Saturday, December 31, 2011

Here's to dreams coming true in 2012

10 years ago, I was in a car with my mom and my sister going to megamall in what might have been just my 2nd or 3rd trip to Manila. My sister was ecstatic. I, however, couldn't take my mind off the fact that for the 2nd year in a row, I lost the first level of the campus journalism competition.

This was the memory that had played over and over; during high school, when I won my very first (very minor) writing award, when I was aboard a bus in makati on my way to AFP office to submit my intern application, and then on that chanced volleyball story that gave me my first ever byline.

10 years ago, I had sulked on the back of a car looking up the tall buildings of Manila and thinking, will I ever get to be here?

It was a struggle. From failing the Flame exam. From getting a low grade in Business Journ, a grade said to represent a "why are you taking up Journ?" ranking. From being rejected several times the first 6 months after graduation. To being told, and the exact phrase, "Saan ka pupulutin?"

I was ready to move to London, to leave my friends here, and make living with my family my new dream. I was prepared never to become a writer, or work in media. I was ready to make that move, and I was sure it was the right decision. But my best friend told me, 'it's not a solution, it's an escape."

So I decided that if I was to make it my battle, I would have to fight much much harder. So I did.

10 years ago, I was at the corner table of our school hall desperately waiting to hear my article title to be called but never did. In the last 6 months of 2011, I was able to write, thanks to the faith of the editors and support of my boss, stories that shared a considerable amount of spotlight in the Internet.

2 years ago, I was in the loft room of my friend and group mate writing the script for our final broad Journ project and thinking, am I good enough? Before the year ended, I wrote and produced a segment that aired on my favorite newscast.

3 years ago, I had my picture taken in front of the company I'm now working for, thinking at the time, someday maybe....Last New year's eve, I was watching Cesar Apolinario from the newsroom, admiring his quirky 'sugod bahay' walkthrough espesyal, and thinking of ways to introduce my self and tell him I enjoyed it. As we counted down to 2O12, I was also in the newsroom, with Direk Cesar himself, bouncing off (but mostly him sharing) ideas and envisioning stories for the year ahead.

There are colleagues my age who have achieved so much more; who are talented in a way that blows my mind and picks on my insecurities; whom I admire and hope to be like. The road is long, and I'm trailing in the race, but 2011 has put me on track, and I'm running and I don't, in the least bit, feel that I should stop.

It is a constant struggle, of confidence, of grit, of stamina, and of self-belief but when I remember the 11 year old version of myself, I'm reminded that this is the struggle I can consider a gift.

Thanks to people who pulled for me and the universe that conspired, from a skeptic, defeated, demoralized girl in 2010, the past year weaved its magic to restore my faith and bring back the girl who believes that dreams can come true.

For when they do, even in small fractions, you get to look that 10 year old shadow in her asking eyes and say, "See, I told you," and she will smile, and you'll know you're not gonna fail her. You just have to chase some more.

So here's to 2012, to more chasing, and to the hope, that we never, ever, get tired :)

"May the odds be ever in your favor."

Monday, December 26, 2011

The year 2011 and what Social Media has become since

2011 saw the future King of England marry his Princess, but unlike his parents' wedding, William and Kate's special day invited a special set of guests: the Netizens.

The mighty netizens that can trend whatever hashtag it wills. From the fuzzy #RoyalWedding to the empowering #ArabSpring. The people of the Middle East decided to utilize the power Social Media to fight and eventually overthrow power, so much so that they even wanted to proclaim Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg a modern hero.

In a web forum, however, Zuckerberg said Facebook did not fuel the revolution in places likeTunisia, Libya and Egypt. "It's not a Facebook thing, it's an internet thing," the young mogul was quoted saying. It is an internet thing, and precisely the kind of power Social Media wields that when the deadly tsunami and earthquake hit Japan last March, the internet was the melting pot of all outreach, whether it was to send good thoughts or tangible help. And it was successful.

Even breaking exclusives has come to be a Twitter forte. The first reports of the Osama bin Laden raid in Pakistan last May were from an unknowing Twitter user who was live tweeting an event he didn't know at the time would be the fall of the world's most wanted terrorist. Raw and vague tweets came dashing in onto Twitter, which were later confirmed by journalists from major media outfits- coming to the 140-character platform rather than getting in front of a camera and going live on TV.

