Twist and shout

Belated Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all that jazz.

I was scavenging to find a photo to update a blog post that was a couple of years old. I wanted to tweet it in commemoration of its 18th anniversary.

It’s a little online tribute to the gathering that toppled a presidency which now feels to be just a blip in Philippine history and democracy. The deposed Joseph Estrada is now back in politics serving as mayor of Manila. Gloria Arroyo replaced him and got elected as President, was found guilty of electoral sabotage and placed on house arrest, and is now the Speaker of the House. But I digress.

The photo in question showed up on Google, and after some serious sleuthing (read: clicking), I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the image and the original tweet were used for a news article at the Philippine Star late last year. The image shows a spiral staircase right in the middle of EDSA, like the double helix DNA of our ineptitude. The government body in charge of its construction argued that the stairs was built as an access point for provincial bus passengers. Have fun hauling your luggage up and down the stairs. The good news is the agency will remove the stairs soon.

philstar edsa

I tweeted the photo back in 2015, three years before it “became an issue”. I wish the Star notified me as soon as they had decided to use the photo. It’s a source of pride for me not only to publish in a news website, but as a frustrated urban planner, to also be acknowledged for detecting a planning issue a few years early.

But the Philippines has been known for its patch-up planning. We haphazardly build, tear down, and re-build our structures, be they physical or political. We easily forgive, and much worse, more easily forget. Maybe we’re all just a little too twisted.


Creating the Development Aid Title Jargonator

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me tweet and retweeting frantically about the Development Aid Project Title Jargonator.


I’ve always wanted to learn how to code, signing in and later dropping out of online courses faster than you can click that like button. I was waiting for my next contract to come through this mid-summer, and what better way to spend my down time than pick-up a new skill and resolve to get serious with computer coding.

So I enrolled in and have been taking a part-time 10-week coding course at Flatiron School here in Washington, DC. I hunkered down one weekend, cobbled together a few lines of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and plugged in the few jargons I’ve collected through the years.

It’s been at the back-burner of personal projects in my Google Keep ideas list for a while. It was sparked by a few news articles criticizing the use of jargons in the development world, and the Silicon Valley Job Title Generator. I wanted to create something similar just to poke fun at the work that we do.

The database of words isn’t really a problem. Since I started work in an NGO, the government, and international organizations, I’ve amassed a huge amount of arcane words, for better or worse. And with my current work on reviewing strategy documents, it’s like receiving an unlimited source of donor funds. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

I released it to the wild two weeks ago, posting it on a Facebook Group and hustled for retweets from more popular development professionals, including…

Chris Blattman

… and Ryan Briggs, the creator of Drunk WB:

Meanwhile, some actually found it quite useful, and wished I had made it earlier:

It even got a nod from the Innovations for Poverty Action:

I’m glad many found it funny. Some also found the resulting titles from the randomized buzzwords way too real:


The website is a parody of the development aid sector, what with our penchant for meandering language and buzzwords. It is supposed to entertain and hopefully facilitate reflection of a well-meaning industry that has recently become a target for criticism because of how words become discombobulating and get lost in translation. The website is a lampoon that started lampooning itself, the titles generated therein blurring the line between parody and reality.

On the brighter side, sharing the website on Twitter aided the discovery of almost a hundred people whom I wouldn’t have followed had they not liked or retweeted my post. Not bad for a little side project that uses language and technology for a little ribbing, and ultimately, finding out that the joke is on me.

Don’t forget to generate your own project title!


Now accepting DAAD scholarship applications for 2019

My grad school program coordinator asked us alumni to send word around that applications for the MEG program and DAAD scholarship are now open:

The application window for DAAD scholarships (open to young professionals from developing countries) will remain open until 15 October 2018.

The application period for prospective students wishing to apply for the MEG program under a DAAD-EPOS scholarship is now open. Please note that this scholarship is only available for students from developing countries and emerging economies (see a list of eligible countries here). Prospective scholarship recipients must also be 36 or younger at the time of application, have at least two years of professional experience, and an above average academic record.

Individuals wishing to join the 15th cohort of MEG students, with courses beginning in September of 2019, under a DAAD-EPOS scholarship are invited to submit their applications until 15th of October (15.10.2018).

If you are planning on applying, please be sure to first complete the Online Eligibility Assessment (OEA) to verify that you meet the minimum eligibility requirements of the MEG program. If your eligibility is confirmed, you will be invited to submit both a DAAD scholarship application and a MEG application, along with proof of at least two years of professional experience and other relevant application documents via post to:

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Fakultät für Umwelt und natürliche Ressourcen
Studienbüro / Esther Muschelknautz
Tennenbacherstraße 4
D-79106 Freiburg /Germany


Please note that this application period is only for “DAAD” applicants. The general application period for all prospective students will open on the 15th of March (15.03.2019) for courses beginning in September of 2019.

Further information on the general admissions process can be found here.


Source: MEG website

Let’s have a chat!

Update (July 11): It turns out only the creator/admin can post in the channel, so I’m scrapping this idea for the mean time. Meanwhile, just drop me a line in the comments section.

I just created a Telegram channel (Early Career in International Dev) for us to share our questions and experiences, from our frustrations with HR not responding to emails and applications, or celebrating upon signing that work contract. Don’t forget to share with your friends and colleagues. See you there!

Spring forward

The temperature hit 70’s today. Just like my blog, the city was revived by the warm weather. The District simmered with people this afternoon on my way home- on sidewalks, parks, and streets. Daylight pushed past seven in the evening.

