Make Manila


TIME and again, I have deviated from the usual policy topics of this column to feature outstanding ordinary Filipinos who went out into their communities to do something and make a difference.

Giving back to the community, to the country, is on most people’s to-do list, but it takes time and commitment. It is much easier to complain and rant about the country, our government, our politics and politicians, isn’t it?

But there are many Filipinos who are more civically engaged, many of them young people who make up most of the country’s population.

Our young people play a vital role. They are at the heart of sustainable development and democracy. Young people are too often given a negative label. They are often called the “Me” generation or the “Selfie” generation. But there are many young people who are dedicating their time and efforts to making a difference in the country.

One of them is graphic designer Kara Bermejo. Kara is co-founder of, a non-profit and online platform that facilitates public space improvement projects through community action and crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising contributions from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.

In 2013, the crowdfunding industry grew to be over $5.1 billion worldwide, according to an HSBC study.

The crowdfunding model typically has three actors: the project initiator who proposes the idea or project to be funded; individuals or groups who support the project; and a moderating organization or the platform that brings the parties together, which is what Make Manila is.

Make Manila “connects underserved urban communities to design teams in the planning and implementation of public space improvement, with the sponsorship of the private sector and online donors.”

The web-based platform seeks projects across Metro Manila’s 15 cities that bring “immediate feasible solutions to urban space challenges that make our city more beautiful, sustainable, functional, resilient, and available to all” be it something as simple as building benches, plant boxes or roof panels, or something a bit more complicated like renovating a park or playground.

Kara’s Make Manila co-founder is young architect William Ti of WTA Architecture and Design Studio.

Their first project is to improve the safety conditions of the San Juan E-11 Walkway, a vital pedestrian link that connects San Juan with Cubao. The walkway is poorly lit, flood-prone, not friendly to persons with disabilities and is a general hazard to pedestrians because of various safety issues.

Technically, the government should be spending for this project, but there are lots of projects all over our cities which are worth doing but never get done unless the citizens themselves do something about it.

This is somewhat Make Manila’s manifesto. “We believe in bringing the city back to its people—that a city is its people—and it is up to us to shape it, to elicit pride that we live in it, and to make it our home. I, you, we make Manila.”

Kara earned both graphic design and business degrees from the Ateneo de Manila University. She completed her MFA in Design Entrepreneurship at New York’s School of Visual Arts (SVA), as well as two residencies on full scholarships. During SVA’s Impact! Design for Social Change, her team’s Boulefont campaign project was included in a $50,000 SBS grant given to the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco).

She is currently a senior designer at New York-based firm Pure and Applied, which does work for major New York cultural and civic institutions such as the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Historical Society. She is also an adjunct faculty at Parsons’ School of Design Strategies while still maintaining her own design practice,

In a world where more and more of the younger, affluent generation seem to be inclined to making their first million before they turn 30, there is something truly heroic in the simple act of service that Bermejo and Ti are doing through Make Manila.

I do not know any of these ‘kids,’ but their work should not go unnoticed and should be given the recognition it deserves. The best way to do so is by helping them identify, fund and build their projects.

Online funders of Make Manila can donate any amount and in kind (construction materials to be used) for the projects. They can join in the building of the project or propose the project themselves.

Corporations can seek Make Manila’s help for matching programs, public campaigns, employee engagement and other fundraising ideas tailored to their business market and brand.

Local governments can use Make Manila to do away with expensive designs and projects that are paid out of the cities’ coffers. Indeed, if they want to do away with corruption and make the most out of their city improvement budgets, the Make Manila model of transparent fundraising and project building is the way to go.


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  1. You guys want to bring back Manila to the people so we can proudly say this is our beautiful city? Solve the disgusting traffic mess that makes commuting in this disorderly city a cross to bear daily, by developing our transit system. Get the government build low-cost housing for the poor so we can get rid of our slum areas in Metro Manila. Urge the national government to give free medicare to all Filipinos – like in Cuba and Costa Rica. Get those 20,000 or so street kids into foster homes so they would not endanger themselves dashing in and out of traffic asking for alms. God bless the Philippines!