Unless he has been living under a rock, a true-blue Cebuano knows the area code of his beloved province. And with technology morphing into “a glimpse of the world with just a click of the fingers,” zerothreetwo.com has become one of the select blog sites the Cebuano browses to keep tabs on the finer things in life, useful info and whatnots.
What began as an avenue online for populist rants and raves—blogging, as we know it—has evolved into a social platform akin to the journalistic kind. That’s the thing with new media—it’s immediate and pervasive, so much so that it impacts the way we think and live.
Meet 30-year-old Carlo Fernan Villarica, who graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in European Studies and is now the head honcho of blogzine zerothreetwo.com. Here, he talks about his passion for Cebu via the blogosphere, and how Cebu keeps up with the changing times.
What inspired you to come up with zerothreetwo?
You know how friends always want to start a cool business together? You sit around and start brainstorming all these crazy ideas—open a bar, start a car shop, maybe even an internet café. We
decided to start a website. So ZeroThreeTwo was founded with Jason Almendras and Jeremie Lim. We initially wanted to share all the things about Cebu that no one really knew about. Like no one was talking about the hole in the wall restaurants, rocking indie bands, or crazy talented artists. Most of all, it was a fun thing we could do among friends.
How did you first get involved with blogging?
In 2006, I lived in Madrid, Spain. It was a great experience, but I was far away from Cebu. Facebook wasn’t around yet, and I didn’t have a Friendster account. I wanted to know what was happening in Cebu. Browsing through the Internet, I discovered a blog called, “My Cebu Photoblog by Leylander (http://mycebuphotoblog.wordpress.com/).” I found myself checking his blog every other day or so.
And I’d be disappointed if there were no updates. The blog became a window to a place I loved. I always think back to that time in Madrid and how browsing through blogs helped me feel more connected to home.
What do you find most challenging in blogging about Cebu?
The writing has always been a challenge for me. I get around it by just sitting down and staring at a blank screen. Eventually, something comes out. Tough, but I try to write every day.
Is there a particular blogsite that influenced you?
“My Cebu Photoblog by Leylander (http://mycebuphotoblog.wordpress.com/)” helped tremendously and provided inspiration. Traditionally, when people say blog, it’s usually a website about personal experiences of the blog owner. These days, blogs can mean so many things. Many of the sites I follow were started by bloggers, but became huge media sites.
Two sites that I read a lot from: http://grantland.com/ and http://www.theverge.com/
Time to share the love. Name top three bloggers that you look up to.
One is Tim Ferriss, writer of the “4 Hour Workweek”. Reading his book the “4 Hour Workweek” opened my eyes to how one can approach work. This in turn led me to read his blog. He has a unique point of view and blogs about a variety of subjects like startups, health, etc. You will always find something useful.
There’s also Bill Simmons, New York Times best-selling author and editor in chief of grantland.com
I’m not too clear with his history, but I believe he started by blogging about the Boston Celtics. Then he became employed by ESPN. Now, he runs Grantland. His writing style always seemed to resonate with me.
And then Brian Clark, founder and CEO of copyblogger.com
I learned about writing online by browsing through the many pages of Copyblogger. His site was incredibly helpful and provided clarity with how I should approach writing for ZeroThreeTwo.
What tips would you give to someone who’s interested in blogging?
Make a commitment to stick to a schedule. I feel like the best blogs are not blogging for blogging’s sake. They blog because they are sharing something that they do in the real world whether it be art, sport, work, business, etc.
Any bloopers you’ve committed in your blog, and what lesson has it taught you and the team?
I can’t think of any now, although I’m sure there are. It helps that I have bad memory. Running ZeroThreeTwo has taught me plenty of things. I can write significantly better. You should have seen how bad it was before. I’m learning how to run a small business. The goal is to make ZeroThreeTwo grow substantially. Most importantly, it helped open my eyes to the many talented people in Cebu. ZeroThreeTwo gave me an opportunity to connect with them.
Is there a processes you and your team undertake before uploading the blog entries?
Generally, we have a writers meeting. Then we discuss topics. When they send it in, I edit. I try to make sure information is correct before posting online. Mistakes happen every now and then.
Thankfully, readers are there to point them out. In those cases, we just edit the blog entry. We are also lucky to have contributors come in and submit articles every now and then. In those cases, I just go through my regular process and try to fit them in the editorial calendar.
What important event in the existence of zerothreetwo reaffirms that you guys have “arrived.”?
I don’t think we have “arrived.” I feel like we’re still in the process of making this whole thing work.
Is blogging a lucrative enterprise?
In Cebu right now, I don’t think blogging in itself is a lucrative enterprise. Most bloggers expect advertisers to swoop in and keep them afloat with advertising. This hasn’t been our experience. Blogging becomes incredibly lucrative when you have a business that does something else and you use blogging as a way to get people to discover you. This is what we are doing with ZeroThreeTwo Clothing.
ZeroThreeTwo Clothing division is handled by Jake Maningo and me. It’s an urban inspired clothing line for the ZeroThreeTwo reader. You can find the brand in many of the major malls in Cebu.
In newspapering, editors monitor the other dailies and keep a score of stories that they scooped. How do you keep up with the competition?
This begs the question: Who is the competition? I don’t think of other blogs as competition. What are blogs competing for? Pageviews? Visits? Followers? Those don’t really mean anything. All vanity metrics.
Do you have a stylebook or adhere to a set of standards when blogging? How does it work?
Yup! It’s all in our submission page. http://zerothreetwo.com/submit
Any untoward incidents in your line of work for the sake of getting the story right?
I have tremendous respect for journalists. I am not a journalist. I have no idea how to do journalism, nor do I try. ZeroThreeTwo just tries to help people discover new things and tries to tell a compelling story. That being said, we do our best to get information right. That’s why all content still goes through an editor.
What happens when a community of bloggers get together? How do you celebrate press freedom?
To be honest, I haven’t spent much time with the community of bloggers in Cebu. Hopefully that changes soon.
What do you do other than blog?
I run a travel agency in Bohol called Bohol Gateway.
You are the eldest grandson of the late Cebuano great Marcelo Fernan. Are you pressured to step up to the plate and inch your way out of his huge shadows?
Nope. No pressure at all. I have my own path and he had his.
Any plans to enter politics in the future?
When I was very young, my dad only wanted two things from me: Go to Ateneo de Manila for college, and don’t be a politician. I try to be a good kid.
You got married early this year. How does it feel to marry a former Miss Cebu?
I don’t think of her as a former Miss Cebu. She’s incredibly understanding, passionate and loving. She’s my wife. She’s Steph. Feels awesome!