2010: New Decade, New Self

 

To whoever designed this 2010 wallpaper: I owe a debt of gratitude to you. This is going to be my 2010 wallpaper and avatar in most of my social network sites.

A little flashback…

Those who know me from about 2 decades back know that I came from a different mold altogether.

Dad was an accountant. He had no chance to take the CPA exams so that dream must have been something I absorbed in my growing up years so much so that I followed his footsteps, albeit blindly. Along the way, I did have a chance to discover my creative side. Mom made sure I took piano, ballet and jazz lessons. Yes, I even did Tahitian dancing at one point.

I was not a nerd in school but studying hard was a habit that paid off as I graduated at the top of my class both in high school and college. Getting a job with the premier accounting firm then was not so difficult with grades like mine and I must say that staying with that firm for the next 16 years taught me even more about discipline, hard work, teamwork and many others. My determination to make it big in the corporate world got me a firm scholarship to an Ivy League school in Pennsylvania. Even when I left the firm to join a universal bank as head of its Corporate Planning Division, I carried those very same work ethics. Because of the intensity with which I worked, I almost lost my youngest son in a really bloody incident in Baclaran during a meeting. At one time, I spent Christmas Eve in the bank till past 6pm – practically the only one left on my floor.

So it was a great surprise to everyone who knew the workaholic ME when I submitted my resignation letter. Which company are you joining? How much more will they pay you? We will match whatever they offer you. You can be Chairwoman of this affiliate company, said the Chairman of the bank. To all these questions, I simply answered that I wanted to just become a homemaker for once and serve my family.

Friends made side bets i would not last 2 years. I should have made a hefty bet because I beat them by a decade.

Fast forward to the present…

3 years ago, I discovered blogging. I sort of dawdled the first 2 years, simply writing for its pure joy and creative outlet. But now, I am exploring that long inert, creative side of my self. I want to reinvent myself into a right-brained woman.

Let me ask you something: Have you ever wondered if your past life was a mistake or has hit a no-growth stage? Are you nursing a deep desire to change course, paddle elsewhere, find out if you still have it in you to do something different? Have you ever wanted to put more meaning into your life?

I have wondered. And I have nurtured a deep yearning to put more meaning into my life.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu

I’m taking life as it comes now and I am amazed at the different opportunities that lie out there for people willing to give it a try. Just in 2009, I got myself into the following;

And more opportunities appear to be opening up in 2010 that will put to bear more writing assignments, among others. In the works also are plans to get more training in internet marketing/SEO and a not-to-be-missed creative workshop with Jim Paredes.

Pursuing it at this stage of life is easier, I guess, now that my kids are teens and adults. They are growing independent of me after years I spent with them, being active in their school activities. But I believe that pursuing the deepest passions in you have no right or wrong age. The time to start is always NOW.

Who knows where else this journey is taking me? I still can’t see the big picture.

But that picture above of the fluttering butterflies and flowers growing delightfully under a bright sun say it all. That’s how I want to reinvent my life –

New, exciting, sunshine-y, positive, growing, free-spirited, love-filled, and God-centered.

Are you also in the process of altering the direction of your life? In what way? I’d love to hear from you as well.

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MOVE – a World AIDS Day Project by Headshot Clinic

Are we aware of how HIV/AIDS is rapidly spreading in the Philippines and in the world?

I got hold of some materials with some statistics from the National Epidemiology Center and was shocked to find out that:

– At the present rate, there will be 700 new cases of HIV/AIDS before 2009 ends

– In 2000, there was only 1 new case every 3 days; in 2009, there are TWO new cases EVERY DAY!

– 89% of HIV transmission is through SEX

– Since 2007, 72% of new cases were males who were infected by having sex with OTHER MALES

Coinciding with the annual celebration of World AIDS Day last December 9, a series of portraits done by the renowned Filipino conceptual photographer, Niccolo Cosme, is on exhibit at Greenbelt 5 (fountain area). The exhibit runs till December 14.

