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Archive for the ‘Travel blog’ Category

Mr. Carlo Ople really got everyone listening when he started educating the audience on how to promote yourself as a blogger.

In between regular trips to my physical therapist for the knee rehab and my internist for the contusion on my abdomen, I still managed to attend the 7th iBlog Summit held recently at UP Malcolm Hall (College of Law). Sponsored by the UP Internet Society, GMA News 7, TV5, the DigitalFilipino Club, and Samsung, the iBlog Summit is a yearly event, usually pulled off with the phenomenal help of the DigitalFilipino Club’s doyenne Ms. Janette Toral and a host of other dedicated local bloggers. 

Indeed, I had been wanting to join this event for 2 years but was not able to because I wasn’t in town most of the time. The summit regularly features a host of speakers and players of the internet and online technology industry in the Philippines. But most of all, the majority of the attendees are bloggers themselves — in fact, the whole blogging community shows up in full force at this usual 2-day event.

Lots of bloggers -- both established ones and newbies like myself -- congregated and shared stories at the recently held 7th iBlog Summit in Manila

Between lectures — some of which targeting first-time bloggers and net entrepreneurs who are already steeped in the language of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), social media (Facebook, Multiply and what else?), as well as the occasional “troll” (bloggers and other internet surfers who scout online forums and web boards, creating mischief by creating an online scene by lambasting somebody else on the forum/board), you get to socialize with a lot of people who share your passion — blogging!

Since my blog was basically created to chronicle my weird adventures in Saigon land, as well as talk about travel and lifestyle and the social scene in Saigon, I was a bit shy to introduce myself to the many bloggers there that seem to have more interesting and noteworthy topics to blog about. For instance, we have a category called “Mommy bloggers”, wherein one lady called Noemi Dado famously blogs about her pain and anguish when she lost her son to accidental drowning .

Another lady, Ms. Ria Tirazona, talked about her struggle to lose weight — and blogged about it. One great thing I learned from Ms. Tirazona’s blog is that blogs could be a great platform for advocacy of issues and causes. That gave me a great idea for a blog that I can use as a platform for a burning cause that I wanted to write about.

Still, I never realized that a Bloggers’ Summit could be a venue to find or reconnect with friends and colleagues you haven’t seen for years. For instance, I met my former boss Wally at a prominent research company, whom I haven’t seen for more than 15 years, walking around in a cane just like myself. And Claire, a former colleague of mine in my early days as a newspaper reporter, was also there as a fellow blogger.

Bloggers listen to a speaker's tips on how to establish an online discussion community revolving around your blog.

I recognized Roby Alampay, a reporter friend of ours based in Bangkok where I used to be based as a PR consultant, now the head of the online edition of TV Channel 5. And there was also Howie Severino, Vice President for GMA News Online, whom I do recall meeting sometime ago when I was a young cub reporter writing health stories. But I could be wrong . . .

I and my long-lost colleagues got to even meet and chat face-to-face with the Thirsty Blogger, Mr. Fitz Villafuerte, a famous blogger well-known for his entertaining and informative anecdotes about watering-holes across the country. 

And one gets to meet a host of savvy bloggers as well. One such blogger is Earth Rullan, a well-known blogger in the blogosphere who blogs about fashion and women’s issues. Always wanted to be a fashionista blogger — perhaps in some future time . . .  ; )

But the best part of the Bloggers Summit is the plethora of information you can gain from just sitting there for two whole days, listening to a gamut of speakers from the tech industry as well as the local bloggers community. There was Carlos Ople, obviously from the famed Ople clan, ex-Friendster executive, who taught us a thing or two about knowing how to prepare a powerpoint so you can make a sales pitch to a prospective advertiser of your blog.

Again, not all of the audience, such as me, have had the experience of “monetizing their blog”, so this piece of advice that Carlos gave — that it is just okay to approach a potential advertiser provided that you are professional in delivering such a service — was actually filed into my brain for future use.

Very practical topics, such as “How to prevent writer’s block” by seasoned blogger Roy de la Cruz sure put a few stitches in our stomachs for the funny quips that he delivered in between some home-grown advice on the topic.

