Friday, September 28, 2007

BURMA junta: Stop the violence, accept democracy!

The atrocities committed by the Burmese junta against their citizens and Buddhist monks are reprehensible. Their long years of terroristic reign should end. The Philippines and other nations can play a part in this by denouncing the violence they commit against their own people.

The Philippines, with its history of People Power, can take the high moral ground. It should lead the way in ASEAN in asking the Burmese junta to stop its violence, open up discussion with the monks and opposition, and ensure justice and reconciliation.

Already, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has called on the Burmese government to restore democracy and release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi now. She spoke in New York at the 62nd United Nations General Assembly. See the Inquirer report on this (

These are historical times in Burma and in the ASEAN region. Let the Philippines and the world rise up to the occasion and take moral leadership. Let the Filipino voice be heard in standing up to what is moral and human. Urge the Burmese junta to stop its violence now, please.

Continue coverage of the resistance and pro-democracy movement as the Burmese people are looking to the rest of the world for support and encouragement.

Our prayers go out to those killed by the Burmese armed forces and to the Burmese people.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How do you fund FUN?

Someone asked; How do you fund fun if you don’t want to work?

My response was, as Tito Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga likes to say;

"When you choose a spouse or lifetime partner, choose someone who shares your vision and can FUND the vision!"

Seriously, there are ways at looking at the funding issue.

In the economically "developed" world, their post-industrial, high tech, service oriented economy has generated tremendous wealth and enormous needs. By wealth, there is so much lying around that a talk I recently attended noted that American philanthropy amounts to 2.6% of GDP and that is for the US alone. Planned investments in cause oriented programs/investments are on the rise. How do you tap into the Gates and Buffet donations of $80B???

In terms of enormous needs, two aspects readily come up. The first is the aging and retiring boomer population with still some purchasing power. Counting in the tens of millions in the next few decades, they will have health, medical, and recreation needs and demands, which a creative and innovative service provider can profit from. Can the Philippines become an ideal retirement haven for the world? How about short-term medical services or as an offsite medical education center for American and European medical students? Can we entice American and European doctors to set up office, part-time, in the Philippines? Can we offer BPO services to the medical field in terms of imaging analysis, telemedicince (a booming field), and more enhanced medical transcription services?

The second aspect relates to philanthropy again. Those who have achieved the so called American Dream dream of giving back and leaving a legacy. They are looking at noteworthy programs from education to the arts to space exploration to medical research to inner city revival to adopting kids from Africa. You name the interest and there is someone willing to fund it.

Thus, Gawad Kalinga has sent Dylan and Anna Wilk to spend six months in the US to tap into this reservoir of goodwill and bulging wallets. BTW, there are an estimated 300,000 Am-Fils that will be of retirable age in the next few years. Where will they want to retire? What will they want to do? What kind of legacy do they want to leave behind?

For example, in a recent Township Developing Summit hosted by UP, Ateneo, and GK, an Am-Fil, Robert Sanchez, walked up the stage during lunch and expressed his support for GK. Robert is a San Diego techpreneur who recently sold his company for $50M. He now heads another tech company. During that lunch, he told the Mayors in attendance that if they provide the land for a GK village, facilitate permitting, and shoulder the horizontal site development, he will pay for the construction of the village homes (from 50-100 homes per village).

And he was willing to shoulder up to 100 villages ( a home costs $1,200).

Next year he is working on organizing an Am-Fil Networking Conference in the Philippines in the hope of bringing up to 1,000 of them to look at the Philippines and hopefully support GK. He expects to get a commitment from each one of them to build a GK village.

I think there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people who enjoy making money and enjoy more giving it away. They are looking for worthwhile projects and partners.

In GK Towerville, Bulacan, expat alumni UST doctors have funded hundreds homes there that they are now looking at setting up a hospital for the GK beneficiaries.

What do you think is the economic multiplier effect here?

A techpreneur partners with Gawad Kalinga beneficiaries and Rotary to set up a for-profit Internet cafe and business center franchise in GK Poveda, Taguig, Metro manila.

The second aspect is that for us who are in the Philippines (or who are returning), we are lucky if we have a good paying job. If not, there is no other way but either migrate or go into business. Entrepreneurship is what Gokongwei recommended in his speech. That is what many Chinoys are doing. That is what the Concepcions are promoting in their NegosyoPinoy movement. That is what Almonte is saying in his new book and in his previous articles. Let the market be the agent of social revolution.

Li Lu, one of the famous Chinese student dissidents of the Tienanmen Square massacre, who eventually went on to Columbia University and is now a partner in Himalaya Capital, once said that it is business that will engender change and reform in China. A burgeoning middle class will start to demand reform and democracy.

