Monday, January 31, 2011

Reaction to EON's "White Paper on Branding the Philippines: Championing the Filipino".

Hey EON! How's this for "branding".
It's yours for free.

This reaction to a re-tweeted link by Our Awesome Planet's Anton Diaz has been in draft mode since January 28.  Despite a pressing need to attend to a couple of projects that'll put butter on my pandesal, I'll write out a couple of thoughts which I hope will help people in government and people 'hired' to make money of it get a bead on what really needs to be done.

The re-tweeted link was originally tweeted by Blogwatch's Noemi Lardizabal Dado and it leads to a blog post "White Paper on Branding the Philippines: Championing the Filipino".

The blog post indicated that reactions were being solicited to a "working draft of a white paper resulting from a recently held Forum on Branding the Philippines led by EON The Stakeholders Relations Firm and ECCP and attended by representatives from Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Makati Business Club (MBC), -Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCHAM), American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) ECCP, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industries of the Philippines ( JCCIP), Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CANCHAM), Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), -Sycip, Gorres and Velayo Accounting Firm (SGV), and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office."

My first reaction is that the high priced EON The Stakeholders Relations Firm (in other words, Public Relations company) was basically crowd sourcing inputs for branding ideas.  This is actually, some times, a clever way of tapping the enthusiasm of lots of people online FOR FREE with really no need to give credit.

My second reaction is that it basically says that EON The Stakehgolders Relations Firm managed to wrangle together "representatives" of big name/big deal business groups.

In simpler terms, it's actually a PR for a PR Firm's project saying "Hot dang! We're doing something important. Ug ug!"

Moving on, the "white paper" it released through its own website and through Blogwatch asserts a need to brand the country.  Here is an excerpt from the text version found on the link retweeted by Anton Diaz:
As the world becomes more competitive, people, organizations, companies, and countries become more interconnected than ever. Economies battle to gain a bigger share of investments, tourism, consumers, trade, and power. A country cannot leave its reputation to chance. It must endeavor to develop itself into a country brand. Because when all else is equal, a strong country brand makes the difference.
The Philippines must be able to identify its key competitive advantage and leverage on it. What differentiates it from the rest of the world? How does it want to be known? What does it hope to be associated with? What would make its endeavors recognizable and appreciated?
The answer to these is a positive and compelling brand image for the Philippines, a country brand that works like a magnet which aligns various messages that every city or region sends out into the world (Simon Anholt, 2005). The key is coherence. Messages have to be inter-related, aligned and supportive of the mother brand.
Unfortunately, some recent initiatives of the Philippines in promoting itself for investments or tourism have failed to recognize the critical need for alignment and consistency. Observers remarked how members of Philippine contingent during international conventions or exhibits develop information materials and design booths as if they are from separate countries. At home, no common design element and message is present in government agency websites or in the multitude of brochures were printed about the Philippines.

Now, here's what I know about "branding".

While I was waiting for my son to finish running around with his yaya at SM's The Block, I went inside Fully Booked and looked for a copy of the Social Media Bible.  I didn't find any in the shelf that carried books by Seth Godin and some other guy.  So I turned around and saw on the opposite shelf a series of books on "branding" as well as "brand management" and I read the titles of a couple of these books.  After reading the titles and some of the rave reviews on the dust jacket, I decided that I already knew everything I needed to know about 'branding' and it would be superfluous to actually buy the books.

It's not that I am completely dismissing the importance of branding and brand management, but rather, pointing out that the thriving business of selling people on the necessity of branding as well as so called "new techniques of marketing".

My perspective on marketing is greatly biased towards the idea that it becomes superfluous when you have a product that you can supply consistently at  price, quality, and quantity that people desire.

There was a time when I went crazy over so many purportedly new marketing concepts and then I encountered the reality that much of the BBB or brisk big business in the world benefited little from these marketing concepts.

In the Philippines, for example, I personally know one of two dozen of the country's biggest paper importers. Guess what he thought of marketing or branding when I told him about it?  In not so many words over tea and dumplings, the man said that he doesn't concern himself with marketing since he basically just talks with twenty people who buy all of his goods.  Once in a while he gets a little competition and this is usually when he turns to a number of tactics which have more to do with sourcing supply, financing, and customs brokers.

Marketing, he said pointedly, is a game played by the people who resell his paper in various forms and it is the game of the smaller fish.  It can be a way for the small fish to get bigger, but it ultimately entails so many costs and so many variables -- including the vagaries of human desires -- that make it unwieldy as well as prone to failure.

The better game, he pointed out, was discovering what people "need", securing the supply to the thing that is needed and supplying that "need".  He said that he found it unnecessary to create "need" (a function of marketing) and that discovering "needs" was as cheap as buying a newspaper, then placing a few phone calls (via landline) to a few friends who knew a lot about what he wanted to know.

Now, perhaps what my friend said seems to be so pre-Facebook and Social Media Marketing, but it should lead us to look at a couple of fundamental points that I believe should be addressed first even before we go into the idea of 'branding' the country.

Image from
The venerable Mr. Ben Kritz, whose insights and opinions are better and more thought out than most Filipino columnists, has this to say about the failed branding campaign that was "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" (and because the title says it all, you don't even have to read all one thousand words of it.)

