Ever since Pres. Barack Obama was ushered into the highest position of the land in the United States on the back of a campaign built with the help of the internet and new media, the landscape of government has never been the same. The ease of Pres. Obama with tech, new media (bloggers), the web, and social networking sites is showing in the way the U.S. embassies around the world are slowly becoming open to bloggers being included in their events.
Right here in the Philippines, I am witnessing a new openness, a willingness by the U.S. Embassy to engage the citizens of the country they are living in and reach out to the ordinary man in the persons of bloggers. To me this is a delightful FIRST. After all, we bloggers do not hold any outstanding achievement in any political, cultural, academic or artistic arena. We are not part of large media organizations that are normally invited to cover embassy events. All we own is that piece of real estate in the blogosphere we can rightfully call ours where we exercise our right to freedom of speech and thought, where we express our opinions and dreams, and very rarely, rant.
Firstly, my wedding godchild (inaanak sa kasal), Jay de Jesus, became the first ever to join the U.S. Embassy in Manila as their Emerging Media Specialist for Public Affairs. That title is loaded!!! Jay is basically the point person for the embassy’s social network sites (SNS), really raising the bar of SNS as a major communication and feedback tool.
The very first invitation I received as a blogger from the U.S. Embassy was for a reception dinner at the USS Blue Ridge (the flagship of the US Seventh Fleet) when it docked in Manila for a visit.
Last Friday, bloggers got a second invitation. This time, it was a reception for the U.S. Cultural Affairs Attache, Alan R. Holst, and the Assistant Cultural Affairs Attache, Joseph Tordella.
The cozy dinner, hosted at the home of Counselor for Public Affairs, Richard W. Nelson, was meant to introduce the two to Manila’s cultural circuit. Present were people representing their own spheres of influence in the arts, music, literature, sports, theater, education and so on. The Cultural Affairs spearheads, sponsors, and is involved in several projects in these fields. Professional visits and exchange programs between the Philippines and the United States are handled by these officers.