Thursday, October 11, 2012

The First Laguna Blogging Summit

Wazzup Pilipinas!

It isn’t a big surprise that tourists and “balikbayans” often pick Laguna, a province of the Philippines found in the CALABARZON region in Luzon, as one of their prime destinations included in their travel itinerary.

That’s most probably because Laguna has earned a very good reputation for having the best hot and cold spring resorts – for a soothing rest and recreation, legendary and iconic scenic spots like the Pagsanjan Falls, Laguna Lake, and Mt. Makiling  - a feast for all our senses, a Disney-like theme park with magical and “enchanting” rides, and notable as the birthplace of Jose Rizal, our country’s national hero, – to satisfy our thirst for some Philippine history, plus a lot of other historic spots and postcard-perfect attractions for a very satisfying and memorable vacation.

Now it seems Laguna has more reasons to be proud of because it can now boast of having its very first Laguna Blogging Summit.  According to the event website, “the First Laguna Blogging Summit is an open event for the Pinoy Social Media/Blogging community.

The objective of this event is to bring to the south the best speakers in the Philippines to make Laguna aware about the advantages and benefits of Social Media. This is also one way to promote tourism and that it’s more fun in the Philippines and Laguna is one place to spend the fun be due to its relaxing weather, hot spring resorts and sweetest tropical fruits.”

Online, the hashtag “1LaBS” went trending for two consecutive days (September 27 and 28) indicating The First Laguna Blogging Summit was very much a buzz in Twitterverse.

At the event itself, a huge crowd composed of pro and newbie bloggers, TV and print media men and journalists, college students and professionals, filled up the Cultural Center of Laguna located at the urban municipality of Sta. Cruz, the capital of Laguna.

The two-day event was alternately hosted by @rodmagaru, @fpjjr, and @shekinahchic. It had an incredibly long list of speakers with great advises making it very difficult for me to summarize all of them in just one blog post (I have enough material to write myself a very long essay, or even a book if I would include before and after-event activities). So, I decided to just come up with my top eight list of realizations encompassing the best things that I learned at The First Laguna Blogging Summit.

1. Students are also VIPs

You can really feel that the organizers have a heart towards the students, and that the summit was really for their benefit, when the organizers surprised the early birds with VIP table privileges (free VIP lunch and snacks on both days of the summit)! This is the first time I’ve seen organizers reward punctual students with such VIP treatment. Since the organizers wouldn’t be able to accommodate the hundreds of students who attended the summit with the same VIP treatment, they still made sure that all the rest of the students got a chance to try out some great tasting muffins and cream rolls from Gardenia Philippines, the brand where great tasting breads come from. These students will soon become bloggers or social media influencers and advocates themselves, and would eventually become the future leaders of the country, so it’s just appropriate that we should take care of their “social” and intellectual development.

2. Once a Star, Always a Star

The Mayor of Pagsanjan, honorable Girlie Maita Javier Ejercito, was exceptionally stunning in her outfit that morning when she welcomed the summit participants with a very vibrant speech. She made a special request to the audience to keep in mind of her pretty face especially her “matangos na ilong” and “mestiza” complexion, and then jokingly said we should inform her if we see her husband with somebody else (lol). It was then followed by an impromptu but surprisingly very energetic song number – complete with a backdrop music video entitled Bangkero, Lahat ay Masaya, and a few hints of dance steps. The promotional video highlighted the beauty of Laguna, especially the majestic Pagsanjan falls, and introduced us to the still lively celebrity appeal of the distinguished leader of Pagsanjan.

Miss Girlie is better known as former actress Maita Sanchez, and also the adorable wife of the honorable Laguna Governor, E.R. Ejercito (popularly known to many as Jeorge “Asiong Salonga” Estregan Jr.). One of the great things about celebrities- turned-politicians is that they can really entertain with very little inhibition, and can become ideal ambassadors of “social” good if ever they want to try blogging to promote their advocacy. As per Tony Ahn’s little booklet, they can positively “Blog Like a Star!”