The “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” Embarrassment and Pinoy Culture: A Case of a Product-less Brand
Measures to encourage fundamental cultural change must be developed: ideas that require individual and national self-reliance, accountability, and long-term considerations of actions and consequences – in short, things that advanced societies can do as a matter of course and that primitive societies must learn.
By addressing the fundamental character aspects of culture in this practical way, the more easily-understood symbolic aspects can be addressed more directly. Thus, a tiny tarsier and smiling coconut tree would actually mean something positive, rather than simply being visual cues for the pwede na yan approach – a cultural trait that is probably not particularly helpful in tourism marketing. Culture, the definition of a nation or a people, is essential to society, but cannot be fabricated and only reveals itself in the long-term through results. The results the Philippines have achieved to this point speak for themselves, and speak volumes for the culture. As spectacularly as “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” failed to impress, it is really no better or worse than any other slogan that might replace it – not so long as the slogan is advertising vaporware on a national scale.
Now instead of paying EON for a branding thing-a-magig (which I am sure will be nice and shiny), here are just three things to consider DOING before we get to "branding" the country written by BenignO.
The Philippines' Vital Few initiatives
Population and environmental impact
Every new Filipino person born will require space, food, fuel, and public funds to develop into a productive citizen. He or she will also require parents -- a resource essential to upbringing that is in short supply as well as employment overseas -- and absentee parenting -- is becoming more of a rule than an exception in our capital-deficited society.
We consume and depend on consumption to sustain the economy, yet our ability to produce and create is being atrophied by easy access to imported trinkets, imported food, and even imported capital. Increasing consumption without a commensurate increase in domestic capacity to both produce and create capital is a slow and imperceptible gradual imprisonment within a complex of dependency and a progressive erosion of self-sufficiency, independence, and reduction of ability to be on top of our future.
Poverty in light of this barreling down the slippery slope of wanton reproduction, consumption, and mounting neediness is therefore a simple issue that can be summed up in one little sentence fragment:
Law and order
Criminal elements can smell a weak and inept law enforcement capability and will. Gross loss of confidence in the police, perception of weakness, in-fighting, and lack of sense of purpose within the Government, and a President who seems more interested in sowing his oats than running the country, is emboldening criminals.
As such, we can now see the ripples of the degeneracy of our politics in the marked and renewed brazenness of elements engaged in banditry and thievery. All seemed to have come in the wake of the last six months' spectacular unravelling of the quality of the police, the impotence of the justice system, and the continued abuse of the powers of the Executive branch to grant clemency or amnesty for political ends.
Constitutional Reform
The overarching mission in the Philippines (as it has been for the last 50 years) is invigoration of the economy and reduction of poverty. Constitutional reform (as it is being pursued in its renewed form today) is a component initiative of that mission. The context therefore remains the mission and the component initiatives (one of which is Constitutional Reform) should be defined within that context.
The only thing I would like to add to these three initiatives is a stronger focus on Disaster Planning, Prevention, and Mitigation.

In conclusion, by getting our acts together first, it will be easier to sell our country without having to spend so much on brand promotion that inevitably may just turn into so much fairy-dust once the shit-hits-the-fan (another bombing, another hostage crisis involving foreigners, another massacre, another natural disaster, another slew of foreign investments deterred by 'protectionist' policies, etcetera).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Helping end Philippine hunger: Red Cross and the Food Donation Act

The Food Donation Act was one of the bills that I worked on as part of Senator Richard Gordon's staff. My work back then was to attend the hearings and write an endless series of press releases about it along with other writers.  The bill was actually filed at a time around 2009 when the country was faced with what was called a food shortage and just after another series of devastating typhoons visited the country.

I don't even want to recount the number of hours it took to write news release after news release and finding out the next day that not a single word of it had been printed.  

And even as I try to remember, my thoughts wander about thinking of how Gordon, members of his legislative staff, the researchers, political liaisons, supporters, and other people kept on pushing for the bill when no one really cared.

I'm just happy that it is finally being implemented.

Here's some information about it from a note I was tagged in on Facebook:
Yesterday (January 25), the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), headed by Chairman and CEO Richard J. Gordon, formally initiated its food donation drive in accordance with the implementation of R.A. 9803, or better known as the Food Donation Act of 2009—a law which Gordon authored during his time in the Senate. 
Together with the PRC Community Health and Nursing and Livelihood teams, Gordon personally went to three different restaurants—Eng Bee Tin in Ongpin, Felix in Makati, and a fine dining restaurant in Manila which prefers to be unnamed—to collect essentially wholesome food items, which they later on distributed, through PRC's "Hot Meals on Wheels," to several depressed areas here in Metro Manila.
In totality, more than a hundred hunger-stricken persons were served through this activity, particularly in the areas of Escolta, Manila, Tondo, Manila, and J.P. Rizal St., Makati City. And among the meals served were: Adobo Fried Rice with Chicken Bits, Tinola, Soup with Malunggay Leaves, Arrozcaldo, Pancit, and few assorted snacks.
In line with the said occasion, PRC was able to immerse itself to one particular depressed area in Tondo; and there the team was able to identify 6 of the poorest families in the site—including one family living under a filthy bridge, and one family living by the river banks.
Given the said vulnerable families' rather formidable predicament, PRC Project Management Office's Assistant Project Manager, Dr. Lydia Pedernal herself offered to help them by taking them in PRC's proposed livelihood program.
The said livelihood program will basically be based in PRC's property in Marikina City, where prospected beneficiaries will temporarily reside up until the end of the training program. Afterwards, PRC aims to lend the graduates of this program a starting capital, to once and for all jumpstart their businesses and put their newly-acquired knowledge into good use.
"As I said before, we are not fostering dependence here," said Gordon as a follow up statement regarding the livelihood program discussed by Pedernal.
He added, "So, in order to help our countrymen who are suffering hunger, we are also incorporating livelihood sessions that would not only serve as a chance for them to live a better life, but also as a venue for them to uplift their human dignity as citizens of this country."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What the ordinary Filipino citizen can do in case of an accident or disaster

((((( LEARN FIRST AID.  )))))

First off.  I am quite proud of my two former officemates at RPN 9 who helped bring people from the bus bombing site in EDSA.  

Abet Sy, Roel and their reporter did the right thing when they brought victims to the nearest hospital.

Not everyone can box like Pacquiao or sing like Charice Pempengco, but everyone can have the heart and the willingness to help other people who are in trouble.

A lot of people are fearful right now and as usual, the government is getting a lot of flak for having allowed such an atrocity to happen.  People are blaming the police, cabinet officials, the President, and even the MMDA.

Guess what?  Fixing the blame isn't fixing the problem.

Given the way things are at present, we have to realize that we are all basically on our own and the sooner we accept this as a fact, the faster we will be able to find and apply solutions that will help us all get through our day safely.

And here are a number of things we ought to consider:

1. Don't be a victim.  Always take the necessary precautions and always be on the look out for danger.

2. Get some emergency training and always be prepared to use that training.  Know what to do in case of a fire, earthquake, flood or an explosion. Know how to apply first aid in as many situations as possible and if possible, CPR.

3. Be ready to call people who can help.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Frothing in the mouth won't help you change the country

One ignores a rabid dog at his or her own risk.

The advise, which I am sure is a pretty wise one from someone who was actually bitten by a rabid dog, is to stay the hell away from one.

And the same advise may apply to people who behave the same way.

Calling other people ignorant, stupid, idiotic, insane, and other choice words of the moment only tends to keep other people from understanding what you are trying to say.

Just the mere act of pointing out another person's error is can lead to wounded feelings, what more if you call a person an idiot, ignorant, stupid...  And if they really are idiotic, ignorant, and stupid, that's ought to give you more reason to be gentle with the way you reveal their follies and advise them on how to correct their mistakes.

Those who've read some of my blog posts may point out that I've been nasty, condescending, snarky, and wrote like a rabid dog in my attempts to promote one point of view or another.