New York Time's Brian Stelter said over the documentary "Page One: Inside the New York Times," and I quote: "I don't know why anybody who's a reporter isn't on Twitter, I constantly berate my colleagues who aren't on it. It drives me nuts hearingmy colleagues talk about a story at noon, and I read it on Twitter on midnight. Why is that allowed? Why are we not on top of the news?" Here is a kid who had two things in excess: Internet time, and passion for news. He blogged and blogged about TV News long enough for the Times to notice and hire him, at a convenient time where WikiLeaks was just exploding, and Stelter had his game face on, looking out for leaked videos, cables, talking to Julian

Assange and convincing the Editors to put him on Page One.

Even the Philippines is having its share of WikiLeaks exposure, with the media milking the cable of Kristie Kenney allegedly underplaying Cory Aquino's role in democracy. The former US envoy kept mum and could not be reached for an on-cam interview, but GMA News' Lei Alviz had an idea: tweet Kenney, and although the reply was of "no comment" equivalent, Alviz was able to screengrab and voila, story is complete.

President Noynoy Aquino's communication group, for one, is so fond of Twitter that they sometimes forget they are the Palace's mouthpiece.

Atty. Edwin Lacierda, during the height of transport strikes, hit back at critics: "Noticed how leftists are so onion-skinned? Tinawag lang perjuicio ang strike, pumuputok ang butchi nila! Mahilig bumanat pero mga pikon pala."

A journalist called Lacierda on it, saying he should separate personal opinion and government duty. But the Presidential spokesperson candidly replied: "Why? Who came up with those rules?"

Perhaps Atty. Lacierda is right, that there are no rules governing the platform and how News is integrated into it. But it only makes it more fun, more free, and this is not to say the media would have a carnival out of Twitter notoriety, just that news limited to recorders, cameras and steno pads is long over. Welcome to the digital era - where it is no longer enough to just think, do or be; now it's to think, do, be something, and then tweet it.

Today, everyone has a voice, everyone - from top government officials to a street photographer - want a piece of Social Media for themselves, making stories that unfolded over the Internet a must for the mainstre

am audience, lest we alienate the more than 20 million Filipinos online whose voice and pull got Twitter to include Philippines among countries to have its own Trending Topic list, and get this, language. [GMA News Online: Twitter now in Tagalog]

Some say this might be used as a tool for sloppy research, but as its very nature goes, the rampant use of Social Media among every kind of person - whether it be a citizen, a resource person, a subject, and the journalist - leaves no excuses for a work to lack a certain element. All you need, if not within a screen's reach, pans out with the press of your fingertip.


When Facebook was starting, Yahoo offered to buy it for $1 billion, Zuckerberg, then just 23, turned it down. Microsoft followed suit and put $15 billion on the table. Zuckerberg told BBC that by the time of the Microsoft offer, he had already regrouped Facebook and made decision that they were not going to sell the company for whatever price, they were going to build it. His colleague was quoted saying, "It takes a sort of an insane degree of self-confidence to weather through that storm," an expert said: "He could have made over $4 billion personally and he didn't even consider it, that shows what kind of a guy he is." It also showed what kind of vision he had for Facebook, and where society and communication is headed.

Before Facebook, there was Friendster and Myspace; Social Networking was already a thing but not without the human element that Zuckerberg had so brilliantly weaved in, making it into a social product that everyone just can't seem to get enough of.

"Now the cultural change is more and more people are finding that they can build a reputation, they can help disseminate interesting information, help people discover stuff, get credit for that, they can be part of people discovering other stuff and I just think that people are seeing, everyday, that it's awesome." - Mark Zuckerberg

Had the Anti-Planking bill been filed at a time of no Facebook and Twitter, it could have just as easily slipped through to become a law. But under netizens' probing nose - no can do, Mr. Castelo. With Social Media,

there is a pressure for the government to get its act together and perform well - to please its people, and rightly so. After the DPWH photoshopped mess and the Batangas Hollywood sign brouhaha, every official is made to think more than twice about what he'll push. In today's trending topic times, no one wants to be made out to a meme. It's funny but it just isn't flattering.

