Thursday, March 22, 2007

PSICOM, Batjay, Tito Rolly, Me and Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point

Let me start at the beginning. When the second half of our 13th month pay was released in November last year, I went to National Bookstore (NBS) Davao to buy some books to tide me over the yuletide season and to give as gifts to close friends, nephews, nieces and godchildren.

That was when I saw Kwentong Tambay (mga kwento ng isang sira-ulong Overseas Filipino Worker) by Nicanor David Jr. aka Batjay on display at NBS. I was surprised to see that it was published by PSICOM whose previous books on text messages and ringtones, comic books and horror books I also bought in previous years. I thought that after reading all those depressing news items on suicidal-dying-dead OFWs, this book could be perfectly upbeat in maintaining the Christmas cheer.

So I bought several copies of it, browsed through it during the 3-hour bus ride back to Gensan. I was smiling and giggling as I read Batjay's debut book; so often I presumed that my seatmate and other passengers were becoming wary of my presence. My seatmate looked like the Tower of Pisa leaning away from me. Poor guy!

Fast forward to March 2007. I was rereading Kwentong Tambay and some info finally registered in my brain. First, like Bob Ong's books were culled from his blog, so was Batjay's. Second, unlike Bob Ong, who is incognito and remains shrouded in mystery, Batjay seems accessible (totoong tao). (I know Jessica Zafra - love her books - also blogs but I can't/won't risk an ego-bruising/ball-busting encounter on the 'Net with her) Third, Batjay is an alumnus of Notre Dame of Manila (more on this later).

So i googled for his blog and voila! I have read several blogs before his, but was turned off by the inanities and self-indulgent tone of many of them. Anyway, right smack on the first page of his blog was hard to find, difficult to leave, impossible to forget, an account of his reunion with ND Manila '83 batchmates in California. Serendipity, I thought to myself. Seeing an opportunity to connect with Batjay, I posted a comment:

hi nicanor,

mas nauna kong nabasa ang book mo kaysa sa blog.
as a UP Diliman student, i had visited NDM in ‘76-’77 when my aunt, evelyn yap was the guidance counselor there. i also met a ms. david who’s in-charge of the canteen. was she a relative of yours? i was also a notre dame alumnus pero dito ako nagtapos sa gensan (pacman & tuna country). hail, hail to our notre dame!!!

I got a prompt response from Batjay which started the ball rolling towards Tito Rolly, so to speak. In one email, I told Batjay about my new blog and that I'd appreciate what he thought about it. After reading my blog, he emailed and introduced me to two teacher-bloggers like me. And that's how I met Tito Rolly.

When I browsed Tito Rolly's blog, I was pleasantly surprised that one of his favorite blogposts was on Desiderata which is a significant part of my life (and will be a the subject of another post in this blog later) so that was where i started reading.

In that post, I read Batjay's comment about how Desiderata influenced him and he even embedded a recording of his narration of Tito Rolly's Filipino translation of the classic prose/poetry. And so I posted my own comment and offer to email the mp3 file of the original recording to Tito Rolly and others.

Tito Rolly said he already has a copy of it, but he most wanted to have an mp3 of Tom Clay's What the world needs now which featured actual voice clips of JFK, RFK (the assassinated Kennedy brothers) and Martin Luther King Jr. Right there and then, I logged on to my MIRC group and asked my chan-pals where I could find it. In 30 minutes, I was able to download and email it to Tito Rolly. I imagined he was like Aladdin having been granted a wish by the genie of the blog.

In subsequent emails between us, Tito Rolly told me it was Batjay who got him started with blogging for which he is deeply indebted. I told him the three of us are kindred spirits brought together by serendipity.

Now, where does Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point figure in all these?

Serendipity, as defined in most dictionaries, is an aptitude for making fortunate discoveries by accident. What i thought was serendipitous in my meeting Batjay and Tito Rolly may be an epidemic, an idea posited by Malcolm Gladwell in his book as "... any number of mysterious changes that mark everyday life ... Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do." An epidemic has three characteristics: contagiousness, little causes having big effects, and change happening not gradually but in one dramatic moment called the "tipping point."

