Bloggers Join in Welcoming U.S. Cultural Affairs Officers

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.

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The Other Side of My Blogging Life

I have not really had time to blog about what I had been doing these past months. It’s been a whirlwind time doing my usual mommy activities while participating in a new advocacy. Since October of 2009, I became part of a group of concerned citizen bloggers who wanted to do something other than our normal blogging. We wanted to push voter education and thought we could do something as there was quite a large online community if we put our readership together.

With my mommy blogger friend Noemi starting the whole effort, Blog Watch was put together. Starting with 16 bloggers, we grew to 31 by the time the May 10, 2010 elections came. By then, we had interviewed 7 of the 9 presidential aspirants (see pics below. I missed out on Bro. Eddie’s interview), some running for VP and senators, and a few local government candidates.

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MOVE – a World AIDS Day Project by Headshot Clinic

Are we aware of how HIV/AIDS is rapidly spreading in the Philippines and in the world?

I got hold of some materials with some statistics from the National Epidemiology Center and was shocked to find out that:

– At the present rate, there will be 700 new cases of HIV/AIDS before 2009 ends

– In 2000, there was only 1 new case every 3 days; in 2009, there are TWO new cases EVERY DAY!

– 89% of HIV transmission is through SEX

– Since 2007, 72% of new cases were males who were infected by having sex with OTHER MALES

View this document on Scribd

Coinciding with the annual celebration of World AIDS Day last December 9, a series of portraits done by the renowned Filipino conceptual photographer, Niccolo Cosme, is on exhibit at Greenbelt 5 (fountain area). The exhibit runs till December 14.

My oldest daughter and I were lucky to have been part of a pool of bloggers who participated in this year’s Project Headshot Clinic. On their website, this is what Headshot Clinic has to say about their unique way of spreading awareness of HIV/AIDS:

The Headshot Clinic is the flagship in employing unparalleled advocacy using digital photography as its main medium of representation and publicizes it through the presently prevailing social networks. The collaborating powers of both will further enhance awareness as last year’s UNAIDS supported Project Headshot Clinic: AWARE to spread the issues and facts of HIV/AIDS. “AWARE” took the internet by storm. It was able to spread consciousness and made more people aware of HIV/AIDS.

This year, UNAIDS and Project Headshot Clinic are working together to call for ACTION in fighting the spreading of HIV/AIDS. It is a sad realization that as much as we are aware of the dangers, still – more and more people are diagnosed with the decease.

And so we have to MOVE.

Headshot Clinic Project: UNAIDS MOVE aims to facilitate curiosity in people and drive them to make a change. We will inform the public and will ultimately thrust a call for action to fight HIV/AIDS. It will feature advocates who are the movers and shakers in the Philippines, as well as regular people like students, taxi drivers, or personalities who are or have been affected by HIV. This time, as we have succeeded in the dissemination of awareness from last year, we are acting on it.

And we will fight it together, everyone has a voice and it should be heard.

To put the exhibit together, Headshot Clinic and Niccolo tapped celebrities, bloggers and ordinary people for headshots. Personally, I felt it was my chance to help promote an advocacy as a blogger, to do something worthwhile and push for awareness and change.

Some people I recognized among the pics taken by Headshot Clinic were Boyet Sison (ANC host of Hardball), RJ and Vanessa Ledesma, Carlos Celdran, Joey Reyes, Cong. Risa Hontiveros, Kristine Hermosa, Gelli de Belen, Dr. Eric Tayag of DOH, Tim Yap and Niccolo himself.

Here is my own headshot pic.

It’s time to MOVE and make more people aware of the creeping threat of HIV/AIDS in our country!

There will be more activities to drum up HIV/AIDS awareness in the Philippines scheduled for 2010. Watch for them!

BlogWatch.ph Officially Launches

A diverse group of bloggers have come together to write articles on election-related issues to foster voter’s education, commentaries, features on the candidates running for national positions, and any other topics that would broaden the voters’ ability to vote wisely in the coming 2010 Philippine elections. Vibal Foundation’s Philippine Online Chronicles (http://thepoc.net) is hosting BlogWatch.ph online.

BlogWatch.ph aims to cover underplayed stories in various formats normally used by bloggers such as podcasts, articles, and videos. Another thing that will distinguish itself is its use of social networking media to spread information and connect with its readers. Already, the site has Plurk, Twitter, Ustream, Facebook, YouTube, and Qik accounts set up so that BlogWatch.ph can be made accessible to almost everyone who is online.

