A Critical Look at Inclusive Growth

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetHere’s another throwback pulled from my freshman year column at The Hoya:

There has been lots of buzz these days about inclusive growth and wealth redistribution. So much so that even a humble intern like myself feels the need to grapple with such big issues. It’s come up at every social innovation event I’ve been to and with every entrepreneur I’ve spoken with in Manila. Even back on the Hilltop, The Hoya recently published a column called “The Promise of Reverse Innovation” (The Hoya, July 2, 2015, A3). In a nutshell, the idea is to create business models that target the poorest of the poor. Instead of focusing on wealthy nations, the goal is to look beyond the developed world and break into the untapped markets of those in poverty.

Theoretically, this approach is a win-win. Businesses increase profits and impoverished communities move one level up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. What’s there to criticize? Up until this past weekend, I couldn’t think of anything. This was the groundbreaking answer to development. But then, my fellowship took a trip to the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm, poster child of inclusive growth for Filipino slums. There, I realized that inclusive growth could take on many forms, some sinister, some revolutionary. Depending on the context, combining optimized profit with social change can be insidiously ironic or incredibly empowering. Continue reading


Check Your Privilege


I’m about to write about economic inequality in the Philippines while sipping on third-wave coffee in a boutique cafe. Is something wrong with this picture? I’ve only lived in the Philippines for a month, but I’ve jumped headfirst into the conversation on its social issues. Within my summer fellowship, I’m the “bougie” one, thanks to my love of yoga, food blogs, vegetarianism and indie magazines. All these things now feel questionably irrelevant outside my East Coast bubble, but I still find myself pining for that lifestyle in Manila. As a Filipino-American returning to the motherland, I’m constantly reminded to “check my privilege.” It’s been harder than I thought. Continue reading

Manila Mysteries

11890969_990661064298096_6093648069736031015_nHow do I describe the textures of Manila?

Standing at a busy street corner with rumbling jeepneys and pressing crowds around me, I try to pin down the unfamiliar energies of the city. For me, its an ambivalent sensation of excitement, unease, curiosity and caution, all rolled into one. While trying to navigate Manilas vibrant, gritty streets, Ive learned firsthand the importance of flexibility and respect when it comes to the unknown. As I witness the mix of East and West here in Manila, I realize that the chances of confronting the unfamiliar are increasing for everyone. Continue reading

Transcending Ethnicity

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When I think of who I am, my first instinct is to define myself using personality traits rather than by ethnicity. I often wonder why many multicultural people intuitively do the opposite. Have I dishonored my heritage by not prioritizing Filipino-American as my core identity? My personal reflections on race have been admittedly stifled. I probably don’t give enough praise to Filipino culture as I should. I’m not sure if I’m to blame for this or if my parents are, with their progressive break from conventional Filipino customs when they came to America. Then again, exactly how much attention does my cultural identity merit, when in reality, the things I believe distinguish me (indecisiveness, corny humor, chocolate habit, introversion, soccer) don’t involve it? In such a global and diverse community as Georgetown, just how important is one’s ethnicity when it comes to identity? Continue reading