The thing is, I realize that they may be right and this is me saying that I'll try to change.  Hopefully, this change will make me more effective in being of some help to people who want to change this country.

What this country needs is not just a change OF men,
but a change IN men.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Big Bad Blogger for sale: Willing to write for food, gadgets, and other freebies.

There was a time when I loved getting the Sunday Inquirer Magazine  (SIM) and that was way back when it was an engrossing read.

That was about a decade ago.

On most Sunday afternoons, the SIM usually gets chucked into the wastebasket.

However, yesterday's SIM was different because it was hard to ignore.

I became immediately aware of just how interesting it was when my wife practically shoved it in my face and said, "Hey! Its all about bloggers and blogging.  Margaux Salcedo has an article about some blogger who asks for money to write good reviews."

And right there and then, I had a feeling that Ousted President Joseph Estrada's 2010 Presidential Campaign spokeswoman, had perhaps single handedly boosted the online readership of Sunday Inquirer Magazine with her article.

Congratulations Ms. Salcedo! It seems you're the new Tim Yap and Yolly Ong.  Or maybe not.

"Please don't give blogging a bad name" seemingly presented itself as a cautionary tale about unscrupulous Public Relations firms and an unnamed blogger who was in their keep.

Here's an excerpt from Margaux' article:
The Firm called Georgia again. “Have you seen Big Bad Blogger’s post?” they asked. Of course she had. “He works with us. We have an arrangement with him. We can make sure that more bloggers write about your restaurant the same way if you hire us.”
How much? Georgia asked. The price demanded: P120,000 a month for a year. “What?!” Georgia thought. “These guys are crazy.” And again she gently declined. They lowered the offer to P80,000. (That’s P80,000 per month x 12 months or P960,000; almost a million bucks.) Georgia still declined.
Cut to a year later when Georgia opened another restaurant. Big Bad Blogger visits. Again, he smiled, ate like a regular blogger, took pictures with his ginormous SLR, and paid for his meal. This time, though, he wrote a scathing review. A few days after that, The Firm called Georgia again. “Have you seen Big Bad Blogger’s post?” they asked. Of course she had. “He works with us. We can make sure he retracts his comments and clarifies that your restaurant is not bad but really good after all.” For the same price.

Now, Ms. Salcedo has some reason to give out cautionary tales about people who hire themselves out to publish good or bad articles.  One reason may be that she is in a visible part of PR that deals with the public and the press.  Another reason, perhaps, is this article which I found in Ellen Tordesilla's blog.

Vicious Erap rumor
There are vicious email and text messages being passed around about former President Joseph Estrada alleged sexual relationship with his spokesperson, Margaux Salcedo.
It’s not true.
The ugly message was sent to me by a certain “Natividad Balete”. The blog which was opened only less than two weeks ago is titled “Filipina ako so what.”
The writer says he was formerly an Erap fan but is disgusted by what the former president did to his wife, Dr. Loi Estrada. The story is that Loi caught Erap in a compromising situation with his young and pretty spokesperson. It even alleges that Margaux is pregnant and that, just like with other Erap mistresses, he is building her a house.
The writer says that according to the Estrada household help, Loi went to the United States in a huff and when she came back, she did not stay in the Estrada house in Polk street. She is reportedly staying with her daughter, Jackie Lopez.
San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito, who was the one who recommended Margaux for the position as Estrada spokesperson, belies the rumor. “Kawawa naman ang bata,” he says of the young, aspiring lawyer who was formerly “Flash Report” anchor in GMA-7.
JV said he knew of Margaux during the 2007 mid-term election because she was the candidate of Partido ng Masa for Congress in Mindoro. When she didn’t make it, she suggested her to his father to replace Rufus Rodriguez, who won as representative of the second district of Cagayan de Oro.
“She is hardworking and a loyal PMP member,” JV said.

Of course, writing about her own experience with a virtually anonymous blogger would have been self serving and was actually a good idea that she instead wrote about someone else's experience.

I mean, she couldn't be accused of bias as far as her article was concerned.  She was talking about someone else's negative experience with a PR Firm and a blogger. Right? @-(

Anyway, her article sparked a conversation on twitter and it went on till the wee hours of morning.  

Some were obviously offended by the piece. There was even one tweet that seemed to suggest that a war between bloggers and journalists was brewing -- but I just found that a bit too melodramatic, if not improbable.

The more reasonable and thoughtful bloggers urged Ms. Salcedo to name who the Big Bad Blogger was.  I for one tweeted that her not naming who the Big Bad Blogger  basically makes everyone with a blog a suspect and then I remembered... I didn't regularly review restaurants.

Well, so, it's not everyone with a blog.

I write mostly about politics and government.  I have one article about Sabroso Lechon and I am pretty sure Charlie Gaw (the owner) didn't give me anything to write a favorable review about it.  (And I still recommend that you try his lechon because it is simply nyum-nyum-nyum.)

The thing is, for a while, bloggers have been self-professed dispensers of more credible articles on just about anything.  Purportedly because, as some claim, the articles are written by people who don't have any agenda other than just honestly telling other people about their experiences in the hopes that it would be helpful.

Of course, even in the US, this self-professed altruism has been revealed to be somewhat of a myth and at the core of the evolving dogma of social media marketing is the idea that "self promotion as yet another NEW MORE EFFECTIVE way to market stuff."

This has led people in the US to compel bloggers to disclose if they are receiving any remuneration for the reviews they come out with.  Apparently, this would prevent their readers from being misled.

The thread of this particular discussion on blogger disclosure goes back to about two years and goes into a lot of ethical issues.

But really, compared to what was being suggested in the article of Ms. Salcedo, blogger disclosure has a more decent atmosphere around it.

What Ms. Salcedo was actually describing was the PR INFILTRATED NEWS MEDIA VERSION of the protection racket.  

Among street gangs, the racket is played out by offering a business owner protection from other gangs who may rob them or bust up their establishment.  If the business owner refuses to sign up for protection, their establishment gets robbed or busted up -- by the same gang that offered them protection.

The PR INFILTRATED NEWS MEDIA VERSION of the protection racket involves approaching the prospect with an offer of protection and even promotion in the form of a rave review. If the prospect turns down the proposal, the prospect gets roughed up with a negative review.

Having been in the media herself for quite some time, having been a candidate herself, and having been a Spokesperson in a campaign, I guess she'd be quite familiar with this racket.  Just considering how Erap himself, being a former movie star and a patron of some entertainment reporters, one would also have surmised that even if Ms. Salcedo didn't know about the racket -- she would eventually encounter it.  

Her friend, whom she identifies as the source of her story, may also be similarly aware or conditioned by familiarity with the NEWS MEDIA PROTECTION RACKET.