Wasn't it a blog post, which was followed by a site poll and then a loud online clamor that fast-tracked the renovation talks on

NAIA? The Ninoy Aquino International Airport had been in a poor state for a long time, but alas came the tweets and blogs that merited space in TV and broadsheets which left the government no other choice but to contain the public and say: Yes, we will renovate it, don't you fret.

Wasn't it Social Media that Tourism Chief Ramon Jimenez endorsed as the best medium to promote the Philippines? It can sell as well as Chicken Joy, he said. Best-selling author Paulo Coelho had once already tweeted dreaming of coming to the Philippines. With his almost 3 million followers, cult as you may, who worships and subscribes to every word he writes - expect a fraction of that to visit our islands.

Wasn't it Social Media too who gave birth to Charice, Maria Aragon, and the worldwide phenom, Justin Bieber? The 12-year-old Justin, starting out in the Industry, thought up a marketing plan that some record execs in the Philippines are mind-blowingly failing to take notice of, he said: 'I continued tweeting, promoting my shows, replying to messages, that way, my fans feel like they're part of my career, from the beginning, it makes them feel they're important, which they are.'

2011 saw the influx of issues that took to Social Media to get a push: some socially relevant, some turned out ugly, and some are just downright viral but nevertheless made our internet time (mischievously) worthwhile.The gauge today seems to be: if it didn't rend, it just plain didn't.

And let me close it with an excerpt from a piece by New York Time's David Carr: "Like many newbies on Twitter, I vastly overestimated the importance of broadcasting on Twitter and after a while, I realized that I was not Moses and neither Twitter nor its users were wondering what I thought. Nearly a year in, I’ve come to understand that the real value of the service is listening to a wired collective voice." [New York Times: Why Twitter would endure]

No one in the internet, not even Lady Gaga, is Moses. But as Facebook reports to having 800 million users, and Twitter claiming its pushing to 200 million; with a well-meant cause, we, as roboheads and as people, could very well part the sea.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Letter to the great @michaeljosh

Dear Sir Josh,

I was backreading my Tumblr the other day, reminded of how totally depressed, hopeless, helpless I was last year. I asked you, if Jeff had not left, would you still have hired me? You said yes. I hope that's true. Because I cannot even begin to ponder on the alternate reality of me not having met you, worked with you, of not having met Neil and Stacy, who, in a year, have become my brother and sister. Of not having met Gayna and Justin, who, by the way, I feel sorry for. Neil and Stacy had 1 1/2 years with you, I had one, the time they spent with you is just way, way too short.

There's a line in this movie that goes, "How much did they first pay you to give up your dreams?" I watched that movie during the 6 months of my depression, I remember feeling scared shitless of someday maybe having to answer that question. But then you called me, and welcomed me "home" and taught me, mentored me, and Sir Josh, because of you, I will never have to answer it. That is the most amazing gift anybody can give someone, thanks for giving it to me.

You oversell me sometimes, you know. Build me up, sign me up for things I'm not sure I can even do. You know how frustrated it was becoming for me not being able to write -- and one day, you said, "go write an article for Online." It felt like finally taking off ground, that was my respite, and you understood. Remember the couple of AVs I got to write because of you? I may not have shown it, but I'm sure you know, it meant the whole world to me. You get just how important for me this job is, and day after day after day, you give me opportunities to make things happen for myself.

I remember that one day in Bacolod where we set up an interview with the Azkals (thanks to the power of Facebook, and great charm :p) and watching you, for the first time, do field reporting. I was in total awe of how good you are in everything you do. Sometimes it's overwhelming, listening to you talk, and you staring at me, waiting for my input in the discussion, when all I can do is think "Man, this guy knows his shit." But still you let me talk, and talk, and talk, senseless many times, but somehow you find a way to pick pieces out of what I said, weave it into something brilliant, and credits me for it! You once told me, you're putting in your all to teach us, to set us up for bigger things, and that you are not threatened of the possibility of us being better than you someday. Which is laughable, because you're a genius it actually makes me sick, no way we'll be better than you, but 3/4 of our time together, you made us feel we are. That was the formula that worked. Only you could have pulled that off.

I told you I have already reached the 5th stage - Acceptance. And I think I have, I actually did well today. But a Harry Potter reference just had to find me, didn't it, it just had to. "When Dumbledore left, it was the end of Hogwarts being a safe place for Harry to live in."

