Reaping the rewards of my gig with the government

I chose to work in the government 12 years ago. Looking back, I’m glad I did.

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“What’s that?” There was a split-second pause in our conversation as a friend tried to make sense of my response. “Ah, government… right?” he said. I nodded in confirmation, and wished we’d change the topic of our conversation right away. I could sense his surprise at least, or cynicism at worst, after I told him I was leaving my job, my first one out of college and less than three months into it.

Its less-than-stellar reputation and the meager salary that came with it are common knowledge. I could almost read their thought bubbles, “Why?” or “Are you out of your mind?” Or perhaps the more pitiful “Sorry to hear that.” As friends and classmates got a good head start in their careers in private firms and non-profits, my decision to work for the government seemed like backtracking right after I started.

Anyone who has changed jobs has done it one way or another. It’s like cheating, only in a professional way. You take a day off or show up late for work for that job interview. I must have done the latter, and brought a change of clothes as I was careful not to drop any hints of my transgression. I wore a short-sleeved maroon button-up shirt and khakis, which was already dressy compared with my daily ensemble of jeans and T-shirt in my first job at a non-profit organization.

My first job wasn’t necessarily my first choice. All along, even before graduation, I had set my sight on working in the government. Not just any government office though. I applied to a few others but the development planning agency was at the top of my list. How does one development-plan? I didn’t quite fully comprehend then what the job entailed, but “development planning” sounded too important to pass up. It had the reputation of accepting only the best and the brightest. Of course, I wanted to be a part of it.

I asked for tips from two people who were then connected with the office. I made acquaintance with one via an online forum for cellphone enthusiasts, who eventually switched careers to become a tech writer. The other was an alumnus of my college who went to work there for a couple of years, and later on left to pursue graduate studies on a scholarship in Brussels. Those didn’t seem to be terrible career paths. With limited knowledge of the possible entry-level jobs I could apply to, I thought I could forge something similar for myself.

I sent in my job application in a month after I graduated, in April of 2004, and got a call from HR for a written test a month or two later. The three-hour test consisted of management questions (!), economic concepts, basic algebra, and two essays. And again, like many of job applications then (and until now), there was silence. This was in 2004, an election year, and every time the Commission on Election issues a hiring freeze in the government. This dragged on until November when I finally got called in for an interview.

The panel didn’t bring up the test results during the interview, thankfully. I still doubt I passed the economics part of the test after only taking a basic economics course in my undergrad. I must have winged it on the essay, which asked the role of “sustainable development” in national development, a concept drilled down to us in college. It was the trending development jargon, the “inclusive development” of mid-2000. The panel consisted of four chiefs, each heading the four divisions of the Agriculture Staff, and two hiring committee representatives. I can’t exactly remember their questions. All I remember is that everything went smoothly. It was jovial, almost informal- encouraging if not reassuring signs.

There were three other applicants that day. We were corralled in a waiting lounge with blue walls the size of a big cubicle, which felt like being inside the dead-end of a maze when one looked around while seated down. Like the other interviewees, I was whisked back to the maze after the panel interview and told to wait our turn before the one-on-one interview with the director.

He was portly and in his late forties. I saw him a little earlier walk in with a swagger, and assumed that must be him. We talked about an upland agriculture project, a topic I should have known well, and wished I had, especially because I spent one month doing our practicum with the implementers of that very same project.

He probably caught my bluff. After all, it’s a project he knows too well, because his office reviewed the technical aspects of the project before it got the go signal for funding by a multilateral bank- one of the core tasks of the job. He asked probing questions. But really, what does a barely-out-of-college 21 year-old know about development planning? Until now, and several local and international development organizations later, I’m still looking for that definitive answer.

Albeit late, I still went to work that day, or at least tried to, mostly asking myself: “Will I be sitting on the same chair for a while? What could I have said differently? What now? I remember asking a friend about an interview he had once for an admin job. Only with a little enthusiasm, he told me that he “said all the things they (the interviewers) wanted to hear.” I wish I could have said the same after my interview. I wasn’t new at all to the professional world, already with two months of work experience then under my belt.