And so it is with the Philippines. If you are currently working now and not earning enough, turn your hobby into a sideline. If you like writing, try selling your articles to newspapers and magazines. If you support a cause, start a foundation or volunteer and increase your social network. At the very least plant vegetables and grow fruit trees at home so you can save, eat, and possibly sell nutritious fruits and vegetables. You can even grow vegetables in pots and in mini-hydroponic packages (retails for $150). An agripreneur from Negros Occidental said recently that you can earn up to 1M Pesos a year from an integrated organic farm operation using just 3,000 sqm. Check out GK’s first organic urban farm of that size in GK Selecta within the Cainta Munisipiyo.

With business outsourcing many of the work they do, consulting and part-time jobs especially for business, environment, and training studies and assessments are available in Manila.

The cousin of my wife is into alternative fuels. He bought a conversion kit from the US that runs on used cooking oil (SVO). He reversed engineered it and has been experimenting on this for the last year on two old diesel Mercedes Benz. He has driven to Zambales without any hassle. He hopes to get a local engineering firm to manufacture his conversion kit (no need for a factory, share the opportunity).

Metro Manila is a 12M, possibly 20M (daytime pop), market. In the provinces, adventure tourism and basic infrastructure provide exciting business opportunities. We need to focus more on business and business ethics, rather than on politics. We can achieve more reform if we can afford to pay for talent that will “confront” the corrupt and the powerful.

I asked a Pinoy entrepreneur why he was still gung-ho about the Philippine economy. Aside from the economic good news lately, he said that even when there are problems, these problems offer quite a number of business opportunities. Indeed, there are profitable solutions to any problem.

In Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, the mayor saw the need for an alternative road that would bypass the congested provincial highway. He also wanted a boulevard that would rival Dumaguete’s famed Rizal Boulevard. The only thing was he had 750 squatter families on the seashore by the planned boulevard. He partnered up with GK and relocated all of them. He now has a six-lane boulevard with a nearly white-sand seashore that is four-barangays long (like Roxas Blvd). He got a GTZ loan (German aid agency) to pay for a P10M wastewater treatment system that uses bamboo reeds. The cleaned wastewater goes to an overhead tank which is also the welcome arch and is used for irrigation and firefighting. Expect this area to become something like Waikiki Beach in the coming years (which means there are business opportunities here, right now).

We need to dream big and we need to have passion. The world should be our playground- and market. Having fun is great, but “doing” fun, as Burt Rutan of Spaceship One noted, can lead to exciting discoveries and practical applications.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Anthropology of Relevance

Anthropology of Relevance

Recently in an egroup that I am part of that discusses environment, culture, and geopolitical issues, there was a spirited exchange on the relevance of anthropology and anthropologists in these exciting times. Wading through the verbal firestorm, I found many insights, which will help me in my current dissertation work. I would like to explore other aspects though of the ongoing conversation.

The first is that I seem to notice a collective angst on what anthropology’s status and role are at present. What is it’s contribution to the GES (global environmental sustainability) and gepolitical debates in the macro sense? Specifically, are anthropologists being read, listened to, and recognized especially by decision makers? Does their work have impact in the local and in the global settings? Should anthropologists even care if their work has impact? The angst is there because of global warming and the continuing Iraq debacle, among others. Anthropologists long knew what was wrong and what should be done, but why were our voices not heard? Our advice not heeded? The prophet was not recognized in his hometown, so what now?

Might the issue have to do with scale? The GES and Iraq occupation have global consequences but anthropologist’s work is generally site specific. Our findings and insights may improve our understanding of human culture, but what next? Who will bridge the gap of theory to practice for the WORLD to use? Do we let others do it or do we, ourselves, complete the “supply chain”? A few others cited many anthropologists doing terrific, groundbreaking work theoretically and in the applied setting. Shouldn’t the challenge then be scaling up and replication if these works posit best practices the world can benefit from?

My research focuses on a faith-based movement in the Philippines known as Gawad Kalinga meaning “to give care”. It aims to build 700,000 homes, in 7,000 communities, in 7 years or the GK777 movement. In Gawad Kalinga, the thesis is that poverty is behavioral not economic. Poverty results from a breakdown of relationships among family members, between neighbors, between social classes, and within society. Thus, the rich need to become better stewards of their resources, talents, and time. The poor need to regain their dignity, hope, and dreams, and to build capacities. Both can do so by helping each other, working together, and building partnerships.

