What is all this ado about bloggers at #ASEAN2017?

I am compelled to write this piece, if only to document our ongoing struggle to make citizen engagement in the Philippines a NORMAL part of participatory governance. It is a constant uphill battle that is often tiring, makes me question why I even want to go on with a thankless job (oh, I do not even draw any salary so it is not a job!), and just go on with my peaceful apolitical life as it used to be before 2009.

I am one of the “14 bloggers” the Palace accredited to cover the 50th anniversary of the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The better phrase to describe us actually is “citizen advocates”. With me were Noemi Dado and Sonnie Santos from Blogwatch and an independent blogger-advocate, Tess Termulo, who is a practicing doctor in a government hospital. I cannot speak for the other bloggers who are not part of my usual circle of bloggers.

A Rappler article by Pia Ranada dated August 7, 2017, “ASEAN accreditation granted to 14 bloggers – Andanar”, contained statements which, in the absence of any qualification, makes me assume they were directed at all 14 of us who covered the recent ASEAN events from August 2-8. I will respond to each of Ms. Ranada’s statements below but first, I would like to say that not all bloggers are citizen advocates like me; conversely, not all citizen advocates are bloggers. I just happen to be all this rolled into one, including being a social media practitioner.

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Bloggers Join in Welcoming U.S. Cultural Affairs Officers

Ever since Pres. Barack Obama was ushered into the highest position of the land in the United States on the back of a campaign built with the help of the internet and new media, the landscape of government has never been the same. The ease of Pres. Obama with tech, new media (bloggers), the web, and social networking sites is showing in the way the U.S. embassies around the world are slowly becoming open to bloggers being included in their events.

Right here in the Philippines, I am witnessing a new openness, a willingness by the U.S. Embassy to engage the citizens of the country they are living in and reach out to the ordinary man in the persons of bloggers. To me this is a delightful FIRST. After all, we bloggers do not hold any outstanding achievement in any political, cultural, academic or artistic arena. We are not part of large media organizations that are normally invited to cover embassy events. All we own is that piece of real estate in the blogosphere we can rightfully call ours where we exercise our right to freedom of speech and thought, where we express our opinions and dreams, and very rarely, rant.

Firstly, my wedding godchild (inaanak sa kasal), Jay de Jesus, became the first ever to join the U.S. Embassy in Manila as their Emerging Media Specialist for Public Affairs. That title is loaded!!! Jay is basically the point person for the embassy’s social network sites (SNS), really raising the bar of SNS as  a major communication and feedback tool.

The very first invitation I received as a blogger from the U.S. Embassy was for a reception dinner at the USS Blue Ridge (the flagship of the US Seventh Fleet) when it docked in Manila for a visit.

Last Friday, bloggers got a second invitation. This time, it was a reception for the U.S. Cultural Affairs Attache, Alan R. Holst, and the Assistant Cultural Affairs Attache, Joseph Tordella.

The cozy dinner, hosted at the home of Counselor for Public Affairs, Richard W. Nelson, was meant to introduce the two to Manila’s cultural circuit. Present were people representing their own spheres of influence in the arts, music, literature, sports, theater, education and so on. The Cultural Affairs spearheads, sponsors, and is involved in several projects in these fields. Professional visits and exchange programs between the Philippines and the United States are handled by these officers.

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Krispy Kreme brings on a Chocolate Karnival

When I brought 3 of my blogger kids to Bonifacio High Street’s Krispy Kreme (KK) to attend the launch of their chocolate doughnut line, I thought we would just go there, listen to an introductory speech, be treated to samples of the doughnut and that’s it!

What greeted our eyes when we came down from the car was this — a full carnival at KK complete with clowns on stilts and bikes, carnival music playing, lots of games for the kids inside, and free-flowing doughnuts and beverages. They even had a Leaning Tower of Pisa Chocolate made of KK boxes!

Krispy Kreme in carnival mode

Brewed coffee served at your table on demand (woot!)

Brewed coffee served at your table on demand (woot!)

My kids had fun playing the games like Doughnut Ring Toss, Stack It, Speed Stacker and Pachinko. M2 met this 11-year old speed stacker who truly amazed us with his stacking abilities. Mind you, he stacks cups 3 levels high in seconds!

