political blogging used to be fun in the philippines. when i took the plunge in september 2007, the pinoy blogosphere was a completely different “place,” kind of like a plaza miranda where you could mount a soapbox and sound off on your opinions and ideas re government and religion, politics and economics, culture and society, at any time of the day or night, and if you talked sense, especially if you kept abreast of current events and opinions offline and online, and you had something to add to the discourse-on-nation across blogs, AND you had an open mind and could handle comments and criticism, that is, you were receptive to other intelligent even if contrary points of view, THEN the blogosphere was an exciting, dynamic, mind-expanding space to be.
my timing was great, because the next two years would prove the best of times for political blogging. those were the final years of gloria arroyo’s ten-year reign and dissatisfaction was at an all time high. i had been blogging a month when glorietta exploded; in november was the coup attempt and take-over of manila peninsula by trillanes and lim; early in 2008 the nbn-zte deal was exposed and we all met jun lozada; and then there was JPEPA, and sulpicio, and E-VAT, and ces and the abu sayyaf…. by then radikalchick had started blogging too. there was such a lot to blog about, so much that wasn’t being said in/by mainstream media.
in may 2008 nick of tingog.com put up the group blog Filipino Voices. “noted” blogger mlq3 didn’t join FV (i guessed he was busy enough with his own blog, daily dose and his weekly tv show, the explainer; nor did i, when nick invited me, as i was in the middle of book projects and had time only for my own blog) but manolo’s super-endorsement carried a lot of weight and nick was able to get the top bloggers posting regularly, and it was phenomenal — everyday there was something new, sometimes two or three or more posts, and the traffic generated was awesome, and the comment threads were jumping with serious debates and arguments over government policies and political issues and everything under the sun.
Filipino Voices, is in disarray if not dead. What used to be a collective voice of well-minded Filipinos embracing the new media and the digital space is now hobbled on a sickbed about to fold. Nick Cugtas owns the blog and for a couple of years or three, it has attracted a power-pack writers that have promising potentials and literary erudition. I have found hard-nosed, incisive and well-meaning writers; Dean Jorge Bocobo, Dean De La Paz, Jeg, Blackshama, Caffeine_Sparks, Benign0, BongV, Lila Shahani, Rom, and lawyers, BenCard and Abe Margallo. I also found The_Cat and Leytenian at times entertaining, and a lot of other visitors and commentators who do not fail to put in their five cents worth and snippets of their own genius about the country, her people and the politicians that bled them dry. As they come with different backgrounds, the debate was often more intense, passionate, eloquent and civil, though sometimes hostile.
I think everyone started to get disillusioned with the inconsistent way Nick managed the site. DJB, left because he got too annoyed with me (to answer your question # 3) specifically after I posted a piece entitled “Kahol ng Bayan” which he found offensive. Perhaps I myself had behaved like an ass many times which eventually turned Nick off to me — and it was particularly heightened at the point when Noynoy declared his candidacy. The disparity in quality of work at FV too varied widely as some put in half-baked articles while others took the time to craft really well-thought-out pieces.
Filipino Voices was once a lively if unruly battleground of some of the best minds in the blogosphere and for a time a favorite stopover of many like-minded bloggers. Although traffic had visibly ebbed down over time, it remained quite a vibrant meeting place. So when it fell quiet all too suddenly, it is only fair to inquire whatever happened?! After all, it was a favorite hangout too no matter that it was not always in amiable spirit. It’s like, hey, where is everybody…? because you find the house once full of people all abandoned and padlocked without a farewell, y’know, something like “we’re done with our mission and we need to move on” sort of thing. … Such a waste though. Any serious blogger knows how difficult it is to rake in so much traffic such as what FV had already gathered for itself.
such a waste indeed but i wasn’t surprised. FV had lost its appeal long before that. the “wisdom of the crowd” never quite showed up; it was impossible to tell who was winning, if any, what argument, and, as young blogger marocharim lamented on FV early in 2009, its elitist slip was showing.
