Struggles of a digital nomad

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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.


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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.


Let’s take the conversation forward. Find out how we can collaborate for a sustainable future: https://berdeboy.blog/collaborate/

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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