The narrow clearing down to the river
I walk alone, out of breath

my body catching on each branch.
Small children maneuver around me.

Often, I want to return to my old body
a body I also hated, but hate less

given knowledge.
Sometimes my friends—my friends

who are always beautiful & heartbroken
look at me like they know

I will die before them.
I think the life I want

is the life I have, but how can I be sure?
There are days when I give up on my body

but not the world. I am alive.
I know this. Alive now

to see the world, to see the river
rupture everything with its light.

Hieu Min Nguyen

/// Also: rereading Gabriel Marcel’s Metaphysics of Hope. Read it too many times back as an undergrad, but then again there is no such thing as too many with a good read.



Jimmy tucks a pencil into his fist and
crumples his most recent drawing,
says there are corners in his circle.
He’s 5. I joke to him he mustn’t
throw things out so easily, let alone
use his fists in anger. He tells me
his Mama is also teaching him
how to pray. I can imagine:
his hands folded into prayer
once they are done drawing
circles without corners. How to draw
a perfect circle, I wonder.
How to define what is perfect.
Maybe something like that timely
catch of a fast ball in one’s fist
or a leaf slowly falling into a hand.

I tell Jimmy it’s okay to have corners once in a while.

Nothing has to be seamless, like prayers
that we always expect to have answers.
He doesn’t know much yet about
the deepness of one’s faith
or the shallowness of it,
only of what has corners or what isn’t
perfect. This is enough for both of us
to release our fists, believing one
can someday talk about faith
the way a leaf falls from a tree
or the way a child mindlessly
breaks a pencil tip
in an attempt to draw a circle
ever so perfect.

A friend and fellow writer has told me I should start writing once again. Maybe I should listen to his advice.

Why Does Anyone Write?


[H]ere are a few of the many reasons I write:

Because it takes me out of my own head, away from my troubles.

Because it gives me a shot, however remote, at creating something sublime and transcendent.

Because I burn with rage at the world, and it seems like a better outlet than gratuitous violence.

Because I long to capture things that are ephemeral before they evaporate into nothingness: the quietly ecstatic feeling of being in a garden at dusk in summer, the mossy scent of a lover’s jumper.

Because putting something into words forces me to articulate my thoughts and shape them into a narrative, and that gives meaning to my life.


The last reason is perhaps the most important: I write because books have opened up my world and saved my life over and over again, and that’s something I want to be a part of. What a wretched thing it is to be human, self-aware and yet lacking the answers to almost all the important questions: how should I live my life, is there a God, what is the Grand Unifying Theory for the universe, what happens when we die? And of course, no matter how comfortable a perch we manage to bag ourselves, we are always a mere tug of the veil away from disaster, a split second in which we don’t look before stepping into the road, a phone call away from learning that we will never see a loved one again.

Of Minds and Other Longings

Some scholars claim that humans are programmed to look for patterns in the world. They believe it’s the only way we can give meaning to the world and ourselves, hence us having this obsession to search and find patterns in pi, and with that, the self-disposition to find a process of thinking in this complex system of realities and possibilities. “My father taught how me to add numbers in my head,” I once wrote as the opening of a previous essay. He has been training my other siblings to do the same—because their Ate had managed it, so should they. It’s funny because I know I’m going to fail hating this concept of perfection, the way it makes us loathe ourselves because of the things we cannot control no matter how hard we try. I wanted to prove others wrong, but in proving myself right, it came to me that I was having different permutations of the same problem.

My mother and I were constantly arguing about life choices; she because of her
disappointment in me, me because like all mothers, she never seemed to understand. I had become more of a writer than the mathematician she and my father had expected me to be. On my notebook where I used to do scratch work for my problem sets, I wrote snippets of conversations, excerpts from something I just read, things that could be forgotten in an instant. I spoke of prolonged bouts of sadness, anger, and frustration on certain days when nothing seemed to go right, taking note of the date and how recurring such emotions were. It might have been a bad move when I told my mother of my frequent visits to the guidance counselor, that I was suspected of having depression, a “joke” I had come to live with ever since my pediatrician said to my 12-year-old self that I would need my own psychiatrist someday because I would grow up to be “a sad person.”