The point is, sometimes one comes up with descriptions of new experiences by using terms associated with  past experiences that may be a familiar to a large number of people.  This is perhaps why a person seeing a Tarsier for the first time may describe it like a squirrel with huge eyes -- assuming that the person comes from a country where squirrels are a familiar sight.

So, what I am saying is that perhaps being steeped in the milieu where one encounters the 'NEWS MEDIA PROTECTION RACKET', Ms. Salcedo and her friend may have described it as such.

I am not saying that this IS the case, I'm just suggesting that people can misconstrue how a blog or blogger becomes influential enough to employed in such a racket.

A blogger isn't influential by himself or by virtue of his blog alone.  

Unless you are talking about an established authority or celebrity, most people wouldn't give a rats ass about who the blogger is and most bloggers aren't established authorities or celebrities.  Moreover, unless you are talking about an information or news website that gets millions of visitors or pageviews a day, a blog post from an unknown blogger may be easily disregarded or ignored by readers who are accustomed to articles found in news or information websites.

Without getting into the nitty gritty of how a blog become influential, let me just point out that it involves a continuous process of vetting and endorsement by ordinary people who come across their blog and authorities or celebrities who are recognized for their authority on relevant subject matters.  

The quality and substance of a blogger's blog would be of little value if it can't be discovered either through Google search or referral links spread through social networking sites.

Here's the thing about Ms. Salcedo's story and about bloggers:  If Big Bad Blogger did write a good review first and then followed it up with a bad review, wouldn't this sudden reversal have already tipped his readers that he was inconsistent in the least and therefore not a very reliable reviewer?  If he was in the employ or strongly influenced by the PR firm as claimed, wouldn't it be highly probable that the Big Bad Blogger had done this racket several times in the past?  If so, wouldn't the Big Bad Blogger have gained a bad reputation and thereby lose his following's trust, and with that, his influence?

Bloggers aren't like columnists, who inspite of already being proven and widely acclaimed to be either a sycophant or extortionist with by-line, continue on being published.

Bloggers lose their readers and their following quite easily when they're exposed for misleading their readers.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Constitutional Reform is misleading

I am not an authority on Philippine Constitutions, but as I see it, a shift from a Presidential form of government to a Parliamentary form of government might entail changes or the total scrapping of 9 out of 20 articles of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Article V: Suffrage
Article VI: Legislative
Article VII: Executive Department
Article VIII: Judiciary
Article IX: Constitutional Commissions
Article X: Local Government
Article XI: Accountability of Public Officers
Article XVII: Amendments or Revisions
When talking about a shift to a parliamentary form of government, I think one might actually mean coming up with a constitution that is vastly different from the one we have presently.

Can you imagine politicians (and they will be all mostly politicians) carrying on in either a Constitutional Convention or Constituent Assembly in a bid to basically tear down the structures from which they derive their power and influence?  

Can there be so many Filipino politicians who are presently thinking of nothing but the common good?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

4 out of 11 people are afflicted with "head-up-the-ass syndrome"

Millions of people are afflicted with "head up the ass" syndrome.  The victims of this disease suffer from the loss of sight, hearing, the sense of smell, and the sense of taste.

Badgering people

It doesn't work.  And even if does succeed in getting people to do what you want them to do, you can expect them to screw things up for you just to prove you were wrong.

During the hot and heavy days of campaigning in 2010, I was relentless in badgering people to vote for my candidate and it failed miserably.

The people who voted for him were going to vote for him anyway.

But it was the larger number of people whom I called stupid, ignorant, and who really didn't care too much that voted for the obvious choice.

I think I failed my countrymen because of my fearful clinging to my mastery of badgering.

But here is what works: Pandering.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sen. Lapid wants foreign language signboards etc to carry translations in Tagalog

Photo from

Section 1 of the proposed piece of legislation reads:
SECTION  1.  The  Local  Government  Code  of  the  Philippines,  Book  III,  Title  2, Chapter  III, Article 3,  Section 447(a)(3)(iv)  is  hereby amended to read  as follows: 
"Section  447(a)(3)(iv). Regulate the display of and  fix  the  license  fees  for signs, signboards,  or  billboards  at  the  place  or  places  where  the  profession  or  business advertised  thereby  is,  in whole or in  part,  conducted. SAID SIGNS, SIGNBOARDS, OR BILLBOARDS SHALL BE WRITTEN  IN  FILIPINO OR ENGLISH, OR,  IF WRITTEN  IN A  FOREIGN  LANGUAGE  OTHER  THAN  ENGLISH,  SHALL  BEAR CORRESPONDING FILIPINO OR ENGLISH TRANSLATION"; 

In the Explanatory Note of this 3 page bill, Lapid asserts:
It should  be  remembered  that,  although  these  restaurants and  shops are meant mainly to  provide for  the  basic  necessities  of  these  foreigners,  It  is  deemed  irreverent  that we  Filipinos  are  left  to  wonder what  these  signages mean  and  what  these  businesses  are  for.  I n effect,  we  are  being  alienated  in  our very own  country,  and we  are  left to  figure out for ourselves what these establishments are.
I'll make a guess here, but I think he is referring to the proliferation of signboards and billboards in Korean, Chinese, Japanese and  perhaps even Middle Eastern language characters.

And it's not really a bad idea, really.  Certainly, it'll be a boon to the billion peso billboard industry and makers of various types of signboards -- just imagine how many establishments will have to change their signboards.

But then again, does this even address an issue of true national importance?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Killing a member of print or broadcast media is murder... Tadaaah! -- Love Jinggoy

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago delivers a backhanded compliment 
on Sen. Jinggoy Estrada's bill and the Filipino twitterverse prattles about it.

Photo from
Senate reporters love Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, she's a good source of scrumptious sound-bytes and quotable quotes.  And last night, she became the talk of the Filipino twitterdom and this was mainly because of her comment on Senate Bill 455 which was introduced by Senator Jinggoy Estrada.

"There is no reason why only members of the broadcast and print media should be included in the proposed law," Santiago said. "Due regard must also be given to practitioners of the 'digital media,' or those whose mode of communication is the internet and mobile phones."
"Further, with the popularity of blogs and video-sharing websites such as YouTube, there are now a lot of people who regularly post sensitive political commentaries online, with content similar to those traditionally published in newspapers or broadcasted over the television. Even though they are not traditionally referred to as members of the media, they may actually be exposed to the same dangers encountered by institutional media practitioners," Santiago explained.
Santiago cited as an example the case of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who was reportedly subjected to harassment and threats after his website published sensitive and confidential information, including hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables. 
Now, I don't know if the punchline in the both the bill filed and statement Sen. Santiago escaped people, but we may all have been victims of a very dry, very subtle humor.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

O Inday!

