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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Another Chapter in my Life Journey: Speaking and Social Business Consulting

“Life always has different chapters. You just can’t be in the same chapter forever. You’ll get stuck.” ~ @WilzKanadi

This quote jumped out at me as I was checking my Twitter timeline. I did not exactly think of my life in terms of chapters but when I look back, I can indeed see the “chapters” and how they have led me to where I am now and what I will be doing down the road.

Life has no limitations

(photo courtesy of “Inspire Positive Soul Sensations” on Facebook)

Chapter 1 – The Driven Life of a Type A Person

In this article, it says “Type A personalities experience a constant sense of urgency: Type A people seem to be in a constant struggle against the clock.  Often, they quickly become impatient with delays and unproductive time, schedule commitments too tightly, and try to do more than one thing at a time, such as reading while eating or watching television.

That pretty much summed me up during my growing up and early corporate years. I lead a very academic- and career-oriented life. Graduating at the top of my class in high school and college were the fruits of that labor. I was just as driven when I joined SGV (over 15 years) where I was exposed to financial audits, research, lectures and training, computer audits and IT consultancy.

In between projects abroad and local work, I also took a 2-year hiatus and went to Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania where I earned my MBA degree under a scholarship from SGV.

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A Conversation in Manila: a social media event with US Sec. of State Hillary Clinton

It’s not every day that I get the chance to be in the presence of someone like U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. So when I found out that I was one of the bloggers invited to grace the social media event which was being hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Manila in cooperation with GMA News TV, I jumped at the chance to be there.

We arrived early. People were not allowed yet into the main hall where the “conversation” was to be held because Secret Service people were sweeping the room. So we waited at the ground floor of the National Museum, the venue, with other bloggers like Juned, Noemi and Brian.

U.S. Embassy staff manning the registration table

After a while, we were given the signal to proceed to the main hall. The crew and anchorpersons were already there as well as the audience which were composed of select Twitter celebrities (spotted Heart Evangelista, Maxene Magalona and Isabelle Daza), Congressional interns, editors-in-chief of different university publications and of course, us – bloggers. Also spotted in the crowd were blast survivor Raissa Laurel, Winnie Monsod, Maria Ressa, and other GMA-7 newscasters.

Part of the audience

There was a quiet air of excitement in the air. Ramon Bautista of GMA News TV went around the room asking young people what they thought of the Secretary and everyone seemed to hold her with the highest regard. Some even commented that they’d like to see her as the first woman President of the United States.

We bloggers had our corner on the right side of the room. Cocktail tables were set up near power strips. Noemi, Bong and I took two of the cocktail tables and quickly had our gadgets set up. Later, we were joined by Janette in our table. Marcelle and Vince also joined our little group later.

Bong and I (livestreaming with mobile phone, tweeting with iPad) and taking photos with digicams (photo courtesy of Noemi)

Secretary Hillary Clinton spent a total of about 45 minutes with us, answering questions sent in through text, Skype, Twitter and Facebook. Questions ranged from political (would she help Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo get treatment in the US) to personal (does she have further political ambitions to run for President) to curious questions like what were the contents of her purse, iPad or iPod.

Secr. Clinton with hosts Vicky Morales and Howie Severino of GMA News TV

 

Maxene Magalona asks a question

All went smoothly except for one incident where the editor-in-chief of the UP Collegian, Marjohara Tucay, stood up just as another question was about to be asked from the floor. Tucay held up a cloth sign (cleverly folded and tucked away to avoid security scrutiny) and began shouting “Junk VFA” (Visiting Forces Agreement). He continued shouting as he was calmly led out of the hall. Meanwhile, Sec. Clinton kept her cool as she witnessed everything. Just before this, she was saying that in politics, one had to have skin as thick as a rhino. She indeed showed she could not be fazed even under frequent protests she sees in many places she visits.

As for the message that Tucay was trying to deliver, he has his points but I really doubt that the method he used delivered that message across effectively. He seems to have come off as a distraction who actually spiced up the entire forum. If only he had addressed the question directly to Sec. Clinton.

Protest sign held up by EIC of UP Collegian

In an article published by GMA News prior to this event, it was referred to as “groundbreaking”. It was, indeed. When we were chatting earlier with Robin Diallo, Counselor for Public Affairs with the US Embassy, she told us that this was the first time EVER that Sec. Clinton would be doing this. With security always very tight around her, mobile devices and gadgets were never allowed. The fact that the US Embassy Manila was able to get her (and her security) to agree to doing this was one-up already. Robin said that internally, as they were planning for this event, they referred to this as “townterchat” (short for TOWN hall, inTERview and CHAT). To actually get citizens and social media together and up close with her was a social media coup.

I am happy to have been part of this social media event. I congratulate the US Embassy in Manila for putting all this together. Indeed, they are the social media pioneers in diplomatic circles in this region. The success of this event will hopefully pave the way also for others who visit Manila to do something similar and engage netizens and the citizenry.

 

Here’s the entire Conversation in Manila, courtesy of GMA News TV’s YouTube channel:

 

Also visit the US Embassy Manila’s post on this event HERE.

 

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Celebrate Social Media Day 2011!

June 30 is Social Media Day –  a day when millions of people all over the world celebrate the advent of technological advancements that have shrank the world and allowed people who live on opposite sides of the world, whether they know each other in real life or have met virtually through a common forum, social networking site, or some form of online community.

The world is indeed so small today with social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Plurk – the 3 more active sites I am on. On Facebook, I have rediscovered my elementary and high school classmates and touched base again with my closest college friends. On Twitter, I get to engage with celebrities, newspeople, bloggers and ordinary folks like myself in discussions that range from intellectual and political discussions to mundane tweets like ranting about the weather or what one is doing for the day. And Plurk is my haven, my closed community, where I get to share things not meant for Facebook or Twitter. Each of these social media sites have a purpose.

My world now revolves around social media. From the time I get up to the time I sleep, I am almost always online. Even when on the road, I feel uncomfortable when I am unable to check back into the internet to see the latest tweets, check if someone sent me email, or what the latest Facebook messages have been.

But it has not all been just socializing and making virtual friends. I have seen the power of social media in public service and in being an influencer. As part of Blog Watch, a citizen watch group that was formed in the months running up to the 2010 Philippine elections, blogger friends and I harnessed the technology and social media sites to bring voter education closer to the online community. To this day, we continue to use all the social media techniques available to us to continue our advocacy for transparency and good governance in government.

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