijano – “A Hero’s Welcome? Repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers and COVID-19.” Published by the London School of Economics SEAC. [online]. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/seac/2020/10/08/a-heros-welcome-repatriated-overseas-filipino-workers-and-covid-19/

Policy-directed work in Mindanao/Bangsamoro

  1. Long-running work released in June 2020 with Maripaz Abas, Tirmizy Abdullah, Hadzer Birowa, Bam Baraguir and Ombra Imam – “Children of War: A Rapid Assessment of Orphans in Muslim Mindanao.” Published by The Asia Foundation with support from the Australian Embassy. https://asiafoundation.org/publication/children-of-war-a-rapid-needs-assessment-of-orphans-in-muslim-mindanao/ I’m pretty happy that we were finally able to get this out, and that there’s interest amongst the BTA and other parties to take the work forward.
  2. The public version of a strategic review of Australia’s support to peace in Mindanao, released in November 2020 with the management response. Worked on this just before the pandemic hit with Fermin Adriano and Noor Saada – https://www.dfat.gov.au/publications/development/strategic-review-and-management-response-australias-support-peacebuilding-conflict-affected-mindanao-2020

There’s quite a few other projects that’s still in the pipeline/embargoed for various reasons, as usual, pero pwede na muna to.

2021 seems like 2020 redux–but still let’s try to be useful in the meantime, despite?


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.


We are pleased to launch OpenBangsamoro.com, an open-source portal for geospatial, statistical, and administrative regional data in support of the transformation of the ARMM to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The portal is a result of the ARMM-Bangsamoro Transition Datathon, an initiative spearheaded by the ARMM Regional Government through its Regional Planning and Development Office (ARMM-RPDO) to consolidate and evaluate available administrative, statistical, and framework geospatial data as well as existing development plans and studies about the region.
As a citizen accompaniment to the 34-volume ARMM Transition Report turned over by the ARG to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority last February 26, 2019, OpenBangsamoro.com contains an initial set of maps, technical data, and policy recommendations, many of which are found in the ARMM Transition Report and its digital mirror at armmtransition.ph.
Initial work on the datasets was authorized by the ARMM Regional Government and was facilitated by a technical team supported by The Asia Foundation and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This is a work-in-progress and more information will be uploaded as they become available.
OpenBangsamoro.com is also accompanied by a technical paper that presents options for the practical use of open geospatial, statistical, and participatory data for decision-making as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) transitions into the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Recommendations cover three key points:
1. Decision-making for regional transformation should be based on usable and open information.
2. To be fully usable for decision-making, development-related data must be spatial, multi-scale, cross-sectoral, culture-and-conflict sensitive, and open and shared.
3. The Bangsamoro transition from 2019 to 2022 is an opportunity to establish systems built on open data as the cornerstone of open governance as the BTA, national government, and citizens need to make simultaneous decisions across multiple plans and platforms at the same time.
Ultimately, establishing a culture of open data for decision-making is a concrete way of delivering on the MILF’s commitment to shift from traditional transactional politics to a truly transformative governance that reflects Bangsamoro aspirations for meaningful self-rule.
We thank the outgoing ARMM Regional Government led by former Regional Governor Mujiv Sabbihi Hataman, former Executive Secretary Atty Laisa Masuhud Alamia, former Rpdo Armm Executive Director and ARMM Transition Team lead Engr. Baintan Adil-Ampatuan, and all the other leaders and technical officers of the ARMM for facilitating the release of datasets for open use. We also thank the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, OPAPP, NEDA, HUDCC, and the provincial governments who participated in datathon activities.
We pray that these maps, datasets, and reports can be useful for the many decisions that the Bangsamoro need to make in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Download briefer here: http://bit.ly/openbangsamoro