...So Inday Espina Varona tells me that she wants to meet up for coffee last week...

Coffee with the head of "Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo", former Chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Editor In Chief of the Philippine Graphic, founder of Dateline Philippines, and I'd assume other positions in other prestigious publications.

I have to admit, I was bowled over and was excited to meet her.

On Facebook and Twitter, she usually shares a lot of very interesting articles and the humor that comes through from her posts/status updates is something that I look forward to.  In some ways, she reminds me of a former boss -- Jane Subang -- who's also Waray and whose humor never fails to crack me up.

And humor, something which defines our humanity in a Star Trek sort of way, is a gift considering what Inday has gone through and come out of with a smile on her face.

That humor, I think, makes it easy for her to tolerate the more passionate (frothing in the mouth) agenda driven people on the internet.

I've been down that road before and I know just how painful the drawbacks can be -- especially if you're using your real name.

Anyway, the actual conversation with Inday ranged from life on FB and Twitter as well as BMPM and how it functions as the larger community of ABS-CBN News.

We talked about the weird weather around the world and in the Philippines --- flooding in Palawan!?!

Anyway, I guess the conversation on Twitter and FB will be more interesting after this.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Bald Truth about Pnoy's Porsche and the non-urgency of Constitutional Reform

(By the way, is Memorandum Circular 9 still in effect? 
It prohibits gov't officials from purchasing luxury vehicles. Just wondering.)

This post is really about the 
need to press for a faster, more responsive 
system of government -- just like a Porsche.
 Please read the following articles which 
discusses the merits of Constitutional Reform:






Some claim that the car that a man drives gives an insight into their character, perhaps just as much as who they hang out with and where they hang out.

At least in novels, the mode of transport that a character uses becomes somewhat of a device to describe their social status, the state of their mind, and other things that may become relevant to the story.  

Detectives are often described as owning old cars, CIA and Military Intelligence types use SUVs, very wealthy use limousines, and young, virile protagonists are sometimes depicted as driving luxury sports cars.  

Usually, when there is incongruence or inconsistency between the man and the car, it is a tip off that the character is in  engaged in some manner of activity which makes it necessary for the character to hide their real character.  Hence, we can have a tough looking man driving a sports car that can later be revealed to be a car thief or a hired assassin using a stolen car.  Or we can have a middle aged man driving a vintage sports car that he admired in his youth.

More often than not, a middle age man in a sports car has been a popular image describing an old man's attempt to recapture his youth or project virility.

Here's an article that suggests that CBC News that suggests a direct relations between the kind of car that a man drives and its effect of testosterone levels -- the male macho hormone.
Researchers at Concordia University's John Molson School of Business in Montreal took 39 willing young men and let them take a cruise in a $150,000 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet.
The men were then asked to drive a 16-year-old Toyota Camry.
They drove each vehicle once on a busy street where they would be seen by women, and then again on a quiet road.
After one hour, the men's saliva was tested for testosterone.
The researchers found that in the sedan, the men's hormone levels remained low, but in the sports car, testosterone levels stayed high — with or without an audience.
"In other words, just put a guy in a Porsche, and his testosterone levels shoot up, whether people watch or not," said marketing professor Gad Saad, the study's lead researcher.
Saad said the study is evidence of "sexual signalling," similar to animals in the wild, where males try to prove to females they're the best breeding stock.Marketing professor Gad Saad says driving a Porsche is the human equivalent of the peacock's feathers. (CBC)
"It's literally the peacock's tail. It's the human version," said Saad.
Read more:

In an E-Zine article by M. Maxx, another description is made between cars and the character of the car owner:
In fact nowadays what you drive adds more to your reputation than what you wear. Studies have shown than rides reflect more of the personality of the person than clothes. Cars have ceased becoming tools and have transcended into the realm of lifestyle.
Playboys want fast looking coupes while daddies are opting to get minivans. Buicks are said to cater to the less internet savvy drivers compared to Honda which has an overwhelmingly digital age buyer group.
This trend even goes to driving tendencies. Sports cars owners tend to be a little less patient on the stop light than station wagon drivers. The gigantic proportions of some SUVs tend to make their owners bully smaller sized vehicles in rush hour traffic.
Now, President Noynoy Aquino's purchase of a third hand Porsche comes at a time when, just the other day,  Retired Chief Justice Reynato S. Corono delivered a speech at the UP College of Law entitled "The need to change the 1987 Constitution". (I advise you to click HERE to read the entire speech.)

One passage in particular, perhaps, speaks directly to President Noynoy Aquino and in a very oblique way comments on his choice of car.  This passage is actually one of several points enumerated by CJ Corona as a way to describe why it is necessary to change the constitution:
Third. The Presidential system of government has resulted in gridlock especially when the leaderships of the Executive and legislative departments belong to different political parties. These gridlocks usually prejudice the common good and result in bad governance.
We saw these gridlocks in the past when executive officials refused to obey the summons of Congress exercising its power of investigation in aid of legislation. These refusals shrunk the right of Congress in crafting laws, especially anti-corruption laws.  These gridlocks will always stop the wheels of government from working and will not bring about a government that ought to work together for the people.  Again, there is need to amend the Constitution to delineate more clearly the demarcation line between executive privilege and the power of the Congress to investigate in aid of legislation and avoid abuse in the use of the executive privilege and equally  avoid the misuse the power to investigate.  Will the adoption of a parliamentary form of government eliminate these gridlocks in a presidential system of government?  Will it result in a more responsive government because the Parliament can be dissolved whenever the ruling party fails the people?  Will it eliminate the threats of coup d’├ętat which are destabilizing to democracy? It is time to audit the merit of all of these arguments.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, GRIDLOCK is a type of traffic situation where in all streets are jammed or locked in traffic.

Now, here's my point: Of what use is a fast car if you are in a literal GRIDLOCK?

Of course, if you are the President of the Philippines, the highest office of the land affords its occupant with a number of privileges which includes having the MMDA in coordination with the PSG ensure that the road  he is travelling on is relatively free of traffic.

For the President, as a person, there can be no literal gridlock -- at least, in theory.  The rest of us have to wade through traffic and sit through GRIDLOCKS.

What is more confounding, at this point, is that as the highest leader of the land, his priorities seem skewed.

During the days of fast and furious campaigning, President Noynoy Aquino promised to deliver changes in government that would lead to the end of poverty and corruption.  However, the changes are still forthcoming and as can be expected, there is hardly any evidence of it.  