The first quarter of the year is over, and two things have kept me busy in the dark hours of winter:

  1. Writing. For eight Saturdays starting late January, I dragged myself out of bed and braved the cold mornings to attend a writing workshop at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda to polish two of my essays. I got to know some local writers, and developed my reading/critiquing skills. It was also a good way to test my writing to an American audience to figure out, like in any workshop, which elements of my writing worked and did not work. It was especially nerve-wracking for me as a non-native English speaker to submit pieces that I’ve shelved been working on for the past months or years.
  2. Work. I survived the week-long event last mid-March my team at the Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice has been organizing since late last year. It’s a biannual flagship event my department organizes where colleagues from country offices come to Washington to network and keep abreast of corporate and technical discussions. Soon after, I also started supporting the NDC (short for Nationally Determined Contributions) Team of the Climate Change Thematic Group, where I’m conducting a portfolio of World Bank’s climate change project portfolio.

These two will likely continue to keep me busy for the few months. Work picks up this time of year as we prepare for the Spring Meetings. Meanwhile, I’ll continue carving some time, just like tonight, and keep the writing going.

Have a lovely spring, summer, or fall, depending on which part of the world you’re reading this.

P.S. I’ve been using less of Facebook and Instagram lately, but am still around on Twitter.

Summing up my 2017

The year just came and went in an insta.

I’m always in reflection mode this time of year, this month being the last one for the year and my birth month. Although I don’t keep a journal and have been remiss writing here, I realized I’ve amassed some photos on Instagram where I’ve been posting with some regularity. It turns out I’ve documented personal and professional milestones, travels, and other meaningful moments this year through serendipity. So here’s a visual run-down of my 2017 captured in pictures and videos.

1. Making (and breaking) New Year’s Resolutions 2017

Around this time last year, I wrote some resolutions in a piece of paper that I never get to read again. It had on it something about health, creativity, and (non-professional) productivity. I’m rating myself a “Moderately Satisfactory” on all three accounts. But what does that even mean? According to the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group Performance Ratings Codebook, “(t)here were moderate shortcomings in the operation’s achievement of its objectives, in its efficiency, or in its relevance.” I’ll take that. I’m still alive, got to learn new skills, and wrote a couple of long-form writing (and could have blogged more. Fine).

2. Easing into the Northeast: Fort Totten and Brookland

As I settled back in DC, I lived for eight months in Fort Totten, Northeast of the District. Since the neighborhood is still up-and-up-and-up-and-coming, I trekked almost daily to the next neighborhood, Brookland, which has arrived. It’s no Brooklyn but it has a couple of cafes and other dining options where I got to “work from home,” eat, and join a yoga studio in late 2016.

3. Visiting Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls

It still feels wild when I look back at my previous consulting work with the Climate Investment Funds. I together with a team travelled to Zambia to meet our partners in Africa for a climate adaptation knowledge exchange event. My role was to assess participants’ existing knowledge and skills, and evaluate the activity. On top of seeing Victoria Falls, we also visited local communities and learn from the agriculture and livelihood projects they have been successfully implementing.

4. This is what democracy looks like

It has been a politically-charged year in DC. I’d tell people that I was able to escape the authoritarian rule back home, only to arrive at a much-contested and divisive presidential election in the US. The ballots are in, and for the first half of the year, there seemed to be a protest being organized every weekend: Women’s March, March for Science, Climate March. You name it.

5. Bursting my DC bubble

It’s easy to stay in my own DC bubble and get stuck in my apartment-and-office routine. But outside its borders are quaint small towns, reemerging cities, parks, harbors, and architectural treasures in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia just waiting to be explored. I missed out on many of these the last time I lived in the city, and now made a resolve to step out to push my geographic boundaries.

6. But within DC, there are still things to do both old and new

I really can’t blame those who don’t bother to go out of town. The District does not disappoint with the variety of fun and cultural activities available- ambling down new downtown and waterfront developments and parks, checking out museums, and attending festivals.

7. Moving to Columbia Heights

Last summer, I moved in to a tiny studio apartment as soon as I locked-in a new work contract. No, a “tiny studio apartment” is not redundant. It is a tiny apartment, which I don’t really mind living in as I strive to live a minimalist lifestyle. It’s location, location, location. In my neighborhood, I get to walk to grocery stores; eat at my favorite Indian (Salt and Pepper Grill) and Dominican (Los Hermanos) dining spots; chill at cafes; and get around by bus, bike or the Metro.

8. Made it back to Manila with a side trip to Laguna

After being away for a little over a year, I got the chance to fly back home, reconnected with family and friends, and meet my nephew for the very first time!

9. Checked in with family in Canada

The upside of the great Filipino diaspora is that I probably know someone, a relative or a friend, who’s living abroad. Canada is no exception, and I visited three branches of my family who have found their way just outside Toronto. I’ve been meaning to visit them the first time I lived in DC but I never got around to do so. So when the time came for me to exit the US last November, I hopped on a one-hour flight to Toronto and spent my Thanksgiving break with them.

10. Chilling without the chills in South Florida

Just before Christmas, I took a week off for an early break in Fort Lauderdale, a welcome respite from DC’s winter. The region’s pleasant weather mimics that of Manila, which means I get to wear shorts and enjoy long walks this time of year by the beach.

Happy Holidays!

Want to see more photos from 2017 and next year? You should check out and follow me on Instagram @jandrewz or click “Follow” on one of the photos above.