At the official launch last November 24 at Max’s Restaurant in Bel-Air, Makati City, traditional media and other bloggers were in attendance. Gus Vibal, publisher of Philippine Online Chronicles likewise graced the occasion.

The program proper went as follows:

The Philippine Online Chronicles and Blog Watch – Kristine Mandigma (Program Director)

The Role of Bloggers as New Media – Ed Lingao (Phil. Center for Investigative Journalism)

Blogging / Journalism – Marck Rimorin (Blog Watch writer)

The Blog Watch Site and Plans – Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (Project Director)

Introduction of the Writers

Open Forum with the Press

Emcee: Vince Golangco (Blog Watch writer)

Below is a teaser video on Blog Watch shown during the launch:

BlogWatch.ph will continue to evolve to include more interactive content. We strongly encourage all of you who have a stake in the 2010 elections to actively participate in the Blog Watch polls and tell us what you think via our comment sections.

We are also accepting bloggers who may want to guest blog on commentaries. If you are interested, send us an email at blogwatch.ph@gmail.com. We still need bloggers from the provinces in Northern and Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Blog Watch Formally Launches on Nov. 24, 2009

I had an earlier post about being part of Blog Watch, hosted by Vibal Foundation’s Philippine Online Chronicles.

On November 24, 2009, Blog Watch will be formally launched in the presence of traditional and new media at Max’s Restaurant on Jupiter St., Makati, from 11am to 2pm.

The blogger-writers for Blog Watch will attempt to “fill in the gaps” as well as complement traditional media’s coverage of the 2010 elections. We have began some features on voter education and are now beginning to provide backgrounders on the candidates for national positions (both on the personal side as well as the political side, including issues they are supporting). In addition, commentaries stemming from the personal insights of the writers will add flavor to this site.

It is our hope that through Blog Watch as well as other blogs and news sites, including those set up by COMELEC, the voting public will be able to make wiser decisions on who to elect into office.

I invite you to visit Blog Watch regularly to become as informed as possible before the 2010 Philippine elections. You may also follow Blog Watch on FacebookTwitterPlurk and subscribe to its YouTube channel.

The bloggers (as of this writing) who form part of Blog Watch are Noemi Dado (A Filipina Mom Blogger), Jane Uymatiao (Here’s to Life!), Sonnie Santos (Sonnie’s Porch), Dine Racoma (The D Spot), Vincent Golangco (When in Manila), Carlo Ople (New Media Philippines), Marck Rimorin (The Marocharim Experiment)Rochelle Sy Chua, Juned Sunido (Baratillo @ Cubao), Fritz Tenatativa (Fritzified)Leslie Bocobo, Brian Ong (The Philippines and Beyond), Victor Villanueva (Bikoy.Net), Dean Jorge Bacobo (Philippine Commentary), Pierre Tito Galla (Jester-in-Exile), Karen Ang (Bury me in this dress), AnnaManila (Ode2Old), Wyatt Belmonte (Wyatt’s Kitchen), and Blogie Robillo (Blogie Blog).

Getting Tagged + the Kreativ Blogger Award

This Kreative Blogger Award was given to me by my dear friend from my Philadelphia past, Kathleen. Thanks so much, Kathleen!

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I am thrilled to have been chosen one of Kathleen’s 7 best-loved blogs and as it is with awards like this, it is now my turn to pay it forward and choose 7 of my own best-loved blogs. Of course, I love more than 7 blogs, most specially the blogs of my mommy blogger friends. But for now, I will list the blogs that first come to my mind.

1. Insightful Personhood – My sister in Christ/kumare (both ways)/great friend Aly maintains this blog. Aly is one of the most creative people I have known. She loves scrapbooking and her Christmas gifts are always a delight to receive because she thinks up different ways to wrap the package and decorate it with twirly colored ribbons or a touch of something like a cut-out Christmas tree or hanging ornaments. In this blog, Aly bares her heart. She writes about her family life as well as her insights in her journey as a daughter of God. If there is one blog I can go to to draw inspiration from, it is hers.

2. Heart of Rachel – Rachel is one of my mommy blogger friends. Her blog is aptly titled because it is ALL HEART. She writes about anything and everything close to her heart. She writes about her family experiences, puts up great household tips and anything that catches her heart. When you visit her blog, you immediately notice how bright, colorful and tasteful it is. It gives you a sense that its owner is a happy optimist. Which Rachel is.