A staunch ally of President Noynoy whom I once worked for when he was in the Department of Trade and Industry pointed to the incrementalist nature of the Filipino culture and their government.

Mar Roxas, in his speech on incrementalism, pointed out a number of occurrences that described just how slow the country's government is when it comes to responding to a need for change.

Roxas made an example of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis where in the economies of Thailand and other Asian countries rapidly went south while the Philippines -- apparently not as affected as the others -- chugged along.  A few years later, Thailand and other economies that too the hardest hits, rebounded at a staggering pace -- while the Philippines continued to chug along.

The lesson, he said, was that the Philippines (its government and its economy) is more like a 20 year old jeep that chugs along at a slow pace and is stable in the sense that it doesn't experience sudden stops or rapid acceleration.

And in this speech, oddly enough, was the first time that I heard someone use GRIDLOCK to describe the situation between the Executive and Legislative branches of government. 

In that speech, which he delivered as a member of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's cabinet, he underscored a pressing need to address the government gridlock through CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE.

I lost respect for him when he shouting PUTANG INA NI GLORIA in AYALA to voice his opposition to CHA-CHA.  Perhaps, if his voice pipes up again on CHA-CHA or Constitutional Reform and stands up for it without vacillating, oscillating, or in other words waivering -- he'll be in a better position to get votes in 2013.

To wrap it up, let me point to a news item on the Philippine Daily Inquirer which is apparently President Noynoy's response to CJ Corona.

The title of the article is "Noynoy: Too busy for Cha-cha":
Speaking to reporters after attending a mass oath-taking of local officials at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, President Aquino made it clear that CHa-cha was not his priority right now.
"We had promised to study that (Cha-cha)," the President said of the Charter change initiative, and that was the only reference he made of it all throughout the interview, as he concentrated more on saying what his priorities were.
The President cited the need to address the floods and landslides that hit many parts of the country since last week, as he pointed out that he would fly today to Bicol, Southern Leyte, and the Caraga Region.
By this rather flimsy reasoning, President Noynoy seems to be saying that Constitutional Reform is of a lower priority than natural disasters -- in a country visited by at least 20 typhoons a year, that may mean Constitutional reform will have to take a back seat until there is actually a year when there are no typhoons.

Which perhaps means, in the forked tongued linggo of most politicians, I'll consider it when it I'm pretty sure I'll get pogi points for it. 

The thing is, the debate on Charter Change has been going for quite sometime and some even point at the fact that movements to change the constitution started just a few years after it was ratified.

However, the first instance that I am sure I heard of a need to reform the constitution was during President Ramos:
During his final years in office, Ramos tried to amend the country's 1987 constitution; a process popularly known to many Filipinos as Charter Change or the so-called "Cha-Cha". Widespread protests led by Corazon Aquino and the Catholic Church stopped him from pushing through with the plan. Political analysts were divided as to whether Ramos really wanted to use Cha-Cha to extend his presidency or only to imbalance his opponents, as the next presidential election neared.[11] Ocol testified before a Senate blue ribbon committee that people in the former Clark Air Base during the Centennial Expo preparations desperately tried to produce all ways and money to prevent Estrada from winning in the coming May 1998 elections.
The next time I heard it was during the last few years of the Arroyo Administration and eerily, the same arguments were brought up.

And comically, there are people who are still against Charter Change and they are now saying that it may PAVE THE WAY FOR GLORIA ARROYO'S RETURN.

Ah, come on! Really?

Neal Cruz in his column says that he agrees with President Noynoy Aquino's statement that Charter Change is not an urgent need.

But here's the flaw in Mr. Cruz' logic.

The best time to discuss Charter Change is during a time WHEN IT IS NOT URGENT, when there is no source of duress that can be brought to bear upon the people and when people can deliberate on the pure merits or demerits of whatever change is proposed dispassionately but with an eye on determining how we will as a nation meet the future.

Now is the perfect time to discuss Charter Change, when congressmen and senators have just received their mandate -- with their minds unbothered by a need to campaign in a coming election.

Going back to Pnoy's Porsche....

It would be a sad image indeed to see Pnoy speeding by on a Porsche as his country's government and economy sputters along like a rotten old jeepney.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dear Blogger: Focus on Reading, Thinking, and Writing (Part Two)


This post is dedicated to my good friend, @scribblerjack who writes
Whose thoughts are about beer.

The image of an old man with a long grey beard on top of a mountain sitting in a lotus position has become somewhat of a popular cartoon depiction of someone deep in thought.  Equally, it could be someone leaping out of a bathtub shouting "Eureka!" or that exquisite marble statue, "The Thinker".

There are all sorts of phrases associated with thinking too, such as, think before you act or think twice or gee d'ya think?

But, as far as blogging is concerned, the sort of thinking that I like finding is called "Critical Thinking".

There are a lot of websites that appear when you search for a definitive guide to critical thinking and I think they are all good.

But, just to give you the basic idea of what critical thinking is about, let's just refer to an entry in Wikipedia:
Critical thinking can occur whenever one judges, decides, or solves a problem; in general, whenever one must figure out what to believe or what to do, and do so in a reasonable and reflective way. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening can all be done critically or uncritically. Critical thinking is crucial to becoming a close reader and a substantive write.
And this is another definition from  the SLA 2009 Annual Meeting where Critical Thinking is discussed.
Critical Thinking: formal definition “ the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or  communication, as a guide to belief and action.”
Now, on the subject of critical thinking, it is fairly easy to jump into the deep end of what it is about and find yourself neck deep in theories that can even go into how it is that people think.

But just for this blog entry, I think this simple critical thinking process should suffice:
Step 1: Identify the problem, the relevant information, and all uncertainties about the problem. This includes awareness that there is more than one correct solution. (low cognitive complexity)
Step 2: Explore interpretations and connections. This includes recognize one's own bias, articulating the reasoning associated with alternative points of view, and organizing information in meaningful ways. (moderate cognitive complexity)
Step 3: Prioritize alternatives and communicate conclusions. This includes thorough analysis, developing the guidelines used for prioritizing factors, and defending the solution option chosen. (high cognitive complexity)
Step 4: Integrate, monitor, and refine strategies for re-addressing the problem. This includes acknowledging limitations of chosen solution and developing an ongoing process for generating and using new information. (highest cognitive complexity) 
The reason why I am proposing that people with blogs engage in critical thinking before they write anything at all is this: There are a lot of people with blogs that do nothing more than parrot stuff that they've read or come across in the internet without considering its veracity or real value.

Take the case of Tim Yap's tweet about the winner of the 741 million grand lotto jackpot.  He claims to have found a tweet saying that a reporter won the lotto and then he claims to have re-tweeted it.