A few weeks after the interview, I got an email asking me to submit documents to kickstart the hiring process, before assuming my government post. On the last workday of 2004 I became an “Economic Development Specialist.” I reveled in my job title. I’ll be doing development planning.

The Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan or MTPDP was our bible. Jeffrey Sachs lauded that version of the plan as “one of the best, if not the best, he has ever seen.” Those words would have looked nice in its dust jacket if ever it had one. The Plan was an infallible scripture cited in memos, quoted in government meetings, and subscribed to as our superior belief system during donor meetings. We deferred to its wisdom. At least for the next six years until a new leader is elected. The plan coincides with the term of the president, after which its contents are revised or recycled, or rendered irrelevant.

Some days we argued over the technical merits of Jatropha curcas as a source biofuel, other days we’re building capacity to mainstream sustainable development before we moved on to the mainstream climate change in local development. Yes, I learned its jargons. I met many technocrats, competent and controversial ones.

Those two and a half years must have been my busiest: reviewing projects, attending technical working groups, facilitating workshops. My blog that I started in 2003 was inactive during those years. It’s also the longest I’ve held down a job.

I observed that my senior colleagues, including those who have left, have a predictable career progression: work for a couple of years, go on study leave to study abroad, and return to government. Our office was notorious for its high churn rate. Those who didn’t opt for a study leave resigned from their post because they didn’t want to be bound to a service contract.

I usually went to work at 7:00 in the morning so I can leave at 4:00 in the afternoon. One day I stayed later than usual, making sure many of my colleagues have left for the day. I sent my then chief who concurrently worked as the officer-in-charge a Sametime message, asking her if she had a minute to speak. She said yes so I went to her office, sat down, and talked about my plans, which unfortunately no longer included them. She understood and respected my decision. I was one of those who didn’t want to be tethered to a service contract. After two and a half years, I left my job to study on a scholarship in Freiburg in Germany.

I became good friends with many of my colleagues, and still keep in touch with many of them. It’s a unique professional relationship I haven’t been able to replicate in my other jobs, for better or worse. We have bumped into each other in international conferences in South Africa, or worked together again a few years down the road at the United Nations or Asian Development Bank in Manila.

My stint with the government prepared me well in understanding its machinations. This appreciation comes in handy even up to this day. I’ve established lifelong friendships and a sturdy network. I’ve been shaping an interesting through the years. That second job provided me a mental model of the so-called bureaucracy, including its potential and foibles. After making a decision twelve years hence, when I thought I was making a backtrack, I didn’t know it would propel me forward.

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This is the second of a series of blog posts where I will write about my previous jobs. Read the first post here. If you have other suggestions, let me know in the comments section! Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter.

My first job out of college

The first job holds a special place in every professional’s career.

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My ego took a blow right after finishing my undergrad back in 2004. I graduated at the top of my class at a top university and expected employers to come racing and tearing down my door with a contract, as if I were a first draft pick star athlete waiting for my multi-million dollar offer. But all I got after two months was a job I hustled to get via email, which I quit after working for two weeks without a contract. My boss was a lawyer by the way. I sent scores of job applications, worked my contacts, and got a couple of job interviews to various organizations: government agencies, NGOs, and an urban planning firm. The only thing they had in common were the rejections and unreturned email inquiries.

Six months later I managed to get a research assistant job for a UNDP-funded sustainable agriculture project, “Enhancing Capacities on Sustainable Agriculture for Poverty Reduction”. I got wind of the job posting from my university organization’s e-group, sent by an alumna who also happened to work for the NGO hosting the project. I was invited for an interview, and reported to work a week or two later.

My commute was more than an hour going to work in Quezon City north of Metro Manila (we lived in the south), which included taking a tricycle (like a tuk-tuk), bus, jeep, train, jeep, and another tricycle. Our office was located in the NGO hub of the country close to the University of the Philippines, not too far from what’s now a popular foodie destination. It took a half-hour longer to travel back home. It was also hotter and sweatier. But those didn’t matter. At last I was a productive part of society; I was employed.