My oldest daughter and I were lucky to have been part of a pool of bloggers who participated in this year’s Project Headshot Clinic. On their website, this is what Headshot Clinic has to say about their unique way of spreading awareness of HIV/AIDS:

The Headshot Clinic is the flagship in employing unparalleled advocacy using digital photography as its main medium of representation and publicizes it through the presently prevailing social networks. The collaborating powers of both will further enhance awareness as last year’s UNAIDS supported Project Headshot Clinic: AWARE to spread the issues and facts of HIV/AIDS. “AWARE” took the internet by storm. It was able to spread consciousness and made more people aware of HIV/AIDS.

This year, UNAIDS and Project Headshot Clinic are working together to call for ACTION in fighting the spreading of HIV/AIDS. It is a sad realization that as much as we are aware of the dangers, still – more and more people are diagnosed with the decease.

And so we have to MOVE.

Headshot Clinic Project: UNAIDS MOVE aims to facilitate curiosity in people and drive them to make a change. We will inform the public and will ultimately thrust a call for action to fight HIV/AIDS. It will feature advocates who are the movers and shakers in the Philippines, as well as regular people like students, taxi drivers, or personalities who are or have been affected by HIV. This time, as we have succeeded in the dissemination of awareness from last year, we are acting on it.

And we will fight it together, everyone has a voice and it should be heard.

To put the exhibit together, Headshot Clinic and Niccolo tapped celebrities, bloggers and ordinary people for headshots. Personally, I felt it was my chance to help promote an advocacy as a blogger, to do something worthwhile and push for awareness and change.

Some people I recognized among the pics taken by Headshot Clinic were Boyet Sison (ANC host of Hardball), RJ and Vanessa Ledesma, Carlos Celdran, Joey Reyes, Cong. Risa Hontiveros, Kristine Hermosa, Gelli de Belen, Dr. Eric Tayag of DOH, Tim Yap and Niccolo himself.

Here is my own headshot pic.

It’s time to MOVE and make more people aware of the creeping threat of HIV/AIDS in our country!

There will be more activities to drum up HIV/AIDS awareness in the Philippines scheduled for 2010. Watch for them!

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BlogWatch.ph Officially Launches

A diverse group of bloggers have come together to write articles on election-related issues to foster voter’s education, commentaries, features on the candidates running for national positions, and any other topics that would broaden the voters’ ability to vote wisely in the coming 2010 Philippine elections. Vibal Foundation’s Philippine Online Chronicles (http://thepoc.net) is hosting BlogWatch.ph online.

BlogWatch.ph aims to cover underplayed stories in various formats normally used by bloggers such as podcasts, articles, and videos. Another thing that will distinguish itself is its use of social networking media to spread information and connect with its readers. Already, the site has Plurk, Twitter, Ustream, Facebook, YouTube, and Qik accounts set up so that BlogWatch.ph can be made accessible to almost everyone who is online.

At the official launch last November 24 at Max’s Restaurant in Bel-Air, Makati City, traditional media and other bloggers were in attendance. Gus Vibal, publisher of Philippine Online Chronicles likewise graced the occasion.

The program proper went as follows:

The Philippine Online Chronicles and Blog Watch – Kristine Mandigma (Program Director)

The Role of Bloggers as New Media – Ed Lingao (Phil. Center for Investigative Journalism)

Blogging / Journalism – Marck Rimorin (Blog Watch writer)

The Blog Watch Site and Plans – Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (Project Director)

Introduction of the Writers

Open Forum with the Press

Emcee: Vince Golangco (Blog Watch writer)

Below is a teaser video on Blog Watch shown during the launch:

BlogWatch.ph will continue to evolve to include more interactive content. We strongly encourage all of you who have a stake in the 2010 elections to actively participate in the Blog Watch polls and tell us what you think via our comment sections.

We are also accepting bloggers who may want to guest blog on commentaries. If you are interested, send us an email at blogwatch.ph@gmail.com. We still need bloggers from the provinces in Northern and Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

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Blog Watch Formally Launches on Nov. 24, 2009

I had an earlier post about being part of Blog Watch, hosted by Vibal Foundation’s Philippine Online Chronicles.

On November 24, 2009, Blog Watch will be formally launched in the presence of traditional and new media at Max’s Restaurant on Jupiter St., Makati, from 11am to 2pm.

The blogger-writers for Blog Watch will attempt to “fill in the gaps” as well as complement traditional media’s coverage of the 2010 elections. We have began some features on voter education and are now beginning to provide backgrounders on the candidates for national positions (both on the personal side as well as the political side, including issues they are supporting). In addition, commentaries stemming from the personal insights of the writers will add flavor to this site.

