It’s the warm fluffy feeling you get when you think of fond memories like traveling. I learned “hokkori” from an ad in the airport as I was about to leave Tokyo for the fourth time. And I can’t think of a better word to describe what I’m feeling now as I’m writing this post.

I needed to take a vacation because going straight to work after 10 months of killer grad school (even before graduation) can leave anyone nuts. Tokyo is the perfect place to get lost, empty yourself and be built up again by its energy. Walking on for miles and miles just observing and absorbing the beat of the city was totally not a problem.

For this trip, I tried to be more conscious to pick places that will give me a fresh perspective to the city, literally. Thus I went to Tokyo Tower, the Metropolitan Gov’t Building and the Sky Tree. I was also able to get some work done in a coffee shop 150m above sea level. Of course I visited the usual Meiji Shrine to pray and Shibuya for Tokyu Hands and to watch local street performance (aka free performances)

Another new experience would be going to Miraikan or the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. I’m a geek and have always been fascinated by developments in science. Quite amazed at the exhibits related to AI and space. Also, who knew that scientists have discovered elements smaller than atoms – the elementary particles that are made up of vibrating strings. Ok stop me before I go on full geek.

I also try to go here every year because I’m mentoring a cooperative of Filipinos that want to support new migrants in Japan – from how to manage and grow the community up to making their operations sustainable. The founder asked me to mentor them because she got inspired by the talk that I delivered last year and she wants to pay forward the gifts she received after being in Japan for more than three decades.

I still owe them some work – finalize the strategy, roadmap and projections of their organization. It is indeed real work but I like doing it gratuitously cause I know that even if it’s difficult, all our efforts now can create a ripple of an impact.

You get hokkori when you think of traveling, but you also get hokkori when envision hope – that these small acts of kindness can bear fruit in the long run.

See you next year Tokyo!

Finance, Personal

If I Win 900M Pesos

During our Sunday family lunch, I overheard my uncle’s plan if ever he wins the lottery. Technically, you only get 720M out of the 900M cash prize since the government takes away 20%. He’ll splurge 120M and put the remaining 600M on a time deposit, earning him 6M a year at 1% annually. Not a bad plan, but the inner fund manager in me thinks I can do a better job at managing that kind of amount.

Here’s my plan. In summary, 180M goes to tax, 120M goes to necessities and splurging, 155M goes to businesses (earning 40M annually) and 445M goes to investments (earning 14M annually). Conservatively, I can earn 54M per year or 5.5M per month, much of which will be plowed back to the lending company.

By the way, I thought it would be easy to spend almost 1B pesos, but it’s harder than I thought.

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Real Estate and Cars. I’ll be investing in a 1-bedroom condominium in The Viridian (15M) in Greenhills because I feel at home there. Been hanging out in that area since I was young and it’s at the center of Metro Manila. Will also build a simple Scandinavian-inspired house in Valle Verde or Greenhills (35M). We have a property in Tagaytay midlands so I’ll build a modest rest house there (15M) For my own car, I’m not sure if I’ll get a BMW 3 Series (3.5M) or a vintage 90s BMW. I’ll also buy a Mazda CX-9 (2.6M) for the family.

Student Loan and Youth Org. I think I still owe the Asian Institute of Management 800K so I’ll pay that off. For the past year, I’ve been actively involved in a religious youth org as their finance officer. I’ll donate 1M to startup a business to make their operations sustainable.

Shopping and Travel. I try to be a minimalist and majority of my clothes are from Uniqlo so I’ll only splurge 500K for shopping. 1M will go to my travel fund so I can do volunteer work in Eastern Europe for 2 months, I’ll go around South America for a month and will try to visit the North Pole to see the aurora borealis.

Insurance, Savings and Venture Capital Fund. I’ll allocate 500K to buy health and life insurance for the family, 10M will go to savings distributed among 5 commercial banks. Together with some classmates from grad school, we’ll put up a VC fund with an initial capital from me amounting to 20M.

Online Magazine. I used to have a passion project related to online magazines so I’ll put in 5M to start a new one with my brother since he knows this industry well.

Below is a spreadsheet that I made outlining the investments in business and funds that I’ll make.