As my title suggested, I was responsible for doing research on the sustainable agriculture in the Philippines. Our project helped train farmers to produce their own organic fertilizers, and eventually assist them shift to sustainable agriculture and link them to the national and even international market. It was challenging work not only because of the complexity of the sector, but more so as it was my first job and specialized in environmental planning, and not agriculture. It turned out to be the first of my many future jobs working on agriculture and agriculturists, from policy, markets, and later on directly with farmers.

When not doing online research, I tagged along with our project manager to attend meetings outside the office. We met with other NGOs to identify any common areas we can jointly work on, or complement each other’s activities. There were also the occasional donors’ meetings to report on progress and issues of our project, and writing news articles for our newsletter.

Perhaps the highlight of my stint with the NGO was flying down south, in Cotabato, where we organized a three-day training for farmers to help them shift to biodynamic farming. I remember eating a lean but just-as-good bacon, and visiting the demo-site where it came from- a pig pen that, believe it or not, doesn’t stink. On our last day I joined some farmers for a hike and took a dip at a hot spring.

I never got to see the end of the project, but surprisingly I found a publication about it online. I handed in my resignation letter after three months to work for the government. It was a short three-month gig. But it was my first job where I received my first salary. It was an exciting first taste of the real world, just like with life’s many firsts.

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This is the first of a series of blog posts where I will write about my previous jobs. If you have other suggestions, let me know in the comments section! Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter

Update: This blog post was featured in the online publication The Ascent.

Road trip: How I deal with SLEx on a bus

After moving back to Metro Manila, and to shield myself from the stress-inducing snarling traffic, I’ve pretty much given up on mass transit. I’ve setup a routine, and by way of extension, a life, where I try to avoid all modes of wheeled transportation- even a car- if I can help it.

My daily commute is a seven-minute walk, door-to-desk. For those times I have to go somewhere farther- home in Las Piñas or an aunt’s house in Manila (the city) on weekends- I rely on Uber. Without a driver’s license, a car, and the skills to drive one, it’s the only way to get around in the metro. Taxis, with all the haggling, crime, and grime involved, are now a far, second option. This of course limits my mobility. Save for a jaunt to Singapore in January and to my mother’s hometown in Sorsogon over Christmas, the farthest trip I managed last year was to Los Baños in Laguna, just 68 kilometers south of Manila.

Just recently, I renewed extra-curricular ties to my university, which means making more frequent visits to Los Baños this year. I’m exploring to volunteer in an elderly care program, and have been recently elected as an officer for the college-affiliated professional organization that I helped establish.

More than a decade after graduating from university, I still make that trip south every now and then, just to take a breather from the city. I arrange ‘official’ excuses to go back. I attend alumni meetings in my college, a fiesta farther south in San Pablo City, or do a day trip to Nagcarlan and Pandin. Facebook check-ins garner likes from university friends and other fellow alumni. For sure they would click the ‘envious’ emoji if there was one.

It’s easy to travel to Los Baños. Hop on a bus going to Sta. Cruz, Laguna along EDSA, Buendia, or Alabang and about two hours or so later, voila, you’re in Los Baños. If I’m lucky, I’m able to hitch a ride with a friend who would go home on weekends. Going back from a meeting, for sure a fellow alumnus is driving somewhere to Manila. Otherwise, I don’t have any qualms (and choice) taking the bus.

As a university student, I would travel home on Saturday afternoons after our military training, and be back on Sunday evening or early Monday morning in time for my first class. It was a weekly ritual, a route I know all too well, now hardwired in my body’s internal GPS.

The bus provides few forms of entertainment enough to kill the half-hour stretch of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx). Most air-conditioned buses have a TV (and recently WiFi), which is good and bad. Good because there’s something to alleviate the humdrum of the trip. Bad, because I never got to start or finish whatever is playing. Most of the time, a movie is already playing when one gets on the bus. Sometimes I partly get lucky when the bus conductor starts playing the movie as soon as the bus hits the expressway, only for me to get off an hour later as the movie is about to reach climax. This was right before the time of the iPods and Spotify, when on-demand music meant burning your favorite playlist on a CD.

