I entered Rumours on Session Road one early evening last month and saw the usual familiar faces. Local photographer Jojo Lamaria was there with some friends and among them Natz Navarro whom I've known for quite some time. Went over to her and gave her a hug and they I realized that though it's been a while since I first “met” her, I've only know her in the virtual world of Multiply.com (http://natznavarro.multiply.com), a social networking site on the web. And just this morning, I said hello to a woman named Villia whom I've known for a year or so now at Cafe by the Ruins only to realize that like Natz, I've only known her through the thoughts, ideas and photographs she's posted on her Multiply site (http://villia.multiply.com).
There's this virtual neighborhood on Multiply composed mainly of artists in Baguio, and every single day we are given frozen moments and bits and pieces of life up here as seen through a photographer's lens or painted by a poet's pen (or keyboard). Photographers Rudy Taborra (http://ruditabora.multiply.com) and Boy Yñiguez (http://boyyy.multiply.com) constantly whet our appetites with their series' “Mangan” and “Kain Na”, respectively: hunger inducing photos of local dishes.
Multiply also hosts the sites of Jojo Lamaria (http://jlamaria.multiply.com) and Harley Palanchao (http://smallopening.multiply.com), two local photographers who capture anything and everything that comes infront of their lenses.
Even those of us in the performing arts find little use for the traditional printed posters to promote our latest productions these days: Multiply has offered us a virtually free venue to make our productions known, and with a seemingly wider reach too. I remember a few years BM (Before Multiply), our posters would be up for a couple of weeks already with hardly any feedback from the public. But now a few hours after posting an event online, we get inquiries and the day after a performance, we can expect to see a review somewhere in the world wide web. And since most local theater productions run on a really tight budget (sometimes no budget at all), our posters back then would be limited to photocopied monochrome layouts to cut costs, but now we can go crazy with as many millions of colors as your next-door internet cafe's monitor would allow. Since our productions usually cater to local students, we usually conduct an open forum after each show and now those fora extend for weeks after the last performance on the web, and these interactions often catch the attention of people from all over the world giving more color and interesting perspectives to the conversation.
News travel faster in this online community: when I wrote about a nasty experience at the Baguio Country Club (http://altomonte.multiply.com/journal/item/127), for the next couple of weeks I'd bump into people who read about it online asking me for details of the story. When wrote about my sentiments about the recently concluded flower festival (http://altomonte.multiply.com/journal/item/130), it triggered an online forum with insights coming from the different parts of the world.
Among the recent additions to my virtual neighborhood is local videographer Francis Paco (http://francispaco.multiply.com), whose site features interesting explorations in digital animation, which renewed my interest in that field. I learned a lot from Kidalt de Guia's adventure in Mindanao with his blog entry on his site (http://kidlatgulat.multiply.com/journal/item/3/Ganda_ng_Mindanao). Jack Cariño's site rivals the History channel with intersting tidbits of historical footnotes in phogoraphs and video (http://jackcarino.multiply.com). And I'm quite sure this virtual neighborhood played quite a role in U.S.-based Baguio boy Jessie Mina's decision to invest in a better camera (http://jrgamina.multiply.com) to be able to take better pictures to post on his site.
I recently got an invitation to join another virtual community: Facebook. But after a couple of weeks in it, I was slowly getting bored. All it is are stupid quizzes and hundreds of unwanted applications. I was just about to close my Facebook account when I received a video post from someone in my network (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM). It was a video taken by a group of tourist presumably in Africa of a group of lions waiting to punce on an unsuspecting buffalo. The shot panned from the approaching herd to the waiting lions, and when the herd settled near a creek, the lions sprang up and went for the usual victim: the weakest in the herd, in this case a calf. They pinned the poor calf down while the herd tried to run away from the attacking beasts. A couple of lions rolled and rolled with the calf who was trying so hard to free itself predators' jaws. They rolled too near the river's edge where a crocodile was waiting, which bit into the rear end of the calf - and a tug of war between predators ensued. The lions won the battle, but what happened next they probably never expected to happen at all, not even in their wildest lion dreams. The herd of buffalo came back to rescue the calf. At first the lions would simply roar in their faces and they would step back, but it only took one brave buffalo who perhaps thought that a tiny calf's life was worth risking its own: it charged towards the surprised lions and soon the whole herd was chasing the predators away.
And I thought, the predators amidst us these days better watch out, it only takes one angry, brave buffalo to rally the herd to chase them all away. I decided to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt, for now. And I realized, this story was really what I wanted to write about when I sat down infront of my computer.
Ah well, among the banes of the world wide web, there's just too much information going around that it's easy for one to be distracted.(A repost of my column, Tales From A Hill Station, in Cordillera Today March 16, 2008 issue)