I arrive at the Watering Hole a few minutes after six. This, after about half an hour of searching for the place --I thought it was actually *inside* Shangri-la Plaza. (Forgive me but I'm not a mall freak.) A friend was supposed to go with me but at the last minute she bailed out. So I went solo-flight. Not like I've gone to a party by myself. Sure, it was an everyday experience (I wish!).
Some dude who works at the diner-cum-bar opens the glass doors for me to let me in. I immediately see the evidence of the party preparations -- banners and posters all over the place, a projector screen hanging against the side of the stairs, a computer terminal. I recognize right away Manny Amador, the president of the Philippine League for Democratic Telecommunication Inc. or PLDTI surrounded by several girls all wearing black. Good looking guy. My instinct tells me to march right over to him and introduce myself but I hold back. Instead I march over to an empty table beside the glass window at the far corner of the bar.
I wait for Migs Paraz, one of the brains and organizers behind the Internet anniversary celebration. The night before that day, I talked with him on ICQ and promised to come early so we can finally see each other. He told me he wears glasses. I told him I had an extra ear on my chin. Finally, I had to tell him he'd recognize me because I'd be in an all-black attire--my usual dress color on Mondays. (I have a morbid fashion sense…hardly have ever touched one of them fashion mags.) I wonder if he'd be able to recognize me when I look at the group of girls wearing black helping Manny set up.
I eye every guy I see wearing glasses and wonder if he is Migs. I finally give up and just wait for the party to start. So far, I think I was the earliest bird there, save for them production people. I would've liked to have a conversation with myself like what I usually do when I'm alone but I restrain myself because it'd be too weird if they actually hear me talk to myself. I end up counting cars, alternating it with surreptitious glances at the people entering the Hole and counting the squares on the back of the shirt of a middle-aged thin man sitting on the table directly in front of me.
A few minutes before 7, the Girls in Black all go out to have dinner, I think, leaving Manny and some other guys attend to the stuff. After a couple of minutes, one of the bar guys approach me and asks if I'm there for the party. I say yes and ask if he knows Migs. He shakes his head and goes away. At past 7, I see a guy wearing glasses make a circumferential trip to where I'm sitting. He says, "Shery?" and I look up to him and say, "Migs?" Cool. He stands beside my table as we talk about finally meeting at last. After ten minutes, Dave Allen of Fuzzy Works Media arrives in black attire too. I remember Migs commenting how appropriate black is for the occasion, with the Internet in the Philippines being threatened by PLDT's phone metering scheme.
While I chat with Migs, I watch Dave take over the setting up. He starts to direct and give orders, levering up the projector screen. Then a middle-aged guy walks toward our table, accompanied by a Chinese-looking guy. Migs introduces me to them. The middle-aged guy is no other than THE Danny Escasa who used to write for PC World. The Chinese-looking guy is Oliver Chua, Migs' friend and an avid computer games player. I shake Danny's hand while I go, "Ohhh…so you're Danny?!?!?" He goes, "Uh oh…" as he takes the seat in front of me. I've always wanted to meet him in person and always go mouth-hanging open whenever I read one of his posts in Jim Ayson's Philippine Cyber Review mailing list. Now we're four in the table. A few minutes later, Manny goes over our table and Migs introduces me to him. We talk as Danny lights a cigarette.
The convo veers on the cyber vote. They turn to me and ask who was it I voted for the person who appeals to me most online. I decline and instead say I'd tell them if that person wins. (Actually, I voted for Jim Ayson.) Then someone walks to where we are sitting and I knew before they introduce me to him that he's Kelsey Hartigan-Go, one of the pioneers of Internet in the Philippines.
It is already past eight p.m. but the party is yet to start. Manny launches into an animated talk on how he was able to come up with the Internet anniversary theme. Then people start to arrive. Dr. Rodolfo Villarica enters and everyone stood up as he came to our table. Having interviewed him for an article in W!P's previous Promi-Netizen issue, I introduce myself to him. He looks quite younger than his age, with a dignified and an intellectual aura about him. We talk for a few minutes and he asks if I keep a printed version of my e-zine. I promise to give him a copy of the magazine. Dr. Villarica takes a seat at the table adjacent to where Migs, Danny, Kelsey, Oliver and I are sitting. It's in the middle of the room and later on, all the prominent and most important figures of Internet in the country sit there: Dr. William Torres, Ritchie Lozada, Cong. Leandro Verceles, and Roberto Verzola.
Next, I am introduced to PLDTI Secretary General Jonathan Domingo. He's the sort of official video guy who sports a long hair that would make Lucy Torres envious. More talk. There are more people now and the place is starting to get filled up. At almost 9:30, the party begins finally. Francis Reyes, former guitarist of the band The Dawn, and a female DJ (EEK! I can't believe I don't know who she is!) are the hosts. Overall, the event is short and sweet, and there is only one intermission number. Food and drinks are ordered and everyone is eager for the announcement of the cyber vote results. Still no sign of the person I'm waiting for to see. I finally get to see him when he goes down to accept an award.
Anyways, here're the results of this year's cyber ballot awards:
In the middle of the party, I get a phone call from my dad. He wants to pick me up already and so I beg for another 30 minutes. He agrees and waits at the parking lot. Migs had left to entertain the other guests and I am left with Oliver and Obet Verzola, who has just won the Father of Philippine E-mail award. Oliver orders us drinks as we try to talk over the loud noise. At around 10 I stand up to leave. The party is about to end, with only the winner of the free trip to Boracay only left to be announced. I shake Kelsey's hand and he jokingly says something about my having a body guard when I told him my dad is already waiting for me outside. I go to Dr. Villarica's table and tells him how glad I am to have finally met him. Then I see Franchette Soriano and I go over to speak to her briefly. I search for Migs and found him in the middle of the bar, almost near the stairs. I tell him I'm going and yet another shaking of hands. On my way out the door, I run smack right into Manny and I say my goodbye to him. He stalls me and says I should stay first and see if I can win the Boracay trip. He extracts a business card from me and he puts it in the jar. I stand there a few meters to the door when I see Jim Ayson coming my way. I gather the nerve to talk to him, even briefly. Then I really had to go. I look at Manny and say I need to leave. He goes out with me and we talk a bit more outside. I'm able to extract a couple of interviews from him for future articles for W!P. It was a really cool experience and I can't wait for next year.
WIRED! Philippines is a monthly online magazine published and hosted by KabayanCentral.com
Copyright 1999 KabayanCentral.com. All rights reserved.