When are people going to write for the poor, the downtrodden, the laid-off, the fired, the underpaid, the hungry, the sick, the ill… those people who are as sickened about everything as we are, yet don’t have the benefit of blogs or computers to do what they can of it, no matter how small?
and pretty soon, things were getting personal, a lot of ad hominem attacks by full-of-themselves know-it-alls who couldn’t stand being contradicted; and homophobic attacks on reyna elena who fought back by putting up his own group blog, barrio siete, and raising a ruckus over the question of credentials; and suddenly there were new bloggers posting little more than cut-and-paste stuff, contributing nothing to the discourse except echoes; and someone started dissing anonymous bloggers and commenters, demanding that they identify themselves or forever be under suspicion of sinister motives or shady political connections; at kung ano-ano pa. i’m not sure at what point nick started seriously moderating FV, but i remember complaints galore, and then cory died, FV turned yellow, and then died, too.
FV was strongly supportive of President Noynoy Aquino in the last elections and this hounding issue was generally ignored if not denounced as black propaganda. I could imagine Hacienda Luisita would be a raging topic of debate on its comments section now. And I could imagine how badly beaten they at FV would be defending the controversy.
so where did all the FV bloggers and their readers go? some went back to their solo blogs, but it wasn’t like pre-FV times, when mlq3’s daily dose kept track of the discourse separately unfolding — noynoy was prez by then and manolo had been wooed and won; neutralized, at the very least. some of the bloggers i see posting in a couple of group blogs, benignO’s getrealphilippines and cocoy’s propinoyproject. some just went the way of social media, along with the huge FV traffic, i suspect, exchanging views mostly with like-minded ones, where the occasional catfights are just so tame compared to FV’s at its peak.
this is all to say how silent, if not kind, the blogosphere is these days, in contrast to the arroyo years. you would think that there’s nothing to question, nothing to criticize, the aquino administration is doing a great job. but since it’s not true, in fact little has changed so far, i figure that most bloggers choose to give the president the benefit of the doubt until, well, who knows, until his term ends? meanwhile, radikalchick and i get a lot of brickbats about being negative, we must be anti-pinoy daw because we have little good to say about the presidency of cory’s and ninoy’s son, and why daw are we not practising journalistic ethics, as in, presenting both sides of an issue, rather than being so critical.
it’s the pits, having to explain, more than once, on facebook, that we aren’t journalists. our blogs are opinion blogs, we don’t have to interview people before we write about or comment on their public statements and actions. i dare criticize on the strength of my long years as a multi-media writer grounded in psychology, astrology, and philippine history and politics. katrina was invited to write for gma news online and recently for the glossy Rogue on the strength of her merits, not as journalist/reporter like ressa, but as literature & philippine studies scholar, teacher and writer, and pop-culture critic.
ah for the good old rowdy days of FV. at least no one called our blogs “funny” then — yes, “funny,” which can only be a put-down? — and if katrina had written THEN what she recently wrote for Rogue upon the editor’s request, a critical piece on manila’s literary and publishing scene, she wouldn’t be getting comments like “but we knew that na” and “it didn’t need to be said” (meaning, i suppose that it’s all okay). rather, bloggers would have weighed in, added to the discourse, in agreement or disagreement or anywhere in between, and most certainly, indie writers and self-publishers would have happily chimed in and shared stories and do-it-yourself tips, and that would have been a blast.
our problem is not only that few dare be truly critical today but also that we can’t, we don’t want to, we don’t know how to, deal with and learn from criticism, whether as object thereof or as friend, supporter, admirer, of the object thereof. we only know to take offense. the thinking, if it can be called that, might be that criticism doesn’t help anyway, the powerful are too powerful, and since you can’t beat them, join them na lang. never mind that it’s a flawed and evil system, entrenched across all sectors, that continues to favor the few and oppress the many.
the most twisted yet of spins vs. the kind of critical thinking and writing we do is that it’s nothing but crab mentality — pulling down, putting down, people and institutions, instead of focusing on the good that they do (heh, kind of like PR writing). but what if the alleged good they do isn’t really good for nation? what if the bad they do actually outweighs the good, what then? okay pa rin, basta merong good?
it’s clear to me that katrina and i are not the crabs here. the crabs here are the ones affected and offended by the kind of criticism we dish out, and, instead of engaging us on issues, they try to pull us down to their level.
contrarily, katrina and i blog purely to share our perspectives and opinions on national affairs in the romantic hope of raising the level of discourse on nation and nation-building. and we do so as free spirits, free-lancers. we belong to no political orgs. we are neither RJ nor RA. we parrot no one’s propaganda, we toe no one’s line. so, yes, i suppose we’re “funny” that way.