I think PSICOM started the epidemic which brought together Batjay, Tito Rolly and me. When it started publishing books on texting ang ringtones in the late 90s, PSICOM started its first contagion. A number of publishers followed suit but were not as successful. The contagion (texting/ringtones) was spread through cellphones creating wide rippling effects in terms of connecting people's lives and thus, making the Philippines the texting capital of the world. Think of texts/ringtones as the virus spreading through cellphones made operational by telecoms. Think of lives enriched/wrecked by those EB/SEB-inducing texts/ringtones. The tipping point here was EDSA II, a revolution made possible through texts.

The second contagion started by PSICOM was the publication of its horror books which spawned copycat books, local horror TV shows and movies. True, it became contagious that people started seeing/recording via cellphone cams the "paranormal." But this seems to be waning as horror books are now being overshadowed by the specter of real-life horrors like hunger, poverty, global warming, etc. No tipping point here.

The third contagion was when PSICOM started putting out books culled from blogs of Pinoy writers like Batjay and Jay Panti. Although Bob Ong's books were bestsellers, it was not "contagious" in the sense that it created no big changes. Maybe Ong's secret identity has something to do with this? Readers may find it difficult it to relate to a writer they can't put a face on.

In an epidemic, Gladwell named three players: connectors, mavens and salesmen. And this is where Batjay, Tito Rolly and I come in.

As this contagion has yet to play itself out, let me focus on the role of Batjay in it. Gladwell would call Batjay a "connector," someone who knows lots of people and has a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. Being a blogger since 2001, Batjay surely has made lots of connections with bloggers and blogreaders. Definitely, he connected me to Tito Rolly.

However, as to Tito Rolly, Batjay's role is that of a "salesman" who influences people to make changes in their lives (without twisting their arms). Tito Rolly confirmed that Batjay persuaded him to go into blogging. I've been toying with the idea of blogging since last year when I was wired, but getting connected to Batjay gave me the impetus to start one. I'm sure a lot of Pinoy bloggers out there would give Batjay credit for giving them the push. The fact that Batjay was named blogger of the year is a testament to his role as "connector" and "salesman."

Tito Rolly appears to be a "connector" too as he was able to connect to his students and poet-friends worldwide.

As for me, I would like to think that I'm a "connector" as well as a "maven" which Gladwell defines as a collector of information motivated to educate and help. As a "connector," I hope I was able to link up Batjay with my aunt. As a "maven", I was able to use my connections to help Tito Rolly locate an mp3 file he's been searching for a long time.

So, dear Breader (blogreader), what do you think about what i just laid out in front of you? Does it make sense? Or should I stick to believing it is all serendipity? Is there a tipping point we should look forward to?


BatJay said...

hi gilbert.

great post - not only did it contain many references to me personally, more importantly, it was also very well written.

seriously, it really was well written. i cannot write as well as you or jet, which is why i admire people like you who seem to do it effortlessly.

you mentioned "serendipity" - your arrival IS serendipitous. through you, i was able to connect with a part of my past that i love: high school and notre dame.

your auntie was special to me and many of my batchmates. if not for her, i probably wouldn't be where i am know. she and a lot of my teachers at notre dame gave me the skills i needed to live the life i am currently living.

rolly said...

Serendipitous or not, you are God-sent as I have been looking for that montage for a very long time.

I agree with Batjay. You seem to write effortlessly.

Again, thanks for the memories the music gave me. It's not too long ago, was it? (In denial pa ko eh, hehe)

JMom said...

I am a sucker for great writers, and this is a great example. BatJay and TitoRolly are also effortless writers, just different style. You all have the ability to engage your readers and that's what great writers do. Welcome to blogging :)

gilbert yap tan said...

aaaawwwww, thanks guys and jmom. praktis pa lang iyan. i'm into essay writing these days in preparation to joining the palanca. :)

Ate Sienna said...

hi, gilbert... jay sent us, his blogkadas, your entry thru our egroup and tito rolly encouraged us to visit your site. i like your article. thank you very much for featuring our two wonderful friends on your blog. i hope to read more entries from here.

good luck when you join the palanca! more power!

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