And at the end of the summit, we had our customary group photo. Now how I wish I could get a copy of that photo for my blog as well ; )

I vow that I will return to the Bloggers Summit next year, keeping my fingers crossed!

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Now I have to learn to walk with a steel cane -- but perhaps I won't need it for long ; )

I went home to Manila almost two weeks ago. I came home riding an early morning flight, was picked up at the airport in the wee hours of the morning by my dad, and then, figured out which specialist orthopedic doctor I had to visit soon.

I came home because I’ve been hit by a motorbike driven by an equally crazed young, female teenager who likes to drive off full speed while not looking in front of her.

At first it felt like a big bump in my schedule, just like the big bump this bike gave me on my tummy and my leg. I have two scheduled interviews for articles I’m dying to write about. I was one day short of enrolling again for the second level of bellydance classes I’ve been studiously attending the past month.

Yet these thoughts only came after I ended up in the emergency room of a supposedly upmarket hospital where the only people around there was a nurse and a guard. And you’re scared shit, not so much because you can’t move your leg and the right side of your abdomen is hurting like hell, but because of the realization that you could die, right there and then at the emergency room, for lack of attention or because everyone was moving at a glacial pace worthy of the demise of the dinosaurs.

I forgot my cellphone. I only had a beltbag and a wallet when I slipped out at night to buy breakfast in a convenience store a block from where I live. I couldn’t remember any one of my colleagues or local friends’ phone numbers. And I was continuously crying while the nurse was trying to ask what was the problem (wasn’t that supposed to be their job — to check what the problem was with me!).

And when you’re left alone thinking you might die anytime, it just struck me how short life is. And how much we spend our days thinking, worrying and working for sometimes the wrong reasons and for the wrong people. 

Life is very short — too short sometimes to worry about who likes us, what kind of achievement we’ve done, how much money we make, or if we’re missing that Backstreet Boys concert tomorrow. We’re walking leisurely one time and the next minute, we’re lying down on that road with our life almost snatched from us.

We must learn to live and treat life as if every minute is the last we’ll ever have.

But now, safe again in the confines of my little room, we also think about how we can turn adversity into opportunity. For instance, I went back to Manila to get a 2nd opinion from an orthopedic specialist (I think it’s a good idea because I was hit in the abdomen, and although the doctor in Saigon said there was no internal damage, you can’t be too careful). 

So by going to Manila, I get to see my family too. And my Papa will be happy. And I get to see my sister who is also a bit sick like me. And I get to talk to friends and potential biz partners to cook some really great ideas for new businesses.

Right now, the world is gripped with sorrow — from the devastation wreaked by an earthquake and a tsunami in Japan, as well as a potential worldwide nuclear catastrophe. Then the air strike on Libya over UN sanctions. And now Bahrain.

It seems that there is a never-ending list of woes, both global and individual. But as people, we know that the only way we can survive through these is to lift up our chins, strengthen our spirit, pray to God or our protective angels/guardians, and look on the bright side of things.

There will always be a silver lining behind any cloud. There will always be a reason for a tragedy in life. All we have to do is to find it — and to keep on having a positive attitude towards life.

Remember, the only person that can bring us down is OURSELVES! So look up and think “pink thoughts”. A happy life is just awaiting us behind that dark cloud.

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After a certainly most boring holiday spent primarily at home, I am happy to say that I’m glad that TET holidays (otherwise called Chinese New Year in other parts of Asia and Chinese-influenced communities in the world) are almost over.

Yep, I showed up at the office today, expecting our ever loyal employees to be there before me, and wallah — they’re not there! Only my dear colleague Chi was there. And so laughing at the absent employees, we had a great time just having a long and late lunch.

But what drives up my ire is that “I couldn’t access Facebook” during the entire TET holidays! In fact, I can’t access Facebook at all when I use the internet at home

Okay, some people will disagree with me about the inability or difficulty of accessing Facebook in Vietnam. Some people say that you can tweak your DNS configuration, or even use one of those proxy servers just to access Facebook.

