Hard Lessons from Not Prototyping

Despite several exercises and reminders in grad school about the need to prototype, I somehow went ahead with a project and allowed our engineers to develop it without validating the workflow to our institutional clients.

The development team worked on the website for months. I was confident to go ahead with it because the concept was received warmly by our clients during initial meetings.  I thought to myself that prototyping might be a waste of type because they want our product. I was dead wrong. When we showed the full website, there were a lot of issues that they want to be rectified if they want to sign up as a partner.


We could have saved a lot of time, effort and money if we first created a prototype that clearly shows how the website will flow. From that prototype, we receive feedbacks, iterate, show it again, iterate, until it fits the needs of the market. Then you develop.

I was blindsided because of the excitement that we got from the clients when we pitched the idea. They were lining up to use the website, until they saw how it flowed. Clearly, words are not enough to convey an idea.

So earlier, I worked from home to finish our prototype via the Marvel App. It’s very easy to use. My classmates used this often for our projects, so I was somehow familiar with it. You just need to layout the pages, for me I did ours in Photoshop, then through the app, you create the links.


If you’re not good with rendering the layout on your computer, you can use the app Prototyping on Paper. Draw out how the pages will look like, take pictures of it, then create the links with the pictures you took.

Aside from validating the product with your customers, you can also use the prototype as a guide for the engineers and QA when they are developing the site. The communication process will certainly be faster because your team gets to experience the instructions.

I take full responsibility of delay. We have another upcoming project related to what we’re building, and a mobile app for both projects are also somewhere in the roadmap. I’m definitely making a Marvel version first before we go head with the development to save tremendous amount of time and effort. It’s a good learning experience though.


When to Pull the Plug

Every family hopes that whenever a relative gets admitted to the hospital, that relative will be released in a matter of days or weeks feeling healthier than before. You hope that despite the high cost of healthcare in this country, it will be worth it, because no amount of money can replace a human life.

But there will be those moments when hope is bleak, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There are moments when you question, up to what extent should you “save” a life? What if the patient has been in the intensive care unit for two months with stage 4 kidney and lung cancer, and is already 71 years old? What if your family has spent an equivalent amount that can send two kids to Harvard Business School, and it seems like there is no hope for improvement? But what if that elderly patient wants to cling to life, and her sole daughter is still in college?


I wasn’t able to sleep well last night because of those thoughts. The head of our family, my 74 year old uncle, is the one who decides on these things and he’s the one paying for most of the hospital fees for his brother, but I still feel responsible. You have to contribute what you can. I’m amazed that he’s willing to spend his lifetime savings to extend the life of his brother for only a matter of weeks or months. I hope it could be years, but we had to face the facts.

Sunday family lunches have been tense because of the situation. I can feel that as much as possible, everyone is trying to avoid talking about it. As an economist, I would like to ask if spending a hundred thousand pesos a day justifiable to extend the life of a person who is dependent on machines to eat, breath and perform all basic functions of a living being. In these situations, when do you pull the plug and admit defeat?


Birthday in Tokyo

I learned that I had only 5 days to prepare for a flight to Tokyo, and the 3 days that I was there coincided with my birthday and the full bloom of the cherry blossoms that season! My head was screaming of excitement!

I try to go to Japan once a year, but last year, I wasn’t expecting a trip there cause of grad school. I guess my fairy godmothers were listening and decided to grant my wish! It was only when I was already inside the train from Narita to Ueno, when I started seeing the uniform gray houses and the bursts of pink from the cherry blossoms, that it finally dawned on me that I’m in legit Tokyo.



I usually go during the low season because I’m not fond of crowded tourist areas, but when I got to Ueno park where there is a high concentration of cherry blossoms, I realized that even the locals feel like tourists themselves. It turns out that these pink ornaments are present only for 2 weeks per year.

How can something so beautiful be so fleeting? Maybe it was made that way for us to value it more.






The real reason why I’m in Tokyo is because I had to deliver a one day training on social entrepreneurship as part of the OFW program of the Ateneo School of Government. The program has existed for more than a decade and I was happy to have found the right partner last year to launch it in Japan.

