By: Manuel “Boy” Mejorada

I STARTED writing a blog in 2007 after I attended a seminar sponsored by the Friedrich Neuman Foundation in Manila. At the time, blogging was slow to gain popularity in the Philippines, and the FNF wanted to encourage the use of the internet as a means to strengthen the principle of free speech as a cornerstone of democracy. As I have been writing columns regularly, shifting to the internet platform was easy.

Over the years, I regularly published blogs on the WordPress.com portal. There were periods when my writing slackened, but it didn’t take very long before I would resume writing. I’ve always loved to write, and blogging gave me an avenue to reach audiences around the world. The analytics on my WordPress.com for viewership shows that half of my readers come from the Philippines, while the other half are spread all over the world, with the United States and Canada as the dominant countries.

A writer does not write for himself, but for his audience. He is not effective if people don’t read his work. This is why blogging has been very helpful to me. Every day, WordPress tells me exactly how many people have viewed my blog and what posts they read. It tells me what articles my readers want.

The blogs have become a great partner to my regular columns in the Daily Guardian, Iloilo’s number one newspaper with circulation in the entire Western Visayas. I have also dabbled in radio with block time programs during the last 20 years, but that had been an off-and-on thing.

During the last 10 years, I have also been watching a lot of videos on YouTube, including the growing number of vlogs on technology, personal improvement, and other stuff. I particularly like the lectures available on the YouTube channels of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and other Ivy League universities. The content is simply great. It’s like being able to attend school at these institutions, for free. All I need to invest is the time.

From time to time, I also published YouTube videos, but not in the vlogging format. For a long time, I didn’t feel adequate to go into vlogging. Perhaps I thought that talking before a smartphone camera while walking around was hard stuff. And I was uncomfortable with the idea of holding a selfie stick with my smartphone mounted in public places.

That changed sometime in April this year, just a few weeks before the local and national elections.

I figured I could use the YouTube platform to get across my message about the local political scene. At first, I just uploaded videos of my radio programs. Then I started producing 2-3 minute commentaries, still on local issues. The results weren’t very encouraging. The number of viewers hardly broke the 100-mark. At the time, the number of subscribers to my channel was only 99.

Then I tried talking about national issues. This happened in the first week of May. The hottest issue was the revelation of Bikoy, or Peter Joemel Advincula in real life. He confessed to being the man in those viral videos that linked the President’s family to the illegal drugs trade. He held a press conference at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines saying he was asking for help to file charges against the people he had named in his videos.

But in a sudden twist of events, Bikoy did an about-face on his allegations. Bikoy claimed his videos were just choreographed upon instructions from then-Senator Antonio Trillanes and officials of the Liberal Party. He even dragged members of the clergy into the mess.

I did a series of videos on this turn-around by Bikoy. To my surprise and joy, the number of viewers skyrocketed. So did the number of my subscribers. From 99, the number of subscribers climbed to 500, then 1,000 and in another month, to 5,000. My Bikoy videos hit an average of 100,000 viewers. The figures were dizzying for me. Unbelievable but true.

This is what launched my vlogging “career”.

At first, I just used my Samsung S7 Edge smartphone’s camera and GoPro Hero 5 Black to record my videos. Three weeks ago, I purchased a Canon EOS M50 mirrorless camera and a Canon Powershot S110 compact camera to shoot video. I have also purchased an LED video light and softbox light. And I found my Apple MacBook Pro, which Rommel Ynion gave to me in 2011, too slow for the editing software. With help from Rommel, I acquired an Asus 15-inch laptop with RAM upgraded to 32-GB for smooth and fast editing.

My target is to produce 3 to 5 videos a week. The idea is just to keep shooting videos and not worry about the statistics. As I get better at this, I am confident that the growth of my channel will continue. I have also activated my Manuel “Boy” Mejorada Facebook page as a platform for the videos I produce. Of course, I will continue writing my column for Daily Guardian.

And by the way, my earnings from YouTube have started to flow. It feels good to earn dollars from what I love doing.