MEAL Development A La Carte


I bet preparing meals in a 5 star restaurant is like working for sustainable development agencies. Master Chefs of Michelin Star caliber are the Chief of Party or Executive Directors of Government Agencies, International Non Government Organizations, and Multilateral Development Banks that lead top tier staff that specialize in different fields of development. This one uses a recipe as a guide like that of a program plan, or measuring cups and weights to quantify the ingredients needed like that of development indicators. To measure quantifiably qualitative indicators of development is a difficult task, but one that is necessary that would aid in the movement of direct action towards a clear sustainable development goal.


Understanding what we mean by development, indicators, and why an indicator is important to the context of this discussion through examples and a brief note on each. This paper also attempts to open the discourse on the different development indicators the Government of the Philippines uses in monitoring its national socio-economic development and other indicators in following international commitments.


Discussions about the many faces of development can standalone on its own essay. But for our purpose, let us consider the term, development, in continuing with our a la carte analogy in the beginning, as one whole Blueberry Cheesecake. To understand what development means in the simplest term is to look at it both quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitatively we look at a Blueberry Cheesecake through its ingredients. We ask, how many cups of flour? How spoons of sugar? How many liters of water? How many cans of Blueberry? How many bars of white cheese? Etc. The list goes on, and varies depending on one’s taste and style. The same can be said of creating quantitative development indicators to represent changes in social and economic growth that an agency or nation wishes to monitor. We ask the basics of who, where, what, when, and where to capture data for a Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning System. A MEAL is necessary nowadays for data management and informed planning and decision making. On the other side of quantitative measures is measuring the essence of changes in growth, it answers the why and sometimes the how of development. This is the qualitative indicator. In cheesecakes, this is the aesthetic sensation that one feels from the craving, to the first bite, and the after taste full of sugar happiness. Basically, looking at development qualitatively monitors positive or negative impacts of why and how policies, programs, plans, and activities influence or not influence changes in human behavior or in health metrics. By bringing together quantitative and qualitative features we get to appreciate the whole piece of the development Blueberry Cheesecake.


I hope I had already stimulated your appetite for some more talk about development indicators later.



Where Social Entrepreneurship meets Community Based Resiliency — Enter: Buklod Tao, Inc.

Banaba, RIZAL – Two hours away from Metro Manila, a community based organization has successfully infused Social Entrepreneurship with Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction Management. Located at the north east boundary of Barangay Banaba in San Mateo, Rizal province is the community/evacuation center of Buklod Tao, Inc.

IMG_20150927_091129The organization was co-founded by Ka Noli Abinales, a resident of the Barangay who volunteered to organize the informal settler families living near the dangerous waterways after being called to the challenge by the Bishop of his Diocese in the 80’s. Attending an intensive six month Community Organization (CO) training, he and other newly minted volunteer Community Organizers were tasked to do three primary goals:

  1. Spread the Word of God – Liturgical Action
  2. Empower Communities to Sustainable Development – Social Action
  3. Freedom from Oppression – Liberal Action

After successfully implementing liturgical services to their “Bukluran” (Cell/Community), the group was able to transition to social action after organizing their lose association in protesting a construction company’s destructive use of land that posed an environmental hazard to the community. Regrouping from their success, the leaders of other “Buklurans” decided to formally incorporate into a non-stock, non-profit organization ensuring sustainability of the institution.

Officially founded on 1904, Buklod Tao, Inc. “is a bonding community-based organization in Barangay Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal that reinforces the capacities of communities to undertake community-based climate and disaster risk reduction, environmental enhancements and poverty reduction”. (taken from the group’s website @!about/ccjb)

Continue reading “Where Social Entrepreneurship meets Community Based Resiliency — Enter: Buklod Tao, Inc.”

Are you staying or going? – A reflection on our inevitable social inheritance.

Like many of the youth aged 18-35, we are asked if we’ll still be in this country five to ten years from now.  But the question has its roots in our Diasporas, at an estimated 8 to 10 million Filipinos, documented or undocumented; are working and living overseas as either professionals or skilled labourers, remitting precious dollars and fuelling the consumption driven economy of our nation. Almost anyone you ask has one form of connection to a relative or friend tagged as an OFW in one of the inhabited continents. Without any prospect for gainful employment, high costs of living, and unreasonable low salaries in our country, they opt out to sacrifice social bonds, face maltreatment, and isolation for the sake of giving one’s family a better quality of life.

