On Fiction

Non-fiction books have dominated my shelf for a couple of years now. Biographies, self-help books, books on productivity, psychology, and the like. I would often read them during my free-time as a form of rest and relaxation (R&R). But last month I (finally) realized that it’s still more of studying I was doing rather than resting.

Fortunately, it so happened that I bought fiction books from a local indie bookstore over the holiday break (as always, the cover attracted me; I tend to judge a book by its cover!). I’m on my fourth book now since Christmas. It is very refreshing to read fiction! It effectively allows me to detach from reality for a while, which I think is the point of a real R&R. I can literally feel the tension in my brain muscles slowly loosening and I almost forgot just how entertaining a well-written novel can be! Books on fantasy and adventure also seem to encourage creativity as it allows you to imagine more.

Have you been too busy lately? When was the last time you read a good fiction book? Maybe it’s time to grab one from your shelf again?

Happy reading!


On Values

I have always believed that education is the key to our nation’s progress. But after a conversation on politics with my mother and uncle over merienda, I realized that values must come first. A person may be well-educated, but without a firm set of values as foundation, such great education can end up being misused.

On Responsibilities

“More is asked of us than most people, therefore we must strive to be better than most if we are to prove ourselves worthy of that responsibility…” – Nasuada, from the book Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

2017 was about beginnings. 2018 will be about growth.

I am still not used to introducing myself as an executive director, but it is one I need to learn to embrace and live out together with all the responsibilities attached to the title. I will commit new mistakes along the way that will teach me new lessons about leadership, public relations, and life in general, among others. It is daunting, but also exciting.

First meeting of the year was successful and productive. May we face our responsibilities throughout the year with as much vigor as when we started.

Cheers to 2018! :)

On Lectures & Grades

I have a dilemma. Creating lectures and checking exams and quizzes are increasingly difficult to do when you no longer see the point of these outdated teaching and assessment techniques. :(( Probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed handling the product design class this semester. Very minimal lectures. No written exams. But students have a tangible output.

Why am I still lecturing in class? Why am I still giving exams? Because of standardization in engineering education? The lectures I can replace with an alternative, but still easier said than done due to other faculty responsibilities. The written exams and quizzes are more challenging to remove because I need to convince other faculty members (at least one; my partner next sem) to remove it as well in order to comply with Washington Accord (sections of the same courses should have the same assessment techniques).

I’m still here struggling to finish checking an exam that happened two months ago. Soon I will calculate numbers that will “assess” student learning. But even those numbers are quickly losing meaning. I am currently a student in another school where we are not given grades, but I have learned so much in just one semester. Is it not possible to ditch the grade in university and just provide feedback on student work and have them learn not to get 100% or 1’s, but simply because they are curious to discover new things?

Then again, this might be just the idealistic me speaking. The struggle is real.

On Color

A brewing interest. Let’s make 2018 #colorful! :3

This book is slowly opening my eyes to the fascinating world of colors and natural pigments. Read about the white pigment so far and how lead carbonate was used for the longest time despite its toxic properties (lead poisoning!!!) because it provides a vivid, opaque color. Zinc Oxide would’ve been an alternative, but it was too expensive that people still used lead. Fortunately, titanium was discovered! I’m in the chapter about ochre now and learned that it can be found in certain rocks!

Outside the book, I learned from a YouTube video how to extract pigment from bamboo! Now I want to try it!!! Just need to buy some alum powder (tawas?) and cook baking soda to turn it into washing soda. It’s also very tempting to buy clear acrylic gel medium to turn the pigment into acrylic paint (or watercolor, but apparently it has more components like honey, glycerin, etc., so let’s start with simple acrylic first).

Definitely something to explore next year after this jam-packed semester is over!



On Good Conversations & Pursuing Dreams

“Money does not equate to good design, but good design can turn time into money.” – Dean Tobias Guggenheimer, SoFA Design Institute

Dean Guggenheimer of SoFA dropped by our furniture design class yesterday. Sir Rey invited him and he stayed for around 10-15 minutes getting to know each student and why we enrolled in SoFA. The dean was a very pleasant man. One can sense an air of humble confidence around him, probably drawn from years of experience in the field. One of the things I remember him saying was how common it was in SoFA to have students in specialized courses (e.g. lighting design, furniture design) who are pursuing their love for design after years of putting it aside due to various reasons (e.g. money, work, etc.). This was a familiar story for some of Sir Rey’s students, including myself. I often wondered before how I ended up in engineering even though everything I enjoyed doing pointed towards the creative side. But now it seems clearer what my role in engineering is: to introduce HEED and to pave a path for MatE to enter product design and art.