3. Too Much Disclosure Could Be Dangerous

Tony Ahn, one of the most highly sought after social media evangelists in Asia, shared with us a typical blogger event budget and gave us a good idea on how they are actually spent. This probably motivated a very inquisitive and determined participant to squeeze more information out of Tony. Time restraint was the only thing that stopped them from discussing more blogger monetary compensation issues. The great thing about the situation is that Tony had the patience and understanding to politely answer the many “sensitive” questions being thrown at him.

Even in our blogs, we can also encounter similar situations when we give too much controversial or sensitive information. Our readers ask more from us bloggers; to the point that they expect us to always have all the “right” answers to all their questions. Just remember not to make enemies by ignoring or insulting our readers. We have the responsibility to empower the community and not to engage in online “fistfights” with our blog  or social media followers.

I think the only things that were plenty and not a bit dangerous at the event were the rich information given by the good mix of speakers from various fields, the exciting contest giveaways and gifts courtesy of the many sponsors like Chowking, Krispy Kreme, Tiny Buds, Walk This Way Tours, Mary Pauline Salon, Star Salon, Microsoft Philippines, Mer-nels Cake, among many others. A special mention goes to the “gazillion” and sumptuous breads from Gardenia Philippines. Love the muffins!

Oh, yes! There were also several pretty college babes and “feeling” hunks at the event – all fairly excited in trying out blogging for the first time. These youth will probably become the new social media icons in the near future! They just have to strengthen the learning experience that they had at the First Laguna Blogging Summit by staying in school and getting god grades.

4. Revenge is Sweet Especially When “Branding” Hits Fast

Lloyd Luna, the motivational speaker cum blogger, really knows how to tickle the fancy of the crowd. With his non-traditional look, (we normally see speakers as well dressed and highly formal), he was able to get away with bringing the house down by just uttering a few words but with convincingly humorous delivery. The great thing about Lloyd is that he was able to use awkward situations in his favor. The “photographer” scenario with the students was a laugh trip for everyone. He indeed caught everyone’s attention when he got the last laugh after he showed the students he was more than just an ordinary guy, and that’s an amazing feat considering he was the next speaker after Pocholo Gonzales, the voice actor behind many anime or cartoon characters we see on TV.

Pocholo’s talk on personal branding was a tough act to follow (complete with sound effects and various voices reminiscent of the radio dramas during the old days), yet Lloyd undoubtedly still topped the charts because of his unique “brand” of entertainment similar to Pocholo’s unique identity. In fact, he would definitely rank high in my list of motivational speakers. With regards to his expertise in blogging, I have yet to read more of his blogs in order to give a better review. However, with numerous books and speaking engagements under his name, something’s telling me I won’t need much convincing and will soon become an avid follower of his blogs as well.

5. Social Media can Empower our Advocacy

COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez talked about the Impact of Social Media on Voters Education where he emphasized that there is a real need to properly educate the voting public, and social media can help a great deal because of its increasing reach. He cited some examples of advocacy formed thru the power of social media like the #Epalwatch and Anti-Epal movement where the COMELEC had recently formed an alliance with to become their arm in helping them identify the “Epals in the City.”

PR Officer Jayvee Fernandez shared with us several images and stories about his Marine Life advocacy, and nurse Alvin Cloyd Dakis presented his iBlog for Health along with his motivations and frustrations about the Health, while congressional Chief of Staff Wenchie Flores Sabban gave us the political perspective of blogging, and how we can use it to initiate conversations towards political change.

Elizabeth Angsioco, a forefront activist for women’s right, told us that being active in social media alone couldn’t create a complete social change. She said we also need to take our hands off the keyboard and go out into the real world to actually implement the change we are looking for.

Sonnie Santos shares that even though we want to change the world one blog post at a time, our good intentions can be polluted by the obsession to rob elbows with well-known personalities and the extreme desire to become equally famous. It is important to take note that motives can be questioned if we start seeing it as the prime objective and not just the reward.

