Here’s to the five years of blogging

I began blogging exactly five years ago. That night of 8 June 2008 when this blog debuted was like tonight; it was raining hard. Traffic of motorbikes scurrying to reach their destinations halted outside because the downpour was just too much to bear for the antiquated drainage system of that old district of Hanoi. The woman selling pho outside our compound was still there, seated in her red kiddie plastic chair serving bowls of steaming rice noodles submerged in that divine broth to stranded motorists who did not bother taking off their colorful raincoats and equally multi-colored helmets.

That night I was suffering from a level of boredom too extreme and painful it was one of those rare times I can recall I cried. I cried a lot. I missed home so badly. I felt invisible because I was indeed living invisibly. For the woman selling pho outside I was just “that” strange ngoui nuoc ngoai, for the rest I was a nonentity.

Writing down about those gamut of feelings  I knew I would never fully capture in writing, I thought, would be the best way for me to at least have some semblance of order during those months when nothing seemed to make sense. (It’s not as if things make more sense now. (Often they still don’t make sense, though I never stopped attempting to understand them.) I was twenty-two then. I could feel I was poised to realize whatever it was I was dreaming of. I have completely  convinced myself then that whatever inconvenience it was that I was going through in that foreign country was a way of gaining a foothold to something bigger. I didn’t know what that something was then, and I can never be less sure now.

I didn’t care that “Going Against the Current” was too corny a title. But it was the first thing that occurred to me. I subtitled it ‘thoughts of a twenty-something.’ I wasn’t aware then that I was having my share of quarter life crises. I didn’t know the term existed. But I knew there was something odd about that whole set-up. Living and studying in Vietnam was not part of my plan then. I only wanted to escape from the banality of my existence right after graduating from college that I was willing to be hurled anywhere, only to find myself hurled nastily in that blah. I was living by myself in that shoebox of a rented place on Tran Hung Dao Street in the old district of Hanoi, which only exacerbated what then was a terminal case of ennui. At that time, it was the aptest title I could think of for a personal blog.

I wrote this to console myself:

“On Being an Exile”

I have been reading a short essay written by Jorge Luis Borges, and he talked about how being an “exile” brings out parts of our personalities that is unknown to us, and will forever be unknown to us, unless we allow ourselves to be exiled or for us to be exiled by force (which can be in any form such as that of the state, an organization, or the bigger society).

Here, I shall be talking about throwing one’s self away, figuratively, that is, one chooses to embark on the feat of a self-exile. Consciously choosing to leave, and here it means physically deserting anything that has to do with a secure life, and living in a place that is foreign, a place where doing something for comfort will prove burdensome. Barriers will include inability to communicate one’s self, lack of cultural knowledge, ethnocentricity, etc.

Just like all ethnographic researches, the researcher, or as in our case the exiled, faces several stages of coming to terms with himself in relation to his environment and its actors. Roughly, there will be a period of much patronizing and romanticizing, that is, the exiled will think that everything around him is better than what he has left behind. It will be followed a realization that things around him are different and therefore will tax his understanding of all the cultural truths as well as subtleties in his new environment. This will awaken the hidden ethnocentric (and xenophobic) character of our subject which lead to a gap and further distancing from everything around him and creating a world of his own making. Although this may sound pessimistic, this is necessary for the subject to create a giant leap towards understanding and eventually living in harmony with the foreign people surrounding him.

The third period, which I will refer from hereon as ‘distancing’, is a very crucial step because this is where the hidden and repressed selves of our subject surface and thereby allowing different personae to make themselves known to him. Here, creativity, appreciation of one’s former society, and objective probing of the world in general are strengthened and are highlighted.