He didn't consider a number of facts that tend to make it improbable for a lotto winner to divulge his identity.

1. The PCSO (which administers the Lotto) does not give out the identity of the winner
2. The winner of the lotto will most likely fear for his or her security, being endowed with such a huge winning
3. The source of the information, which in this case is second hand.  We don't know what Tim Yap's reasons are for believing that this person's tweet is true.

Perhaps, at the instance that he became aware of the tweet supposedly divulging the name, he could considered the following problems:

1. Is this true?
2. If this is true, should I re-tweet it even if I don't know if it is true? Whether true or untrue, would it do harm or good to the person being claimed as the winner of the grand lotto jackpot?

Critical thinking can help a lot when it comes to deciding what opinion to adopt and what course of action to take, particularly when it is applied to subjects which requires a decision.

It can also be applied to reviews of gadgets, places, restaurants, bars, etceteras and be used to come up with articles that'll help the reader decide on what to buy, where to go, what to eat.

In fact, when it comes to it, critical thinking may enable you to gain credibility.

Dear Blogger: Focus on Reading, Thinking, and Writing (Part One)


When I was still an Associate Producer/Scriptwriter at the Presidential Broadcast Staff - Radio Television Malacanang, I had a boss named Alex F. Ontong (RIP).

Apart from being a very good Tong-its player, he was among the best professional writers that I have ever come to work in close contact with.

Alex, or AFO as we called him, was very generous with advice when it came to writing and I got a lot of it over the three or four years that I worked with him in Malacanang.

Of the hundreds of things he taught be about good writing, the most basic and most helpful one was that in order to write well, you had to read well.

As soon as I heard him say that I almost saw AFO transform into Pat Morita (which was such a bummer because I didn't see myself transform into Ralph Macchio).  And in his Pat Morita state, he was teaching me Karate-do by making me wax his car.

Well anyway, the lesson was pretty straightforward: In order to become a good writer, you have to be know a lot about whatever it is you are trying to write.

Reading can give you leads to what is new and exciting, therefore interesting.

Reading also allows you to acquire facility with the language you are writing in, allowing you to become familiar enough with writing styles so that you can mimic it or re-work the writing style to make it your own.

Reading is part of the process of acquiring expertise in any subject or field of knowledge and expertise, above all, is what you should really aspire for as a writer.

Going back to what AFO said about reading being the foundation of good writing, he also pointed out that while most people think that reading is a passive exercise (like being a sponge soaking up water), it really isn't.  

It is an active process that may involve not just reading one article but several articles in order to get a better  understanding of the context in which that one article was written in.

At a basic level of reading, you understand what words, sentences, and paragraphs.  On a higher level of reading you begin to see the structure of the entire article and in some cases, how the article is structured works on the level of enhancing the reading experience while at the same time conveys additional meaning.  On an even higher level of reading, you begin to see how one written work relates to other written works and how the article you are reading matters in this universe of written works.

Moreover, I think more people put a premium, or at least should put a premium, on writing that is based on their reading of first hand documents or source documents.

I've seen people rant about the RH Bill or the FOIA Bill and in their writing I sometimes get a sense that they haven't actually read the bill or even if they did, it doesn't seem that they really understood what they read.  Ditto for controversial court decisions, official government documents on transactions, contracts, terms of reference, diplomatic communiques, international trade agreements, etcetera, etcetera...

As of this writing, there are people who are ranting about the proposal to put a cap on internet connection speeds and it makes me wonder, what they are basing their opinions on. (If I can muster enough energy, I'll write about this in the coming days.)

On the flipside of this, I've seen a few (a very few) number of bloggers who write about stuff that is strictly OFF LINE and it amazes the hell out of me.  To me, someone writing about an OFFLINE document or even an online source document that needs expertise to be understandable, deserves acclaim.

Take for example someone who quotes extensively from historical documents written in Spanish during the 1800's as a way of either explaining or pointing to the significance of something in the present.  Or someone who actually pores through an unpopular court decision and finds sections in it that either neutralizes the controversy or  proves its detractors right.

Even better, take for example the person who upon reading everything that has been written on a particular subject, comes up a completely new but very relevant idea.  

Of course, most bloggers will not be able do this everyday or every week, but those who are able to do so gain a better reputation than those who do not. (At least, in my mind.)

Dear Blogger: Forget SEO. (Introduction)

Hello there, blogger!

Before everything, I'd like you to know that I am not writing this to sell myself as some kind of blogging or social media guru.  I am not and will never claim to be one -- at least for now and the foreseeable future.

At times when I am asked what my expertise is, I always say that I am a writer -- although I really do more than just write.

Last night, I saw a fellow blogger give out advice to other bloggers about blogging and I reacted by posting my own advice.  It sort of ended up as a free exchange of ideas about how to do better blogging.

My advice for better blogging which I tweeted out last night and will expound on in this blog is this: FORGET ABOUT SEO. Focus on writing useful, interesting and original articles.

Now, giving advice at 140 characters at a time is challenging and I decided to use up this morning writing a blog about the stuff that I do that I think makes for good blogging.

So, let me re-write the tweet advice that I gave last night and say here that in order to be a better blogger, you have to focus on just three main things: READING, THINKING, WRITING.

On SEO and Writing, which of the two comes first

Forget SEO or Search Engine Optimization, for now -- at the very least.  

This field of expertise (which is basically analyzing search engine use and optimizing websites in order to get top search engine results ranking) comes into play ONLY if your intent is to go into marketing something on the internet.  

When the term SEO started coming out, a lot of people were marketing the idea that the right SEO could "explode your traffic" and "get you tons of leads, subscribers, etcetera". 

Back then, it was an enticing prospect and I bought into the idea.  I managed to understand enough SEO and apply what I've learned with some success.  But after months of using a writing style that accommodated SEO, I realized that I was writing in a rather odd way -- quite different from the conversational style that I try to manifest in whatever I am writing about.

I am not saying that writing in a conversational and engaging manner is not possible with SEO.  What I am pointing at is that, personally, it's something that I'd prioritize next to last so that I can get my writing groove on.

Dealing with a writer's block is bad news enough by itself. Dealing with a writer's block and having to construct an article with SEO in mind is even worse.

Anyway, on-site search optimization is a no brainer if you are using Wordpress and have installed an SEO plug-in.  Together with traffic/website analysis tools, you can probably come up with pretty good traffic for any post.

Moreover, if you are really into this thing as a business, in some cases it may be better to just advertise on Google -- but you'd still have to know how to get the right keywords and that'll lead you back to SEO.