One of the psychology tests back in high school concluded that I was supposed to have a highly superior intelligence quotient—which could explain the sudden bouts of overthinking, I mused, but nevertheless did not make sense to me as to why I never felt aware of doing so. Even though it also reported that my emotional quotient dropped too low I could not cope properly with the situations around me, what frustrated me more was the fact that the highly superior could change anytime depending on the circumstances of learning; I could not care any less for the way I respond to circumstances. My mother did not like this, however. She would often remind me that there was no need to be sad because our family was complete and that I had a great life ahead of me. She refused to think that her eldest daughter was immature and incapable of processing thoughts on her own.

As I grew up, I knew all the things were not created in a vacuum inside my head. A lot of factors had also affected my way of thinking. I could not pinpoint exactly what was frustrating me, which came first and which problems ended up in a cycle that prolonged my rounds of anxiety. I had also been told that writing is only a phase, that I could always come back to science. Because my mother did not want to send me to a psychiatrist, I started assuming that perhaps everything was just due to my tendency to overthink, that in fact I was doing fine and I was imagining things were going out of hand and I actually had the potential to sort through all these and organize them accordingly in my mind. What happened instead was this: I found myself coming back to my restlessness.

I read somewhere in the Internet that it is better to claim that a circle has infinite corners instead of seeing it as having none and that pi describes a perfect circle and is often thus involved in equations having repetitions or revolving around recursions. How do we rearrange our lives, then? How do we do so in such a way that it looks seamless from any other viewpoint?The interesting part in pi is that no matter how many digits you memorize, no matter how many patterns you can figure out, it simply never ends. There is still a need to understand where it all went wrong. Try to analyze one strand of problems and then trace it to a certain cause, and then realize that this cause is another problem triggered by another and another, leading one back to the first problem. It seemed to me as if there was an apparent abundance of choices but there wasn’t much of a difference whichever I picked. In the end, reality taught me that it was not about picking one and leaving the rest of the choices out of the equation. It taught me that despite all these possibilities, I still could not choose. Perhaps I am writing because the future does not clearly show what can be achieved with my double-major. The strings of possibilities are interconnected. That is to say, if we change the order of things, we also change our set of possibilities.

/// from The Permutation Act

Notes for the Nineteen

I once saw fear on the back of a spoon. It was one rainy evening in June. We were at my grandparents’ house eating cake and singing karaoke. The first time my sister had a seizure, I thought she was being possessed. The word “epilepsy” seemed odd to me back then. E-pi-lep-sy, epilepsy. It reminded me of cool mint. Or eucalyptus leaves. Or sweet breath. Or life. “Epileptic attack” sounded absurd to me until I witnessed it happen. Sesame Street was on TV, I think. Maybe my sister went to the kitchen. Perhaps the bathroom, too. No one noticed her leaving. And then my mother—she was in the living room, talking to our grandparents, listening to neighbors on the other side of the wall. She started shouting for a spoon. A spoon! I thought she just wanted dessert. Or something to share. I went out of the room and saw my sister on the floor. A spoon! Quick! Of course, I did not know my mother needed to lodge it in my sister’s mouth. I did not know where to focus, did not know how to respond. My sister, her face, her body—she wouldn’t stop convulsing. Her tongue kept lolling out of her mouth. Hail Marys came in whispers. My grandparents’ mouths were frantic. Mine was a silent one. I did not ask How can I help? Or: Is she okay? I did not do anything at all. Just stood there in shock. That was the best I could do. I was eight; she was four. I don’t remember who ran to the kitchen and gave the spoon. I don’t remember how long the entire episode was. But I’m sure my mother never left my sister’s side. I know. I was merely watching the entire time.