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Jollibee and Mang Inasal. These food franchises have some of the best return on investments in the industry. Will setup a Jollibee (40M investment, 1.2M net income per month) and Mang Inasal (20M investment, 1M net income per month) in an emerging town somewhere in Pampanga, Cavite or Laguna.

Apartment Building and Commercial Complex. Will also build two 10-door apartment buildings (20M investment, earning at 150K monthly) in Cavite or Laguna near an industrial park, and a small commercial complex in a rural area (20M investment, earning 180K monthly).

Lending Company. My main income will be from the lending company (50M initial loan portfolio, lent at at least 5% per month, net of 20% per year) that we’ll set up. My previous jobs in commercial banking and consumer financing makes me confident that we can pull this off. Also, we have technology that can take care of lead generation, credit scoring, distribution and collection to anywhere in the Philippines. The portfolio will consist of salary loans in close partnership with employers, and SME loans.

Development Financing Companies. 50M (earning 6% annually) will be invested in SEDPI, a development financing company where I have a board seat. 30M will be split equally between two strong credit coops – NSCC in Ilocos Norte (8% yearly interest) and ARDCI in Bicol (5% yearly interest).

Time Deposit. 30M will be split equally between BDO and BPI time deposits, earning conservatively at 1% for 360 days. This is just for capital preservation.

Stock Trading. I’ll give 20M to my younger cousin who can play with the fund and give hopefully at least 8% annual return. He started when he was in college, losing 500K of personal money. Now I guess he’s more knowledgeable because of that loss.

Local Funds. I’ll dedicate 50M to be invested in ATRAM and Phil Equity funds, earning at an average of 3% annually. These can range from mutual funds, fixed income securities, feeder funds, etc.

Foreign Funds. Most of my money will be split in foreign asset management companies / banks, and I expect these funds to earn at least 2% annually. HSBC HK gets 50M and Citigold SG gets 50M. I’ll put in 80M in Credit Suisse and another 80M in UBS.

Crypto Market. I still think that blockchain is the future so I’m setting aside 5M in for the crypto market and I’m hoping it will earn at least 1% yearly. This will be invested in Invsta, a New Zealand company.

Now that I have a plan, time to line up in the nearest lottery outlet and pray that luck will be on my side!


A Day in the Life of a Product Manager

This post was inspired by the “Day in the Life” series of Tech in Asia where personalities in the Asian tech community recount what they do on a typical day.

CONTEXT: I am the senior product manager for financial services at Ayannah, one of the world’s top fintech companies specializing in payments and remittance in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. Recently, the company has entered the lending, investments and insurance space. I am currently leading the development of the country’s first credit scoring engine for the unbanked using artificial intelligence.

As a product manager, I feel like the Avatar who needs to master all four elements to manage the chaos and complexity of developing a new product. By four elements, I mean the customer, the business model, the technology and the relationship of the team. Instead of linking the mortal and spiritual world, I link the commercial and technical aspects of the product.

Some people would agree with me if I say that it’s the most exciting job in tech. Think of the position as a mini CEO of the product.  It requires too many skills to learn that’s why it helps that I’m a geek who tries to learn as much as I can. Although the work is too diverse to be reduced to a simple set of daily activities, I tried to give it a shot in this post.


7AM The alarm goes off (which gets snoozed for 30 mins). I shower then take my time eating breakfast while watching the news, reading articles or catching up with the latest family or neighbourhood chismis from our yaya. I have to kill time until 8:45AM when our driver takes me and my uncle to work at Ortigas. Because of the traffic, I usually read a book or listen to a podcast. I’m currently reading Ambeth Ocampo’s Rizal Without the Overcoat.

9:30AM I arrive at work, settle down and continue sending the emails that I started composing while traveling. Important meetings are scheduled in the morning whether it’s a face-to-face meeting with a lending company, a video conference from a partner investment house or a call from one of our data partners. I try to finish all external communications in the morning so it can be addressed by our partners immediately.

12:30 I usually take lunch with different people but the constants are with our data scientist and graphic designer. They’re at the extremities – logic and creativity so I get different perspectives on issues. Lately, we’ve been frequenting a place where we can play Jenga and Uno Cards during break.