That said, my advice really with respect to considering SEO when blogging is to leave it out until you finish your article, if 'marketing' is not your first reason for coming up with the article.  

If marketing IS the first reason for writing an article, it pays to have the right tools (use wordpress, use a traffic/keyword/website analysis service, use an automated article submitter, etcetera) and investing in a lot of pre-writing time steeped in analyzing traffic data and the websites that populate search results.

In fact, if marketing IS the real intent of your blogging or online time, you are better off investing in an website that is completely built up just for marketing -- everything from concept to execution, up from the domain name, to the design, to the content and functionalities.

(Part Two:  Focus on Reading, Thinking, and Writing)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Will Foursquare replace "Wer r u?" or "San k n?" text messages in the Philippines? (Updated)

Foursquare may not be immediately big, but it's the start of a 
new generation of sites that brings online engagement to the real world.

A conversation over Twitter with good friend @RJMarmol over an article published on ABS-CBN's website "Filipinos no longer text addicts" started me thinking that the current bid of Philippine telcos to push mobile internet usage is really gaining ground.

Here's an excerpt:
Text messaging is no longer the most popular means of conveying holiday greetings.
This holds true among the 71 million combined subscriber base of Smart Communications Inc. and Globe Telecom.
Instead of sending their Christmas and New Year greetings via SMS or short message service during the recent holidays, the cellular subscribers preferred to call and/or post their greetings in various social networking sites.
Data provided by Globe, the country’s second-largest mobile phone operator with about 26 million subscribers, showed that SMS traffic declined year-on-year by 6% on December 24; 12% on December 25; and 9% on December 31 and January 1.
Smart claimed that SMS traffic went up on the same days albeit not as high as it used to be in the past years when handsets then still lack the capability to connect to the Internet.
“Our SMS traffic for Christmas and New Year is up over last year, but the growth is not as strong as prior years. But social media through our mobile network is definitely up,” said Smart spokesman Mon Isberto.

Currently, Globe has been heavily promoting I-Phones and other handheld devices that can make use of mobile internet connections.  Despite problems with the reliability of its mobile internet connection (you can see Filipino tweets ranting about its poor connections), several of my friends have opted in to their post-paid plans because of the phones bundled with the plan.

Smart mobile internet (which is what I use) seems to have no problem connecting anywhere I go, but I am not sure if it bundles I-Phones or I-Pad 3G with its postpaid plans.

In anycase, with the current figures on text messaging use versus mobile internet and mobile broadband, it seems to indicate the success of current marketing efforts of telcos to get its subscribers to use the more costly service (10 pesos for 30 minutes vs 1 peso per text).

However, it can be argued that in 30 minutes (assuming that the mobile internet connection is fast enough), one can view and send more information (not just text, but pictures and short videos).

Now, after Christmas and New Year Greetings, the message that accounts for a lot of text traffic perhaps will be "wer r u?" or "san k n?".  One sure sign that mobile internet will be catching on is if instead of texting, people start logging on the internet using their phones or tablets to see their friend's status on Twitter or Foursquare.

I am aware that Twitter allows you to geo-tag your tweets (with longitude and latitude), but Foursquare brings something more to plain geo-tagging which is actually a "game" element.

Users of Foursquare apart from "checking in" at a venue, or posting a message notifying their friends about where they are, get the added benefit of having their check-in logged and assigned points.  Apart from that, the points allow them to accumulate badges and rank (mayorships) depending on what venues they visit and how many times they visit the venue.

It is this gaming element, perhaps, that will make Foursquare a hit among the younger set of 3G phone users given some more time.

Foursquare was launched on March 11, 2009 and while it hasn't reached the mind-boggling proportions of Facebook in the Philippines, it is showing signs of catching on here.  

It describes itself on its website as:
Foursquare is a mobile application that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. It is a friend-finder, a social city guide and a game that challenges users to experience new things, and rewards them for doing so. Foursquare lets users "check in" to a place when they're there, tell friends where they are and track the history of where they've been and who they've been there with. For more information on how foursquare works, see our searchable
The latest statistic I've found on the number of Foursquare users around the world comes from Techcrunch. One article says that on April 22, 2010, Foursquare registered its One Millionth User -- which is a milestone.
Congratulations QuakeHOLD I. of Escondido, California, you’re Foursquare’s one millionth user. Or, at least, you’re the user with the one millionth ID. Yes, the much talked-about location-based service crossed the milestone today.
And another more recent article published on July 7, 2010 from Techcrunch pits Foursquare with Gowalla (another GPS based social networking site) and it shows more current stats:
As of today, Foursquare has just over 1.9 Million users. Gowalla has around 340,000.
At its current pace, Foursquare will surpass 2 Million users within a week.
Foursquare is adding almost 10x as many new users per day as Gowalla and, despite a significantly larger base, has a daily percentage growth rate that is 75% higher than Gowalla’s.
Currently, Foursquare has about 5.6 Million venues and Gowalla has 1.4 Million venues.
1 in 3 venues on Foursquare have been checked into only once or never. That number is 1 in 4 on Gowalla.\
The most popular venue name is “Home,” followed by national fast food chains like “McDonald’s” and “Burger King”
On Foursquare, men outnumber women almost 2-to-1. Exact gender breakouts are not available for Gowalla, but the most popular first names suggest a similar distribution.
Still, according to PC World, Foursquare has reached 3 million users.
Foursquare hit the three million user mark over the weekend, less than two months after the location-based service passed the two million users mark in July. This success comes despite predictions Foursquare would be crushed by Facebook's recently launched location-sharing feature called Places. But Foursquare's recent user milestone suggests Places may actually be helping Foursquare's growth by popularizing the concept of checking-in and sharing your location. Foursquare's three-million-user milestone was first reported by TechCrunch which derived the number based on its own research. Foursquare has not made any formal announcement of its traffic.

The only thing that indicates that Foursquare will soon gain more users in the Philippines is that Filipino celebrities have begun noticing it.

Recently, Philippine TV celebrity @DaphneOP (Daphne Osena) tweeted "I don't know what's the point of foursquare. Why would you want everyone to know where you are?"

And I just had to respond with several tweets which eventually got a re-tweet from @DaphneOP.

For celebrities, the issue going against Foursquare -- apart from privacy concerns, leaving them open for stalking -- may be that their Foursquare check-ins may be construed as endorsements of the particular places they visited.

But for the average Joe and the small business owner, Foursquare can be a boon.

Just think of it as literally being put on the map and recommended by your own loyal customers.  In the US, establishments have even started giving incentives to Foursquare users who become Mayors of their Venue on Foursquare or who just simply "check in".
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