Reflections of a digital nomad in Metro Manila #2

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For this particular post, I’m going to be real with you.

While being a digital nomad in the metro sounds like a pretty neat gig, it’s not that easy.

Intermittent connection

I guess this is no surprise already? What I usually do when I visit cafes is to check out the area’s signal on my phone and if it at least says “4G,” then probably the signal in that place would be fast enough for me to perform some online tasks. It pays to be observant if the signal in a particular area is decent enough.

Sometimes even 4G+ can be deceiving because it doesn’t actually provide upload or download speeds equivalent to the signal indicated.

Moreover, it also depends on your job if it would require a really fast internet connection.

I think in places like Metro Manila, the best place to go digital nomad-ing is through a work-from-home setup. This way, you somehow have an assurance that your internet connection would be stable. The reason why I go to cafes and explore from time to time is because I don’t like getting glued just to one particular place all the time.

Traffic, traffic

Digital nomads aren’t spared from the typical daily traffic that we all experience. It can be just as frustrating.

I guess the only thing I can say about this particular issue is — let’s try to keep our sanity in check with all the stressors caused by traffic problems.

A leeway to explore

Okay — something a little more positive.

When you’re a digital nomad, you have more time to explore places. For the past weeks, I’ve been working during the morning in cafes at Intramuros, and in the afternoon, I explore the old sites and museums. I haven’t thoroughly seen all the sides and corners of Intramuros, and this is absolutely something I want to continue doing along the way.

By exploring, I also mean going beyond your usual tasks. I’m also able to do volunteer work thanks to the flexibility of my regular work. Last May 2019, I was able to go to Mindanao for a volunteer engagement in peacebuilding. During down times, I was still able to perform some tasks in my regular work.

I have another volunteer engagement every Saturday in a non-profit where we execute programs in a community. These are all possible through a flexible working schedule.

I think the infrastructure and systems are still far-off for Metro Manila to become digital nomad-friendly. Internet connection is terrible, transportation system is like chopsuey, and the general work environment hasn’t really come into terms with the word ‘digital’.

Nonetheless, we’re building that up. I won’t be surprised that someday we’re also going to be a “smart” city. But we have to dig deep for our inner voices and potential.

Can work from home help solve Metro Manila’s traffic problem?

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That’s a rather simplistic question, but let’s think about this for a moment.

For one, work from home is obviously not for every type of job. It works well for certain jobs on digital marketing, social media, project management, and many others that require just your hands, head, laptop, and internet connection. But it won’t work well with jobs that require labor-intensive or human-to-human interactions like therapy or behavioral counseling.

Working from home, on the other hand, would eliminate the need to ride everyday a vehicle or public transportation to go to work. It would help reduce traffic, air pollution, and transportation expenses, among others. By working from home, people can also decide to just use mobile apps for their groceries, food, and delivery concerns, among others.

There could be many factors that determine whether working from home would actually help lessen traffic in Metro Manila. But from experience, here’s why I think working from home would remove a ton of headaches for us.

More independent time

Working from home means that you control the time when you want to work. It’s either output-based or a job that requires you to log in at certain times of the day.

In my case, I’ve been working on a remote research and project-based job since 2016. Since it is output-based, I’m free to decide how to spend my time for the most part. All I have to do is get the work done. For the past weeks, I’ve been going back and forth the coffee shops and sites in Intramuros, and it’s been amazing.

Since I work independently, I also usually learn the ropes of the work myself. There’s not much supervision, because I’m the one supervising my own work for majority of the time. I basically create my own job description and workflow. My office can be anywhere. This is what I meant by having ‘more independent time‘.

Since I work remotely, I’m also able to find time for passion projects and sidelines. I volunteer for a number of non-profit organizations and I’m able to spare time to write blog posts.

Zero to low workplace politics

I’m not sure if this is an advantage (because workplace politics can strangely give life to people sometimes), but yes, zero to low workplace politics is a reality in remote work. In my work, there’s virtually very, very low or most of the time, no workplace politics.

And when I say zero to low workplace politics, you’re also free from toxic people (most of the time).

The downsides

It can get lonely. To fill some social voids, I result to dating apps to meet up with people and just talk about anything interesting. I think pretty much any kind of work can get lonely at some point, but remote work is different because I practically work independently most of the time.

I also find it difficult to find a common time to meet up with old friends who work on regular nine-to-five-jobs. These are the downsides I can see so far on working with remote jobs. It can get longer (I can probably write a book about it!).

Simply put, working from home is not for everyone. It will depend. But in my opinion, it will, indeed, help lessen traffic when more people would just work from home.

Farming in an urban jungle

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Urban farming was initially a response to the lack of agricultural farmers who can accommodate the rising demands from all over the country — particularly from major cities. Not only does it make food more accessible and affordable, but it minimizes a large amount of waste caused by inefficient supply chain-management.