There are many socio-economic reasons why Filipinos are leaving this country. Some would leave for societies that value fairness, and justice. Others would find ways to work in a place of peace, progress, modernity and tranquillity. Still for others, it’s a personal choice for the advancement of their careers and financial liberation. Yet, the underlying reason for this phenomenon is an undeveloped local economy that could not accommodate its own people for productive endeavours.

Referring to the official statistics of the NSO, “the unemployment rate rose to 7.1 percent in January 2013, from 6.8 percent in October of 2012.” In addition to that, we still have over 26 percent of our population living in poverty based on studies by the National Statistical Coordination Board. While taking note on the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, around 5.2 million households are identified as poor nationwide. To add Calamansi to our wounds is the latest Human Development Report of the United Nations where the Philippines was identified as lagging behind in reaching our millennium development goals by 2015.

We have fallen from grace, and the inferno we got ourselves into did not happen overnight. But how could this have happened? We proudly claim to be the best post World War 2 economy next only to Japan. We proudly profess the skills and professionalism of our people to the world. Yet, our socio-economic system based on free enterprise and democracy is supposed to level the playing field. Innovation and invention were the values of competition envisioned in the free market system. This idea that posits prosperity for all those who work hard and outsmart competition is supposed to create wealth and affluence for the masses. Eventually, it worked for those who were successful; but in its huge wake were social inequality, unfair distribution of wealth and power, and a tendency toward monopoly, oligopoly and oligarchy. All of these problems we see in our society today, the latter with a potent mix of political immaturity and entitled rent-seeking political dynasties.

Another reason why some of us probably consider packing their bags and leave is to escape the estimated 16 million unemployed youth by 2016 if the government could not produce job generating investments and growth of at least 1 million new jobs every year. So far, we are 100 million Filipinos among the diverse ethno-linguistic groups spread out across an archipelago of 7,100 islands. Imagine where 16 million restless youth, disappointed and angry without any outlook for a better tomorrow; this is the militant’s wet dream for a Battle Royale.

It’s probably still not too late to become a doomsday Prepper, because let’s not miss out on the good news of positive investor sentiments toward good governance and systematic reforms, a higher than expected GDP rate in 2012, a looming investment grade credit rating upgrade, and a bullish local stock market outperforming its counterparts in the region; I guess we have something to look forward to. But where are we going, really? The rich are buying luxury goods left and right, and living in more gated communities in highly developed real estate, while the poor are still there; waiting for opportunities to take them out of the poverty trap, hoping for their messiah while being supported by government social safety nets. And for those who are neither poor nor rich, the souls of purgatory, they are falling in line outside of embassies applying for immigration or work visas; patiently treading their way into Paradise.

And so here we are; the post-Edsa 1986 generation inheriting a democracy, a society and an economy fresh from a conjugal dictatorship through a series of colourful elected characters by a housewife, a coup general, an actor, an economist, and now a bachelor. Sounds like the cast for a bad joke with the punch line that ends in the ordinary folk getting pie in the face. But our state is no laughing matter when people are deprived of living in human dignity and social justice.  How could we pretend to see that the rose is not as pretty as it was sold to us? The thorns of reality prick us in a slow and deep recurring vice as we grip it out of necessity and ignorance.

Should we ignore the social ills that hound our people and live to each his own or should we stay and step up to the promise that our heroes dreamt for us?

I may or may not be living in Manila, diving in Cebu or climbing in Davao by 2023, but the fun thing about the future is that it’s supposed to be a mystery. And like the protagonist whose decisions affect the outcome let’s take ownership of our inheritance with all of its liabilities and do what we can now for it to grow, and see what happens. Who knows, maybe the ending is what we always thought it to be.

Welcome to Boondocks and Cities!

Good day!

My name is Francis Josef C. Gasgonia, I’m an Environmental Planner (Urban and Regional Planning), Curator, and Board/ Card Game Designer. Welcome to my blog, this was created as a journal for my thoughts and wanderings about life, philosophy, adventure, Kali, and of course all about the Boondocks and Cities. I hope you enjoy what you read, and feel free to share or violently react to whatever I muse about.

Thank you and looking forward to engaging with you.

All the best!


  • Kali – (Pekiti Tirsia Kali) one of the indigenous blade combat system that originated in the Philippines that uses swords, knives, sticks, empty hands, and other weapons of opportunities; created by the Tortal family in the Panay and Negros Islands.
  • Boondocks – rough country filled with dense brush, a rural area. origin from the Tagalog word = bundok or mountain, boondocks was used to describe the jungle guerrilla terrain by US servicemen that fought during the Filipino-American War.
  • Cities – dense agglomeration of people and infrastructure that is basically a center for commerce and trade, education, governance, and industry.