But despite these maneuvers and sometimes, the lucky chance of being able to get online through some server, it is MUCH, MUCH MORE DIFFICULT to get into Facebook these days. Because of that, I am faced with —

* Not being able to contact friends from as far as half a globe away

* Not being informed about what friends are doing as far as half a globe away

* Missed the latest jokes, the hippest videos and the wackiest antics of a few colleagues and friends

* Missed out on a couple of friend’s birthdays

* Missed out on trends and news from the home country or the region

* Can’t announce my latest blog posts on my Facebook page

* Can’t announce my status on my Facebook page

* Can’t inform my friends about my recent travel & lifestyle articles

And most especially, I can’t access my directory of friends’ emails and phone numbers as well!

But there is also an upside to life without facebook — I get to read more blogs online. In fact, I stumbled on this funny blog from China called “Ministry of Tofu” (www.ministryoftofu.com). Aside from its witty remarks and funny, sometimes weird stories (pole dancing subway commuters, sexiest Chinese language teachers, etc.), it also features stories of the ever-present issue of “online censorship” as well.

Which means we are not alone in this problem in this side of the world ; ) At least they’re having fun and a few laughs out there in China with their queer stories . . .

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Hiya!

I’m catching up on my blogging again ; ) Not that there isn’t much to write. There are actually tons. But haven’t had my mind focused on the blogging lately.

But there is much to celebrate. For instance, my youngest sister got married last Saturday – in a quaint little church on top of a hill in Tagaytay. They call it Calaruega. How people managed to choose this church for a wedding truly amazes me. The only dirt road leading to this church is pockmarked with holes. But there it is – along with its singing and iPad toting resident priest!

It was a great feeling – to see your sister and her new husband, her friends, colleagues and loved ones gathered around, all beaming with smiles, all laughing. For starters, my sister wore a fabulously hand –embroidered wedding gown care of a well-known Filipino wedding gown couturier, Ms. Veluz. She’s as chirpy as any one I know who really relishes designing all those frou-frou, fairytale like wedding gowns.

My sister’s was no exception. It was a confection of white tulle and lace, heavily embroidered with exquisite beading and some shiny Swarovski crystals. It had a little train and a long veil as well.

And most importantly, it took me 20 minutes to get my sister’s gown unzipped (we later found out that my sister was sewn into the dress , hence we couldn’t find the hooks).

So I had to don a blush pink bridesmaid’s dress, which honestly, I don’t think I did look very well in it : ). Still, it was fun to see half of the head honchos of the Philippine advertising industry being there, clowning and slapping jokes like little schoolboys and schoolgirls.

And the bride was radiant; so was the groom – har har har!

The Blushing Bride & the Suave Groom faces the wedding guests at Calarueda Chapel in Tagaytay.

The only thing that marred the event is when the bridal car driver tried to pull a fast one on me – charging an additional fee that was equivalent to 3 hours overtime when we only spent an hour more than agreed upon. No worries but at one point, I thought I was going home with a sore fist and bloody murder in my eyes, as I was prepared to slug it out with this lying and conniving driver out at the parking lot.

What I like most about the wedding? Taking photos of the preparations, including the pre-wedding fittings (when do I manage to fit a gown as gorgeous as that – har har har!).

So as a last say in this blog post, I turned another year older about 2 hours and 55 minutes ago. Yes folks – I was born 5 minutes after midnight in a cold January morning in Quezon City  not so long ago – har har!  My mother said I was so tiny and white, and loved to cry – har har!

And like any other birthday, I couldn’t sleep very well. Always thinking something good is going to happen after that magical time when the clock strikes 5 minutes after midnight.

Which brings me to the topic of my new zodiac sign, in the wake of an inclusion of a supposedly 13th sign in the Western Zodiac horoscope. So now I’m a Capricornian. This is not surprising to me. Having been born on the cusp, I have both characteristics from Capricorn and Aquarius, my birth sign.

But what the heck? I would love to have a world that don’t need all these signs. And this is the end of my blog post. Finding myself so sleepy all of a sudden . . . .

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