From '10 to SIX: Writing the right thing

  • Wednesday, November 30, 2016
  • By Ion Gonzaga
  • 0 Comments

I won't forget the time I overheard a funny whip from someone when I was introduced as a blogger. She said, "Ingat ka, blogger yan!" (EN: Be careful, he's a blogger)

When I was a kid, I sell Sampaguita flowers in the sidewalks. I walked the streets selling ice candy and home-baked donuts, pastries, or roasted peanuts made by my mom - sometimes I use a sidecar bike. I carried huge plastic bags when I go to school as I have to deliver cakes in the canteen. I was paid pennies for posting election posters and handing out flyers during polls. We sold fish balls, barbecue and other street foods in our garage. All these were documented in a journal - as I was once a frustrated journo back then. 

These humbling bits from my childhood gave me the motivation to record similar stories of my life.


I started blogging with just a simple thought - to write about my life in Dubai because I know it's not gonna be easy and "my friends" might find it interesting. I didn't have a formal background in writing. I write not following a standard flow. I blog like I'm just thinking out loud. I wasn't really well-versed in English. In fact when I read back some of my first few posts, I can't help but laugh at how I did them.  You know, I don't have a proof reader - until now.

Despite of that, new visitors, other than my friends, discover the blog and the traffic has dramatically increased. The articles show up pretty well on the first pages of Google search results. That's when I felt the need to have a catchy blog name. I registered boydubai.com in November 2010 and things have changed from thereon.


Why Boy Dubai?

"Boy" is a colloquial prefix in the Philippines implying an informal ownership or mastery of the succeeding subject, pun intended. Hence, Boy Dubai means mastery of Dubai - again, pun intended.

The domain has an 'easy recall' that somehow it became a household name for the few who follow the blog.

Dahil kay Boy Dubai, you got updated about what's happening in the community. You discovered great food and new restaurants based on my reviews and preferences. You uncovered must-see hidden places in the UAE. You smiled, you laughed, you frowned, you raised your eyebrows, you learned. I learned.

Boy Dubai's purpose is to inspire and empower the readers while also covering some untapped areas that I find helpful for expats to look at life abroad a little lighter. Most of the subjects I tackle reflect happiness and fun in mostly simple ways.

The Thrills

Many people think that bloggers are "well-privileged." While I may agree in that, it takes a lot of time and effort to build a reputation in today's digital world. Authority bloggers play a huge role in influencing the community, and it is a serious responsibility to ensure that we remain fair and impartial at all times.

I was elated to receive VIP invitations to exclusive events, celebrity access and interviews, product launches, restaurants and hotel stay experiences.

There were times when my calendar is always full because I rarely decline invitations. They excite me! It felt so great to be invited. "Sino ba naman ako para maimbitahan..." was my immature excuse. For me, getting involved in those activities were confirmations that "I'm doing good in what I do."

In exchange for a blog coverage, I accept almost all invitations and gifts.


The Struggle is Real

I used to write 6 to 8 articles every month in the beginning but the demands of my day time job and the stress on the roads has caused the decline in numbers - that didn't really help the growth of my followers in social media.

Nonetheless, I had a share of good and bad posts, lame and viral ones.

Since I don't really have a formal training in writing, it's not always easy to write. There are times I could finish short posts in 5-10 minutes. There are some comprehensive ones which takes days, even weeks to complete.

I'd also rather spend my remaining energy playing with my little one and bonding with the family, than consume all that's left on me and write.

I received shares of both high fives and criticisms. I got threats for uncovering a couple of mysterious brand campaigns.

There were months when I have not written anything at all. The pressure to provide something for the few followers was strong.


The Rewards

The simplest yet most fulfilling reward for me is the inspiration I get from this self-developed passion. Unlike other yuppies abroad, I never had a stagnant work-home daily routine because there is always something to do, somewhere to go, someone to meet and something to write about after work.

It's also rewarding that I was able to share my knowledge in a short course about blogging in the former Kabayan Institute.  That volunteer work is one of many ways I 'pay it forward.'


I once represented UAE in the World Bloggers Day global celebration. I delivered a short message in a crowd at the annual Geekfest Dubai extravaganza.