Maybe we were all wrong setting up a relationship as close as our team's, knowing that working together in a fickle industry, we would have to part ways some time. Maybe it's that. But screw it, if I have to do it all over again, I wouldn't have done it any other way. There is no person better to have coached my 1st year in my dream job than you. I desperately hope I could extend that time, but this has to happen, you have to go, and I have to let you.

I found a blog that I did a few weeks before you hired me. The blog reeked of anger, I was a writer, hell I was writing a piece on Senator Salonga, and I was....unhappy. "There's a severe lack of trust in leadership," I wrote. That was our team's gold, you were our gold, the insurmountable trust in your leadership that has allowed us to grow into better practitioners, better people. My mom sends her thank you.

I will miss our constant clashes in ideas. Your angry g-Chats when I do something that falls off your standard, and me, instead of hating you (as with every other employee), hating myself for letting you down. Simply put, I will miss you, so badly it may even make me cry. Congratulations, you have always wanted to prove my "Nobody makes me cry" statement wrong.

But get this, like Harry and Dumbledore, we will someday meet at King's Cross Station, and we will sit down, and you will tell me, looking back, that it had been the plan, for me to carry out a prophecy, and I will realize I'm even luckier than Harry, because you, Sir Josh, are not "just inside my head" you're real, and my dreams came true because of it.

You're a great teacher, Sir. Not just that, you're a great friend, and as I told you, brother and shrink at times.

As Stacy put it, there will never be another @michaeljosh in my life. And while that's too damn tragic, I know too well that the weight is a gift. So this pain of parting ways with you? This will all just be manifested in making you proud.

"Lian, you have to grow up," you tell me often, I can't promise you that I will, because you know how much this affects me and I'll probably be angry and tortured for a while, but this I promise you Sir Josh: I will do you freaking proud.

your favorite :-D

(At 3am in the Newsroom, after deciding to stay when the Libyan rebels proclaimed they had
taken hold of Gaddafi bastions, and accidentally getting to cover the East Coast quake. Fun times)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Falling Slowly

The first time I heard Glen Hansard and Marketa Inglova's 'Falling Slowly,' I thought wow this is a really good song. Then I heard it again, and learned the words, heard it again, downloaded it, heard it again, put it on my repeat playlist, and just when you think there's only so much time to devour a song, you hear it again on a movie it was made for, with lead 'actors' that turned out to have actually 'fallen slowly' for each other in real life, and a story that defies the foundation of this theory we call the 'Happy Ending.'

In one of Glen Hansard's live performances, he introduced the song as a "story about going to a party with your girlfriend, and she goes off to get a drink, and you're standing there on your own, and you look across the room, and you see this girl you utterly fancy, it's not mental, you just feel it, and you realize that it's your girlfriend. You're like cha ching!"

But what if you don't have the 'cha ching' moment? What if, when you look across the room, staring at this beautiful person you just desperately fancy and you realize, he's not your boyfriend? What if when you look across the room, you find that nobody's even there?

And Miluju tebe? ('It's you I love' in Czech) What if you can't say it? What if there's no one to say it to?

What I loved most about the film 'Once,' despite the characters remaining nameless throughout, is their not ending up together. The guy fancied the girl, the girl loved the guy - at a whim, on a romantic hill in Dublin, days before deciding she wanted to make it work with her husband. And it ends there. Him going to London, going back to the love he once lost and chasing a dream. Her staying in Dublin, rekindling a marriage. Was it a sad ending? No. It's life. It's not perfect, but it's tragically brilliant when it hits the right notes.

I think that even though longevity and consistency make for a wonderful life, sometimes you have to look at it in frozen frames, pick out moments when the world stood still and you said to yourself, "cha ching! this is it," no matter how long it lasted for. In a span of weeks, a guy met a girl he at least loved for a moment, and those moments were incomparable only because they shared the same sad music. And that whiff of a memory, of meeting a girl, and singing in a music store after knowing her for only a day, has a potential of lasting forever.

When you're 21 and still single, every conversation you will have will more or less include a question why you haven't found love yet. How do you answer something like that? They'll ask, "don't you want to?" "aren't you ready?" But of course you want to, and you're ready. But when have wanting and being ready ever merited realization?