In the car, my mother tells me to practice my arithmetic. There is noise everywhere we go. I look at the dates engraved on the tombstone as we pass by a cemetery: I subtract the last numbers first to see how many years they lived. I count the months and then the days. There’s 2013 minus 1995, 1990 less 1980, 2008 minus itself. The years seemed so young. Often, the rain makes everything a blur. Sometimes I pretend not to see the dates anymore, that I cannot tell the difference between living and dying. It is this attention to details that allows me to live in comfort. There was this poem I read before about the dash in between those numbers and what really mattered was how we spend our lifetime. I might have resorted to wordlessness, playing with numbers out of desperation. You see, I multiply the digits on car plates just to see if they’re divisible by 3. The larger the number you divide something with, the harder it is. Divisibility by two is too easy; by four is a challenge. So is by seven and by eight. Sometimes I can’t see how much I’m adding to. It seems that this is all I can ever latch on to. Death would be too much to think of in terms of numbers. From here on, allow me to stifle the sirens; let me welcome the silence.

This I tell myself, each night, each morning, during and right after every attack: my sister cannot die. And I cannot live on my own.

In the garden of our backyard there is a tree without leaves. This is no way to treat it as different. In the sky: a sun that does not cast a shadow. Gray walls limit our vision beyond the greenery. The tree is supported by the loam embedded with rocks. Still, it arches taller than the rest of the plants. Somebody—a gardener or the caretaker who used to live in the house where we currently reside—cut it in half before. But the tree now has small green buds sprouting from the tips of its branches. It is the promise of growth.

We do not tend to this tree. My brother plants seeds around it. My sisters water the bushes. My grandparents only weed out the grass. Whenever my siblings forget, my mother gently reminds them that their attention is needed by the little things. As for the tree, rain and sunlight are enough to keep it alive. There are plants more prone to bugs and worms. However, we all know the tree can live on its own. It is a sapling that has the will to go on.

I cannot remember the first time I got angry at my sister. My memory associates it with pain. It could have been through actions: my palm hitting her on the face, my hand grabbing her hair while someone pulled us apart. Or, through words: telling her that she would never be as good as I am, shouting the word epileptic again and again until my mother called me out. Once, in tears, she bit my hand and made a gash on my skin. In those times, what I only knew was that I was wrong, not wronged, that I was not the one asking for forgiveness—instead, I was the one asking to be forgiven.

Every day upon going home from school, I see my sister alive and well, her bottles of medicine stocked up in our cabinet. We take turns washing dishes in the evenings and cleaning up the kitchen table where we also dine together. On the fridge is an emergency note posted by my mother just in case: a list of what to do during an epileptic attack, followed by the do’s and don’ts. Sometimes I wished the note didn’t need to remind me of possibilities we do not expect to happen. But I know all the steps by heart and the numbers to call, even though these do not matter to my sister. She has her own way of doing this, living on with the limits life has imposed on her. It is with this kind of distance that allows me to show my concern. I sip my coffee in the kitchen and make sure the note is still in my head, silently teaching myself what is difficult to grasp: love is also accepting the possibility of loss.



///// some snippets from my Creative Writing thesis because I don’t know how to top my 18th birthday wish for my sister last year. (Happy birthday, Kim.)

Reaching T_______

On a train stop to T______ I discovered
the smallest freedoms: footsteps

of a kitten running toward the station exit
right when the car doors slide open,

a chime over the speaker system
cut off by our immediate departure,

a woman on the end of the train
on the speaker, repeating thrice

the next stop. I thought:
who makes a living like that—

who spends their whole lives
announcing where they’re headed

to anyone who’d listen? I stood at the next stop
whispered a name to myself, thrice,

walked across the platform, and waited
for a train going the opposite way.

The cold has a funny way of making you move
into and out of places—cities

or rooms, pockets or scarves.
All of them, if the cold is uncommon enough.

All I know is when I’ve returned
to Manila, all I will take

home is this winter
in a nameless town

of only noun, number, and color:
Lone Black Orchid, they’d call it.

Or Teawater. Or a Field of Cranes.
In whichever of these places, I believe,

hides the human soul: a newly opened bookstore
in a quiet district, flowers by the open door,

snow on the doorstep, a waving gold cat,
awaiting its first customer.