I did my best to make it really fun and practical. I know the feeling of beings stuck in a lecture from morning ’til evening so I had to make it really engaging.


During lunch time, they surprised me with a birthday cake! What made it more special was that after 4 hours of meeting them for the first time, they were already cheering me a happy birthday! I was really touched by their gesture.



The next day, I was already set to leave. My train will be from Ueno to Narita and I still had time to spare so I walked around Ueno park again to look at the cherry blossoms. From afar, I can hear the strumming of a classical guitar but amplified all over the park. I finally saw where the sound was coming from.

Under the drizzling sky and the falling petals of a cherry tree, I saw the this artist strumming and tapping his guitar with so much soul that I was in awe for the next 20 minutes while he was playing. I think I even got teary eyed.


I celebrated my birthday before by watching the sun rise from the ancient temples of Angkor – a metaphor for our desire to build lasting legacies. Cherry blossoms are the opposite of that. They teach us to savour every moment that we have cause something as beautiful as this life is fleeting, ephemeral.


Museum of Islamic Art

Before our first dinner meet up with the other startup founders in Four Seasons that night, we had a spare time so my boss and I decided to go to the Museum of Islamic Art. The building is an art itself! It looks regal and modern at the same time because of the clean lines.


As you go in, you are welcomed by this ornate masterpiece suspended at the ceiling and strategically placed below the rooftop and in front of the window which opens you to Qatar’s skyline.



It felt very fresh, a feeling you wouldn’t normally associate with a museum. Would have wanted to get a cup of coffee but we were pressed for time so we had to rush.


This was my first time be in an Islamic museum so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I learned the Islamic religion does not allow the use of animals and people in art so that’s why they has to use geometric shapes for decorations. No wonder Algebra originated from this part of the world.




There were the usual paintings and pottery, but I especially enjoyed the jewellery and weapons exhibit. I was wondering if the weapons were hunted because of the many lives it must have taken.





This museum has got to be one of the most beautiful that I have seen. Especially when the sun is about to set, you can really see the glow of the desert reflected by the walls of the museum.



Museum Opening Times

Sunday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Monday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Tuesday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Wednesday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Thursday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Friday 1:30pm to 7:00pm
Saturday 9:00am to 7:00pm

Last admission 30 minutes before closing. Galleries, Gift Shop and Café close 15 minutes before closing.



Road to Being a Unicorn

I would always say that I’m year of the unicorn when asked about my Chinese zodiac. I’m a horse, but I just don’t want to be similar with those of my age. I guess that answer has brought out a consciousness in me of an animal that symbolizes a billion dollar valuation in the startup industry. It’s every startup’s dram to hit that unicorn status, and I was really happy to be part of a group that share the same aspirations for the last few days.


The conversations with them were filed with passions and aspirations. You can see the spark in their eyes and excitement in their voices whenever they talk about the problem close to their heart and how they’re addressing it. It reminded me of a time when we had untempered idealism and we think we could really change the world. Back at that time, we didn’t know how, but we just know we will in one way or another.

I think joining a fintech company might actually make that possible. To be a unicorn, they say you need traction and a sexy market. We’ll be expanding to VIP – Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines – home of half a billion people, to address a need where 70% – 80% of the population so that might just do the trick.


Everyone was very supportive of each other. As we were saying our goodbyes, we wished each other the best of luck and hope to meet in another event like this in another part of the world. I hope we would meet again and by that time, we would be unicorns in the startup scene.


A Page from the Habal Habal Diaries

Currently writing this as we are several thousands of feet above the Bay of Bengal. When we were lining up at the check in counter earlier, I was asked by my boss if I ever tried to backpack around the Philippines. Well, sort of but it’s more for work than for leisure. We were being paid to do it, which makes it more fun – from training board members of a cooperative in Compostela Valley to doing research in the wet markets of Tacloban, visiting the houses of farmers in Guiuan for interviews and habal-habaling around the countryside.