I recently visited a college friend in San Pablo, further south of Los Baños, who has turned into a regular weekend bus commuter when he started working in Manila full-time. He said you meet all sorts of people on a bus. I encountered one of them that morning.

A time-tested way to while away the time is to sleep, if you have the tenacity to do so. I had planned on sleeping on the bus after a rough night. I could get at least a good hour of shuteye from the two-hour bus ride once I have paid my fare, or so I thought. The lady seating on the opposite side was holding a talkfest. She was already deep into her conversation with her companion as I got on the bus along EDSA in Ortigas. She talked non-stop all the way to Calamba, where she and her companion finally got off. She talked so much that I barely remember hearing the voice of the guy she was with. When they got off the bus, a guy moved to their vacated seats. This time, he was singing along in a deep monotone to Whitney Houston’s ‘The Greatest Love All’ as he looked out the window. Sleeping on a bus is not easy to achieve, and that morning it wasn’t happening to me. I started singing along.

Upon leaving Metro Manila, Calamba is the first city that greets motorists at the southern tip of the expressway. It’s the last exit of the SLEx, the gateway to Laguna’s more rustic parts and all things calm and green, past the urban sprawl that has engulfed parts of the province closer to Manila. It signals ‘one more hour before arrival’ to my ultimate destination. The Calamba-Los Baños stretch used to be shorter. The volume of vehicles has unfortunately given way to predictable choke points in Calamba Crossing and the junction going into the UP Los Baños campus. A third one exists in summer, in Pansol, where Manileños troop to swimming pool resorts to cool down.

For someone who has visited six out of the seven continents, I can’t say I’ve always been, or already am, a good traveler. I feel anxious at the thought of air travel. As a child, I would feel nauseous after seating for a while in a moving vehicle. My mother made sure she had a barf bag with her in the unfortunate event that I needed one, which was quite frequent. At times, even up till now, a whiff of a musty taxi or pine-scented air-conditioned bus still triggers childhood memories of motion-sickness, projectiles, and plastic bags.

Memories of traversing the SLEx are nothing but a blur, like a necessary purgatory one has to go through to escape Manila and reach the gates of provincial Laguna. Most times I simply tune out and get lost in the time-space abyss. It’s transit in a trance.

I still squirm at the thought of long land travel, just sitting there in limbo, neither comfortable nor productive, neither here nor there. But for a couple of hours away to escape Manila en route to my happy place, I deal with it.

If you’ve taken a specific route countless times, you more or less can estimate where are you are depending on the time and speed of the vehicle, even with your eyes closed. Approaching Calamba exit, the driver releases the gas pedal and slightly applies the break. The bus slows down as it rounds the exit ramp, the centrifugal force pushing me lightly to the left. I then feel a rush, as if I’m on a plane preparing for landing, banking, gradually descending and raising its flaps to aid its deceleration and finish off with a smooth soft landing. It’s a gentle wake up call to tell me I’m approaching a familiar destination, now one that is part-holiday, part-business, but always like home. It’s a nudge I recognize, a unique one just for this particular bend in the road.

Journey to victory

By Andrew Zubiri

My grumbling stomach was telling me the time—it was almost noon. I decided to go out of our college building to grab something to eat at a nearby makeshift canteen. I was appalled with the throngs of jeepneys lined up on the street surrounding the Oblation as soon as I stepped out of our building, as if a jeepney terminal was relocated inside the campus. Seeing an assemblage of such vehicles inside the vicinity of the university was something peculiar to a naïve college freshman like me back then. I saw one of my blocmates and a couple of her friends in one of them, and jokingly asked her if she knew where the jeep was bound for. She seriously said yes.

Those jeepneys were bound for Edsa. There were about twenty of them, and a batch of almost the same number had already left a few hours earlier.

