Category Archives: Makati City, Philippines

Makati – Smarter Cities Challenge

Team Makati

Team Makati (Wesley, Brian, Lisa, Ryan, Mamnoon, Nathan)

26March, Makati, Philippines

Makati – half way (yikes!)

In this first post, now that it is set up, I will start posting as of “now” and then get caught up (backwards) and post going forward. Going backwards and forwards at the same time reminds me of some moments of my days! More on that later…

Where to begin when there are thousands of thoughts swimming around between my ears… I suppose I will need to ignore the advice “if you don’t know where to start, go back to the beginning.” So be it… here goes as I jump in.

Last night we rode our first Jeepney! For those of you who have never heard of or seen a Jeepney, it is a variant of an American Jeep, elongated and customized. Some say it reflects the wonderful culture of mixing together the best (and sometimes worst [e.g. US fast food chains] !) of other cultures by combining them in jaw-dropping ways. No two Jeepneys are the same. Some look like Mad Max machines of war, emblazoned with intimidating front grills and impressive hood ornaments; others have prayerful sayings in murals; some have doo-dads upon doo-dads; while others look like a pinewood derby car gone wild. Each is unique, but they have some things in common. Up to 20 people can cram into one, typically, sitting facing each other like in a C-130 military cargo plane. Each one is custom fabricated, by a local chop-shop, they are not “manufactured.” Through the back, you ingress and egress using the back bumper and sit there, hip to hip, chock-a-block with other commuters, with your knees about ear level and your head bowed down. This is because you need to PRAY when you are on one, as it seems it is to the driver’s amusement he will do his best to shake rattle and roll you against your neighbor. I suppose it’s like being in a washing machine. In any event, after almost ten days of hearing about them, we finally got to ride one. I don’t believe we were suddenly brave enough after our meal at a Mexican restaurant (I know, I know, but please forgive me, we’ve tried likely a dozen cuisines so far) after a pitcher of courage, it’s simply it was time. I’ll post a picture as soon as I transfer it from my phone.


fun ride!

“fun” Jeepney ride back to the hotel!


Okay, now that my first post seems to have worked, let me try to get a bit caught up.

What an amazing and fascinating country, city, culture and what incredible gracious and friendly people we’ve encountered. Everyone here seems to smile all the time. This is a lesson for me – if I smile, the other person smiles. A good life lesson, alas, far too often [re] learned over and over. We have interacted with so many people of all walks of life and without exception they have been gracious, friendly, accommodating and fun! Even the security guards along the sidewalks (with guns!) broadly smile each time we enter/exit the hotel, salute in a somewhat mock way and call out in a sing-song way you hear everywhere, “morning BOSS.” The other night we came upon an elite force of the national government who were deployed to protect a national figure (likely the president). They let one of us sit on their motorcycle and wear a helmet. I’m pretty sure one of us could have convinced one of them to let one of us sling their shotgun over a shoulder to pose with them! Fortunately for us we have our truly incredible in-country hosts (Andrea, Nathan, Mei, Waya, Goo and others), who have been so kind and gracious and answered our incessant ‘why?’ type questions. They have been a comfort to us in untold ways


Let's GO!

Let’s GO!


Warning! Deadlines Approaching!


Walking tour of old Manila

Walking tour of old Manila (last weekend)

Yesterday was a long, but good day, with an early morning start and our last meeting ending around 8 p.m. Learning of the traffic symptoms causes us to seek to understand the causes and the underlying causes and root causes. There are many stakeholders and many organizations, communities and millions of people affected – directly – by the traffic here. More than 20 million people live in the metro Manila area and there is incredible congestion throughout. There is no doubt change needs to [continue to] happen. However, in speaking with the various stakeholders, it is clear, that like all communities, there are somewhat disparate interests. So we have a situation in which much has been tried to reduce the negative impacts of traffic. There is no shortage of ideas and recommendations from various groups, people and organizations. As we conduct our philanthropic work, it is clear this is truly akin to the story of the 7 blind men touching various parts of the same elephant, trying in vain to describe what an elephant is.

Yesterday the group split so we could multi-task. There is so much to be done and we are realizing that with each passing hour we are that much nearer our next deadline, the deadline after that, and the completion of our work. Daunting at times but we are up to it.

Twins, separated at birth

Twins, separated at birth

The diversity of our group in terms of background, style, skills and preferences continues to be a source of strength and at times wonder. We are all so different and yet our differences enable us to do better work as a team. One area I cherish are the great senses of humor of those around me. We laugh a lot. I suppose much of that is because we have some funny situations and some of it is comic relief. Nonetheless, it is a source of solace for us and makes our hard work fun at times. Some group members have provided nicknames, based on funny incidents (or personal quirks). We can laugh with each other and at ourselves.

Our local hosts continue to be great supporters. Waya brought us Balut yesterday as the result of a dare (to me and others). I was the only one brave enough to eat/try the semi-developed duck embryo/egg, as others watched in mock-horror.

Later on, after our last call we trekked over to the surrounding restaurant area and had some delicious Thai food. To date we’ve had a tour-de-force of cuisines – Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, American, local/regional, seafood, Mexican, etc., etc., etc! The food is abundant and amazing! It’s important to exercise self-restraint and get exercise, but it is hard to be disciplined to do so.

Today we have “deliverables” for a meeting at 8 p.m. and there’s *much* to do. All for now, more later…


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Deadlines are closer than they appear!

On our way to the University...


We’ve been, as expected, very busy over the last few days. Coupled with the looming deadlines due by end of week, there are times like it feels I’m in one of those reality TV shows where a group of people are kept somewhat captive for an extended period of time and then a pressure situation occurs. Nonetheless, the team continues to get along well. We continue to laugh a lot, which sure helps!

