Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The New Media

I have wanted to write about blogging in my column but didn't have the time until now. So the following is my column for today, August 30, 2006, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.


I have been asked many times how I got invited to write for this paper. My standard answer is that I was plucked out from the blogosphere (i.e., the world of bloggers in cyberspace). I am the second blogger to have been invited by this paper (the first is my spacemate in this section, Sassy Lawyer Connie Veneracion). As far as I know, we are the only two columnists who started out as bloggers and this paper is the only one to have recognized the talents and potentials of bloggers. The editors of this paper sure know their way around the blogosphere (some have their own blogs), which tells you about how progressive people in this paper are (ahem).

Although the two worlds—traditional media and the blogosphere (also referred to as “the new media”) complement each other, the relationship is far from being mutually deferential.

The criticism against bloggers, particularly those coming from seasoned journalists, is that bloggers have not earned their stripes to deserve the attention. Many bloggers, on the other hand, think of themselves as more real, more representative of the population, and certainly more honest because they are not beholden to anyone—not to editors, not to publishers, and definitely not to advertisers. The debate is just starting and should become more interesting as it begins to take on more substance and form.

Well, I am a blogger, which means that I keep an online journal of my rants and raves. And there are many others like me out there; people who define, nurture and push the frontiers of this new media. There are bloggers who religiously update their sites every day (I used to, but not anymore). There are even full-time bloggers; those who make a living purely out of their blogs. In theory, I know how they do it, which of course is not the same thing as understanding exactly how it is done; thus, I do not make money out of my own blog. People cluck their tongues at the utter waste of opportunity and ask why. The answer is simple; I do not want to live most of my life in cyberspace, thank you.

But there are some blogs and bloggers that truly deserve to be read by more people not only for what they say, but also for how these are said. I personally think that some priceless gems in contemporary literature can be found among blogs. There have been many occasions when I have been blown away by the sheer beauty of something someone wrote in a blog. You read someone’s writings on life and living and you just cannot help but wonder why this person is not writing for some paper instead of those pretentious fashion victims and celebrities who think the world revolves around them or that the state of their closets constitutes excitement.

I will even go as far as to say that the level of punditry in the blogosphere is sometimes, if not often, more interesting and insightful than those in certain newspapers. But because bloggers blog at their own pace and at their own convenience, there are days of course when the harvest is meager and the pickings really bad. But on days when the blogosphere is electric with energy and excitement, it is a virtual feast for the mind and the senses.

There are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there. There are blogs that entertain; some intentionally, others purely by accident. There are blogs that educate; some deliberately, others through vicarious and accidental learning. There are blogs that advocate certain causes. And then there are blogs that are able to do all three and more. I have been meaning to write about some of them mainly because of the causes they spouse.

Ivan Henares’s blog (www.ivanhenares.blogspot.com) is one blog that truly deserves to get more traffic. Ivan’s blog is a travel and heritage journal (the blog’s title is “Ivan About Town”) as it documents his many sojourns across the country and other parts of the world. I do not know Ivan personally so I do not know if he is as frisky; but in a way, he is like the local Ian Wright of Lonely Planet sans the television camera. Ian has television, Ivan has the blogosphere. Ivan goes to places and shares the experiences in his blog; he even gives details such as how much a jeepney ride from this point to that point, or how much lodging or dinner costs in this or that place.

But Ivan’s main advocacy is preservation of Philippine heritage. And this is what makes his blog truly worth supporting. His current advocacy is preservation of old churches, which are systematically being demolished to give way to some local parish priests’ demented attempt to establish their “legacy” in their parishes. The extent to which such aspirations of greatness translate into destroying centuries-old churches is already alarming.

In Leyte for example, very few old churches have been spared the architectural machinations of some parish priests. The “favorite daughter of the province” actually started this madness when she renovated and “modernized” some old churches and succeeded in “uglifying” them. She also built grand structures—all of which are impossible to maintain today and are therefore decaying. But many people, particularly parish priests, seemed to have made her the role model. Today, it seems the measure of a parish priest’s effectiveness is the ability to muster resources to renovate the town’s church. Thus, in my own hometown, the church has been renovated as many times as the town changed parish priests. And our church has become, well, to put if bluntly, uglier each year.

Carlos Celdran is renowned for adding not only respectability but also creativity, showmanship, history and culture, humor and yes, even bits of gossip to “tours.” Carlos refers to himself as a “streetwalker” which means he gives walking tours of historical areas in Manila. I live in Malate and I love the old world charm of Manila. But I admit that my appreciation and affection for this City has been enhanced greatly by reading Carlos’ blog. It simply does a good job of “changing the way you look at Manila.” Thanks to Carlos’ blog, I can walk around Chinatown or Escolta and see beyond the grime and the pollution. Carlos blogs at www.celdrantours.blogspot.com.

There are blogs about all possible topics of interest; and expectedly, one topic of interest that always comes up on top of the list is food, glorious food. There are many blogs about the subject. Sassy (www.houseonahill.net), of course, leads the pack on this subject among local bloggers. I do not know exactly what the dinner protocol in her family is—if taking photos takes precedence over hunger— because she always has great pictures of whatever it is they are having. My other favorite food blog is The Girl Who Ate Everything (www.roboffy.net/food) although she has not updated her blog for a month now.

And because blogs do represent the new media, I am happy to note that there are blogs that really do push the limits. One such blog is www.barenakedmedia-ph.com which contains the writing of five bloggers, namely, Sassy (again), Sarah, Micketymoc, Juned and Jher.

4 comments:

snglguy said...

In short, blogging and bloggers are here to stay. Unless of course, another form of medium comes up. :-)

ivanhenares said...

Thanks Bong! I really appreciate it :)

BongA said...

singleguy:
i think so too. hmmm...i can't imagine what it would be. holographic blogs?

bong

BongA said...

ivan:

you are welcome! like i said, i do believe in your advocacy; so anything to help!

bong