It is our hope that through Blog Watch as well as other blogs and news sites, including those set up by COMELEC, the voting public will be able to make wiser decisions on who to elect into office.

I invite you to visit Blog Watch regularly to become as informed as possible before the 2010 Philippine elections. You may also follow Blog Watch on FacebookTwitterPlurk and subscribe to its YouTube channel.

The bloggers (as of this writing) who form part of Blog Watch are Noemi Dado (A Filipina Mom Blogger), Jane Uymatiao (Here’s to Life!), Sonnie Santos (Sonnie’s Porch), Dine Racoma (The D Spot), Vincent Golangco (When in Manila), Carlo Ople (New Media Philippines), Marck Rimorin (The Marocharim Experiment)Rochelle Sy Chua, Juned Sunido (Baratillo @ Cubao), Fritz Tenatativa (Fritzified)Leslie Bocobo, Brian Ong (The Philippines and Beyond), Victor Villanueva (Bikoy.Net), Dean Jorge Bacobo (Philippine Commentary), Pierre Tito Galla (Jester-in-Exile), Karen Ang (Bury me in this dress), AnnaManila (Ode2Old), Wyatt Belmonte (Wyatt’s Kitchen), and Blogie Robillo (Blogie Blog).

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Getting Tagged + the Kreativ Blogger Award

This Kreative Blogger Award was given to me by my dear friend from my Philadelphia past, Kathleen. Thanks so much, Kathleen!

kreativ_blogger_award

I am thrilled to have been chosen one of Kathleen’s 7 best-loved blogs and as it is with awards like this, it is now my turn to pay it forward and choose 7 of my own best-loved blogs. Of course, I love more than 7 blogs, most specially the blogs of my mommy blogger friends. But for now, I will list the blogs that first come to my mind.

1. Insightful Personhood – My sister in Christ/kumare (both ways)/great friend Aly maintains this blog. Aly is one of the most creative people I have known. She loves scrapbooking and her Christmas gifts are always a delight to receive because she thinks up different ways to wrap the package and decorate it with twirly colored ribbons or a touch of something like a cut-out Christmas tree or hanging ornaments. In this blog, Aly bares her heart. She writes about her family life as well as her insights in her journey as a daughter of God. If there is one blog I can go to to draw inspiration from, it is hers.

2. Heart of Rachel – Rachel is one of my mommy blogger friends. Her blog is aptly titled because it is ALL HEART. She writes about anything and everything close to her heart. She writes about her family experiences, puts up great household tips and anything that catches her heart. When you visit her blog, you immediately notice how bright, colorful and tasteful it is. It gives you a sense that its owner is a happy optimist. Which Rachel is.

3. Memories in the Eyes of the Digiscrapmom – This title fits Liezl to a T! She is my ultimate digital scrapbooking idol — only because I have tried, truly tried, to keep up with the 4 kids’ scrapbooks and am still an utter failure in this department. I have (by last count), 3 plastic stackables filled with long, brown envelopes of the kids’ pictures, schoolwork and other souvenirs. Maybe I do need to go digital instead of tackling the cut & paste style of scrapbooking in the days of my mom and lola.

4. Flipflopping my way around town – Fran’s a neighbor. A really close neighbor. As in — the street right behind ours. And to top it, she blogs mostly about her food experiences. Her blog is eye candy. Colorful, lots of pics, and very light reading. I love visiting and finding out what new restaurants she tried and reviewed. Food blogs are better than visiting restaurant websites because I get the real deal from people who actually tried the food and service. Fran’s blog is one such site. Of course, she is now busy with preparations to move on to another state of life (woohoo!) but she still finds time to do her foodie posts. Keep ’em comin’, Fran!

5. Wifely Steps – Toni is in the last stages of her pregnancy and is awaiting Timmy’s birth. Her blog is all about her journey as a wife. Just reading her posts makes me smile because it is so easy to empathize with Toni’s experiences.