I forgot all about my hunger and headed straight to my dormitory to see if my roommates were also going. The idea of joining the rally was already abuzz in the dorm since the other night. I found one of them in our room and he told me that our other roommates had already left almost an hour ago to join the rally. I asked him if he was going to Edsa as well, he said no because he has tons of things to do. I invited second thoughts of not joining when I heard those words, for I did not want to go alone in this new pool of experience I am about to jump into. There were a lot of uncertainties playing in my mind, most of which came from what I see on TV or read in the newspapers about people, particularly students, who join rallies: violent arrests, beating up by policemen, or simply a scolding from my parents who warned me to not join such activities. But, fortunately, those remained as just those– thoughts. And those did not taint my enthusiasm and curiosity to join the rally.

I emptied my backpack and dumped in all the things that (I think) I would need: a shirt, a small towel, bottled water, and my allowance for the rest of the week. It felt like I was about to engage in a battle of some sort. I went to a nearby fast-food chain to buy four burgers, which I hoped would last me the rest of the day.

I went back to the place where the jeepneys were parked, but what I just saw was the last of them speeding away. I considered that as a sign that didn’t “deserve” to join a rally yet. I was as fresh as I can be as a college freshman, and I am not “nationalistically mature” yet, whatever that means. I saw a bunch of students wearing loud red shirts who at first I thought were student-activists, but I assumed and later confirmed they were members of a fraternity and a sorority. I overheard them talking about going to Edsa, and I wondered how. The jeepneys had all left, and not even one of them owned a car. My being nosey led me to stalking them. I heard them saying that all the vehicles will first converge in Crossing (Calamba), and from there will proceed to Edsa. My face lit up and I saw a ray of hope as I heard those words; I wasn’t totally left behind after all. They hailed a jeepney bound for Calamba, and I eagerly followed them.

The trip to Calamba was unusually a smooth one. We arrived there in no time. The multitude and convergence of students, professors, and other university constituents in another place outside the UPLB campus was overwhelming. Most of them were crammed inside cars and jeepneys, while some of the activists were spilled on the streets asking some of the manong drivers who have not yet joined the bandwagon (literally and figuratively) if they could go to Edsa. The students were not able to convince the jeepney drivers –but they were able to convince the bus drivers! After a few minutes of haggling and negotiating with the conductors, students started to pour inside nine non air-conditioned buses. Each was packed to the hilt with about seventy students, accommodating more passengers than its usual capacity. As a consolation, they had a television on-board. After everyone has boarded the buses and all were set, we began our pilgrimage to Edsa.

We breezed through the South Luzon Expressway, occasionally stopping for the other buses and jeepneys to catch up with the convoy. On our way, the ‘marshals’ told us we needed to pay about 35 pesos each for the one-way bus ride. The conductor switched on the TV, and the screen showed the impeachment trial court barren with the prosecution panel. We shouted ‘Booooo!’ whenever the irritating faces of the 11 senators who denied the opening of the controversial envelope were put up close the monitor.

I suddenly realized my hunger, and devoured one of the burgers with just a few big bites and gulped down half of the water I brought with me. I felt sleepy afterwards and decided to take a nap.

My adventure in dreamland ceased when I felt the bus stop and switched off its engine. I can’t exactly pinpoint where we stopped, but I know it was somewhere in a tollgate along C-5 road. A small building that housed the policemen and other traffic authorities was nearby. I thought we were there because some of us needed to respond to the call of nature, since there was a public toilet outside the building. Yes, some of us used the comfort rooms, but I later learned that it wasn’t really the main reason why we were there in the first place. I noticed that the marshals were talking to the traffic aides, but I was sure it wasn’t just a friendly chat. I sensed something was wrong. Our marshals eventually told us that the traffic men wouldn’t let us proceed to Edsa since the signs of the jeepneys say we were already out of route. Of course we were out of route, we came all the way from Los Baños! They said that the vehicles weren’t conducive for a safe trip because it was jam-packed. Of course they were jam-packed, would they bother to give us a few thousand pesos to hire a few more buses and jeepneys? They also said that we weren’t on for an educational trip, so why the very large number of students? They were definitely wrong. I know it would be one of the most historic, educational, and significant trips I’ll ever take in my whole life. They gave us various delaying tactics, like looking for protest permits, and threatening us that they would confiscate the automobiles’ plate numbers. I know someone ordered them to prevent such massive mobilizations. I know they were just doing their job, and apparently, they were doing it pretty damn well.