You could be standing all the way across the room, looking out a window to nothing, and feeling happy by default. And you say, "wait I'm happy here." Sometimes, that's enough, and you can only wish for more moments like that. Like tonight, as I write this, and on the 15th time today that I've played this song, I look across the room, and I realize, I am, in fact, happy.

Cha ching.

Besides, "games that never amount to what they're meant will play themselves out" right? It falls slowly, and sometimes on a rather different path, sometimes painful, but it falls in whatever place it should. It doesn't mean it's not a happy ending.

It's just life. Raise your hopeful voice. You have a choice.

Life to the Twenty somethings

It's too early to call it a midlife crisis, too late to call it puberty. It's the time of your life where you're too old to show off and too young to screw up. The time you're pressured to "go out there," "have fun" and "see the world" when you can barely afford a decent meal.

It's the time of paradoxes. Season of the bipolars. Age of depression.

Your decisions could determine the next 10 years of your life. The no's and yeses you give out could ultimately draw the line whether you're gonna marry your true love, or someone who makes sense, or if you marry at all. Whether you get married in a beach, or at the city hall; whether you get to live in your dream suburban house or in an urban broken home.

It's all being decided at this very moment, when all you have the energy for is battle PMS. The world is staring you bluntly in the face, asking "What the hell are you going to do?' and you, well, you don't know.

It's not that you don't know what you're doing. It's that you want to do everything. You want to travel, you want to fall in love, you want to be dedicated to your job, be the best at it, you want to change the world, and there is just so little time to do it all.

Hollywood actress Helen Mirren once said: "The hardest period in life is one’s twenties. It’s a shame because you’re your most gorgeous and you’re physically in peak condition. But it’s actually when you’re most insecure and full of self-doubt. When you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s frightening."

When you are finally at a liberty to do everything you want, that's when it gets the scariest. Because what if you can't do it all, what if you can't do anything? You can no longer blame it on the perils of being too young, or too much responsibilities, you can only blame it on yourself and the fact that at your best, you were the worst.

And it's messing up your head. You're at a sweet spot of having aged but maintaining a little innocence. The perfect time to be responsible, but to dream big. The time you're allowed to see the world through rose-tinted glasses because you're young, and idealistic. You are part of the future, and you can actually change the course of your generation.

It's a lot of pressure.

Mostly on yourself. When you look in the mirror and see a twenty-something so unsure of herself, when she should be weaving magic.

But as I said, it's the time of paradoxes. You're chasing the unknown.

Scrambling for a dream you're not even sure exists.

And you're falling and you're sinking, and you take on a destructive path into the labyrinth of suffering out to your great perhaps.

There's no other feeling.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


But the kicks you get out of just the process of thinking about what you want to get, googling for images, and the expectation that lasts for 2 minutes - it's enough gift.

You never know what might arrive on your doors, after all on Harry's 11th birthday, he got a letter from Hogwarts. Here's to the hope that maybe, as I turn 21, something magical happens.

But I'm willing to be materialistic in the meantime:

An iPod Nano. Just like the one I lost. I have terrible dreams about it.

I need it when I take the jeep or the train. I need it when I walk around alone.
I need it when I eat by myself. I need it when I write. I need it as I sleep.
I need it, basically.

This is a book light, in case you were wondering.
Because I don't have a bedside lamp.

It's a story of a carnival couple madly in love who decided to chemically engineer their children,
resulting to a family of freaks. I love it. Can't find it anywhere though.

'Looking for Alaska' was one of the best reading experiences of my life. The closest I've come to feeling the same lately was the Hunger Games trilogy. I want that feeling back. I'm taking a risk with John Green - anything from him. (But maybe not 'Will Grayson, Will Grayson.' I'm still upset with David Levithan.)

Yes I know I said I will not fall into Apple's lair. But about everyone I know who uses iPhone look happy, and digitally contented. I want the same life, please.
(This one's a hint for my Sister)

Or you know, you can just give me bottles of Nutella and I'll be just as happy.

Or awesome tees.

Or just leave a One Tree Hill/Harry Potter quote or lyrics from Coldplay/Snow Patrol on my Facebook wall. I'm not hard to please.