6. The Journey of a Yogini – Meet Chona, my BYFF (Best Yogini Friend Forever). Chronological age separates us but not our free spirits. When we’re together, we talk, laugh and get into just about any topic. I love being with her. Our souls commune. We are both free spirits (or at least trying to be as free as possible within social norms, haha). This yoga blog of Chona’s shows how far into her yoga journey she has come. She started her yoga practice later than me but now, she is a regular in her ashtanga class. When you read this blog, you see the depth of my BYFF’s thoughts (but hey, she is funny when she wants to be too!).

7. TeacherJulie.com – Julie is a special education teacher. Her blog is unique in that she shares her own experiences and knowledge on special education and parenting. But that is not all her blog is about. Julie is a warm, wonderful person whose sunshine personality shines through in her posts. I love browsing her blog and finding posts that make me think deeply or laugh out loud or lead me to resolve to do something.

Part of receiving the Kreative Blogger award is making up a list of 7 things that I love so here goes:

1. Christmas – Who does not love Christmas? It’s my favorite season of the year. This is the wonderful thing about the Philippines — when September comes around, it already begins to feel like Christmas. We are probably the only country that celebrates Christmas THIS long! And I love it. I love the sights, smells, and the activities. And I love going to the Masses, hear the carols, greet familiar faces coming out of church, spending time to greet one another…

2. Hugs – I am a touchy-feely person. I easily hug and embrace people (probably sending some people who are not used to this familiarity into uncomfortable fits).  And I do love receiving hugs as well. It’s my first instinct when I am around people I love. My teen boys sometimes squirm when I hug them while they are focused intently on World of Warcraft or some other online video game but I am sure this reassures them that I love them to bits. One of the best ways to start a day is to be hugged. They say everyone needs a hug at least once a day. I agree 100% and the more frequently it is done, the better for one’s self!

3. My family – My support system. My life. My reason for being. My loves.

4. Connecting with friends online or in person – This is one of my real loves — being able to connect with friends in whatever way. Lately, I have been trying to find old friends via Facebook and am happy to report that I have been quite successful. Chatting online or meeting up at some mall for a quiet (no, scrap that.  I meant — laughter-filled) reunion really takes years off one’s face.

5. Reading books – Bookworm, bookaholic, bibliophile, bookista. That says it all. I just love books! And it’s contagious. My whole family reads. That’s why we all have bad eyes….

6. Yoga – This is one of my passions now and I must say it has helped my mindset towards many things. Despite being a Type A personality, I am better equipped to deal with stressful situations as long as I have my yoga. I also feel healthier at this stage of my life compared to when I was in my 20s and 30s.

7. Blogging – I have never been able to keep a daily diary like my Mom who has literally filled more than one filing cabinet drawer with her diaries which she started in the 1950s and has faithfully maintained till now. If I want to know what happened, say, on Christmas Day of 1980, she would have the answer. But now I have been caught by the blogging bug and while it is very far from a daily diary, it gives me a chance to put down in writing things and events that I want to preserve for life.

Now, for the owners of the 7 blogs I tagged, it is your turn to pass this award on to 7 other blogs you love and list down as well 7 things that you love.

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Sandbox – My New Playground

A few months ago, a group of bloggers (including myself) were involved in a closed beta project to test Sandbox. Media practitioners and some internet celebrities also joined in during this test phase.

Now, Sandbox is launching into open beta and I would like to invite you to check it out. Most of my blogger friends were in the closed beta with me so it was not difficult to start off as I already had a community of friends in it.

A few things about what Sandbox is:

1. Sandbox is an online platform that connects people together through microblog posts, photos and videos. More than just being a social networking site, Sandbox also has an online content store where you can purchase games and music. The developers precisely chose the word “sandbox” because it is meant to be the place where one can play around.

2. The user content is locally developed, meaning it is Filipino through and through. And because it is Pinoy, those of us in the Philippines have access to ongoing raffles, giveaways and chances to win prizes.

My friend Jayvee cites 5 good reasons to join Sandbox.

1. Your friends are most probably already there
When Sandbox launched in April it had a few hundred beta testers who were members of mainstream and online publications. Communities have been growing at a steady rate across all spectra — video gaming, anime, tech, love, blogging advice, photography, food and dining .. the list goes on. And, if you can’t find a group that fits you, why not create your own?