Most of us felt restless after a while, and the marshals told us to go down and join them in ‘pleading’ to the traffic authorities to let us go. The marshals told them that we would block the road if they won’t let us leave. But they were unmoved. We started to form a human barricade. With our arms linked together, kapit-bisig so-to-speak, we blocked the northbound lane of the road. Heavy traffic started to clog the said lane in no time, as motorists started to honk their horns. Some of us approached them and explained to them what was happening. Soon, their horns were blaring simultaneously to the tune of “Erap resign” (E-rap re-sign!) we were chanting. We started shouting Palam-pasin kamI! Palam-pasin kami! (Let us pass through!) to appropriately match our plea. The traffic men are (quite) smart: they let the northbound vehicles pass through the southbound lane. But we are smarter. Some of us have already started to occupy the opposite lane, and both roads soon became congested. The traffic men began to call for back-up with their CB radios.

A few minutes later, and not expecting the unexpected, the traffic aides let their defenses down and decided to let us go even if the back-up they’ve called for hasn’t arrived yet. If there’s a will, there’s surely (and literally) a way. We all cheered and rejoiced in jubilation. I was ecstatic. We felt that this was a very good start in anticipation of what was to come. We scurried in our respective modes of transportation, and quickly left and headed for Edsa. I saw one police officer passing by (maybe one of the back-ups) in his patrol car and gave him a thumbs-up sign and a snappy salute.

I can consider this sequence of events was a premonition of what was to unfold in the days to come. This also served as an inspiration that prepared us as we headed towards the historic place in Edsa Avenue corner Ortigas Avenue.

And the rest, not only as the cliché goes, but as we witnessed in Edsa, is history.

Tips on applying for scholarship grants in Germany

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University of Freiburg

From time to time I get asked for advice on my blog (and the short-lived Pinoy Scholars blog) about applying for scholarships grants to pursue graduate studies in Germany and other European countries. Other than the ‘Study hard!’ mantra I could dispense, I never really came up with a conclusion on how I got awarded a DAAD scholarship for my graduate studies at the University of Freiburg in Germany. So I tapped into the minds of  members of a Facebook Group called Filipino Students and Alumni in Germany. As the group name implies, they are Filipinos who are students and alumni of German universities. Many of them have themselves undergone the nerve-wracking applications for funding, without which a German education would have been impossible. I posted a question to the group, which, after being ‘seen by 40’, got some practical responses by direct replies or private messages on Facebook. I’m breaking down some of the answers below into themes

On applications, research proposals and supervisors:

My tip would be to write a really good and thought-out research proposal, preferably one that was written together with the supervisor. Getting a supportive supervisor that will put in a good word for you is a plus. -Manjo Loquias, DAAD scholarship for a PhD in Math at University of Bielefeld, October 2008 to December 2010.

I saw your message on the FSAAG page. It’s my first semester here in Konstanz as a PhD in Economics. I got a small amount of funding from the state of Baden-Württemberg. I didn’t directly apply to the Baden-Württemberg scholarship, I just applied to the University of Konstanz and may have indicated that I needed funding (I don’t remember quite well anymore)… I don’t really know what it was that made them decide to grant funding to me. One thing that must have been particularly striking was that one of my referees (who now teaches in UP but took his Post Doc in Konstanz for a year) wrote his recommendation letters to Konstanz and Mannheim in Deutsch. I can’t say that’s a good tip because advisers in the Philippines who can write letters in German are not easy to find. -Vigile Marie Fabella, PhD in Economics student at the University of Konstanz

I think that the EC Erasmus Mundus PhD grant does not apply to those who have resided in the EU for more than x number of years – unless you’re transitioning from a Master’s Erasmus Mundus grant to the PhD level. I’m quite sure of this, but perhaps they have changed the policy.-Salvador Santino ‘Santi’ Regilme, Jr. DAAD scholarship in ‘Public Policy and Good Governance’ at the University of Osnabrueck, 2008 to 2010.