Friday we had our internal and external review meetings and based on the feedback we are on the right course, which is reassuring.

The traffic conditions here have worsened and will only get worse with the imminent multiple road construction projects and increases in population and number of vehicles. Our mandate is clear, but the hill is steep. The stakeholder interests create multi-dimensional challenges, but we are up to the task at hand!

Saturday we started our day at Asia Pacific College where we joined a group of about 60 students and provided them with insights as to what to expect when they graduate. It was uplifting to be surrounded by those about to graduate and their enthusiasm. Wherever we go people show an interest in our wellbeing and they always seemed joyful when we reassure them how well we are being treated and how much we like their wonderful country.

After our time with the students we had Greek food for lunch and then went on a walking tour for a short while in Bonifacio Global City and then experienced the challenges of hailing a cab, etc. We worked the rest of the day and early evening in the hotel and then four of us had Singaporean food (can you tell that food is the one constant theme?). Today we’ve all been researching/writing/composing and we convene tonight for a progress review and then we head off to an area where you can select your seafood on one side of the street and have it cooked on the other side of the road. More later…

IMG_2234 shopping IMG_2100IMG_1994

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The food…

Well, this is a top-of-mind topic.  Staying at a swanky hotel with the breakfast buffet included in the price, loading up your plate is a temptation. To avoid over eating requires discipline; however, every 3-4 hours the food topic comes up again!

The food here in MakAmazingly fresh seafoodati/Manila is something else.  Where to start? How about tonight? Lisa, a colleague, has a friend-of-a-friend, Ronny, who last week drove us to a neat indoor flea market named Greenhills.

Tonight Ronny and his wife accompanied us to an area by the bay, Seafood Paluto, to a restaurant named Swan Lake.  This is a somewhat famous place not far from the gigantic Mall of Asia. You buy your seafood from hawkers and then make arrangements to have a restaurant cook it for you!  It’s super fresh and a super cool way to do it.  We had lobster, huge prawns, salmon and crab and is was delicious!

There’s the full range of food here in and around Makati and we’ve tried many of them so far.

For example, here are some photos of dried fish in a market, a pig in an outdoor market (not uncommon!) and fresh fruit in a market.

IMG_2243 fishIMG_2504 fruitIMG_2509 oink








by | April 14, 2014 · 3:21 pm

Vehicles, vehicles… do we have vehicles!

They have *so many* kinds of vehicles and they drive in fast and slow lanes and in between lanes. Poor lane discipline as we say.  Part of the problem here in Makati is that there are very few designated drop off and pick up bus/jeepney stops and this causes havoc because the jeepneys and bus drivers compete with each other as they race along the overly clogged streets, often intentionally blocking those behind them so they can speed away to the next group of “commuters.” Based on what I’ve read in the newspaper, it can be like rock-em, sock-em robots at times. Intentionally smashed vehicles and shouting/fist-fights are not uncommon. What is hard to understand is how such a smiling and polite culture can become Mad Max like madmen when they get behind the wheel!

Here’s some photos to help you envision them.

Pedicabs are human powered wheeled rickshaw-like devices; “tricycles” are motorcycles with a sidecar welded along side them; jeepneys are custom fabricated buses for 20 (and each one is totally unique); and then there are every kind of bus you could imagine, including a very small number of EV or hybrid buses. Makati is 10 square miles and there are roughly 4k-5k of each kind of vehicle. During rush hour (~20 hours a day!; it’s sheer madness of lurching traffic).

IMG_2075 trikes pedicabIMG_2497 tricked out







IMG_2230 fire truckIMG_2070

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crunch time

Today was a heads-down, fingers on keyboard day for everyone. Skipped meals by some (I had cup of noodles w/ hot kettle water for lunch) and  a $2 dinner at the dumpy food court across the street. We’ve distributed the work across the team and need to get a major document done tomorrow night. No options for fun today of any kind.

Hearkening back to days of old, the photos are past memories of days with more fun in them. The memories help keep us pushing on…

Here are some photos from a week ago Sunday, visiting the volcano island near Tagatay. An active volcano, with sulfur smoke oozing from various places on the island, including the footpath!

IMG_2309 boats IMG_2355 volcano IMG_2361 rustic houses


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photos of the past…

Here’s photos of some are from our past days here in Makati…

Our #1109 ‘way-too-small ‘ working office for *three* weeks (hotel room with the bed removed, 5 foot table inserted)

One of *three* command centers

City Hall carpark, after our meeting with senior city officials and the mayor.

One of 5,000+ Jeepneys; outside a command center; at IBM

IMG_2436 workroom IMG_2463 MMDA IMG_2152 walking






IMG_2568 board room IMG_1995 IMG_1954

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What’s it like to live in a hotel?

Strange, very strange.  Living in aIMG_1911IMG_2220 lobby hotel for 3 weeks is not normal and your perspectives get warped. vAt first, almost everything about a nice hotel is overly impressive. Then, over a few days your standards get raised and you notice that the oatmeal is not hot enough or the door keys don’t work right or some little thing. You need to consciously remind yourself that you are lucky to be in a place like this.  The staff gets to know you, which is nice.

When I walked past the armed guard (we salute each other and say “hey boss”), today asked him “how are you?’ He retorted “happy!” with a broad smile.  I stopped and turned around and asked him why was he happy and — with a pronounced movement of his hand/arm — he told me his wife is two months pregnant   We chatted a while and it was nice to have a sincere human interaction.  People around here are “real” like that. I miss home, but this could be a lot worse… a *lot* worse… in fact, I’m pretty lucky really.

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