1:45PM People are slower post-lunch so I tend to do non-technical work. I meet with our marketing team and give my some ideas and directions for our campaigns. I may also schedule a call with advertising agency to check the performance of the ads – looking at key metrics and customer feedback.

3:00PM We schedule our standup meeting with developers and QA at this time where each gives an update on what they did, what they plan to do and if there are any impediments that needs to be addressed. This usually lasts for 15 minutes, but there may be times when I need to spend an extra time with someone to resolve the issue.

4:00PM Meetings with external parties still happen at this time of the day. If none is scheduled, I start working on the requirements needed for the next Sprint – summarizing validations with partners, detailing product features, designing the user interface and workflows, creating the mockups, etc.

6:30PM Work hopefully winds down by this hour so I meet with another colleague to discuss the bigger picture – the roadmap of other financial service products, how to differentiate with existing competitors, market penetration strategies for Indonesia and Vietnam, other products we can develop.

8:00PM I should be out of the office by this time. If I don’t have to meet friends for dinner, attend a family gathering, go to tech events or spend some time in the gym, I go straight home. There may also be volunteer work or competitions that I join with some friends so I still manage to squeeze it during this time.

10:50PM I’m usually settled by this time. I take a warm bath, read through the articles I stored on the app Pocket, send more emails, share more articles with my team then fall asleep by 12MN. If I’m in the mood, I’ll even try to finish one article for this blog like what I’m doing now.

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Pride: 50 Years and Beyond

What started as a relationship immediately after a 15-min hookup 13 years ago ended up in a solemn ceremony in Sofitel where John and Mark* exchanged rings and vowed to love each other for the rest of their lives. Call it what you want, but I find it impossibly romantic.

“So after you came, you just knew that you loved him?” I asked last night. “Yeah. We became a couple first then started dating.” What’s even more surprising to me was when they moved in to John’s family house, Mark had to pretend to be a bedspacer in John’s room. Both of their families don’t know, but I’m betting my pinky finger that they suspect but just can’t accept.

Pride is a celebration for those fighting for acceptance and equality. We fight for those who cannot speak – the basketball varsity boy who’s majorly infatuated with his classmate in an exclusive high school, the deeply religious young executive who fear that revealing his true self will turn his family against him, even that single mom who’s starting to fall in love with Anne, her fellow Yoga partner.


These stories have existed in every generation, race and gender. Its influence is arguably more expansive than the civil rights and women’s rights movement.

“On June 28 1969, New York’s LGBT community rebelled against the repression and violence they faced at the hands of the police and state. A peaceful, non-confrontational approach had left much to be desired, and thus a fiery response in a period of protest and civil rights movements marked the beginning of a new phase of LGBT activism. One year later, the first Pride marches were held to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots.”

Next year, Pride will celebrate its golden anniversary! The West has started to adapt same sex unions, while at this part of the globe, we’re still fighting to be accepted by our families and the law. Those in the middle east and some African states are more severe – life in exchange for freedom of expression.

Technology has created pockets of avenues where people who hide can express themselves – through dating apps like Tinder and Grindr, to alternative personalities in Twitter, and user generated media in Blued. Media has always been an ally of the LGBTQ + fam community, but it’s comforting to see that we’re getting more shows that speak of acceptance like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye.

In the next 50 years, I hope that we’ll see families and religious people join Pride. I think Filipinos can learn a lot by going to these celebration-protests because people seldom value the things we were born with – democracy, acceptance, etc, – and here, you can really see people rejoice that they are free to choose whom they want to love, even if society thinks otherwise.

*not their real names


Maintaining Relevant in the 21st Century

I was the outlier in a program designed for STEAM graduates. I fought for my slot because I believe that this is where the world is going and I want to remain relevant in a world that will be shaped by AI, blockchain, CRISPR, etc.

AIM’s Master of Science in Innovation and Business transforms students from STEAM professionals into value-creating innovators by building on their technical knowledge. By the end of the program, students will have the business acumen they need to market their products, solve real-world problems, and make sound business decisions. Apply now and be part of MSIB Class of 2019.


Finance, Innovation

KayaCredit – The First AI-Powered Credit Scoring Service for the Unbanked

“Raise a glass for (financial) freedom”

On Philippine Independence Day, we formally launch KayaCredit (, the first AI-powered credit scoring service for the vast majority of Filipinos who remain unbanked but are economically active.