In distancing, the mind of the subject shifts from a passive, non-observer of events, objects, cultural truths and subtleties, and idiosyncracies into a more active, peering, and critical entity. Interestingly, this also leads to a blossoming of the artistic mind, scientific inquisitiveness, and more understanding of the inner self as well as the emotion. Distancing allows the exiled to have a hold of his world and shape it in a way that can be radical, sometimes, but most of the times more reformative, and in general beneficial. It can be in a form of literary works such as Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain or Tolstoi’s novels War and Peace and Annakarenina, or Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

It is, therefore, necessary, especially for the young people, to travel and to detach themselves from the mundane and the usual and immerse themselves in a world devoid of comfort and security.

No amount of feigned cockiness could hide the insecurity of my twenty-two-year-old self, of my inability to know where exactly I was heading. Still I treaded on because doing the most difficult was the easiest thing to do. And I never regretted having gone on with the journey. The ride has been exciting and I look forward to more years of blogging. I just hope that when another five years is done, I’d be a lot better.

Pinoy Blogfest 2.0

Pinoy_Blogfest 2.0 advocates social media for social good

With Filipinos once again acknowledged as among the most active social media users — via FaceBook, Twitter, Multiply, Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube, etc. — Filipino bloggers are challenged to explore the potential of social media as a transformative force in Philippine society.  “Social media as an agent for change” will be the theme of Pinoy_Blogfest 2.0, happening on Friday, 05 August 2011, at the TriNoma Activity Center in Quezon City.

Leading the discussion will be prominent social media activists Usec. Manuel (Manolo) L. Quezon III and Ms. Gang Badoy, who will share their thoughts on these two basic questions: How can we harness the power of social media for the social good?  Can bloggers become positive change agents through social networking?

Both Usec. Quezon and Ms. Badoy will be the main speakers during the Blogger’s BIO (By Invitation Only) programme, scheduled from 7:00 to 10:00 pm as the culminating activity of Pinoy_Blogfest 2.0 on Friday, 05 August 2011.

Pinoy_Blogfest 2.0 is a whole-day event, with several Social Activities targeted at various audiences.  These are open to the public, as follows:  10:30 am to 12:oo nn – The New Workplace; 01:00 pm to 02:30 pm – It’s A Digital Life; 02:30 pm to 04:00 pm – Photography; 04:00 pm to 05:30 pm – Healthy Living.  With expert resource persons for each of these social activities, the public will surely find the sessions both educational and entertaining.  On-site registration will give the audience a chance to win raffle prizes and other give-aways.

Pinoy_Blogfest 2.0 is organized by GADGETS Magazine, with the support of The Coca-Cola Export

The 601st post

Do I get paid for blogging? Not a single cent.

So why do I blog (been doing it for two years and ten months, and counting) then?

1. It’s a faster and a lot easier way to get published. Unlike waiting months to be published in books, newspapers, journals, and other traditional forms of publication, and going through hopelessly circuitous bureaucracy and esteem-crushing peer reviews, blogging is faster, more efficient, and way more accessible.

2. I was able to create a small but knit network of readers and bloggers who may not be as bitter as I am but are very willing to read all my bitterness and misanthropy and berate (or praise) me for these.

3. There’s no way for me to tell if this has worked to my advantage or the opposite, but previous and prospective employers got/will get an idea about the man they consider hiring through his thoughts (or portion of these) laid out in the open.

4. I get to feed my inner monster’s thirst for affirmation of its existence.

5. Since my posts do not serve any practical purpose besides giving other people something to read about the person they’re stalking, through this blog, in a way, I am giving them something to do in their free time or to scratch when the itch to be ‘in-the-know’ strikes.

6. It’s a welcome respite from the unforgiving weekdays (this I know most of us know too well).

7. I’ll have something to chuckle about when I’m too old to still be shocked and awed by the world. Hopefully, that is, if I reach that age.

8. It gives me control (well yeah) of what aspect of myself I want  the world to know and how I want it to see me. (Assuming the author is not dead.)

9. I have the comments to look forward to after each post.

10. I’m a narcissist, and I want to see images of me being reflected in the monitor of my computer.

11. Finally, I blog  because I’ll die (or worse, go crazy) if I stop writing.

That smile

My long absence from this site is beginning to bother me. I am sorting things out at the moment. I may one day decide to resign from all my four jobs and just disappear. But that will not be very soon.

