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You want someone to represent the Philippine blogosphere? Get Sybil

Blogger Jayvee Fernandez caused quite a ruckus in several Philippine blogs recently when he accused Janette Toral of “misrepresenting the Philippine blogosphere” for her own merit.

Clueless that I was, the first person I asked, via IM, about Jayvee’s “Bloggers, MISrepresent” post was Janette. She then told me that she suspected that she was the subject of the post. The two, it seems, have now settled the issue. Disclaimer: Janette writes a weekly column for the newspaper I work for but I do not deal with her.

I will not deal with Jayvee’s criticisms of Janette’s presentation. But I don’t think his criticisms are enough to support his allegation that Janette misrepresented “the Philippine blogosphere.”

But a core issue in the whole exchange is something that I feel strongly against. Some people have this unfortunate tendency to box blogging–and the people who practice the craft–in.

Bloggers, including Filipinos, are a varied lot. We’re not a clone army.

Some make a living off their blogs, others don’t. Some are journalists who blog, others are bloggers who are now also journalists. Some blog to get laid, others get laid off because of blogging. Some are atheists, others are devoutly religious. Some use WordPress, others Blogger, Multiply, Serendipity, etc. Some are link whores, others are plain whores (and I love them for it). Some are good cooks, others are kitchen disasters waiting to happen.

To represent such a diverse group of people, you need to have an extreme case of schizophrenia.

Many blog in English, others in Bisaya, Ilonggo and the several other Filipino languages. To represent this group of people you have to be a polyglot.

Jayvee says that when he talks on blogging, “in effect I am representing bloggers of all demographics.” Excuse me, Jayvee, but you don’t.

Jayvee, don’t you find that a bit presumptuous? I don’t know if you’ve been to a conference where someone stands up to say “I think I speak for everyone in this room when I say…” When this happens, I have to restrain myself from going to the microphone to say “No, you don’t.”

I’ve heard several bloggers talk about blogging but I’ve never heard someone claim to speak for or represent the community of Filipino bloggers. And I’m using the word “community” here loosely—to refer to the most common denominator that binds us: that we are Filipinos and we use blogs to publish web sites.

Abe Olandres, when I listened to him talk once, did not say he represented the entire community of Filipino bloggers. And he is someone closest to being the person that can speak for the community, in the sense that he makes a living out of blogging, he is in touch with a lot of Filipino bloggers and most people look to him for advice.

And here’s one reason why Jayvee could not “represent” me, a blogger of a certain demographic, with a certain stand on a particular issue: he wrote “new media in the Philippines, which refers to the Philippine blogosphere.” I completely disagree. Bloggers are part of the new media landscape, not the whole of it. Blogging is merely one form of the new medium.

To mistake the part for the whole is not something I’m comfortable with to come from someone who “represents me,” a Filipino blogger of a certain demographic.

Jayvee also says: “If bloggers are invited to speak in front of a crowd of industry experts (yay!!!), bear in mind that you bring forward with you the hundreds of personalities of the local blogosphere.”

I think Filipino bloggers now number in the thousands. I just checked Pinoy Top Blogs and there are more than a thousand blogs listed there. What? The others don’t count any more? Do I count? Do Bisaya Bloggers count? What about Friendster bloggers, do they count? Or Multiply bloggers? Do Mindanao Bloggers count? Do we count as “personalities of the local blogosphere?”

It’s easy to mistake your circle for the entire community. It’s an easy mistake to make. After all, our ancestors had thought the universe revolved around them.

And the idea that when bloggers are invited to speak, they “bring forward” with them the hundreds of personalities of the local blogosphere– as defined by Jayvee Fernandez–is ludicrous. I had thought that bloggers were invited to speak to share their experiences on blogging, to give tips on the medium.

But the issue has settled. I have one request, though. The next time someone talks about blogging: can you please state before your talk whether you think you are “representing bloggers of all demographics?” I’d like time to walk out of the room, thank you.

By Max Limpag

Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu City, Philippines. He is co-founder of the journalism start-up InnoPub Media.