Blogger’s note: In lieu of my attendance at the Philippine Blogging Awards, to express my appreciation
to the organizers, I have written an “acceptance blog post” on the occasion of winning the “Best Sports and Recreation Blog” for 2015 that reflects on my experiences in blogging in the Philippines
When I started blogging in 2007, there was the perception that bloggers are weird. We still are – at least I am (it takes some weirdness to climb 40-50 mountains a year). But what has changed is the fact that today, more people celebrate, and take pride in, this weirdness – that is, the individuality that makes each blog unique. When my teacher-friends tell me that some of their students say they want to be bloggers when they grow up, alongside those who say they want to be doctors or engineers – this tells us that lot has changed.
Blogging has been no less than a revolution. In the past, for your voice to be heard, you have to be published in magazines, newspapers; you have to appear on television, or on the radio. Today, you can make a blog and express your thoughts, share your experiences, in an instant. Ivan Henares, w
ho introduced me to blogging and helped set up my blog, was an early inspiration. One of the first to blog about traveling around the Philippines and appreciating our cultural heritage, he reached a generation of students and young professionals, ushering in a more democratic platform to share travel experiences.
Blogs have also fostered the growth of communities. My blog, Pinoy Mountaineer, started as a sharing of itineraries and hiking experiences, but I have soon acquired some informal functions, such as reporting news and updates from various mountains, serving as a message board for events, providing a venue for people to articulate their views about issues that affect the outdoors. Hiking was too small to have its own TV channel or even a magazine – maybe it is not too small today – but it was big enough to support a blog. This community-building aspect is, I believe, the greatest potential of vlogs.
The Philippine Blogging Awards 2015 is a celebration of this diversitiy, and of the communities that various blogs have helped build. Raissa Robles’s award-winning blog reminds us that even journalists can become bloggers – there is no longer any difference between the virtual and printed forms of expression. Conversely, as a regular contributor to Inquirer’s Opinion page, I must credit my blogging experience for maintaining my writing throughout my medical school years.
But there are also challenges that we bloggers must meet, if we are to maintain our relevance, and the respect that we have somehow gained through the years.
First, we bloggers must strive to preserve the independence that makes our platform revolutionary in the first place. Even when blogging has for some become a profession – or at least a source of income – we must not trade our uniqueness and character of our blogs for material or social gain. For example, I have been asked to post about supplements, but as a medical doctor, doing so would be tantamount to using my medical license for a product I cannot attest to. Just as journalism has a set of ethical principles, bloggers too, must act ethically. But this does not mean turning sponsors away: We can instead critically engage with them, urging them to help us in our advocacies. And we can also choose to partner with causes and products we support. Today I am a proud “endorser” of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Philippines and the Climate Reality Project, both of which tackle issues that are close to my heart.
Second, bloggers must be willing to step up and take leadership in issues affecting the communities they cater to. As Pinoy Mountaineer, I have for the first years of my blog been content with just posting itinearies and sharing my experiences. But as I gained more blog readers, I began to feel the sense of responsbility – to inspire people not just to climb mountains, but to protect them. Fashion bloggers can take the lead in promoting local brands, and of course political bloggers can highlight issues that mainstream media outlets do not pay attention to. This is not always easy: I’m sure I will be “safer” with my readers if I avoid the inconvenient truths. But we must accept the responsbility that comes with the influence we achieve.
Third, we must welcome other blogs in our field. There is no competition, because no two bloggers are the same – my experience of climbing a mountain will be different from another person’s, and we should celebrate this diversity. The last thing we want is bloggers competing with each other in a negative way, dragging the name of blogging itself in the proces.
Finally, we must also go back to the reasons why we blogged in the first place. It must not be tedious. Blogging has been fun, and it should always be fun! A lot of blogs have died a natural death when its authors got burned out. The greatest challenge a blogger faces is continually finding joy and satisfaction in blogging and sharing.
Blogs are the face of a more connected world, and as I blogger I am proud to be part of this frontier. Let us keep expressing ourselves, building communities, inspiring others – one blog post at a time.