Team of Rivals

(photo from Sec. Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Office)

I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book the Team of Rivals a few years back. And it popped back into my head after I saw this photo. I have been an avid supporter of then Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte in the past because of what he has done and accomplished in Davao City. I knew him to be an action man but I didn’t really know anything about the inner workings of City Hall more than was written in the press.

The book Team of Rivals details Goodwin’s research and analysis of how former US President Abraham Lincoln was able to provide great leadership during his time and how we was able to recruit his main rivals for the presidency to join his cabinet. It is a rare thing in politics when a leader goes out of his way to accommodate his intellectual “foes” and works with them for the common good. While both Lincoln and Duterte have major weaknesses, there’s a lot that can be said for leaders who try to bring everyone to the table. Lincoln paved the way for slavery to end in North America.

What Goodwin said about Lincoln (in this HBR interview) holds true for Duterte for me as well:

Interviewer: More books have been written on Lincoln than on any other American president. What does Lincoln’s magic as a leader really come down to?

Goodwin: Well, it wasn’t anything so immediately felt as charisma. In fact, it took the country some time to warm to Lincoln; his popularity almost came from the inside out. His cabinet was the first to see something unusual about him.

Take William Seward, who originally was a rival. Some eight weeks after becoming secretary of state, Seward wrote to his wife that Lincoln was unlike anyone he’d ever known. Other members of the cabinet came to think so, too. One after another, they came to power thinking Lincoln was rather unexceptional and ended up believing that he was as near a perfect man as anyone they’d ever met.

What Lincoln had, it seems to me, was an extraordinary amount of emotional intelligence. He was able to acknowledge his errors and learn from his mistakes to a remarkable degree. He was careful to put past hurts behind him and never allowed wounds to fester. The rare example I could find of Lincoln’s being unable to forgive someone was his father. Lincoln never visited his father when he was dying, which suggests that he could not let go of the anger he felt toward the man who considered the future president’s fierce desire to learn a sign of laziness.”

Duterte’s legacy as presidency remains to be seen.

Top Links for Typhoon #Haiyan #YolandaPH Rescue and Relief Efforts

Why the Philippines needs your help.

Check out this link showing the difference between Hurricane Katrina and Super Typhoon Haiyan – HOW TYPHOON HAIYAN COMPARES TO HURRICANE KATRINA

Summary of the extent of the damage – Worst disaster to hit PH

An example of what happened on the ground – Daughter’s last words: ‘Ma, just let go… Save yourself’

Interactive map showing the path of Haiyan – Mapping the Destruction of Typhoon Haiyan

Map showing before and after pictures of Tacloban – Before and After Typhoon Haiyan

Here are the main links I’ve found that summarize rescue and relief efforts following the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda), I’ll update it as I find more:

1) I really found this note by Undersecretary Manuel Quezon helpful – #RescuePH #ReliefPH and #YoladaPH: What’s going on, what you can do

2) The list that Rappler compiled is also quite comprehensive – #ReliefPH: Victims of Typhoon Yolanda need your help

3) For people outside the Philippines, this list by HuffingtonPost shows how you can help – Following Philippines Typhoon Haiyan, Here’s How You Can Help

4) List by CNN – How to help Typhoon Haiyan survivors

5) Crisis tools for Typhoon Yolanda – Google Asia Pacific Blog: Crisis tools for Typhoon Yolanda

6) List by NBCNews – How to help: Organizations offering relief to Typhoon Haiyan survivors

7) Business promotions to help victims – Businesses For #YolandaPH Relief

7) United Way Worldwide Disaster Rebuilding Fund Activated to Support Communities Affected by Typhoon in the Philippines

Useful reminders when packing in-kind donations:

Let’s all unite to help the affected communities. Thank you!

PS – List of countries who have donated – Number of nations sending aid for ‘Yolanda’ victims growing

Facebook and the Power of Social Media

Photo courtesy of Facebook Stories

Last December 6, 2012, Facebook released a video called “Beyond the Yellow Boat” through their Facebook Stories platform.  It has been an amazing ride for each one of us on board the Yellow Boat (of Hope Foundation) during the last 24 months.

