The systemic issues that plague us from within

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Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay


As time passes, I realized I’m becoming more and more personal with my approach to Berde Boy. From initially talking about larger-than-life ideas to talking about things like ‘taking baby steps’ — along the way, as cliché as this may sound, I realized I have to start with myself first.

The ideas of self-love, self-esteem, minimalism, personal finance, and all these things that are actually helpful were never taught to us in school and in our personal upbringing. These are things that we just happen to come across, probably through some conversations with friends or colleagues at work.

So for the past months, what I realized is for us to learn these ourselves and find other people who will help us grow. It’s a mutual process.

The learning process differs for many people. For myself, I’m just getting started. I’m at a crossroads in terms of what I should actually be doing. In fact, out of all the confusion and hidden anxiety, I realized I want to travel long-term in the meantime and just enjoy myself. I want to see the world beyond my comfort zones here in Metro Manila.

Let me be the one to tell you also that our mental health is a valid sustainability concern as well. Much like the biggest challenges of the world on climate change, food security, plastic waste, overpopulation, and many, many others — mental health is equally important. What we have to understand is that sustainability is everything. It’s not just about the systemic issues that surround us externally — it’s also about the systemic issues that plague us from within.

Pretty much — that’s all I have for this blog post. Whoever’s reading this at the moment, I’d like to show my gratitude. If it’s your first time reading my blog posts, you can check out my other posts. I write about several things from startups to my humble adventures as a digital nomad.

The art of financial frugality

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In Alexa Mira Society (AMSI), we started to become more conscious in our spending this year. Ever since starting the planning stages in April 2019, we have been spending only around P100k. It baffles me how other organizations spend P100k on a single day.

I think it’s a matter of trying to understand that funneling in hundreds and thousands of money in a program does not necessarily mean you are creating genuine, social impact. Sometimes, frugality with spending can have its positive impacts as well–at times even greater impact.

It’s also about transparency and spending money wisely. As much as possible, we only spend for the things that are really needed on every program day, such as food and honorarium for speakers, among others.

Here, I will share some small practices that our organization does, that thankfully led to positive financial results so far.

Spreading out the program outline

For one, our programs are not a one-time, big-time thing. It’s spread out across the year. This is also one way to keep the programs sustainable and attuned to the practical needs of the community.

For this year, we focused on two main programs. I think this helped us narrow down our focus, so that the funds that get funneled are centered around these two main programs. I think it also helped that we have a small community of five families.

As much as possible, we were also frugal with the expenses on every program day. We don’t really need too much money to move forward and progress–we just need the appropriate amount of money to keep the program going. I think this is a very important lesson for many non-profits. While we are not experts on this aspect, we try our best with what we have.

Funding and grants are also not easy to come by all the time, so we really have to be wise in spending money.

Having a minimalist approach

Having only what you really need is the basic premise of minimalism. In non-profits, I think the same perspective applies.

Being a small organization, we really have to make do with what we have and unleash our creativity around that. In another blog post, I shared how creativity helped us in AMSI.

More than just lessening expenses, minimalism in non-profits means that you only spend on what is essential for the community. You don’t need too much to begin with. You just need a few, well-selected things that could help in the long-term sustainability of the organization and community.

While we are small, I hope other non-profits learn a thing or two from our experiences at AMSI.

Metro Manila, public transpo, and commutes

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I’m typing this down on my phone while commuting. Currently, the jeepney I’m riding is traversing across Gil Puyat. Later, I’ll be near Heritage Hotel where I’ll ride the jeepney going to Multinational Village where I live. Usually, this commute takes around three to four hours.

Right now I’m thinking of both positive and negative sides on this commute. The positive side is that because of the traffic, I’m able to find time to blog about it through my phone. It serves as a creative outlet rather than boring me to death while the jeepney crawls through the streets of Manila.

On the other hand, the negative side is, well, the traffic. Plus the air pollution — that’s probably the worst.

Another thing that comes to my mind when talking about traffic are private vehicles. Is it worth it to own and drive a car in Metro Manila? I can think of a few pros and cons.

Some pros:

  • Convenience
  • Mobility
  • Personal space
  • Useful for emergencies

And some cons:

  • It’s basically a liability
  • Carbon emissions
  • You’ll get stuck in traffic either way
  • Gas expenses
  • Maintenance

I still prefer using public transportation because in my experience, the cons outweigh the pros when owning a vehicle. And besides, if only we had a good public transportation system, then probably no one will need to buy a private vehicle in the first place. We’d all be taking efficient transportation that’s designed as a public good.

We don’t have that in Metro Manila though. Well, at least, “yet”.

As to when we’ll ever have efficient public transportation, it’s probably decades away.

Traffic isn’t all that bad though, at least for me. In traffic, I’m able to reflect on different kinds of things, regardless of how serious, witty, or obscure they are.

Whatever it is, traffic can be both a killer and a chance for momentary solitude. But it sure as hell not for anyone who’s not mentally prepared for it.

Also, I spent around 0.02gb trying to upload this blog post. Well, better than being bored to death, I guess.

Defining a digital nomad

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It’s interesting when people ask me what I do for a living. Since I’m what you could call a ‘digital nomad‘, I work remotely and my office can be everywhere. But essentially, what I do includes research, writing, projects, social media, non-profit work, and volunteer engagements. Typically, I introduce myself as a researcher and writer, among other things.

Working, exploring

For the past weeks, I’ve been going back and forth the walled city of Intramuros, working in coffee shops during the morning, then exploring different sites during the afternoon. It has been a fun, educational, and ‘old soul’ type of experience so far. According to recent news, around 2.12 million tourists visited Intramuros during the first semester of 2019.

Last May 2019, I was able to go to a one-month volunteer engagement in Mindanao, where I was a class documenter for their annual peacebuilding training. This kind of engagement wouldn’t be possible without the flexible work schedule that I have.

Afterwards, I had many other volunteer engagements. So far, I was able to explore places in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao just this year. It truly is something to be thankful for. I’m learning more about our diversity and culture as a nation.

What you need

The good thing about being a digital nomad is that you essentially just need the following things in your work life: a laptop, your hands, head, internet connection, power outlet, and a place to work in. Of course, this would vary on the nature of the job, but you get what I mean.

Whenever I look for places to work in Manila, I want to make sure that either (1) the place has good WiFi or (2) my mobile data connection is strong in that particular area. Because obviously, an internet connection is essential for a digital nomad.

Independence

The good thing about being a digital nomad is that you handle your own time. You impose your own work hours. You create your own workflow. You sometimes even list down your own job description. It’s a good training for independence and developing your personal work philosophy.

The digital nomad life is not for everyone though. It also depends on the career you want. Regardless, it’s something to take note of if you prefer flexible working hours that give you a considerate time to explore and do other things you’re passionate about.