Influences (or Why I Write the Way I Do)

Natalie Goldberg (free-flowing writing)
Clarissa Pinkola Estes (wild woman writing)
Jane Hutchison (direct-to-the-point writing)
Ernest Hemingway (simple words writing)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Happily Blessed

what in 2014?

if i will travel time and be in 2004, i would be surprised to know that within 10 years:

...i will have a daughter who likes pink, craft and lipstick

...baking is my favorite, the most relaxing, of all past-times

...i will master the classic crackling pork roast

...on my way to a PhD, writing a classic on housing politics

...i will move from attic to rented room to apartment to condo, in a surprisingly homey neighborhood within an urban jungle

...weight will stabilize at 123lbs (from a high of 180lbs at pregnancy!) a year, i'm into yoga, tennis and swimming

...will work in hydropower - in a job that i love

...will find my pack in Aboitiz, and discover the value of leadership

...wearing long hair is no longer my personality

...the practice of feng shui is now a personal, live-and-let-live disposition

...that good old friends have come and stayed, no matter where they may be physically

...that family is a treasure of memories created in a pink bungalow surrounded by a garden of orchids, a pack of askals led by a 10-year old veteran, and the endless chirping of birds atop an aratiles tree

Friday, May 30, 2014

Not Men, But Relationships

it's not the men, it's the relationship.  i remember Alvin, my good friend from ADB.  about a year as friends, he admitted that it crossed his mind to pursue or court me. till he changed his mind, realizing that i was easier, though more mental, to talk to. in other words, in me he found a friend, a sister - that's my role in his life.  and in one way, i too admitted to him.  That i appreciated him more as a friend. and if he did court me, we could have regretted it because we will not end up as friends, like this close kind of friend.  so when i look back at my past relationships, it does cross my mind that, perhaps, i should have not entered into that kind of relationship with this or that. that perhaps, if i chose the friendship route, and was more careful and focused on the value of friendship, there would be no loss.  and i may be right. because the past three relationships all happened very fast, all happened with eyes closed to trust, like jumping off a cliff with no prayer but to just soar and soar, not fall. except for Yaman's dad, the others would have just been my friends. i lost potentially good friends and that is regrettable.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Ha! Once a swimmer, always a swimmer. With gear and goggles, freestyled with ease at the condo's mid-sized pool. If not without Yaman, i wouldn't have and wouldn't care. Thanks Abalantung for getting me to swim again. Back home, she's going to start lessons too. And here, i'm going to do laps at least once a week. Ha! It just feels good to swim again.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Fear of Floating

i learned how to swim at 28. i swam like crazy. 25 laps of freestyle at Naga's Civic Center the whole of march, one summertime ago. i swam like crazy. another 25 laps of breast stroke. i swam like crazy. my red lipstick looking like violet on tanned burned skin.  but today, with my daughter, i could not even float. without the goggles, the swimming cap. i just couldn't find the courage to breathe deep, kick, and float.  so how will i overcome? it's like tennis. more court, more practice, less mistakes. more water, more recall, less fear.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Red Again

Red again in less than three weeks. Get stressed and it stops. Get stressed and it runs early. Whatever. I welcome the early and regular to wash out all the dirt inside. So yeah, glad it's red again.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Right and talk
Left and talk
Rubbing in and sideways
Let's just pray the drive goes smooth
For the little girl to sleep through

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I Own My Dreams

I know my limits
But these are not my barriers
There are roads I will not take
But the difficult that present themselves
There's no shirking from
I do not get to choose all my battles
But I know what war takes, and costs
These are mine
These are all mine
All mine now

Friday, May 16, 2014

800km to Abalantung

These feet will find home tomorrow. Lugging north then south of Manila. To go home to the little girl who fills my cup with hope, strength, laughter, purpose, and endless inspiration.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


No longer blogging as regularly. Sorry the lame excuse. Must be better with handling time then. Ay ay ay! You have to blog still everyday Vitti. Work, travel, Ifugao, Isabela, and tennis are not valid excuses.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Coach Rollie calls it muscle memory. That i still whack the ball like a table tennis player thus the mishits, the short balls, the looping high balls. I stomp, flash my arms in frustration but nothing else can be done except Practice Practice Practice. Coach Rollie is strict but fair. He can sense my frustration in every mistake. And he says, you will be alright. You need to play and hit more. To outgrow the muscle memory. It's like this back pain. It needs more tennis to go away. So Practice Practice Practice.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Emmaus could not be located in history. So as Fr Cordero said, it might just as well be symbolic of our quest for that setting sun, that place of peace. In the end, the wisdom of our choices and decisions all come down to this - how at peace is your heart? How full is your will to move on with joy?

Saturday, May 3, 2014


when Jane gave a two-thumbs-up sign for the Politics of Reform intro (posted May 2), there was sense that a part of this long tricky mountain called Chapter 2 has been surmounted.  now, here, this is the first Saturday, of the saturdays spent here at BGC, that i'm actually working on my Phd, for more than 2 hours since 11 this morning.