Slum home in Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines

Gawad Kalinga housing
Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines

In practical terms poverty (and the resulting environmental crisis) can be addressed through sharing of time and resources, MASSIVE mobilization of partners and "padugo"- "bleeding for the cause" and modeling "patriotism in action". Since then, it has built over 20,000 homes in 1,420 communities for the poor and initiated activities in three other countries, with intentions of going global. GK claims their "transformed" communities are peace and faith zones, environmentally healthy, empowered, and productive through initiatives on shelter, youth development, health, food, livelihood, and values formation. GK claims their sites are “non-sectarian, multi-sectoral, non-partisan and non-discriminatory”. Each volunteer is a hero (bayani) to one another, which leads to community-wide assistance (bayanihan). Replicated over time sand space, bayanihan then stimulates nation (bayan) building. GK’s success resulted in the GK Executive Director/Founder and the organization winning the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay (Asian Nobel prize) awards for individual and organizational community leadership and other similar awards. They have gotten so much support from the private and public sectors that other cause oriented groups and aid agencies have been put on notice: deliver or lose support.

By the way, they are also currently recruiting another one million volunteers worldwide and establishing volunteer research institutes in any university willing to partner up with them. They are becoming viral.

The movement is anchored on faith, culture work, and partnerships. Importantly, it is massive in scale (geographically) and is transformative in intention.What can be more cultural (for research and applied work) than social engineering initiatives such as this?

The implication for anthropologists today is that social movements like Gawad Kalinga or MoveOn, social networking initiatives such as MySpace and FaceBook, faith-based movements or even the Christian Right is that their outlook is global. Their actions are cheekily in the pursuit of some form of “global domination”. Globalization is not only about commerce, but fundamentally cultural. The GES, geopolitics, and poverty are both local and global.

How do anthropology and anthropologists adapt to a shrinking and globalizing world vis-à-vis our research and our work?

To me it isn’t relevance per se. All work is relevant if you find inspiration in it. But if we want others to consider us relevant, then we have to look at reality.

And the reality is: events of concern to anthropologists are global in dimension. Our work and research must then have scientific rigor, practical application, and global insight.


I interviewed a British-Nigerian Catholic priest working in the Manila slums. One of his favorite sayings in approximate words is:

“I like the way I am doing things better than the way you aren’t doing anything at all”

Sunday, September 23, 2007 on Pangea Day stands for technology, entertainment, and design, and is a great resource website. Awesome speakers and videos.

Anyway, a TED winner/speaker initiated Pangea Day for this coming May 10, 2008. Maybe you know of someone who wants to make a short film about the environment, indigenous peoples, urban issues, Gawad Kalinga?, etc. Maybe even Manila could be a part of this event. Check out the YouTube intro film entitled Can Your Film change the World?



Subject: TED Prize video hits youtube home page!

Dear Friends of TED,

Now this is exciting. A powerful, 2-minute TED video has just been given star billing at YouTube and I need your help to get it to spread further…

The video heralds the launch of Pangea Day, called for by 2006 TED prize winner, Jehane Noujaim. For the next 24 hours, it is being featured on YouTube’s global home-page as well as all nine of YouTube’s international home-pages.

Maybe it's just me, but every time I see this trailer, it sets my spine a-tingling. I hope you’ll take a minute to view it, rate it, write a quick comment about it and then blog it, or pass the link along to friends. Each of these actions will have a multiplying effect and will help us reach out to thousands of film-makers around the world who we need to submit content for possible inclusion in Pangea Day

The project is taking off, and its ambition level is spectacular. On May 10, 2008 - Pangea Day - Jehane’s wish will come to fruition as sites in New York City, Rio, London, Dharamsala, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Kigali will be video-conferenced live to produce a 4-hour program of powerful films - supplemented by visionary speakers, and global musicians. The purpose: to use the power of film to promote better understanding of our common humanity. A global audience will watch through the Internet, television, digital cinemas, and mobile phones.

A powerful advisory board has come together to support the project. It includes:
JJ Abrams
Lawrence Bender
Nancy Buirski
lan Cumming
Ami Dar
Cameron Diaz
Goldie Hawn
Vik Muniz
Clare Munn
Eboo Patel
Alexander Payne
Meg Ryan
Deborah Scranton
Jeff Skoll
Philippe Starck
Yossi Vardi
Kevin Wall

If you’re interested learning more and/or helping out, please send an email to Pangea Day executive director Delia Cohen ( More details are available at the project's beautiful website created for us by Avenue A/Razorfish:

Now enjoy the film!

Very best,

Chris Anderson
TED Curator
P.S. The TED talk in which Jehane unveiled her wish for Pangea Day is here.

Signs of the times, summer 2007

On the road, keep an eye on those signs that make you laugh while making you ponder...

Even cockroaches have rights...

Sign at the Dumaguete Outdoors Cafe
Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, Philippines

How low can the law get?

Japanese warning sign (see English version) on fake merchandise
Narita Airport, Japan

Are the meter readers giants or are they far-sighted?
Electricity meters, downtown Manila, Philippines

Uh, do they have insurance?
Fixing an electrical line in the middle of a busy road
Tarlac, Philippines

Meat Free Zone
Vegan eatery at the Katipunan Rd. entrance to the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus