Monthly Archives: May 2011

In loving memory of my Friendster account

Somewhere in the profile page of my Friendster (or simply FS) account, you’ll read the phrase “member since July 2004.” Yes, I’ve been a Friendster user for almost seven years now. I created the account when I was just in junior high school; now, I’m already taking my Masters! At that time, most of my classmates are in that social networking site (SNS). You are not “in” if you’re not in Friendster. FS also became a bridge between me and former elementary batch mates, most of whom I haven’t seen since we graduated in 2002.

Early FS users strived to reach the 500-friend limit. Persons who barely spoke to each other became “friends” while one can always hear people saying to each other “you owe me a testi!” Eventually, the 500-friend limit was stretched to 5000 while testimonials were later relabeled as “comments.” I remember how I blasted, at one point, my contacts who do not “give back” comments. Instead of studying Chemistry or doing my project in Advanced Biology, I spent more time after class surfing Friendster. There’s this gratification obtained from being able to browse other people’s pages, right? Just imagine how thrilled I was whenever a crush accepts my friend request (and in any of my online accounts, actually). Indeed, Friendster was an effective stalking tool!

                                Friendster logo (2009-present)

Well, that was years ago. After dominating the Philippine social media scene for such a long time, Friendster had slipped into obsolescence. Many users have either neglected (this writer included) or deleted altogether their FS account. Isn’t it that just a few years ago, going online means opening one’s FS page? Some even go as far as denying that they’ve ever used that site. It has become that unfashionable! Amazingly, I know some people who succumbed to the Facebook bandwagon after years of bucking peer pressure for them to join Friendster.

Early last month, not-so-unexpected news came: Friendster will be doing away with its social network service to transform itself into an all-music site (similar to MySpace). All user page content except one’s profile (except the comments) and friend’s list will be deleted by May 31, 2011. In line with this, Friendster users have been advised to export their files to other websites like BlogSpot and WordPress for blogs and Multiply and Flickr for photos through a certain application. User profiles and testimonials can also be converted to zip files. As I’m writing this, all my Friendster photos are already in Multiply while I have saved a WinRAR Zip file of my entire account.

Alexa Web Rankings says the Friendster is now just the 15th most visited site in the country (as of May 2011). FS is still more popular than sites like Jobstreet and JobsDB, but it’s nothing compared to FB. When I made a report for my online journalism class last December 2008, FS was still the 2nd most popular site in the country. Facebook is now the most visited site here – getting more hits than search engines Google and Yahoo.

What does the meteoric rise and eventual extinction of Friendter usage mean? People are constantly looking for new things and that they can easily be swayed by a perceived bandwagon. If Facebook will follow Friendster’s trajectory, I dare say that in a few years, it will fade away, too. My FS account will never be as active as before, but I don’t see any reason to delete it. I am waiting for the “new” Friendster. Who knows, it might be able to recover some of its lost glory!


Beware of this fake promo from Globe Telecom

I received a text message from Globe last May 19:

Free Globe Customer Advisory: Load P50 from May 18-20 and get FREE 110 texts + 5 mins. of calls to Globe/TM valid for 1 day. (NTR53a-1)

I already loaded P25 the night before I received that message (May 18), which means that I if I load another P25, I will get the reward. I didn’t. The free texts and the five-minute call never came! However, I didn’t lose hope. One the third and last day of the “promo,” I loaded another P50. It is now May 24, 2011, and the supposed “rewards” are still nowhere. Attention, Globe! Stop making a fool out of your subscribers! Stop sending messages about your fake promos!

Globe Telecom - are they deceiving us?

Two wakes, two deaths, two fatal accidents

In a span of less than four weeks, I visited the wakes of two well-known individuals: teen actor AJ Perez (Christ the King Parish, April 19), and UP journalism professor Lourdes “Chit” Simbulan (Arlington Memorial, May 14). The first one is a rising star in the entertainment industry, while the second one is an award-winning veteran journalist who has been in the business for over three decades. I am a big fan of AJ Perez, and I am one of Prof. Simbulan’s former students in UP. The two probably do not know each other, for they are in different fields, but the thread that links them together is their cause of death. Investigations are still ongoing for both accidents, but it is apparent that their untimely demise could have been avoided.

Prof. Chit Simbulan's wake

Merely two days before the fateful road mishap that claimed Prof. Simbulan’s life, the Department of Public Works and Highways officially launched in the Philippines the start of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety from year 2011 to 2020. In launching this global initiative, the United Nations General Assembly aims to “to stabilize and then reduce the forecast level of road traffic fatalities around the world.”

A statement on the program’s website soberly reminds people that everyday around the world, 3,500 people “leave home and never return because they have been suddenly and violently killed in a road crash.” The accident that killed Perez happened on his way home to Manila after a show in Dagupan, Pangasinan. He even twitted that it will be a “long drive ahead” for his party. Meanwhile, Prof. Simbulan rode a cab to take her to UP Ayala Techno Hub for a meet-up with high school friends from Tandang Sora, Quezon City. The trip that should’ve been only ten minutes took a deadly turn when an overspeeding bus rammed into the said taxi.

The United Nations noted that “these tragic deaths and the misery and grief they cause” can be prevented if “measures are taken by governments, police, health practitioners and all road users to improve safety.” Top Gear magazine reported late last year, citing figures from Metro Manila Development Authority and Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group, that at least 14,000 road accidents were recorded from January to October 2010, resulting in 380 deaths. Most of these are caused by avoidable human error, like overspeeding and failure to follow traffic rules.

These figures may be telling, but as the Asian Development Bank’s National Road Safety Plan noted in 2005, “there is a serious problem on the underreporting of traffic accidents by the police” and that an efficient road accident data system is “simply not yet available in the Philippines.” In effect, “there is a gross underreporting of the number of (car accident) fatalities.”

Road accidents, even deadly ones, have lost its shock value among the public through the years. Because they happen all too frequently, we seem to have regarded these as just-another-news-item, if news executives even deem those as newsworthy. The death of Prof. Simbulan opened up a number of issues, from the lack of discipline among motorists and inefficiency of traffic enforcers, to misplaced footbridges, concrete barriers, and U-turn slots, and the prevailing living conditions of bus drivers.

Despite their 34-year age gap, both AJ Perez and Lourdes Simbulan would have done many more wonderful things had their life not been cut short by avoidable road accidents. The good thing is, their deaths should serve as an eye-opener for us on what has to be done to reduce the number of lives lost due to car mishaps.


ADB-ASEAN Regional Board Safety Program-National Road Safety Action Plan 2005-2010.

Lorenzo, Anna Barbara. Safety advocates reveal alarming number of road accidents in RP. Top Gear Magazine (October 13, 2010)

Tadeo, Patrick Everett. UN’s Decade of Action for Road Safety launched globally today. Top Gear Magazine (May 11, 2011)

United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.

Tribute to Chit Estella-Simbulan, Aug. 19, 1957-May 13, 2011

I am updating this post to commemorate the first death anniversary of

Ma’am Chit

On our way home riding a jeepney one afternoon when I was in Grade Four, a bunch of people handed out to us and our fellow passengers free copies of The Manila Times. That was in mid-1999, and though I no longer recall where the distribution of these papers happened, I will not forget its main story: “Nasagasaan kami ng jeep ni Erap.” The piece goes with a cropped photo of the then President driving a jeep.

Because of the pro-Estrada sentiments in our family at that time, and because I am merely 9 then, I didn’t give much attention to it. I didn’t even set aside that give-away for posterity’s sake! I was only able to realize the importance of that moment many years later, when I was already a journalism student in UP Diliman. I learn the true story behind the paper being “ran over.” Estrada filed a Php 99 million libel case against the paper, and facing the prospect of a prolonged legal tussle against the country’s most powerful man, the paper folded up, and then changed owners.