Gian Lao

Sustainable Energy motivates winners of Internal HULT Prize  

Sustainability is one of the key factors of maintaining a good business, and this year’s HULT Prize challenges its participants to focus on such. Founded by HULT MBA Alumnus Ahmad Ashkar, the HULT Prize is the worldwide social entrepreneurship competition with a $1 million USD seed-capital money for the winning team. The task for the students this year is to efficiently harness the power energy in transforming the lives of people.

By pursuing large, untapped markets and tackling the greatest problems of humanity in the modern times, the HULT Prize aims to use these existing channels through profitability and sustainability. With rounds of elimination starting from the internal competition going to the regional competition, the teams who will be making it to the final round will be delivering their pitches in front of an international audience in New York.


London Campus (by Bea Yabut)

Held last December 2, the HULT Prize at the London Campus proved to be a worthwhile experience in innovating solutions for different markets. Out of the 23 student teams that participated this year, three went to the semifinals, namely Teams ENPOV, NEBULA, and 3NERGIA.

Team ENPOV, the winning team, pitched a two-part product and service solution to rural mobility and agricultural struggles. They have designed a hybrid electric tricycle that utilizes pedal power and is assisted by solar power. They will also be setting up a complimentary service which includes pedal powered milling stations that double as bicycle repair hubs.  Hanny Semere from Team ENPOV said that they are planning to go to Ethiopia to launch their minimum viable product. They decided early on that they had to take feedback and criticism from so many different perspectives of their mentors, mostly HULT staffers such as Evangelos Markopoulos, Daniel Rukare, Eli Bohemond, Nikhilesh Sinha, and Ronan Gruenbaum.

What helped most of the teams were their classes at HULT—problem solving lessons and models were applied across the entire idea formulation and assessment process. Trevor Bauder of Team 3NERGIA, said that with the first idea that they had, they realized that the further they went along with it, the more complications they found. “[I]t was actually about probably three weeks ago when [we] actually came up with the idea, said Bauder. Their company product has to do with recycled shipping containers, refurbished solar panels, and batteries which allows them to convert the shipping container into a classroom that is self- sustains that generates its own energy.

Team NEBULA on the other hand was bent on using fog catchers to produce water for underdeveloped rural areas that don’t have easy access to water. A fog catcher is able to collect water out of fog and we feel that there are many mountainous areas next to oceans that contain massive amounts of fog.  Nitin Gaba, one of its members, believed that they can turn these dry lands into farmlands just by stealing a bit of the sky and provide water for crops to grow and this is just the beginning of the potential of what we aim to achieve with our fog catchers.

The judges included Yoav Gross, Jonathan Crook, Marc Ortmans, Sabrina Palme, Andre Quintanilha, Eleonora Ferrero, Gareth Walsh, William Annandale, Rosemary Harper, Jonathan Munday, Nitin Sukh, Ajit Kumar, and Elena Mariotti. Said Ortmans, “[I]t’s worth noting that while that the motivation is initially for the prize, you’ll see people not just follow up with the online version but also just take the idea forward anyway of their own volition so they come on out and find funding.”


Boston Campus (by Reina Adriano)

Held last Saturday, December 2, the HULT Prize at the Boston Campus had 4 semi-finalists from the 19 teams that competed, namely Humane Energy, Ecolution, Aasha, and Amal-Ray of Hope. While Amal-Ray of Hope was convinced with lighting up lives where no one has by using Galvanic battery to illuminate LED using seawater electrolyte, Ecolution, on the other hand, focused on Nepal and its issues after the earthquake of 2013, specifically on food loss and wastage. While trying to find a viable solution they soon realized the problem was far more alarming when measured at a global scale.  The team devised a refrigeration unit, called the Ecobox, that would run on off-grid electricity to provide preservation for fresh produce from the farm to the market.

Humane Energy bagged the runner-up, for being an energy company that makes use of urine as a power generation in diverse industries. Composed of Javette Nixon, Hector Manjarrez, Nick Hugo Plueschke, Saloni Kania, Human Energy’s social impact of their concept impressed their judges.