6. Pay It Forward, Share the Blessings

Jonel Uy, considered as a very prominent blogger whose blogs keep ending up among the top ten of several blog awards, said during the second day of the summit that the participants were very lucky to have the rare opportunity to attend for free an event where plenty of great speakers were willing enough to share their expertise and insights. He said that normally, you would need to pay a considerable amount just to be able to attend similar events. I believe these speakers are actually sharing their blessings to wannabe successful bloggers. They are paying it forward, and we thank them for their generosity.

Among the very long list of speakers were Janette Toral, the social media expert behind all the successful iBlog Philippine Blogging Summit, who gave us practical advice on how to suit up, dodge attacks, and fight back when needed. There was also Mark Acsay III, a SEO Consultant and CIO/Director of an Inbound Marketing and SEO Consulting agency, who shared his mastery of SEO blogging strategies, and Jinkee Umali, founder and publisher of Calamba Online, Live Life Fullest and other successful websites, who discussed the several ways of making an impressive looking website.

Also among the speakers were Engr. Fitz Gerard Villafuerte, Civil Engineer turned entrepreneur, who shared with us the ways to become rich, and Dean Jorge Bocobo, publisher and blogger of the Rizalist Press, who explained the state of education in the Philippines. Juned Sonido also went onstage to explain to us about the Ethics and Etiquette issues involved online, and Jaypee David shared with us an amazing video taken at one of the countries he traveled to and how social media and blogging helped him in his career,  Benjamin During the first day of the summit, Vergel De Dios, the Executive Director of the Philippine Information Agency talked about Knowledge Community and was also there  to  award Grace with an appreciation certificate for her valuable contribution towards spreading the “good news”.  Norito Cabotaje, Regional Director of the Philippine Information Agency, and  Dr. Nestor De Vera, President of the Laguna State Polytechnic University, started the 2nd day of the summit with their Welcome and Keynote addresses respectively.

We thank all of them for making the First Laguna Blogging Summit a great source of new learning and realizations. My apologies to those who I might have missed, as there were really a lot of them I can consider as my “social media heroes.”

7. Laguna Residents Are Very Hospitable

Neil Andrew Nocon, 2nd District Board Member of Laguna, is really an ideal Tourism lead for the province as he was all smiles when greeting the guests and participants of the summit. You can really feel the warm welcome when he introduced himself and handed us his business card. It is a rare sight to see politicians approach you personally and shake your hands except during campaign periods. Positives vibes were felt indeed.

I was also impressed with Grace Bondad-Nicolas, Project Engineer and owner of Andrew Grace Home Builders, the lead organizer of the event, and is a resident of Laguna herself, when she decided to invite over at our hotel the mother and daughter bloggers, Merceditas and Jasmine Cruz who came all the way from Quezon City.

Earlier, the mother and daughter bloggers were interviewed by TV5, and that night they got free hotel accommodations complete with dinner and breakfast courtesy of Grace. Later that afternoon, the daughter also won a prize in the raffle and got a free invite to Janette Toral’s Digital Influencers Marketing Summit.  Talk about a spree of blessings.

Check out also the “cool and colorful” Laguna bus which picked us up from Makati City all the way to Sta. Cruz, Laguna. The driver was so excited to bring us to Laguna on time for the event that he even got caught by traffic enforcers due to over-speeding!

8. The First Laguna Blogging Summit was a Huge Success

There was an estimated 600 participants on the first day, and a whopping 900 during the second day! A huge difference from the expected 300 attendees. It was definitely a successful gathering of blogging and social media enthusiasts.

Indeed, Laguna can now take pride of having its own blogging summit right at the capital of the province. The Laguna government can now add the event alongside its powerful credentials of being “The Silicon Valley of the Philippines” and “The Official Tourist Destination of Miss World-Philippines 2012”, among others.

You’ll be amazed of the many individuals who want to make a difference by generously contributing their time and effort to organize events that contribute to nation building. After all, a nation full of educated and responsible bloggers is a nation on its way to a better and more productive future.  The organizers can now pat each other on the back for a job well done. Congratulations, and see you again on the 2nd Laguna Blogging Summit! #2LaBS.

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