A Social Media Love Story: Romance in the 21st Century

Let me tell you a story.

If everything goes according to plan, this post gets published on 13 April, 2014. Exactly one year ago, the Philippines was getting ready for mid-term elections. Senatorial candidates were shoveling bullshit down everyone’s throats willy-nilly, and there was a dire need for more substantive engagement. You see, debates between candidates for national positions might be old hat for most of you from other countries, but in the Philippines, that just doesn’t happen. This news article about one senatoriable refusing a debate challenge from another senatoriable is a perfect example. 

So when Rappler, a local news agency, announced that it will be organizing a small senatorial debate, I was excited. Rappler has always been a trailblazer–which isn’t surprising, given that its CEO is Maria Ressa, formerly CNN’s lead investigative reporter in Asia specializing in terrorist networks, and Esquire’s Sexiest Women Alive for 2010, citing her fearlessness in writing an eyewitness account of Al Qaeda “despite her size”. (Sorry, I love that woman.)

To recap the context: (1) the senate race was getting so heated up, even 7-11 was jumping on the bandwagon,

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Note that the leading candidate in that poll is a religious leader. Villanueva is the founder of the Jesus is Lord church. He ran for (and lost) the presidency in 2004 and 2010.

(2) Rappler was holding a senatorial debate,

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and (3) I was excited as hell, but it was going to be in Quezon City, which was way outside my comfort zone (i.e. it’s not walking distance from my house.)

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Quezon City is a scary place, and I’ll explain why in a second. It was as if the Universe didn’t want me to go too–it actively tried to steer me away from the event. The people I was supposed to go with cancelled last minute, I chose a cab over mass transport and was caught in traffic for what seemed like hours, and I had no idea where I was going.

Finally, after getting lost so many times it wasn’t funny anymore, I finally made it to the event venue.

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Sauron is asleep. Where the heck is Frodo?

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After my initial shock from stepping out of the cab and into Mordor, I finally found where the event was gonna happen and tried to find a seat.

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There were no snacks.

But I hitched up my big boy pants and approached the organizers to get a better seat.

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Richard Gordon and Grace Poe were senatorial candidates who joined the debate. The others were Risa Hontiveros, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, Bam Aquino, and Teddy Casiño.

As mentioned earlier, this is one of the first senatorial debates in Philippine history. Which means these people had no idea how to behave. Instead of it being a place to exchange ideas, some of the candidates carted in truckloads of their “supporters”, making it seem more like a street rally than a debate. It was disappointing. And annoying.

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Silver lining: Rappler has some of the brightest (and prettiest) journalists. I couldn’t help but be starstruck.

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The debate started late, primarily because some of the other candidates (read: Gordon and Villanueva) were late. Hontiveros was there like an hour early. (Let it be understood here that I supported Hontiveros throughout the elections. I don’t necessarily support her party, but I backed her as an individual 100%. Read about her. Seriously.)

Also, it doesn’t hurt that she’s seriously pretty.

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Throughout the debate, Rappler used an online polling service modeled after their patented Mood Meter. Basically, at the end of every speech or answer from each of the candidates in the debate, anyone with an Internet connection can choose among four reactions: happy, inspired, angry, and annoyed. The results were tallied and shown on a screen beside the stage.

This is an inspired concept, but the implementation was shit.

See, Filipinos don’t usually have internet connection on their phones, and the venue didn’t have Wi-Fi. So Rappler gave out smartphones with the app installed to members of the audience at random so they can vote. This would’ve been fine but like I mentioned earlier, the candidates brought supporters. So whoever brought the most supporters had the most favorable results (and Bro. Villanueva and Gordon brought truckloads).

This led to really stupid results. (I may be biased.)

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I went from disbelief, to annoyance, to outright outrage. I wasn’t the only one.

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Anyway, the debate was very substantive and it showed us just how much the candidates knew about what they’re talking about (which, for a lot of them, is a whole lot of nothing). The Mood Meter results were then tallied and posted.

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As expected, Hontiveros was at the bottom, along with the incumbent President’s nephew, Bam Aquino.

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Imagine if, instead of brainwashed masses, the audience was made up of independent-minded members of the academe. Students. Thinkers. People who actually knew what was going on. I bet the results would have been very different.

Anyway, the debate ended. The crowd slowly dispersed. Now, this is where it gets interesting.

If you’re still here after all the political crap I put up there, I wanna give you a hug. I promised a social media love story and all you’ve gotten so far is a tirade. I apologize. Hold on, though. Here we go.

See, I was out of my comfort zone. I had no idea how to get home.

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So, like any sane person in the 21st century, I turned to the Internet.

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Little did I know that that one tweet, born out of necessity, desperation, and the need to get out of Sauron’s kingdom, would lead to so much happiness. To so much love. To so much awesomeness.

Because who answered my tweet? Let’s see.

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And that, kids, is how I met my girlfriend.

(Of course, she didn’t know it yet at the time.)

Yes, kids. I met my girlfriend through Twitter. For diehard fans of this blog (hi mom), you may remember this post. This was inspired by my budding friendship (I took it slow) with this awesome girl.

Back to the story.

Immediately after she gave me directions and I got a cab, I checked out her profile. Something about her got to me…I’m still not sure what it was.

It was crush at first tweet.

But that crush grew and grew and grew as I went through her tweets. Man, this girl was smart. And she knew her politics. And she was a big Star Wars fan. What else do you need?

But I didn’t talk to her. I couldn’t! That might scare her off. And since this was the Internet, and I didn’t get her number or anything, I couldn’t follow the three-day rule. So what to do?

I resorted to creeping on her tweets because I’m crazy like that. Favorite this one. Retweet that one. After a few weeks, I started adding to her tweets.

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(Side note: she’s a big Hontiveros supporter. Imagine our disappointment when Hontiveros lost the elections by a wide margin. Man, the Filipino voting public needs an upgrade.)

These short conversations went back and forth. Sometimes she started it. Sometimes I did. Fun fact: I had a wide smile on my face every time. I have no idea why.

But we didn’t really get to have long, meaningful, actual conversations until June. That was when we really clicked, and the magic started to happen.

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This thread continued for days until, out of nowhere, she says this:

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“Not at all stalker-y.” HAH. That’s what you think.

Okay, to all you smart asses out there, I know it’s not exactly a declaration of love, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t get butterflies when I saw that.

No, not enough for you?

How about this:

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To quote every lone wolf who, quite by accident, felt their heart grow three sizes one day:

Fuck, I’m in love.

So what did I do? I wrote a blog post. Because I’m dumb. And awkward. A whole lot of stupid.

But you know what the magical thing is? Despite all that, she didn’t go running off in the opposite direction.

She stayed.

We started hanging out a whole lot. And we just sort of transitioned from weird friends who met on Twitter to normal people hanging out, maybe being more than friends.

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I remember that night so vividly.

I had a fever. I didn’t know I had dengue yet, I thought it was just some crap fever that’ll go away soon. We were at Jollibee Katipunan (I know, I know). I sat beside her. She was telling me about herself, writing on a napkin to illustrate her point. I was staring at her face. The way she talked. The way she scrunches her nose when she catches me staring. I couldn’t help it. My hand had a life of its own.

I reached over and held her hand.

She looked at me, surprised. But she didn’t take it away.

The next day I was puking blood in the hospital but god damn it, it was worth it.

This went on for a few months. I was happy, very much so. I thought I couldn’t be happier. I was wrong.

I asked her if she wanted to be my girlfriend. If we could make it official. If I could shout from the rooftops that she was mine.

She said yes.

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