The organization which basically started from my Facebook status at the end of October 2010 is now a foundation – registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the Philippines.

We are also now present in 8 communities around the Philippines and also assisting various other causes in the Philippines from time to time especially during natural disasters.  One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned so far is that solutions must always come from a local perspective.  And that is basically one of our driving philosophies – we look for and partner with talented individuals who already have existing organizations or projects in their own localities.  We get to learn from them and they get to learn from us.  More importantly, we also get to learn from the communities we are helping.

When we set out to build the very first school boat for the first community in Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City, we never realized that we were beginning a relationship with this community and build relationships in 7 more communities in Masbate in the Bicol region, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte, Cagayan de Oro and Negros Occidental.  We are now collectively touching almost 10,000 lives.

The Yellow Boat has taken me to the US, Singapore, India, France, Italy, Spain and now Pakistan.  Hoping to learn more on how to run nonprofits and social enterprises, I applied to be a Global Fellow of Acumen Fund.  And that’s why I’m currently in Lahore, Pakistan working with a social enterprise that distributes affordable high quality drinking water to the underprivileged.

I know the recently released Facebook video is also an ad for the social network behemoth but again our organization would not have been possible without it.

We are still using Facebook Groups creatively to connect with friends, donors, partners and supporters.  It is a platform for our communities to discuss and to engage in ideas.  It allows us to transcend borders.

It also allowed me to meet wonderful people along the way. One of them is my Co-Founder, Dr. Anton Mari Lim, who is the driving force behind our organization.

It allows us to tell our story better – in a way, that we can share our successes and failures.  The best kind of relationship is one where your donor or supporter can see your mistakes, your faults and you both work hard at it to make it better.

Collaboration is so much better than competition.  We believe that leadership needs to be shared – because at the end of the day, we are all leaders of our own destinies.  It is our individual and collective responsibility to help make the world better especially for children.

We believe that leadership is about sharing powerful stories that will empower and inspire even more leaders.

We believe that leadership has two key responsibilitiesone of inspiration and another of reproduction.  For leadership to be truly shared, a leader must empower others – empower them to do something about the things they are passionate about.

We believe that for leadership to last, a leader must nurture more leaders and not just followers.

Social media allows us to bridge this leadership gap.  My experience tells me that people want to do something good, they want to be part of something bigger, and they want to lead authentic and fulfilling lives.  And all these mentoring and coaching is possible now in the age of Social media.  Facebook for one has allowed us to connect with amazing donors, leaders and partners around the globe who empower us with the resources we need to make a difference.

We collaborate with individuals and organizations from Taiwan, the United States, Australia, France, Spain, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya.  The world has truly become flat and interconnected.

We now have the world’s greatest minds at our fingertips.  And we also now have more access to each other.  The best inventions and discoveries were made by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  And social media allows even more collaboration, even among people who haven’t met personally.

That is the true power of Facebook and Social Media and explains why a simple yellow (school) boat built in a far-flung community in the Philippines has sailed across the world and touched more lives than we can possibly count.

Thank you for reading and here are the links to the video:

[vimeo clip_id=”54999049″ width=”500″ height=”325″]

Please visit us at

Changing the world, one boat at a time

The Little Dream

We all dream of helping make a difference in people’s lives. In much the same way that a pebble creates ripples when thrown in water.

In 2006, I met one such ‘pebble’ who changed my perspective on life, his name was Alex Lacson.  In 2005, he wrote a wonderful book entitled the 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country.

It became a national best-seller and it allowed him to test his idea that every Filipino can become part of the solution to the problems that our country is facing.

Over the last 6 years, we have heard of wonderful stories inspired by the book. There was a high school class in Muntinlupa City that adopted a scholar, there were families who bought more local products and supported local industries, and there were organizations and companies that adopted their own 12 Little Things that their employees can do to help the country.

While I was growing up, I thought heroes were people who had to die for the country. But there is another aspect of heroism that we are failing to notice – the side of heroism that is in the everyday Filipino.

