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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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As I walked in Sonya's garden, I saw a clump of red flowers pointing directly to a nondescript fountain hidden among the flowering plants.

The bigger cottage occupied by my family and me at Sonya's Garden. Note the abundance of flowers around the cottage which almost covers it from view -- and prying eyes.

Even though it’s been about two weeks since my sister’s wedding in Manila, with the reception at Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay, I still remember quite well the brief two-days holiday we spent at the famous Sonya’s Bed & Breakfast Cottages. Sonya’s English-inspired Cottages are so quaint and so rustic that it’s like being transported into a genuine traditional English garden setting.

The newly wedded couple, plus my father and my other sister and her husband, as well as myself, spent at least a day going around the cottages, sampling the herbal spa, and just moving from the newlyweds private cottage and the bigger one which was assigned for my family as well.

Here are some pictures I took of the quaint cottages and Sonya’s English garden. One thing to note is that most of the white linen with beautiful embroideries of flowers used in the cottages were made in Vietnam. If anyone would like to know where to source this kind of linen, you can write to me  : )

Ante-room of one of Sonya's cottages. Note the colorful glass chandelier.

One of my sister's trousseau laid out in the garden footpath.

This is the interior of our cottage. The burnished gold brass bed in the middle dominates the entire room. The floor is cement with long planks of what might have been the original wooden floor mixed with it. The capiz windows are marvelous - capiz being made from the mother-of-pearl shell that is pretty abundant in the Philippines. A wooden genuine Indian divider painted with Indian court scenes is seen on the right while a Balinese low bed is at the corner on the extreme left. Flowers from the wedding are on the table at the left.

The View from outside the cottage. The capiz windows are usually drawn shut at night from prying eyes outside.

The bigger cottage had three bedrooms with four beds. This one is a smaller bedroom with a cozy Balinese four-poster bed which was occupied by my father. It was much smaller but cozier for me. I particularly liked the painting of the half-naked girl on the wall above the bed as well as its small but handy bathroom with a rock garden.

A nice place to sit in the garden, right beside one of the bigger cottages.

A nice floral centerpiece among the garden chairs.

The view from the window beside the brass bed was so romantic that I had to take a picture. Flower arrangement courtesy of our wedding caterers ; )

The view of the Secret Garden of Sonya, especially of the little boy fountain, from the window of the cottage. Truly magical!

Capiz-paned windows, white linen embroidered with tiny red flowers, and a wrought-iron bed beside a romantic window -- what else could you live for? I wish I could have a similar bedroom in my house, sigh!

How quaint the rock garden in the small bathroom adjoining the cottage's small bedroom! It was a novelty standing on flat smooth rocks while pebbles are strewn around your feet ; )

This antique mirror circa my lola's generation is so cute that they even had colored flowers sandblasted on its rim! Notice the hanging floral house robe reflected in the mirror and my arm caught in the reflection.

The romantic pebbled pathway to Sonya's Country Cottages.

A romantic nook in the garden. I wonder how this lovely seat is sheltered from the periodic rainshowers that January day?

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