It was interesting because when I told Dean Guggenheimer that I am a Materials Engineer, he became so excited that he said I should teach at SoFA! I’m not sure if he was kidding, but he seemed really into that idea because he asked if full-time faculty members in UP were allowed to teach elsewhere (unfortunately, no, huhu). But his reaction is somewhat a validation on how important materials are in design.

I love SoFA’s goal of molding designers who are not only locally relevant, but also globally competitive. They put a lot of emphasis on developing a strong foundation on design conceptualization because they believe that no matter how skillful someone is in, say, drawing or CAD modeling, ultimately, the design will start from a concept.

Another story that left a mark on me was when the dean shared how he started his career as an architect. He said words like, “I didn’t sleep for the first 6 months… I only had one client… I had children, I kept thinking at night, “how will I feed them tomorrow?” Now he has a design school. He told us that pursuing dreams need courage. That we must be prepared to eat just rice and water (which I might experience sometime soon at the rate I’m going, gaaah).

It is always a pleasure to meet people with inspiring stories like Dean Guggenheimer. Plus, my classmates and I got to know each other better, too! :)

On Furniture Design

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Flat to Functional exhibit last March 2017 at the UP CFA. Photo from Manila Today.

How did I end up enrolling in a furniture design class? Looking back, I think it started with an exhibit I saw last March. The title of the exhibit was “Flat to Functional,” which features flat-pack furniture designs created by one of the industrial design faculty members at the UP College of Fine Arts (CFA). I happened to meet him at the 3D printing symposium I organized on the same month. I think it was the first time I saw a furniture design exhibit where I knew who the designer was. The exhibit wasn’t so big, but it was very inviting. I loved how beautifully the MDF, the warm light, and the black floor and walls interacted together. I loved how each piece of furniture was functional so much so that they are still used today at the CFA Fablab. And I think it was there that the furniture design bug bit me – there inside the Rapid Prototyping room as I was actually sitting on the MDF stool, my laptop placed on the MDF table created by someone I knew. It was somehow a different feeling. And as it often happens in my life, I got curious. How did he do this? Can I design and make functional furniture, too? I wanna try! And so I started searching for short courses on furniture design and found one at the School of Fashion and the Arts (SoFA) Design Institute in Makati.

With Sir Rey and some furniture design classmates.

The class at SoFA was taught by a renowned furniture designer in the Philippines – Mr. Rey Soliven. It was in design school that I learned about anthropometrics, classical designs, modernist designs, types of furniture by room, and sketching (a lot of it!), among other things. One memorable moment was when I completed the full-size drawing (side view) of a classic Windsor armchair! It was after that drawing that I realized how much skill and effort come with the pieces of furniture we interact with everyday! We had three projects in class, some involving scale models and one involving an optional full-size furniture. Doing these projects deepened my appreciation for the craft. What I love about furniture design is how one can integrate other art forms into a particular piece. Add light, colorful tiles, a painting, upholstery; we’re not even talking about the form yet! Or the many materials you can use from wood to plastic to metal to composites, etc! I find it very versatile. You are limited only by imagination (and money :P)!

A beautiful mess in design school. I love how we draw, create small prototypes, and get design feedback all in one session. And yes, we can eat in class, too!

I have no idea what will happen after our Furniture Design class ends next month. I don’t expect to be a full-time furniture designer, but I’m grateful I now have better understanding of the process behind these beautiful things. The ideation techniques will be particularly helpful even in other aspects of my work in academia. The fabrication techniques I learned are also somewhat empowering. You can make things!!!

During our midterm presentation.

My experience in SoFA (and CFA Fablab) definitely fueled a stronger desire to incorporate Materials Engineering (MatE) in art and design. This opportunity excites me because, finally, the creative soul inside this human shell of mine can finally come alive without feeling out of place in a college that had always seemed a world away from fine arts. :)


P.S. I’m about to start with my first full-size furniture for next month’s finals! Let’s see how that turns out! Please wish me luck!!! :))