3. Memories in the Eyes of the Digiscrapmom – This title fits Liezl to a T! She is my ultimate digital scrapbooking idol — only because I have tried, truly tried, to keep up with the 4 kids’ scrapbooks and am still an utter failure in this department. I have (by last count), 3 plastic stackables filled with long, brown envelopes of the kids’ pictures, schoolwork and other souvenirs. Maybe I do need to go digital instead of tackling the cut & paste style of scrapbooking in the days of my mom and lola.

4. Flipflopping my way around town – Fran’s a neighbor. A really close neighbor. As in — the street right behind ours. And to top it, she blogs mostly about her food experiences. Her blog is eye candy. Colorful, lots of pics, and very light reading. I love visiting and finding out what new restaurants she tried and reviewed. Food blogs are better than visiting restaurant websites because I get the real deal from people who actually tried the food and service. Fran’s blog is one such site. Of course, she is now busy with preparations to move on to another state of life (woohoo!) but she still finds time to do her foodie posts. Keep ’em comin’, Fran!

5. Wifely Steps – Toni is in the last stages of her pregnancy and is awaiting Timmy’s birth. Her blog is all about her journey as a wife. Just reading her posts makes me smile because it is so easy to empathize with Toni’s experiences.

6. The Journey of a Yogini – Meet Chona, my BYFF (Best Yogini Friend Forever). Chronological age separates us but not our free spirits. When we’re together, we talk, laugh and get into just about any topic. I love being with her. Our souls commune. We are both free spirits (or at least trying to be as free as possible within social norms, haha). This yoga blog of Chona’s shows how far into her yoga journey she has come. She started her yoga practice later than me but now, she is a regular in her ashtanga class. When you read this blog, you see the depth of my BYFF’s thoughts (but hey, she is funny when she wants to be too!).

7. TeacherJulie.com – Julie is a special education teacher. Her blog is unique in that she shares her own experiences and knowledge on special education and parenting. But that is not all her blog is about. Julie is a warm, wonderful person whose sunshine personality shines through in her posts. I love browsing her blog and finding posts that make me think deeply or laugh out loud or lead me to resolve to do something.

Part of receiving the Kreative Blogger award is making up a list of 7 things that I love so here goes:

1. Christmas – Who does not love Christmas? It’s my favorite season of the year. This is the wonderful thing about the Philippines — when September comes around, it already begins to feel like Christmas. We are probably the only country that celebrates Christmas THIS long! And I love it. I love the sights, smells, and the activities. And I love going to the Masses, hear the carols, greet familiar faces coming out of church, spending time to greet one another…

2. Hugs – I am a touchy-feely person. I easily hug and embrace people (probably sending some people who are not used to this familiarity into uncomfortable fits).  And I do love receiving hugs as well. It’s my first instinct when I am around people I love. My teen boys sometimes squirm when I hug them while they are focused intently on World of Warcraft or some other online video game but I am sure this reassures them that I love them to bits. One of the best ways to start a day is to be hugged. They say everyone needs a hug at least once a day. I agree 100% and the more frequently it is done, the better for one’s self!

3. My family – My support system. My life. My reason for being. My loves.

4. Connecting with friends online or in person – This is one of my real loves — being able to connect with friends in whatever way. Lately, I have been trying to find old friends via Facebook and am happy to report that I have been quite successful. Chatting online or meeting up at some mall for a quiet (no, scrap that.  I meant — laughter-filled) reunion really takes years off one’s face.

5. Reading books – Bookworm, bookaholic, bibliophile, bookista. That says it all. I just love books! And it’s contagious. My whole family reads. That’s why we all have bad eyes….

6. Yoga – This is one of my passions now and I must say it has helped my mindset towards many things. Despite being a Type A personality, I am better equipped to deal with stressful situations as long as I have my yoga. I also feel healthier at this stage of my life compared to when I was in my 20s and 30s.

7. Blogging – I have never been able to keep a daily diary like my Mom who has literally filled more than one filing cabinet drawer with her diaries which she started in the 1950s and has faithfully maintained till now. If I want to know what happened, say, on Christmas Day of 1980, she would have the answer. But now I have been caught by the blogging bug and while it is very far from a daily diary, it gives me a chance to put down in writing things and events that I want to preserve for life.

Now, for the owners of the 7 blogs I tagged, it is your turn to pass this award on to 7 other blogs you love and list down as well 7 things that you love.

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