Applications are about first impressions first. make sure one follows the directions to the letter. if not possible, ask the contact person nicely (and get their names correctly). as always, the rules of letter writing etiquette should apply. no cute or pabibo b******t… You got to have something on hand to back up your applications just in case. This may be a writing sample, copies of your documents from your application portfolio and so on. Have someone read your application (especially if there are statements of purpose, writing samples or letters of intent). Here, first impressions matter. If there are typos and mistakes, then you reduce your chances. also make sure that you choose your recommendation letter writers carefully. Just because you are chummy with your letter writer doesn’t mean that he will write a glowing letter. -Andrew Adrian Yu Pua

So, you secured that scholarship grant? Sehr gut! Let’s Prost! to that. But it doesn’t mean celebrating the Oktoberfest in every month of the year. The amount you’ll get will most likely be a just little more than enough to pay for rent, books, and the occasional rest and recreation. Andrew Adrian Yu Pua offers some more money-pinching tips:

It is possible to save up to half of your stipend if you know how to cut corners. this means that you have to exploit legitimate free travel options given by the school. if living alone, finding a basic 12-18 m² apartment should be a priority. you can share but it depends on your tolerance for other people. Find the Asian stores as early as possible because they give cheaper options. Also know that certain cuts of meat are cheaper (for instance fattier meat products are usually cheaper than nonfat meat products; the reverse is true for the Philippines). Or you could opt for eating in school and supplementing with veggies and fruits at home.

Use the library. you do not have to buy new books all the time. Because of the large secondhand book market (mostly ex-library books — some of which are stolen by others!!), buy from that market. Use amazon.de or ebay.de.

Finally, you are in Germany to study. Sure you could have fun. You could sample everything that Germany has to offer including the booze. But have the presence of mind to forgo certain fun options for other pursuits. Because of the grant, you might be able to save up for emergency purposes. Although, it is unlikely that you will get sick in Germany (given the practice you have in the Philippines), it pays to have some funds around if you need to move to better housing, apply for other schools in the future, etc. if time permits, get a research or student assistantship to supplement your grant. That’s another source of money.

When I was a student in Germany, I worked as a student assistant and also took on odd jobs (and got fired in one without me knowing it) to supplement my stipend. If all else fails and you still want that German diploma…

There are also possibilities for self financing. Many universities in Germany offer free education and it is possible to come here on your own accord. This opens up other opportunities for course choices and maybe lifestyle choices. -Gabriel Caballero

I have a couple of classmates who  worked in Indian and Japanese restaurants (guess where they’re from!) to put themselves to grad school. They would work afternoon or evening shifts on top of group works, assignments, and rest. It is difficult, but possible.

Here a couple more information and links:

If you check out the webpage http://www.bit.ly/fsaag , you will find there a document on basic steps in applying for a degree program in Germany. It based on common experience and may vary with other students. The main scholarship provided for foreign students in Germany is the DAAD, but there are also other possibilities to get a scholarship. As this is commonly asked by many, I also provided a document about scholarships on the website. -Jingky Lozano-Kuehne

You can also check thishttp://www.expertsasia.eu/index.asp -Moises Neil Villaflor Seriño

Got some more tips and questions? Please share them below in the comments section.

Several ways you can help Sendong disaster victims if you’re outside the Philippines

Updated*. You’ve read the newsseen photos, and watched videos of the disaster as a result of tropical storm ‘Sendong’ (international name: Washi) that trampled southern Philippines. Local relief efforts have begun and you want to help. But you are outside the country; one of the millions of Filipinos in diaspora or perhaps a foreigner who simply has a soft spot for the Philippines and its people. Despite the distance you can still lend a helping hand  Here are a few ways, and we thank you in advance.