'You just have to think.' Funny, this was Jane's advice last Thursday over skype.  I've been thinking for more than 4 years since 2009, wrote 11 chapters already, all because i'm thinking.

but what she meant (I think) is the rigor of thinking.  To think through logically, and not be carried away with motherhood statements, when simple clear but sensible sentences will do.

so here I am, again, struggling with this sentence that will logically tie up a paragraph worked over this morning and another one waiting in the wings before the tennis lesson this 6pm.

so again, Vitti, think think think. Think Well.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Politics of Reform in Socialised Housing

In the enablement strategy, international donors tended to define in apolitical terms the participation of state and societal actors in socialised housing reform.  Specifically, a city government and its urban poor are assumed to converge around socialised housing out of shared ‘developmental’ interests.  As a form of development, socialised housing is being pursued as a ‘public good’ where actors strive to achieve unquestionably collective goals and benefits (Hyden 2008, 3).  This notion of developmental interests generates certain key assumptions about the role of local governments and the urban poor. First, that city governments and their urban poor are motivated to support socialised housing reform by the goal of urban poverty reduction.  Secondly, the means at their disposal is a ‘good governance’ agenda that assumes the capacity of the city government to undertake ‘market-enabling’ roles, and urban poor organisations to exercise self-management functions.  In doing so, city governments and the urban poor gravitate towards institutionalised partnerships driven by participatory processes, consensus, and the sharing of responsibility and accountability to program objectives.  In similar vein, the poor’s participation assumes that they possess the organisational readiness in undertaking formal relationships with the state and other civil society groups.

What I propose in this thesis is a political economy approach to studying the enablement strategy that rejects this ‘public good’ notion of socialised housing in its portrayal of governance in housing as an apolitical process.  An alternative view focusing on the political nature of the enablement strategy is introduced using a structural political economy approach in studying the evolving relationships between the state and the poor during its implementation and its consequences on the poor’s well-being.  The approach is based on the structural analysis pioneered by Manuel Castells (1983) in his study of urban slums in Latin America.  Castells reworked the concept of ‘marginalisation’, by maintaining that the defining characteristic of the poor is not their socioeconomic deprivation but their systematic exclusion by the state vis-à-vis more dominant and organised interests in society.  Under a structural political economy approach, thus, slums are treated as ‘sites of marginality’ that manifest the continuing disadvantage of the poor within the contestation of interests over land, services, and other resources, in consideration of certain historical and institutional contexts, and underlying relationships of power and influence.   

The thesis identifies with the critical literature on neoliberal donor policies but not its tendency to examine the enablement strategy in terms of the dynamics between the state and the market (see Baken and Van der Linden 1993; Jones and Ward 1994).  This thesis differs by scrutinising the enablement strategy as a reform, where the political economy of state and societal relationships is examined using the ‘politics of reform’ framework derived from the interactive approach developed by Fox (1993) in his study of food programs in rural Mexico.  The framework is applied in a case study of Naga City’s Kaantabay sa Kauswagan, a multi-awarded and internationally-recognised socialised housing program which in the Philippines, stands out as the longest-running and the only LGU-administered.  Although Kaantabay is not donor-sponsored, it fits the mould of the enablement strategy envisioned by international donors.  Direct governance by the LGU, its partnerships with the urban poor, and the participation of urban poor organisations in the management of assisted sites all point to ideal conditions that would account for the hands-down ‘success’ of Kaantabay --- but is it?

Using the politics of reform framework, this thesis confronts this question by examining Kaantabay in terms of the political economy of actual policy implementation and the impact of this politics on tenure security for Naga City’s urban poor.   My study first situates Kaantabay within specific conditions of structural transformation and conflict in Naga City to determine what drives state and societal interests in the reform process.  Particularly, policy implementation is examined with respect to the evolving forms of access and control of urban land in Naga City as its economic and political importance changes over time. The politics of reform framework is then used to analyse the interaction of state and societal actors in socialised housing reform in terms of their institutional settings and the coalitions of interest that operate the reform process.  In here I argue that Kaantabay’s implementation is not only driven by the ‘official development agenda’ but more so, by the agenda of establishing and sustaining power by city officials, the urban poor, and other social actors with crucial influence, such as local elites.  Meanwhile, the impact of politics on the poor’s tenure security is further explored using a structuralist perspective that examines the connections between the poor’s continuing struggles with marginalisation and the social and political relationships critical to protecting their tenure interests.  With this approach, I do not evaluate the tenure security goals of Kaantabay in terms of success rates in formal titling. Instead, I argue that tenure security is highly political in nature, a view that contests the predominant framing by international donors of tenure security as an economic or legal condition.  The critical role of politics in understanding actual policy implementation and impact on the poor reveals a contradiction in the policy framework of the enablement strategy. As I will demonstrate in the rest of the thesis, political interests, not merely developmental, drive the state and the poor in socialised housing reform, in ways that even defy established notions of ‘good governance’ in their partnerships and participation.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Pen

I wanted to treat Yaman and Mom to a 'Mum's Package' at the Pen this Mother's Day. Perhaps we could after all, let's see. So today, amid a reality check, I just registered an account to be ready, any time. And we'll be there. We'll get there and enjoy ourselves. Happy enough just by dreaming, for a start.