Monday, March 8, 2010

Post-trip thoughts

Matt, Serena and I (Aileen) are sitting at our friend's apartment in Manila having a few last San Miguels and some vodka and mango juice.

Earlier this evening, we saw my friends reading our blog; it was a strange experience peering at them peering into how we were peering into their lives. Does that make sense?? If not, blame it on the San Miguels.

Check out today's headline on the Inquirer. Joey Salceda was cited as GMA's top adviser proclaiming to the country that while GDP had grown, the rich-poor income gap has widened. Didn't we have a discussion just like that only a few days ago?

A screenshot of the article is posted here.

Back home

IEDP 2010 has returned to the U.S.! Before we launch into a couple of post-game blogs, let us thank you again for your interest and support.

Now, then, here are a few photos from last week that didn't make it up in real time:

Monday morning: Eric Isham and Laura Rosen confer before a talk at the Asia Foundation:

Thursday morning: Legaspi goes to work

Friday afternoon: Donsol scenes

Saturday morning: Mount Mayon as seen from Legaspi Airport

Saturday afternoon: Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Interviews complete!

Our whirlwind tour of Manila is done, and the students are now enjoying some well-deserved rest after four days of intense work. I was impressed with how diligently everyone had prepared for their interviews. Every policy team knew its stuff, and each one had great questions.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't express gratitude to everyone here in the Philippines who set aside their valuable time to meet with us. We met with so many people who have major responsibilities, and they welcomed us into their offices and took our questions seriously.

I'll write another longer, blog entry later with some more details and observatons about our meetings, but I'll sign off this one by posting a photo from last Sunday that I've been meaning to put up:

That's Alan Deardorff, our favorite trade economist in the world and one of the two faculty members on the trip.

Out of Manila.

After four days of being based in Manila, we're off to explore another part of the country. We left for Albay, a province south of Manila, in the Bicol Region early this morning by plane. This entry is coming to you live from Sorsogon City, where we're looking into a project on remittances run by Dean Yang, a Ford School professor. It is absolutely gorgeous here. Expect pictures of the majestic Mayong volcano soon.

Tomorrow: swimming with sharks. Literally.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day 2: An Urban Policy Perspective

Today, several of us (namely the Urban Policy Team, Cree, Kasia, and Tony) got to visit Baseco, which is the largest squatter settlement area of Manila in the Tondo area. We were guided by the local government district (also known as barangays) police members to visit the slum communities. We split into 2 groups and were able to interview residents with the help of Cree and Marco's excellent Tagalog skills.

This was by far the most special moment of the week for me personally because it reminded me of why I wanted to join IEDP and work in the field of development in the first place: to address poverty ramifications in real lives. Visiting Baseco was an integral part of the Urban Policy Team's research and understanding of slums, housing inequality, and the informal sector because we finally got to hear what the community members' experiences are and what areas they seek improvement in.

After Baseco, we visited Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga, an NGO dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest of the poor. After Tony, we met with the National Housing Authority (NHA), which administers the Community Mortgage Program (CMP), which is our government program of interest for our policy paper.

Meeting the slum community members, an NGO leader, and the government agency workers was truly a comprehensive and enlightening experience. The different aspects, concerns, and attempts in addressing the issue of poverty and housing inequality were highlighted. Rather than seek a single policy or program to rely on as the "cure-all" to this issue, the team was reminded of the complexities of this field, and how different pieces and sectors must work to make the most of limited resources.

Unfortunately I do not have the means nor time to post photos... but they will be posted soon!

Monday, March 1, 2010

IEDP Interviews: Day One

One of the joys of IEDP is engaging with a variety of policy leaders and officials to gain further perspective on our research. Given that my understanding of the Philippine election process is pretty limited, I sometimes lose sight of how important some of these leaders are!

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to meet with the Honorable Rene V. Sarmiento, one of the Commissioners of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC); he provided some updates on the all-electronic voting process the country will undertake in the June elections.

After our meeting, I asked my colleague Tim, a former Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, to offer up a comparison of an official in the United States that would have the same level of influence as Mr. Sarmiento. His response? "We basically just met someone who's essentially a Supreme Court judge when it comes to defining the election outcome."


So, as you can imagine, our knowledge of this country grows by the moment -- but we're not stopping now. Off to another day of interviews!