1. Look for a Filipino. Chances are, you or a friend of yours know a Filipino who is flying home to the Philippines for Christmas. Get in touch with them and ask them a favor to bring a small amount of money or goods. If you decide to donate goods like food, clothes, and blankets, tell them to drop off your donations to the nearest LBC station. It is a courier company in the Philippines which will send the goods for free to the hardest-hit areas.

@LBC_Foundation said they will start receiving donations in their drop off points in the US and Canada as of today (December 20):

https://twitter.com/#!/LBC_Foundation/status/148946998337347585

Their other offices abroad are also open to donations.

https://twitter.com/#!/LBC_Foundation/status/148947224385171456

2. Donate through your credit card. You can do so via:

GMA Kapuso Foundation
Worldvision (Thanks to my friend Thea for the heads up!)
Philippine Red Cross

3. Donate via Paypal through one of the members of Iligan bloggers: http://bit.ly/oneforiligan-donate

4. Make a wire transfer. You can also wire your donations through the following bank accounts:

•METROPOLITAN BANK & TRUST COMPANY (METROBANK)
Peso Savings
Account Name: GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number: 3-098-51034-7
Dollar Savings
Account Name: GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number: 2-098-00244-2
Code:MBTC PH MM

•UNITED COCONUT PLANTERS BANK (UCPB)
Peso Savings
Account Name:GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number: 115-184777-2
: 160-111277-7
Dollar Savings
Account Name: GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number: 01-115-301177-9
: 01-160-300427-6
Code: UCPB PH MM

GMA Kapuso Foundation has other bank accounts, but these banks deduct service fees.

BANCO DE ORO (BDO)
Peso Savings
Account Name:GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number:469-0022189
Dollar Savings
Account Name:GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number:469-0072135
Code: BNORPHMM

PHILIPPINE NATIONAL BANK (PNB)
Peso Savings
Account Name :GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Numbe:121-003200017
Dollar Savings
Account Name:GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number:121-003200025
Code:PNB MPH MM

Philippine Red Cross bank accounts (via the Philippine Daily Inquirer):

Deposits can also be made to the PRC’s Banco De Oro peso account 00-453-0018647, dollar 10-453-0039482; Bank of the Philippine Islands peso account 4991-0036-52, dollar account 004994-0103-15; Metrobank account 151-3-041631228, dollar 151-2-15100218-2; Philippine National Bank peso account 3752 8350 0034, dollar account 3752 8350 0042; Unionbank of the Philippines peso account 1015 4000 0201; dollar account 1315 4000 0090.

Sagip Kapamilya (via ABS CBN News)

BDO Peso Account
Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Sagip Kapamilya
Account Number: 39301-14199
Swift Code: BNORPHMM

BDO Dollar Account
Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Sagip Kapamilya
Account Number: 39300-81622
Swift Code: BNORPHMM

PNB Peso Account
Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Sagip Kapamilya
Account Number: 419-539-5000-13
Swift Code: PNBMPHMM

BPI Peso Account
Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Sagip Kapamilya
Account Number: 3051-1127-75
Branch: West Triangle, Quezon City
Swift Code: BOPIPHMM

BPI Dollar Account
Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Sagip Kapamilya
Account Number: 3054-0270-35
Branch: West Triangle, Quezon City
Swift Code: BOPIPHMM

Philippine Jesuit Foundation (via Emett de Guzman)

You can make a tax-deductible donation for those affected by Typhoon Sendong through the Philippine Jesuit Foundation (PJF). PJF will issue you a receipt and ensure that your donation goes to the proper beneficiary.

 1. Online Donations: Click on Ateneo de Manila University and pick DREAM, Disaster Response and Management Fund.
https://www.phjesuits.org/pjf/share.php

2. By check, address it to PHILIPPINE JESUIT FOUNDATION, write Ateneo de Manila-Dream Team on the memo line, then send it to:

Philippine Jesuit Foundation
P.O. Box 312
New York, N.Y.  10028
USA

For more information, contact:
Ms. MARGARET LLAMAS
Executive Director
pjfexecdir@phjesuits.org
Telephone number: (646) 370-1526

*Please let me know if this list is incomplete and there are other ways for people outside the Philippines to help our brothers and sisters.