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Pachinko

View of the Doughnut Ring Toss and Stack It games

The Leaning Tower of Chocolate

Another view of the Leaning Tower of Chocolate

My mommy blogger friends came with their young kids. It was my first time to see most of the kids whose names I was already familiar with via our online communications so it was a thrill to meet them. My own kids seemed so grown-up beside all these young ones!

with Julie, Chats, Noemi, Cookie & kids

with Julie, Chats, Noemi, Cookie & kids

With Lynn, Feng, Chats, Julie & kids

With Lynn, Feng, Chats, Julie & kids

 Lunch was served to us all – pasta, sandwiches, chips & dip. Afterwards, there was a magic show inside (but there were so many people already that I dared not try to squeeze my way in.

The assembly line of Krispy Kreme was covered with a brown curtain. Wow, that made the unveiling of their new chocolate line even more exciting. I got a good view of it as I was standing right at the entrance to the production area. When Az was allowed into the area, I instinctively followed him, as did Noemi. Only the 3 of us bloggers got INSIDE! But…we were required to wear the KK hats for good measure.

From our vantage point, we were able to see the glazed doughnuts roll down the conveyor belt. The chocolate syrup was flowing and everyone hooted and clapped as the first line of doughnuts went through the chocolate “waterfall”, coming out on the other side with dripping chocolate syrup. Yummmmmy!

This picture, courtesy of Noemi, shows me eating the chocolate glazed doughnut fresh from the production line.

Taken by my friend, Noemi

Here is a short video of that moment. I got to interview Az as he took his first bite of the chocolate delight.

My kids and I had a blast that afternoon. Never mind the summer heat. The fun, carnival mood made us forget the humidity. And the company was just purrrrfect…

On your next visit to Krispy Kreme, do try all their chocolate varieties. 

KK Poster Choco Karnival

KK Chocolate Products

Glaze your friends too! Visit www.chocolatekarnival.com.

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Bloggers Do Yoga

It finally happened. An event unlike any other that bloggers have ever done.

Bloggers came together at the Vinyasa Yoga Center (where I practice) and did yoga for an hour and a half, followed by a vegetarian dinner cooked by my own yoga teacher, Pio Baquiran, who is not only a great yogi teacher but a fantastic chef as well.

PREPARATIONS IN FULL SWING

Chona and I were there early. Actually, Chona did yoga at noontime while I had to bring over to the center all the donated items from the sponsors. We ate a leisurely lunch at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, then went back to the center where we packed the media kits and the other donations together with 3 lovely ladies from the ad agency, Aspac/Law (Ria, Kathy and Mia).

(Mia, Kathy and Ria of Aspac/Law)

Some bloggers came in early so we had a chance to chat and get to know those whose names were familiar to me but who I had never met yet, like Francis, Melanie, Janine, and Carl. I was particularly interested in chatting with Francis, who, it turns out, already practises yoga at Fitness First (my thought bubble: this is the perfect endorser for yoga for men!!!). Melanie, too, it turns out, has been doing yoga for some time now and in fact, took yoga lessons that same morning with Chona’s and my good yogi friend fresh from Riyadh, Jon Cagas! What a small world indeed!

Later, a whole bunch of bloggers came in: Poyt, Fritz, Arpee, Noreen and my mommy bloggers Chats, Cookie and Dine.

Juned of Blog and Soul came by a little later from another “shoot” and became the event’s volunteer photographer.

Yogini mates Minna (also the VYC directress), her sister Therese and Trin Custodio dropped by to support the event and practice together with Chona and I. All in all, the shala was filled and energies were strong!

THE CLASS — ENERGY TO THE MAX

Pio informed us that he had designed a special sequence just for bloggers. Now that caught everyone’s interest. He began with a short meditation, taught the bloggers the proper way to breathe, then followed it up with eye exercises, rotation of the hands, fingers and shoulders, and shorter variations of the sun salutations.

Pio also made us go through simple forward bends, side bends and wide angle bends to stretch the spine (good for sedentary bloggers, right?). We also did leg raises for the abs as well as the Bridge and Fish poses.

Class ended with everyone sweaty but feeling good. We had a class picture and naturally with everyone being bloggers, we had a whole slew of cameras and smiling to get through before we could call it a night!

THE HEALTHY DINNER!

