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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.