Originally published at https://www.offcrowd.com

Written by Denrie Caila Perez


Metro Manila is experiencing a revolution: a green revolution. Over the past couple of years, developers have transformed business and entertainment districts into open, green spaces. Gone are the days of the traditional boxed shopping mall and office. Nowadays, you can find a garden growing where you shop — which means more choices to dine al fresco.

The real estate industry followed suit with several condominium properties already following the ‘green trend,’ advocating for lush green spaces and wide skylights.

Sustainable development was already a hot topic even before the widespread call for a comprehensive plastic ban. Green architecture was supposed to be the future — or at least the solution to a multitude of environmental problems.

Urban farming using greenhouse. Photo by Erwan Hesry | Unsplash

However, we may have been looking at it the wrong way this whole time. That is, the very problem we’ve been focusing on might be all wrong.

Beneath the success of sustainable development is actually a growing case of unsustainable expansion — read: water and food security shortages.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

Global food shortages have impacted the price of goods in the Philippines, making living conditions more and more difficult for a number of Filipinos. While a majority of cities in developing countries are struggling to generate income opportunities, an estimate by the World Bank shows that more than 50% of population already live in urban areas.

This is why major cities worldwide have integrated urban farming initiatives to meet food and water demands.

Urban farming was initially a response to the lack of agricultural farmers who can accommodate the rising demands from all over the country — particularly from major cities. Not only does it make food more accessible and affordable, but it minimizes a large amount of waste caused by inefficient supply chain-management.

According to The Ellen McArthur Foundation, 45 percent of perishable vegetables grown in Europe are wasted before they reach the table. However, that’s not the most important takeaway — premature food waste was discovered to be caused by long and inefficient supply chains.

Supply-chain management in the Philippines is known to have inadequate infrastructure and inefficient government bureaucracy. This results in overspending, insufficient distribution, and idle products that never make it out the door.

So where does urban farming fit in? It actually has a bigger impact than you think.

The table inside Odick’s garage is filled with more toys that he uses for display

FARMING IN THE CITY

Urban farming isn’t just about gardening. When put into practice, it is directly integrated into the ecological and economical dynamics of a city.

Metro Manila has numerous unutilized spaces and areas that can become productive spaces for urban farming. The roofs of buildings, and even the walls, can be used for soil-less, hydroponic systems. With enough coverage, it can successfully narrow local supply-chains — think of production and distribution happening within your own neighborhood.

Urban resources are also great tools for farming. Government agencies have recently been struggling in the disposal of urban waste and waste water, which worsens the air and river quality in the city. Organic waste can be used as compost and urban waste water can be used for irrigation.

In turn, consumers can grow organic food right at their doorstep (or over their heads) while lessening pollution in their neighborhood and contributing to local economic growth.

This can potentially address soaring food prices and operational inefficiencies in the country. Not only that, but it can significantly decrease the harmful impact on our ecosystem.

WHO’S DOING WHAT

Urban farming has already been recognized by local government units as an asset for improving supply chains amongst small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The Quezon City government structures their urban policies and plans around urban farming programs.

Local entrepreneurs have also begun to see the value of urban farming in the Philippines — both commercially and environmentally. For stories on who are redefining sustainable development, check out what Green City is doing to Paint the Town Green.

My first taste on building a social startup

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Building a startup is not easy. Building a social startup is even more difficult. I figured, however, why not try it? Social enterprises are, after all, close to my heart.

Last 2017, I found an opportunity to build my own startup through the opening of applications for the BPI Sinag U for Entrepreneurs, a social business pitch competition. I applied through the Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development, which was handling the training program for Lasallians who wanted to join the competition. I got in, went through the training program, developed a social business idea with my partner, participated in the regional competition, got qualified for the national competition, and won sixth place overall. The national level was composed of student teams from across the Philippines. It was a very exhilarating experience–one that I will surely never forget.

Fast forward to today, after accomplishing all the business plans, marketing strategies, financial models, operational systems, and investment profiles, among many others, my team is now composed of five people. We are, however, going back to scratch. We realized that we had different directions in terms of the growth trajectory that we want our startup to follow. We also realized that we still do not exactly know the core problem that our startup aims to tackle. Bottom-line is, we need to revisit why this startup idea exists in the first place.

Currently, we are undergoing intensive market research as well as aligning the varying interests and goals of the team. Our startup idea is basically a shipping container urban farm which we tentatively named as Lungtian Urban Farm. It aims to tackle the issue of food security in urban communities, as well as promote economic development and sustainable communities. It is essentially a farm within a shipping container wherein the temperature, weather, lighting, and overall environment suitable to the growth of crops are simulated. This involves several pieces of technology such as Internet of Things, aquaponics, vertical farming, and LED lights, to name a few. The business concept is essentially similar to shipping container urban farms such as Freight Farms, Square Roots, and Growtainer, among others.

At the end of the day, our goal is to be able to provide quality crops in the urban setting of the Philippines, as well as enable easier market access to such crops. We will also be tapping into farmers and low income individuals as our primary workforce. This will be the main social, human element that our business aims to tackle, apart from solving the problems of consumers in terms of food security.

Here are some photos of our current prototype tests.

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