This year’s finalist of HULT Boston’s Internal HULT Prize Aasha (Hope) was dedicated to building a better world. With Nitin Sethi, Anurag Sarangi, Rijul Gautam, and Ishan Kankoner, Aasha is using virtual reality to address real problems to farmers in connection with the challenge by giving access to water resources and by utilizing OffGridBox and solar power.

The judges of the Boston campus were fascinated with the different pitches by the students. “Every adversity presents an opportunity,” exclaims one of the judges. They strongly recommended in the presentations that by starting with the main problem and the relevant solution, the next challengers may have stronger convictions in presenting their ideas. One piece of motivation the judges gave for the Boston campus: “This is not the end of your journey but only to beginning of it.”


San Francisco Campus (by Ivana Sinibaldi and Nga Ying Alberta Mok)

The winners from the San Francisco campus did not disappoint. From the 21 teams that participated, good responses about the competition were gathered. The finalists were The Multiverse, H2All (Winner), Infinaqua, Shield and Conexus. The teams focused on the critical issues in today’s world. H2All and Infinaqua proposed a user-friendly solution to purify contaminated water into drinking water. Shield and Conexus tackled the toilet situation in India by proposing toilet cubicles which limit the bacteria spread and transform human waste into bio-energy.

Team H2All bagged the prize last December 3, having developed a compact and user-friendly device to purify water that generates chlorine, a chemical which kills bacteria in drinking water. H2All also developed a toolkit and indicator to monitor the content of chlorine in water. “There is a lot of mixed feelings, when it comes to the presentations and seen everyone prepared and nervous,” exclaimed Anna Carolina, one of the finalist with their team Conexus.

After having won the Internals Competition for the HULT Prize, H2All will propose this idea to countries which do not have access to clean and drinkable water. To start with, it will contact the local water agency in India, Madagascar, Algeria, Senegal, and Colombia.

The judges were Carlos Baradello, Federico Baradello, Sheryle Bolton, Prince Ghuman, Kati Kallins, Ted Ladd, David Lehr, Isabelle Lescent-Giles, Avery Lyford, Annalisa Belliss, Ben Cooper, Gert Christen, Dave Epstein, Jorge Zavala, David Stephens, Muhammad Yunus, Ileana Facchini, Mitch Shapiro, Shahand Esmaeili, Olivier Kaeser, and AC Ross.


Dubai Campus (by Eesha Fantu and Brenda Raez Solari)

HULT Dubai’s Internal Competition for the HULT Prize took place last November 26. Amazing ideas striving to change the world were presented from the 45 students, from MIB, MBA and EMBA programs presented 8 teams, 3 of them dropped off before the competition, leaving 5 teams, Genr8, Piezo, Sundrop, Phoenix Solar Case Charger and LightWay presenting their ideas. HULT alumni from MIC, MBA and EMBA programs showed its Power for Good in this first Hult Prize 2018 selection round.

With the judges of varying expertise, the diversity of experience was shared by Andrea Skerritt, Deepak Rajgopaul, Derek Carlson, Hans Henrik Christensen, Jose Jimenez, Karl W. Feilder, Michael Nates, Ross Daines, and Tena Pick.

The winning team was Genr8, a team formed by EMBA students with entrepreneurial, Engineering, Marketing and IT background. The team is formed by Abdullah Al Mansoob, Aitor Agirregabiria, Olivier Ruff and Mathapelo Mzizi. Genr8, a P2P energy exchange, involves a prosumer who owns solar panels and sells energy to its neighbor or a person in its community as opposed to selling it to the Grid.

Genr8 was the team selected to pass to the next round and they’re already working on launching the business idea to the market in the following months, using all its resources on researching, recruiting members, and interviewing potential investors that might be interested in support them. When asked what the next steps are, the members of Genr8 claimed, “We will also introduce smart meters to get exact consumption instead of estimates as for today work on measuring what is billed.” The team was confident in finding the right solutions to make the project work out. “We have been very fortunate to get this opportunity because will give us the chance to meet people with knowledge on Blockchain and find the right expertise to let us move us forward.”


Read the edited article posted at HULT News here. Had the great opportunity to collaborate with HULT global ambassadors from the different campuses as well.