Day 16: #100HappyDays
Holistic Spring Cleaning


Good Friday’s timing for spring cleaning in all aspects is just perfect. I used the morning to clean my cabinet and get rid of some unnecessary clutter.

In the afternoon, during the Veneration of the Cross and the Holy Communion, I used this solemn time of Lent to do a thorough spring cleaning of the mind. My meditation today was not a particularly tranquil or easy experience; my mind kept flying out of my meditative goal with its own agenda. But it was worth all the sweat and the struggle. I eventually managed to recollect myself in key moments and emptied my brain of its useless vagaries.

Part of my life’s spring cleaning also included some basic life planning. I finally got around to listing down my life agenda for the next three months.

Aside from this, I read every single entry in this blog since 2004,and I marveled at the things that transpired. Despite the fact that I felt like I am going nowhere, I saw a lot of progress with my writing and my life. Everything moved progressively, and it’s something I need to be thankful for.

The blogger in 2004 is radically different from this blogger from 2014. Sometimes I want to just hide the 2004 version of me. The things I said in the past embarrass me greatly when I do my retrospective.

But I realized that it was a part of the whole process of continuous improvement.It is good to keep all those past posts there so that I will have a humbling reminder of key points in my life where God has helped me and how exactly he has helped me become a better person through the years.

If I delete any of these old blog posts, I will never be able to recreate them again even if I write a hundred posts today to replace them. So let all my defects stand, jologs posts and all.

I hardly checked my phones or gadgets these days; I was too busy reflecting on many things.

I guess this is what happens when you are about to enter a new stage of life; you just have a lot of things to consider. There is so much to plan, so much to be done, and so much to give your best energies to. It’s no longer palatable to waste time on useless things or activities.

And you no longer have qualms ignoring the non-essentials because you have zoomed in on what matters to you. It’s somehow a true mark of entering adulthood.

It’s part of my 43things goals to live in simplicity, and I believe that I have gained some good groundwork with what I have undertaken for today and the past 8 weeks since I have overhauled my entire lifestyle.

I still have a lot of activities but all of these no longer had the random chaos of a spinning top or a hamster on a wheel. Most of it is now coordinated, lined up in some form of organized fashion and within the happy bounds of my realities and circumstances. It was nothing that I have done by myself. This solid peace of mind and clarity is simply His gifts to me for this phase of my life.

Writing things down and paring most of my possessions down to the essentials really helped me see my priorities in life and how I can improve things, in general. I got to know my chief defects and strengths as a person and I have taken both menial and drastic measures to manage them.

Years ago, this would have been unthinkable. I tend to complicate myself so easily. I still do that today, actually. I complicate my life and I sometimes become my own worst enemy. But I tend to know more about myself these days and I become aware of what triggers me to be at my worst, and what drives me to be at my best.

Today, more than any other day, I am fully convinced of the unquestionable fact that the simple and peaceful life is the real way to live life happily and meaningfully.

Symphony Themes’
 Master Drupal in 7 Hours

Mixing work and fun is really the best kind of life anyone can have. As such, I derived such satisfaction setting up and updating the core database of my Drupal-powered Map Playground. This new addition to Helena blog is bound to help add another dimension to my self-expression as a blogger, and hopefully this self-expression can be of use to fellow bookworms. Too early to say now what I plan to do with my virtual playground for mapping pursuits, but it’s definitely something enjoyable and light.

Of course, Drupal is an altogether new form of CMS and takes some getting used to. Greatly helpful in getting my feet wet in this new interface is the uber-conveniently written Master Drupal in 7 Hours.

From a programmer’s perspective, they might just find themselves wanting more out of the book. But for real beginners, this book is pretty neat. It gives just the right kind of overview to help you get used to how Drupal works. Of course, the main thrust is in using it in conjunction with Symphony Themes’ customizable Drupal themes in their website. I loved the Conch layout but for some reason, it did not work when I tried to load it in my map playground.

At this point in my online life, I am lover of WordPress but I am starting to look into alternative systems because the programming and blogging world is so wide and deep that we cannot just contain ourselves in a single type of system. Why just settle for one when you can have a lot of choices to try and choose from?

So far, I’ve done a scant introduction to the more visual element of this blog through the subdomain I’ve set up. Hope that in the coming days, there will be more action on my Drupal domain while here at WordPress I continue to focus on words.

And for those who want to jump the Drupal bandwagon: Click here to download the ebook.

iBlog8 :)

Due to unfortunate circumstances (a.k.a. excessive reading of Fifty Shades of Grey), my Netbook Gab died last week. 🙁 I lost the notes I took of iBlog as well as insights that I was supposed to share for this very post. I am now trying to recall fragments of the happy self that I was last May 25:

Photo courtesy of AXL PPI 🙂


I missed Day 2 (May 26) because of an asthma attack.

One of the things I liked about attending iBlog is meeting my blogging friends:

axl image with two JPs, Photo courtesy of AXL!

And then, the meat of it are the numerous topics discussed. Quite honestly, I felt a huge wave of information overload from the 15-20 minute talks. But they were all engaging. I wish I was able to attend to all of them.

I learned some stuff about how I need to strengthen my own blog, and it’s quite refreshing to get insights from people who took time to make those nice presentations. I realized how much I am underutilizing and underestimating myself even in my blogging endeavor.