And this is what this little story of a yellow boat, built in the south, in Zamboanga City, is all about.

I remember vividly the story of the kid who picks up and throws every starfish on the beach back to the sea indifferent to the fact that there are miles and miles of beach with starfishes.

Asked that he couldn’t possibly think he could make a difference, he replied that to those starfishes that he threw back, he surely made a difference.

The “Little” Fund

Last October 30, 2010, I had the opportunity to discuss the role of New Media in Nation-Building to almost 100 bloggers from all over Mindanao for the 4th Mindanao Blogging Summit.  Little did I know then that I was about to become part of the solution to one problem in Zamboanga City.

During the sidelines of the summit, I met with some of our campaign volunteers in the city and one volunteer, Juljimar Gonzales, told me of a story that during the presidential campaign last 2010 their team came across a group of children who were swimming just to be able to go to school.

The story really moved me. I have heard of stories about elementary students having to walk 4, 5 or even 8 kilometers daily just to be able to go to school. But have never heard of children who have to swim or wade through the waters just to go to school.

I couldn’t sleep that night. The next day, I went back to Manila and I felt compelled to share the story on my Facebook status.

I know the story will move people but I didn’t realize it will open their pockets. My good friend, marketing guru, Josiah Go, saw my status update, and we were able to start an online fundraising campaign among his friends (and my friends).

I was surprised because friends and friends of friends excitedly re-posted our call for donations. In less than 7 days, the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids (as the fundraising campaign came to be known then) raised almost Php70,000.

During this period, I also asked Doc Anton Lim, another volunteer of the President in Zamboanga City, to check the story.

In the middle of November 2010, I called up Anton if we can already look for a boat. We had a hard time finding the right boat for the children so we decided to build it.  Anton Lim, in behalf of the Tzu Chi Foundation, agreed to accept the funds we have raised, and he also raised additional funds from local donors.

It was a difficult journey though. At first, we couldn’t find any boat-maker. We found one but he lived in a far-away community; until finally Doc Anton through Kagawad Jesse Jamolod found a boat-maker (Abraham Mawadi) who came from the village of Layag-Layag itself in Brgy. Talon-Talon in Zamboanga City where the children who swam to school lived. I thought the boat-building would start right away but again we hit another challenge – finding the log to be used.

Fortunately, DENR was listening and CENRO Region IX donated the logs to the project through Tito Gadon.  In January 2011, the boat-building started.

And last March 27, 2011, I joined Tzu Chi Zamboanga for the turn-over of the boat in Layag-Layag, Brgy. Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City.

It took us 5 months to finish the project but nothing can be compared to the joy you feel in your heart when you realize you’ve helped make a difference in people’s lives, no matter how small.

I slept well that night – it was as if I saw God smile back at me.

Nation-building is a difficult project. It requires the participation of each and every one among us. And for the country’s leadership, it is about telling stories that inspire our people to act on the problems they are facing themselves.

The boat we turned over was christened ‘Bagong Pag-asa’ (New Hope) – it is a symbol of change that finally a group is finally noticing this particular community’s problems and challenges.

But more importantly, it is also a symbol of people power in action. It is about ordinary Filipinos helping other ordinary Filipinos.

I believe it is time we extend the meaning of People Power, one that not only changes governments and leaders, but one that also truly empowers our people – a people power that calls on every Filipino to become an active nation-builder.

The Little Heroes

The real heroes in this story are those brave kids in the village of Layag-Layag who crossed the waters just to be able to go to school. Whether by boat or by swimming to school, they have conquered the challenges of water and distance.

The boat is a symbol that serves as a vehicle for knowledge and learning. We hear of stories about affluent kids in Manila who skip school to go swimming but these kids in Layag-Layag go swimming to go to school.

Changing the world is difficult but with the right attitude and with the community working together, we can make things happen, even with just one boat at a time.

I suggest we remember the story of how the barangay came about. During the pre-Spanish era in Philippine history, the term balangay referred to both the boat and the basic political unit in the country, the barangay.