I was asked to become a jury in the second installment of the worldwide Pinoy Expat Blog Awards along with other celebrities in the Philippine blogosphere.

Because of blogging, I was commissioned to become brand ambassador for Samsung, LG, Huawei, and Ping Pong Dimsum Restaurant in Dubai.

I was invited to contribute monthly articles for Illustrado magazine.

I got gigs to write scripts for radio commercials.

I was frequently interviewed by Dubai-based media and newspapers whenever there are hot issues related to the Filipino community.

I've had encounters with different personalities I look up to which I never thought would ever happen at all. I found myself rubbing elbows with Kobe Bryant, had a QnA with the musical legends and childhood idols Bamboo and Ely Buendia. It didn't cross my mind that I would have a chat with Marian Rivera and Bea Alonzo. I covered PBA games on the side court and did interviews with the basketball hall of famers - Asi Taulava, Mark Caguioa, Coach Tim Cone, to name a few.

An ambush interview with PBA superstar and long time national team player Asi Taulava
Recently, I had an exclusive interview with Nick Vujicic, one of the world's most inspiring motivational speaker.

I was listed in the 2015 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf. This year, I was nominated for the Media Personality of the Year in TFT Awards.

Why am I telling these to you? None of these would've happened had I not started Boy Dubai. The dreams would have not become realities if I did not take the risk of writing even if I don't really know how to.

BUT... I reached the point where those things don't really matter anymore. I don't mind not going into any 5-star, not receiving the latest gadgets, not having a backstage access in a concert, not able to attend high profile events.

I don't want entitlement. Honestly, I never really found myself jelling well with it.

As my blog shifts into higher direction, what matters to me now are not these kinds of rewards. The change of wind is aimed at impacting at least one person to look at things in a better perspective than what we used to do

It's not gonna be about vanities anymore. I'd write more about what happened to me in Farabi Hotel in Kish, than what I found in Burj Al Arab.


After 6: Writing the Right Thing

As they say, subtraction is the most valuable addition. I don't want a full calendar anymore. Going forward, I'll be more selective on events I'll attend to. I appreciate all the invitations, but I just can't afford to keep myself busy and not find time for personal and spiritual development.

Time came I realized I was only doing what everybody else is already doing. I was not really using my experience to somehow change lives. Almost everything I wrote about was vanity.

This is a realization of my purpose bigger than my passion - which I wish I had known years ago. I want to respond to the question, why we're here in Dubai, in which the common answer would be 'para sa kinabukasan ng pamilya.' (EN: For the future of the family). I want to expound on that. I want people to realize that there are more valuable things and activities in Dubai worth spending their time with.

Maturity has set in the way I want to write things.

Maturity is when I can still write about anything but in a better perspective. Maturity is when I can ruin someone who did me wrong but I choose to let wisdom reign and deal with it. Maturity is knowing that life is too short to spend time writing negative articles, rant or igniting conflicts.

It's All About Perspective

If I've influenced you with food choices or places to go, this time, please allow me to influence you with wisdom to help you develop a better perspective in life. 

I'll still share my activities I think you'll find interesting as I want you to be involved and engaged as well. I will still do food, places and event coverage but on a deeper perspective. I'll try to add sense to humor. BALANCE is what I advocate about.

I commit to write articles that have more relevance to you.

And if you find no new posts for a long time, it's just that I also committed myself more time to read, so I could write more when I got time.

Boy Dubai is not a directory anymore, okay. Instead of asking me where's the best place for lunch, ask about where it is best to go and talk over lunch. :-)

From now, this blog is my ministry. It's not just about happiness. It's about joy. What it takes to discover that joy within our usual experiences everyday.

If I didn't take the risk of writing on my own, I wouldn't be where I am now. And if not for the wisdom from the Almighty, I would still be writing nonsensical stuffs, and not realize this potential to influence the readers the way my mindset was transformed.

To my fellow bloggers, thank you. You always inspire me. To my sponsors and supporters, thank you for the trust.

To my readers, thank you for being there all the time. My stories are your stories.

I'll always be grateful to God for the talent and for allowing me to use this to reach out and improve how I influence people. All glory is Yours!




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Before it became Boy Dubai, the original name of the blog was SocialMEDubai.

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