The huge muddle of information render me unable to credit the respective speakers for these nuggets of wisdom. Some of it are realizations from hearing them and others may be ideas from the iblog8 speakers themselves, but I believe they are worth sharing. Suffice it to say that I am crediting all the speakers of iBlog, and thanking Ma’am Janette Toral for another successful bloggers’ event.

Mark, me and Ma'am Janette Toral. Photo courtesy of Mark Madrona

1. Social media reshaped blogging and bloggers who want to stay survivors in the blogosphere may harness the potential and power of social media to promote blogs, advance causes, and make one’s presence known in the online world.

2.Possibilities are endless. The blogging world may seem so saturated. But it’s not. The pie is huge enough for everyone to take a dip, for whatever purpose it may serve them (although we all hope it’s for the good).

3. It reminded me that I am a blogger, that I must not abandon my blogging just because other things in life try to get in the way. Tenacity and persistence is key in succeeding in blogging.

4. While there are many SEO techniques, good writing skills remain to be one of the tried and tested classic way of getting a loyal readership. It does not have to be Pulitzer-prize winning, but at least just worth reading.

5. There may be “elitists” who think that they are better bloggers But respect begets respect. Promoting harmony is still important so that the impact and difference for advocacies stands with a solid voice for the world to hear.

6. Like any formed institution, the blogosphere has its own political landscape. I cringe as I wrote this. Not to mention that politicians are also increasingly dipping their hands in the activities of netizens recently. But yeah, it’s a reality. And it’s not entirely a bad thing.

So these are just some of the ideas that floated in my head after I attended. And it resonates with me two weeks after.

It’s a good experience that I encourage bloggers to try. 🙂 It’s like a good rite of passage to this colorful world of blogging.




On Writing Tips and Increasing Readership (Guest Post)

After recently attending iBlog 8, I bumped into an old colleague from the publishing world. He started blogging last year, and his blog (click here) opened a lot of doors for him, including winning a lot of contests and gaining a very good regular readership.

Photo courtesy of Mark Madrona

A journalism graduate of UP Diliman and highly recommended by his old boss (who I look up to as a writing mentor), he is now the first guest poster for Helena blog on writing tips and increasing blog readership. Ladies and gentlemen (naks!), I would like to introduce to you Mr. Mark Pere Madrona:

First of all, I want to thank Ms Helen Mary Labao for giving me the chance to guest post on her blog. I owe to her a significant part of what my blog is now. This time last year, my WordPress blog is still struggling to have regular visitors.

As I have written before, I received on the average less than 10 views per day on my first three months of blogging. Ms Labao encouraged me to become a regular blogger, saying that my write-ups deserve to be read. It’s funny to think about it now, but back then, I do not even know how to have a blogroll (LOL)!

My blog has received almost 340,000 total views since it was put up March of last year. Its readership is still somehow inconsistent. On certain days, it receives only about 500 to 600 views. However, one blog post last January has gotten 55,000 views to date! Blogging is a fun endeavor – a labor of love and passion for many like me. I keep getting suggestions for me to buy my own domain and have ads on the site. Maybe at the right time.

Obviously, there are lots of things I want my blog to achieve. Since I believe that being “ambisyoso” should not be considered a bad thing (despite its negative connotation to others), let me tell you now some of my wild dreams right now.

Someday, I want to win in the Philippine Blog Awards and Globe Tatt Awards, whichever comes first. Far-fetched? Maybe, but who knows? Haha. Ms Labao asked me to share writing tips as well as my insights as regards increasing one’s readership. Here are some nuggets of wisdom I have learned in my one year of blogging.

1. Know thyself – Before you immerse yourself in blogging, ask yourself: “In what topics am I really interested?” This will determine the orientation of your site. My blog does not cater to a specific niche. Although I write mostly about news and politics, I have bits of humor and entertainment every now and then, and this reflects my personality. My blog is essentially a hodgepodge of everything I’m interested about.

2. Do your homework – Go the extra mile! Since my blog thrives on news and information posts, it is crucial to do research. This takes time. On certain days, I sleep as late as 3AM just looking for information sources. Remember, people are willing to spend a few minutes going through your blog. Thus, you have to make sure that their time is not wasted by packing in as much information as possible. Who said blogging is easy?

3. Do not be a ningas-kugon – For one reason or another, it is challenging for just about anyone to maintain a regularly-updated blog. It is not unusual to see blogs who’ve not been updated for several months, or even years. Make sure you really find time to write blogs. You will lose any potential regular visitors if it takes light years before they can read new content.

4. Promote – Of course, you gotta tell everyone about your blog in every way possible. Tap the power of Facebook, Twitter, and the like to achieve this. Of course, do not do this indiscriminately. You don’t want to be regarded as a spammer, right?

5. Join blogging networks and link-up with other bloggers – It won’t do you any harm if you’d spend time visiting other blogs to give comments (of course, go beyond just saying “Great post!”). Also, join blogging networks and online communities. It’s a good avenue for you to meet other bloggers and potential readers. Some of them can eventually become your good friends, too.

Be patient. Getting more site visitors will not happen overnight, but when they start doing so, you will surely get a kick out of it. It is always great to have people appreciate your work.