This came about because the nature of building the balangay (boat) requires unity among members of the community. And that is how the barangay was born – members of the community working together to build something, whether it is a boat, a city or a nation.

I am sharing this story because it is my belief that each one of us can be part of the solution and you can start creating solutions to challenges in the communities where you live or work.

It is my fervent hope that this story has touched you in one way or another and that you won’t stop at just reading this – I hope you will you will start creating ripples of your own.

These little things create ripples across the country and sometimes with no end in sight. These small acts of heroism can deliver an impact bigger than originally intended.

To date, there are more than 150 yellow boats all over the Philippines and our group is now present in 8 communities.

Let us all become part of the solution!

“The Need For Change” by Typhoon Ondoy

I am re-posting a letter from Typhoon Ondoy which I wrote 3 years ago. It rings true to this day.

Tzu Chi volunteers plant mangrove seedlings in Zamboanga City

I am not bad.

Typhoons come and go in almost every part of the globe. I am part of the larger scheme of things. I clean the land and bring forth new water into areas that have dried up.

Over the last few years, humans have polluted and abused the planet. Typhoons are inherently good. We provide water for plants and trees and animals as well. We clean clogged water systems and hydrate dry lands.

But now, we have encountered difficulties. The water we bring get trapped in clogged drainage and canal systems due to too much garbage. There are no more trees and forest systems that hold up water. There are no more natural waterways that help the water we bring navigate the lands better. The planet as well is warming up melting the ice caps in both the North Pole and South Pole.

I believe YOU have the answer to these “problems.”

We cannot stop going to your countries. It is in our nature to clean the world, to provide and redistribute water all over the world. And we believe humans are inherently good. You know the answers.

Clean up your act.

Help the environment.

Save more trees. Plant more trees. Save the rainforest.

Don’t throw candy wrappers on the street.

Segregate your garbage.

Recycle and reuse.

Build better houses. Plan better housing projects.

Build better drainage and canal systems.

Reduce your carbon footprint.

But please don’t just sit there.

We are all inherently good.

We all play a part in this great scheme of things.

If you get this right, sooner or later, you’ll welcome us to your lands as we bring fresh water and rehydrate the lands so that your crops can take root.

The real challenge of President Noynoy Aquino

Let me re-post something I wrote 2 weeks after the May 2010 elections.

In light of his upcoming 3rd State Of the Nation Address (SONA), he must remember what brought him to the presidency.

The real challenge of President Noynoy Aquino

Noynoy Aquino won due to popular support from many sectors and also because of ‘organized’ volunteer groups around the country. A lot of small businessmen and professionals like doctors, accountants and lawyers mined their own respective networks and started to campaign for Noy. The overwhelming mandate given to him by the people precisely reflects the overwhelming spirit of volunteerism that was shown during the campaign.

Many of our leaders miss the point – the real challenge of Noynoy is not eradicating corruption per se but how to keep the hope and the spirit of Good Citizenship alive.

Rarely does it happen that our national leader can galvanize enough support to carry him to the presidency. By this I mean active support where people truly invested not only time and effort but also their resources to help a good cause.

Let’s hope the people around Noy, and Noy himself will not lose sight of the opportunity to tap all these volunteers nationwide to bring about a cultural change that will pave the way to solve many of our country’s problems.

Corruption is a symptom of our real problem – ignorance and poverty.

There are too many people being left behind because they do not have access to the right education and to the basic services of our government as a whole.

This seems simplistic on an article but our main challenge is really cultural. We must develop a culture of having faith in the Filipino. Our leaders must invest not only in structural reforms but also cultural reforms.

When former President Nelson Mandela (as shown in the movie Invictus) won as the first black president of South Africa, his main priority was to unify a divided country. He succeeded despite a lot of opposition even among his party because he instituted a fundamental reform which targeted the soul of their nation – that since we are one family, it is obvious we must help each other.

We also need the same transformation today as a people.