2. It is built as a one stop shop
There are two components to Sandbox – the user generated features that’s composed of the social network aspect, blogging platform, and photo / video uploads and an online content store where you can download games and music (P30.00 per song, cheaper than iTunes). Sandbox integrates what’s on your web browser with your mobile in your account creation page thus when you order items from your desktop or laptop, the information is pushed to your phone.

3. It has tangible benefits
Not that I have anything against other social networks, but this is the first locally developed one that actively gives out rewards and benefits to its members. So apart from the fulfillment you get with connecting with your friends, there are true offline benefits for participating in promotions and campaigns.

4. You can make money
Because Sandbox is locally developed, there are more interesting opportunities for you to make money through the system. Apart from an advertising platform within Sandbox that is currently being developed, there are going to be other engagements that will allow Sandbox netizens to build their online real estate such as the mobile site development. During the beta brief, Anton discussed the feasibility of growing your community. Just like with blogs, your real estate inside Sandbox values over time, especially when you grab potentially high ranking keywords.

5. It is continuously being improved
So really, the most exciting thing about Sandbox is that it is continuously being improved based on the feedback from the community. I’ll be the first to say that what you’re currently seeing is still the tip of the iceberg and the team led by Rezza Custodio has been actively looking into feedback. Of course, change doesn’t happen overnight but the plans for the future of Sandbox will take a stronger stance on Web 2.0. So yeah, tell your friends!

Personally though, I have been using Sandbox primarily for microblogging and the phone I am using specifically fits this purpose. Of course, this competes with the likes of Twitter, Plurk and Facebook where I am on so it behooves the developers to find features and niches which will appeal to the local folks.

Smart is at the helm of this project so I am sure that with the proper feedback during this open beta phase, they will be able to tweak it.

To start off, I have a few things lined up as feedback for the people behind Sandbox:

1. Improve internet connection uptime.

The trick to get people to mobile blog is excellent internet connection (meaning, no dropped connections) and easy access to the blog site itself. The thing going for Smart is that it is using a new technology called HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access). But I have had several experiences while traveling when the internet is interrupted (sometimes as it changes from HSPA to 3G mode or vice versa). I am just imagining that if people had to pay P10 every time they connect to the internet, unstable internet connection can be a deterrent.

2. Make mobile blogging easier.

Mobile blogging must be so easy that you need not to have to log in and out before you can do so. I have an ipod touch and I find mobile plurking quick on the fly. As soon as I activate the app in a wifi zone, I am ready to plurk because my username and password are saved on the device. Sandbox is currently easier to view on a computer rather on a mobile phone. I have tried navigating via my mobile phone and it gets frustrating because I need to scroll left/right, up/down constantly just to go through the content and find my way. While I have done some posts via mobile, I find it easier at the moment to do so via the web. A mobile Sandbox interface would be great.

3. Create easier access to historical blog posts and activities by my other friends.

Yes, the concept is microblogging and we were told that anything posted is just for that moment. But as we are normally not online via a mobile phone all the time, friends’ activities remain unknown to me. I cannot see beyond the most recent 5 Happenings. If friends created a group, posted a microblog post, added a video, added friends, etc. these would all be lost if I do not catch them within the top 5 Happenings.

4. Make photo/video uploads painless.

Blog posts look better with a photo or two. Mobile bloggers would also love to send videos on the fly as news/events occur. So why is it so difficult now? First you have to go through the entire log-in process. Then the photo/video has to be uploaded first into Sandbox before it can be used in a blog post. All these take up so much time to do and if the internet connection breaks down through all that process, one has to start all over again. Sandbox has to be able to allow uploads via MMS (because isn’t that what mobile phones are great for after all?).

Don’t get me wrong. Sandbox has a future as a mobile blogging platform.

This is actually an exciting venture because just about anyone with a mobile phone (and in the Philippines that is the great majority of the population) is a potential mobile blogger. It just has to be tweaked fairly fast by the developers so it becomes a truly handy medium to get the news out into the online world as things happen.

In order to help them out, why not join Sandbox’s open beta now and give them your share of feedback. After all, once this is up and running effectively and efficiently, we will be the ultimate beneficiaries in terms of blogging mobility! To register, go to the Sandbox registration page.

This is my Sandbox profile.

My Sandbox Profile

Hope to see you there. And do join the groups I created:

1. Anything Yoga

2. Pinoy Humor

3. Raising Teens and Tweens

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