The most memorable local fieldwork that I had was when Mel and I were assigned in Romblon for a several days to train this group on social entrepreneurship. From Batangas port, we had to take the ferry to Romblon. The trip was comfortable because we had our own beds and I got to go around the ship.


Didn’t get the brief so I packed my long sleeves polo for the training. From our hotel, Mel and I rode at the back of a red pick up truck for about 45 minutes to reach this small barrio near the coast. Turns out that we have to do the training inside the house of the brgy captain with some farmers and vendors. I was too overdressed and I think had difficulty getting the message across. The people were really nice and I even taught them a secret handshake.

What made the trip memorable was when our partner organization, the Department of Agrarian Reform, asked us to wake up at 4am the next day – Saturday – for something special. I remember going out of our hotel room, it was still dark and was quite cold. There were two motorbikes waiting for us downstairs. We weren’t sure where they were taking us but we played along.


As we sped through unlit streets, we could make out the first signs of the morning as rice fields near the foot of the mountain were illuminated by pink and purple light. It looked more spectacular because the fields were bathed in fog. The rays of the sun were crawling their way through the trees in the mountain that gave us an ethereal view of Romblon. It was so worth it to wake up at such an ungodly hour.


After an hour and a half, we finally arrived in a deserted, crescent-shaped cove. We were told that you can have a clear view of the moon setting from there. Didn’t know that there was such a thing. So we watched for the moon to set (and it did gracefully) while we were standing over crystal clear life-filled shores of Romblon. We can even see schools of fish from where we stood.


There weren’t any people except for us so it feels like you’re transported to another place. We walked around the shores for some more time until it was time to get some breakfast. There was a nearby joint where we could eat so we settled there. After that, we had to go back to the hotel because we were set to go back to Manila that afternoon.


The only thing I remember after that was the ship speeding away from Romblon, then the purple orange sky when we were about to dock in Batangas. It really was a fieldwork to remember because of the uniqueness of the experience and the pure beauty of mother nature.


I guess I’m writing about it again now to preserve the memory. It’s always good to look back the on the things that really made you feel alive, the moments that took your breath away.


We were supposed to create a group that chronicles the life of development workers, starting with the contributions from our officemates. We wanted to call it Habal Habal Diaries because it was the common mode of transportation used to reach far flung areas – butt numbing 2 hour rides. We weren’t able to continue it, but if I were to contribute, this would be it.

Innovation, Personal

Of Camels and Space Travels

I’m excited for the next few days! We’ll be in Doha for about a week and I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that I can ride a camel in the desert. I might even watch Sex and the City 2 just to get myself in the mood. Cause it was shot in Dubai and they were riding camels and having picnics in the desert.

We’re going to Qatar because of their annual research conference. I’m looking forward to meeting some of the companies that are trailblazers in their respective industries – especially those who deal with space travel! One of which is Gilmour Space whose goal is to provide low-cost access to space, and to enable human spaceflight and exploration. Decades from now, your company outing might actually on the moon!

Infostellar is a company that also supports space travel by creating a deep space internet for a spacefaring humankind. Makes sense. How else will you Instagram back to Earth your selfies with Saturn’s rings if you don’t have internet, right?

Since we’re in the topic of space, it might be worth mentioning a quote that I really like from Stephen Hawking. “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”

Westerlund 2 — Hubble’s 25th anniversary image

The Hubble telescope reveals that there are at least 100 billions of galaxies in the universe, maybe even double that as tech for telescopes progress.In a galaxy, there might be 100 thousand million stars. I can’t even fathom the number, much more the intricacies of each of those galaxies. One cannot help but think that there may be other lifeforms out there and I would want to live long enough to not just understand, but experience the universe itself.

Since I’m so pumped up for this trip, I even bought a new camera, also as an advanced birthday gift for myself. I’ve been shooting before using a DSLR so handling this entry level Fujifilm mirrorless camera won’t be a problem.


So there, I’m quite excited to ride camels and pick the brains of the startups who deal with space travel. The next days might be gruelling, but will still try to update this blog as often as I can.