Pio’s dinner consisted of pasta, burgers (using vegetarian patties) and his eggless leche flan. Arpee had the time of his life trying to guess the ingredients of this one!

(vegetarian pasta)

(burger with vegepatties)

***realization*** – I just realized I forgot to take a pic of the eggless leche flan! Chona, help!

Each blogger came away from the event fully worked out, fed with healthy vegetarian food, armed with a bag of items from sponsors like Coke, RFM, Nestle and VYC. And also special thanks to a yogini mate, Lomen, for the iced tea donations (yes, we chilled them and drank them during dinner!!!).

NEXT: THE CONTEST!

Blog and Soul has also announced a contest where bloggers who did yoga could compose a blog, photo gallery, vlog or any other form of post about the event. Prizes up for grabs consist of a 1 liter aluminum bottle from Swiss company, SIGG. In addition, there are 3 yoga outfits (jacket and pants) for girls from Aura Athletica Rockwell. Judging will be done by Blog and Soul together with VYC and the winners will be announced soon. For mechanics of the contest, go to Blog and Soul’s website.

I did a random, ambush interview of some bloggers (including Francis who did a fantastic spiel on yoga for men — yey!).

And as I find blog entries on the event, I will post these below.

1. Juned (photos)

2. Chona: Bloggers @VYC: An Evening of Fitness, Food and Fun!

3. Janine: 10 Things I Know About Yoga

4. Poyt: Yoga at VYC (photos)

5. Melanie: Yoga for Bloggers at Vinyasa Yoga Center

6. Dine: Yoga for Fitness, Good Health and Relaxation

7. Arpee: Yoga goes the foodie

8. Cookie: Bloggers + Yoga = Blogginis?

9. Chats: My First Yoga Class

10. Poyt: Going Back to Yoga

11. Fritz: The Vinyasa Yoga Center Experience

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Italianni’s EXTRA Treat

It says something when, in the midst of crisis (rice shortage, escalating gas prices, reeling food prices) an institution decides NOT to pare down its service or hike its prices but instead decides to give EXTRA to its dining customers — no charge, without questions, without being asked. Just like that!

That is exactly what I experienced when I got a special invite from Ann of Yehey.com to be one of 15 bloggers last June 16 to experience and taste Italianni’s EXTRA treat at Bonifacio High Street.

 

 

I was the first to arrive at the venue so I chatted briefly with Ann and Jori of Yehey (Jori was wearing a cute panda cap that made him look like Po of Kung Fu Panda fame).

I also got to meet Cyril Reyes, the General Manager of Italianni’s Boni High Street, who indulged me as I did an ambush interview.

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Yoga for Bloggers Event (June 28, 2008)

I had long been wanting to organize a yoga blogger event. Maybe it began with my love for yoga followed by a desire to get more people interested in their own healthy lifestyle. The idea had been brewing for over a year now but I did not even know where to begin.

Enter The Blog and Soul Movement with Jayvee and Juned, two buddy bloggers I first met at iblog summit two years ago. When I spoke with Juned about it recently, he immediately offered Blog and Soul as a venue for gathering the bloggers. This was followed by a lunch meeting with both Jayvee and Juned to seal the deal. We were off to organizing the first ever Fat Blog series of Blog and Soul (the first of several planned series to get bloggers who often lead sedentary lives off their butts and into a healthier lifestyle). And of course, my yogini mate-cum-blogger herself, Chona, is helping out with the logistics.

I am lucky to have my very own yoga teacher, Pio Baquiran, from Vinyasa Yoga Center (VYC) doing the FREE yoga class.

This is to be followed by a short Q&A on health and yoga and capped by a vegetarian dinner.

We also have some sponsors so as is usual in a blogger event, there will be items to give away.

Some details are as follows:

Date: June 28, 2008

Time: 5pm onwards

Place: Vinyasa Yoga Center, 17/F Strata 100 Bldg., Emerald Ave., Ortigas Complex, Pasig City

Space is limited at the shala so Blog and Soul is only taking in ten (10) bloggers. Several things though to keep in mind. One, you MUST BE A BLOGGER. Two, this is for non-VYC students as this is an event to make more people aware of yoga.

Head on over now to Blog and Soul. Those who make the cut-off will get confirmation emails from Blog and Soul. More details will be provided later. Visit this blog regularly for updates.

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