If there’s something or someone that is still capable of making me smile in spite of the banality of daily existence, it’s the person I am sharing with this beautiful feeling called love.

Blank and apologetic

The worst thing aside from a blank page is a bland post from a very apologetic writer.

I’ve been suffering from a lingering writer’s block for several days now, and as if to mock my already wretched condition, I have been very apologetic, hoping that being so will reduce the feeling of guilt I harbor inside me.

I have been, that is, apologetic — one, because of my long absence from this blog (almost a week now, and counting); two, for my derisive posts of late that shout bitterness if not cynicism (as they have always been); and three, for my belated responses to the comments. I apologize on behalf of my self.

I promise to be back soon, when I already have enough time and a much stronger resolve to write and to continue writing.

Soon. Very soon indeed.

Announcement: Pinoy_Blogfest 1.0

The posting of this announcement here has already been long overdue. I would like to thank the people behind Gadgets Magazine for the complimentary slot they gave to me to join Pinoy_Blogfest 1.0 that is happening several hours from now.

See you all at the venue.

A promise not kept

“I’ll write something about you and this meeting, ma’am, and will ask my friend to have it published on Monday.

“That is too much.”

“No, no, no, it’s nothing.”

I imagine her asking her maid to wake up so early in the morning today to buy the Monday edition of Panay News. Opening the part that contains my column, she will find an entirely different article, not the one I promised her.

The worst form of betrayal is not keeping a promise.

I met her a week ago in a local diner waiting for her breakfast. That time I was reading a local paper where I write a weekly column. I was writhing in shame because of the missing final letter s in the verb of my last sentence. This old woman coughed softly and gave her comment about the headline of a news about a socialite campaigning for her son who is running for congress against a powerful politician in one of the districts of my province. “Daw indi man ni sila taga-Iloilo, ano sagad nila kapadalagan diri haw?” (These people are not from Iloilo, why are they running for an elective post here?).

Feeling that I’ve not been appreciated as a writer, I showed her the column I wrote which moments ago I was already thinking of burning because of the missing s. She read my column like how my mother does. I think all teachers have this way of reading, same expression on their faces, same reaction especially if the writer of what they are reading is seated next to them.

She introduced herself and wrote her name using beautiful cursives on the back of an old business card given to me by a Macedonian friend. Mrs. Delfina Gerochi is a 76-year old retired grade one teacher who used to teach at Dawis Elementary School in the municipality of Zarraga. Sixteen years after retiring, she related that she does not find her life boring. She has chickens, a dog, and a cat in her house that she takes care.

“Kanami gali sa imo magsulat. Ako nagasulat man sang mga poems.” (You write beautifully. As for me, I write poems.)

I thanked her and suggested that since it is difficult to find a publisher for poems, unless you’re nationally recognized or you publish your own poems which can be very expensive, to open a blogsite and have her works posted there. I momentarily forgot that she’s 76 years old. I apologized for the gaffe and explained to her how blogging works. I did not know whether she was able to grasp the entire concept of this ‘art’. I told her to ask any of her grandchildren about blogs and that she wants to have her own, and they’ll know what to do.

“Had I had children as intelligent and accomplished as you at such a young age, I would’ve raised heaven and earth just so I could give them whatever they wanted.”

Although blushing is a talent I know I do not possess, I blushed when she said this.

I promised her to write about our meeting but I never did. Not until I woke up today and remembered that my column will come out today. And so I’ve caused an old woman so much of a disappointment. At her age, inasmuch as nothing so spectacular will bring her much surprise, a very small act of kindness and promise mean a lot. And I regret depriving her of those.


Note: Whoever knows Mrs. Delfina Gerochi, please leave your email here so that I may write a personal letter to her. And if it will not be so bothersome, have it printed and given to Mrs. Gerochi. Thank you.