Together with Bayad Center and our other partners, we have access to the alternative data of 32 million Filipinos who perform regular transactions like paying their bills, loading their phones, sending and accepting remittance, and performing other financial transactions that can tell us about their credit worthiness. Using machine learning, we generate a credit score that is indicative of the borrower’s repayment behavior.

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With this, hard working Filipinos who do not have credit history can access cheaper credit and can choose the best offer from our trusted partner lenders through our loans marketplace.Our team is working with some of the biggest lenders locally and abroad to spur financial inclusion. We will reach 1 million users and lend out 15 billion pesos by the end of the year.

And we are just getting started. We have other projects in the pipeline which we’ll launch in “VIP” — Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines – home to 500 million people with median age below 30 and fast rising incomes. Through finance and technology, we aim to meet the needs and aspirations of the world’s emerging middle class.


Eat-Pray-Love Chronicles

A friend from Vietnam visited me here in Manila last weekend. I met her during my volunteer stint 5-years ago in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand where I taught English in orphanages. We exchanged stories and our conversation reminded me of how passion didn’t use to be an overrated word. And that it didn’t matter if I was not able to find what I was looking for in that 2-month eat-pray-love trip, because it kept me hungry for life.


I miss relieving those stories because she’s the first person from that trip whom I met again after so many years. For two months, my only focus then was to explore and live. There were times when I even got teary eyed because of the overwhelming gratitude to be alive. So let me recount some stories. (Photos here are from my trip)


Story 1: I lived with a Vietnamese host in a condominium when I was in Ho Chi Minh City. In the building beside ours was a Filipino family whom I frequently visited, and they were running a very risky operation. If the police knew what my Filipino neighbours were doing,  they’ll be dragged out of their house together with their three young kinds and be imprisoned.


I became part of a Christian missionary group disguised as an English club when I was in that communist country. I’m not really religious, but I got inspired by the bravery of that family who defied the law and used gospel passages as examples in their English lessons. There would even be gospel song singing, which can’t get too loud else the other neighbours might become suspicious. I admire the dedication and faith of the couple.


Story 2: During my last day as an English teacher in Ho Chi Minh, the class was so chaotic that I spent half of the time shouting to keep the students quiet. Finally, my class time ended so I stepped out of the room without saying much of a goodbye.


As I was a few meters away from the orphanage, I saw my students running after me. They still can’t speak straight English so we just hugged in the middle of the road. It was sunset and it looked like the perfect finale of a cheesy student-teacher movie. That gesture really touched me even if they were so unruly inside the classroom.


Story 3: Three people plus a chicken shared 2 seats inside a bus heading to Siem Reap. I was on my way there to celebrate my birthday alone. I’m usually very confident that I won’t get mugged whenever I travel because I’m Asian with brow skin, but I felt scammed cause I paid good money to supposedly get good seats.


Got myself a bike to tour around Angkor Wat, but had to retreat back because the heat was so unbearable. Also, it turned out that my hotel didn’t accept credit cards and I left bulk of my cash in HCMC, so for my birthday dinner, I only had two cans of beer, some energy bars and a pack of Boy Bawang. Yes, they had some in the grocery. The cashier even mistook me for a local Cambodia, which I don’t know what to make of.


Story 4: My last stop for the trip was in Bangkok. I spent the last 7 weeks in pretty chill cities so I was a bit culture shocked when I landed. That afternoon, I was scheduled to meet my Thai cousin in Siam Square. I guess he was surprised to see me cause I looked like a hobo – darker skin than usual, longer unkept hair and was a bit skinny because of all that traveling.


He’s a film student and was about to premier their thesis film in Paragon that night. They’ll even have a part after, but guess who’s not invited – maybe because of how I looked that day. So I just roamed around Bangkok while I was there and I was so fond of the city that I did not feel the need to go to Chiang Mai or Ayutthaya anymore.


I want to go volunteering again, but somewhere more foreign. If I were to create another eat-pray-love experience, it would probably in India, Nepal and Bhutan. Recalling those stories ignite my wanderlust to explore more places. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it soon.