One of the key figures in that event was the late Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan, Manila Times’ then-managing editor. As I took my first journalism class in mid-2007 (History of the Press, under Ms Evelyn Katigbak), I learned about that classic episode in Philippine media’s history. Over a year later, I’d be enrolled in one of her classes.

As a final requirement for that subject titled “The Newsroom,” students must produce a newspaper by the end of the semester. The class had its line-up of news executives, and I was the paper’s associate editor, or second-in-command. For reasons that already escapes me now, we named the paper “The Signum,” a name Prof. Simbulan later described as “innovative, creative, (and) interesting, though a bit strange.” All did not go smoothly, though.

Deadlines weren’t met, while some seemed uncommitted; printing the newspaper became a problem, too. There were moments of introspection and self-blaming, compelling the paper’s top three editors (including me) to write separate open letters via our online group. Weeks after that, Prof. Simbulan gave a detailed two-page critique of our work. Though she made some pointed comments like “some headlines were stretched disproportionately,” “not a very careful use of bastard layouting,” and “proofreading can be improved throughout the newspaper,” she was appreciative of the paper’s strong points, writing:

“The Signum was a good first attempt at a newspaper. Its choice of stories was good, the opinions were earnest. Although it had its fair share of technical lapses, the substance made up for these. The newspaper had heart. “

That was a vindication for the efforts our entire class exerted for that output. I would’ve wanted to take other classes under her, but she went on study leave on my senior year. I remember gleefully answering a two-page “test” about Philippine history as part of her graduate studies research late 2009. Nevertheless, we still got to exchange pleasantries whenever I see her around the campus, or during her lunch meals with my thesis adviser Prof. Yvonne Chua.

Me with Prof. Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan

I once kidded her (outside the UP College of Mass Communication building) that the only way she’d be my professor again is if I’d stay in UP beyond April 2010, my graduation date. She said she hopes that I’ve already graduated by then, and humorously quipped, “and with a job!” She emceed that year’s college graduation rites, and right after the ceremonies, I went up the platform of the UP Film Center to … have a photo with her. She gladly obliged, and now that she’s gone, that picture became all the more priceless to me.

I asked if she has a Facebook account. She said yes, but I was never able to search it. Months later, we saw each other again in the college. I came to ask for a recommendation from Prof. Chua about my application for MA History last August 2010. After greeting her, she ribbed me: “Mr. Madrona, I thought you already graduated!” Of all my journalism professors, she’s the only one to call me that way. It is saddening to note though that that encounter was the last time I saw her alive.

Paying my last respects to Ma’am Chit

I called Prime Funeral the morning after Professor Simbulan’s death, but I was told by a personnel there via phone that her remains had been transferred to Arlington Memorial in Araneta Avenue. I went straight there after work (I rendered overtime service for my company that day).  I initially thought that Arlington is just walking distance from the Araneta Ave.-Quezon Ave. intersection. I was mistaken since another jeepney ride is needed.

Once I am finally inside the memorial chapel. I immediately approached Mr. Roland Simbulan, whose face is recognizable to me having attended some of his talks before. He’s accommodating even to those he did not know personally. The former UP faculty regent and foreign policy commentator understandably refuses to speak to the media. I proceeded to take a look at my departed journalism professor. She’s wearing a Filipiniana, similar to the one she wore during last year’s graduation rites.

I saw CMC dean Dr. Rolando Tolentino (he surprisingly still recognized me), college secretary Dnilo Arao, journalism department chair Marichu Lambino, and Professors Luz Rimban and Lucia Tangi. I also saw former dean Dr. Georgina Encanto’s name in the guestbook. I stayed for about 40 minutes.

On my way out of Arlington’s Felicidad chapel, I approached Mr. Roland Simbulan to say how proud I am to have been once under his wife’s mentorship. The appreciative widower told me: “Chit lives on through students like you.” The important lessons in journalism integrity and professionalism that she emphasized to us will be her biggest legacy, but Mam Chit is irreplaceable.

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