Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace conference: personal notes

Last week’s conference organized by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa) in cooperation with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) with the support of the Berkman Center Center for Internet and Society offered me a chance to meet bloggers and journalists from all over Asia.

With Sheila Coronel
Time flew so fast for the conference–an indication that I found it very interesting–that I found myself back at the airport in what appeared to be merely a day after stepping out of it.

I met Portnoy, a blogger from Taiwan, who asked for advice in choosing which Lucky Me instant cup noodle to bring back to his girlfriend. I picked my favorites: La Paz Batchoy and Palabok. He couldn’t have found a more knowledgeable conference delegate as instant noodles and sandwiches are common blogging and writing food for me–these are efficient to eat and the simplest to prepare especially if you’�re chasing a tight deadline.

And speaking of eating, my wife‘s acid reflux disappeared in the four days that I was in Manila. It turned out that she now takes her time eating dinner and no longer eats midnight meals. When we’re together, I set the pace for dinner and I eat so fast because I’m usually pressed for time in the evening. I make up for the quick dinner (my equivalent of regular people’s lunches) with a heavy midnight meal. I’m hacking my diet to make it healthier and will try to do away with heavy late night/early morning meals.

I finally had my photo taken with Philippine media icon and Ramon Magsaysay awardee for journalism Sheila Coronel, PCIJ executive director, who gamely posed with me when I told her I wanted to post the photo in my blog. I had set out to do a photo diary of the event and the people I meet during it but more often I was either too caught up with the sessions or too shy to ask them.

With Philippine media icon Sheila Coronel
WITH SHEILA CORONEL. I got the cool shirt from Nina Somera of Foundation for Media Alternatives. At the back it says “I choose Free/Open Source Software.” When I saw her wearing it, I had to ask her where she got it. It was a good thing her office sells it.

I also got to meet for the first time Pinoy bloggers Erwin Oliva of, Dean Jorge Bocobo and Vonn Totanes. I also got to meet Gerry Kaimo, whose long-standing dispute with Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. over the domain was settled on the week the conference was held.

I met Manolo Quezon again and would have wanted to have a photo taken with him for this blog but he appeared too busy and was in a spirited discussion with Dean Jorge Bocobo. I also got to meet John Nery again and having mustered the courage to ask him for a photo op, missed him on the last day of the conference.

Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace
FROM LEFT: Bryan Nuñez of Witness, Manolo Quezon, Vonn Totanes, Alecks Pabico of PCIJ and Gerry Kaimo, who incidentally has a new blog: Manila Needs Dextrose.

I was looking forward to meeting Connie Veneracion, more known in the Philippine blogosphere as the Sassy Lawyer. Connie was scheduled to attend the dinner for Global Voices contributors but she arrived late owing to a telecoms snafu.

During one of the breaks in the conference, I met with long-time friend Ma. Angela Tan. It had been at least 10 years since we had a face-to-face conversation and the only form of contact we’ve had since then were the rare e-mail and SMS during Christmas and birthdays. Angela updated me on common friends and acquaintances as well as developments in my hometown of Polomolok, South Cotabato, a place I haven’t visited in a decade. We had a quick snack during one of the conference breaks and a dinner on Friday evening.

With Angela Tan
WITH long-time friend Angela Tan at Greenbelt.

We agreed to meet in Glorietta on Friday and within minutes of setting out to go there, I was promptly lost in the maze of shops. We ate at Mexicali and, as always the case with being presented with a lot of options, I reverted to a common choice: hamburger. The hamburger with onions served by the store was okay but it wasn’t up to the gold standard of burgers: Burger Junction.

I was set to meet old friends and colleagues Norman Nimer, one of the country’s top-notch graphic designers, and Kreth Faustino, a geek whose intelligence is enhanced by his generosity in sharing it and his patience in teaching non-geeks about technology. Before I met Kreth, I’d be scared at the prospect of being left alone in front of a Windows computer (I started with a DOS-based system with The Freeman). The office Norman and Kreth were working in closed early and we no longer had time to meet because I was also set to return to the hotel.

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One response

  1. wow, my name got mentioned in the same sentence as erwin, dean and gerry. and i’m actually in the photo with manolo and gerry! i’ll be stealing this photo =)

    but it’s really just von… james von =)

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