President Noy needs to re-channel the efforts of many volunteer groups towards nation-building. The volunteer groups of Noynoy Aquino and other presidential candidates can be engaged to convert election campaigning to nation-building efforts.

It seems big but it’s really not – little things can change this country – ordinary citizens can bring about that change.

We need a leader who will capture this spirit of love for country and convert it to everyday ‘kabayanihan.’

PNoy must engage all of us to help build our nation and start having faith in the ability of the Filipino to be great.

If PNoy will do this, it would be the greatest legacy any president could leave behind.

Our time is now

I have never seen the international media cover much of the country since I started reading international publications when I was in high school in the late 1990s.  There is truly renewed interest in the country today and let us take note of these developments and build upon it.

This video captures where we are:

[youtube_sc url=””]

Watch it and be inspired to become part of the solution, today!

PS – I played a small part in the video. 🙂


Last June 29, I flew to Cagayan de Oro City to be with our local partner, Happy Soles: CDO Funds for Little Kids, so that I can go with them to Camiguin for June 30 – July 1 and also to help them organize the upcoming LOG ON seminar with Josiah Go and Anton Lim.

If you’re in CDO this coming August 1, please join Josiah, Anton and me as we share our experience in the Yellow Boat Project.

June 30 – July 1

I wasn’t really feeling very well when I flew to CDO last June 29 but as I’ve already booked the tickets in advance and there was no other time to go to Camiguin since I’m leaving for New York on September 5 and so off I went.

Check out what Beng Lim (of Happy Soles) gave me as a welcome gift.  I was pleasantly surprised! (they were delicious, thanks Beng!)

The next day we took the van going to the port of Balingoan where we could take the boat to Camiguin.

Here are some pictures I took of this 2-day trip to Camiguin and how I realized it’s really more fun in the Philippines:

Kids in the port of Balingoan, Misamis Oriental get ready to jump when passengers of the boats throw coins into the water
Lovely Camiguin: the view from the port of Balingoan
One of the kids on my side of the boat jumps into the water as the boat is leaving the port
My attempt at taking a picture of a kid as he jumps to the water fails because the Samsung Galaxy Note’s camera wasn’t fast enough
Happy Soles sisters: Alexis Baldia, Cassandra Daba and Alexa Baldia
Your Yellow Boat captain tries to steer the boat to Camiguin
A yellow boat in Camiguin
We stayed at the Paras beach resort
A map of Camiguin at the Paras beach resort
The Sunken Cemetery in Camiguin
Becoming a giant, more fun in the Philippines
Dinners, more fun in the Philippines
The beautiful White Island: the sand bar which is just 5 minutes from the Paras beach resort
The beautiful Mantigue Island: an island paradise which has its own ecosystem
As we were leaving Camiguin’s port of Benoni, kids were also jumping back into the water when passengers throw coins at them
Before going back to CDO, we went to the famous Duka Bay in Medina, Misamis Oriental

Camiguin is a great place to go to; to enjoy nature as it not only offers beautiful beaches but also hot and cold springs, volcanoes and the food was great!

Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Inc.

Last May 23, 2012, the Philippine Funds for Little Kids (aka Yellow Boat Project) officially became the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Inc.

I am happy to note that since we started a little over a year ago, we’re now present in 6 communities around the Philippines and counting.

In the last 20 months, we’ve been able to establish a presence in Zamboanga City (Layag-Layag, Brgy. Talon-Talon), Zamboanga del Sur (Lakewood), Zamboanga Sibugay, the Bicol region (Legaspi City and Monreal, Masbate), Pampanga, Cagayan de Oro City (Happy Soles), and now in Negros Occidental.

If you are interested to help us out in any of these communities, you may reach us at captain[at] or me at jay[at]  Thank you!

Building regional competitiveness

I hope they succeed. I personally believe that one of the things that’s keeping our wages depressed is the oversupply of talent and labor in Metro Manila because most of the brightest around the Philippines choose to work and live here. If the opportunities are present in the region where they were born, it will stop this tide of internal migration and hopefully allow regional economies to take root – which is good for everybody. Just saying…