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.