The COVID-19 pandemic is also an urban planning issue — especially in Manila

It’s been a while since I’ve written for the media, because university life has been keeping me with academic essays and design work, but when CNN Philippines got in touch for an urban perspective on COVID-19, I found myself writing non-stop.

Click here to read the piece. And stay safe, everyone! Let’s be responsible enough to stay at home and follow medical advice.

All the best from London,


Metro Manila needs more public parks and green spaces. Here’s why

I recently sat down with Nathaniel “Dinky” von Einsiedel, veteran urban planner and architect (and also my former colleague from the UN HABITAT ASUD Programme) to talk about a project he organized and recently published–the Public Parks and Open Green Spaces: A Planning and Development Guidebook.

We also talked about urban issues that are hounding Metro Manila, and how open, green spaces can play a role in making our everyday city experiences better.

Thank you to Portia Ladrido of CNN Philippines Life for inviting me to conduct the interview. Read the full article here.

Let’s treat street vendors as people, not problems

There’s been a lot of controversy on the street clearing operations in Manila, lately, and netizens have been quick to comment, propose solutions (many uninformed or exclusive to the middle and high classes), and create opinions without understanding the ongoings, or communicating with vendors themselves.

So I wrote this op-ed piece, which was published by CNN Philippines Life. My many thanks to the editorial team for agreeing to publish my write-up.

While we’re on the topic, here’s a shoutout to People Make Cities!, a group led by urban planner Julia Nebrija, who held a roundtable discussion with street vendors last weekend. Here are a few photos:

Look at all the urbanites interested in the discussion of understanding why street vendors stay where they are. Great to discuss organic markets, the need for them, and how they live daily. (Photo from People Make Cities!)
With street vendors who were cleared in the recent operations. (Photo from People Make Cities!)
Learned a lot from Julia in this event. (Photo from People Make Cities!)
Creating the understanding.
It was great to have so many dynamic people in this roundtable. We were also joined by the Paolo Alcazaren towards the end of the discussion.

Transforming Metro Manila cities

Celebrating the local wins after the 2019 mid-term elections in the Philippines has led to many great promises and potentials for our cities, especially in Metro Manila.

I wrote this feature highlighting the first two weeks of how the new local chief executives are doing, and what it means for our cities. Thanks to Philippine Daily Inquirer for publishing this.

Kalakhang Maynila – Metropolitan Manila

Guess what–I got to write a feature column on Metro Manila for topos Magazine! It’s my first time to be part of an international publication, and it’s thrilling to be able to tell foreign readers about our side of the world.

topos is based in Munich, Germany, and is an international review of landscape and architecture.

It started out in September last year. Anja Koller, the Editorial Manager of topos, sent me an e-mail to ask if I could contribute to their column Metropolis Explained. She said she came across this blog, and said that their team also approached other urban writers and bloggers for the column. (Check out Constant Cap of Kenya, he wrote the column in the issue before mine, and he featured Nairobi.)

It was both exciting and intimidating to say yes to the job, because of the readership of topos, and of course, the prestige of the magazine. Also, I had to write about the ins and out, the details, and a macro-perspective of sixteen cities and one municipality in around 4,000 characters, which isn’t much to work with.

But that was the challenge. It took me a couple of hours from day to day thinking how I would frame the essay–should I put stories? Which city elements would matter? If I had never been to the Philippines, would this essay make sense? But when I got to writing, everything poured out, and I’m really happy to share the result:

Anja was very kind to send me a physical copy of the magazine after it came out in December 2018, but it got lost in the mail. She tried to send me a second copy, but that also got lost in the mail, most unfortunately. But at least I have access now to the e-copy. 🙂

Edit: My long lost copy suddenly arrived in the mail! And after I called customs and the post office, and they told me they couldn’t track my package. Here it is:

You can also buy issues or subscribe to topos at Happy reading!