How the Web was won: An account of the 1999 Philippine Web Awards

This article ‘How the Web was won: An account of the 1999 Philippine Web Awards’ was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2000 issue of The Web Philippines (, page 46-47. It’s written by Mike Wright and Claire David.

How the Web was won:
An account of the 1999 Philippine Web Awards

By Mike Wright and Claire David

Once a year, there comes a time when Internet traffic slows down, computers are abandoned, and the geniuses behind monitors appear in real life. It’s that time of the year when Webmasters are recognized for the value their Web sites bring to society whether it is a significant breakthrough, or a demented by ingenious way of looking at life. Yes, it’s the major event for the net generation: the 1999 Philippine Web Awards.

Roll out the red carpet

1999 marked the second time that the Philippine Web Awards were given to outstanding Filipino-driven Web sites. Attendance rose, from about 200 in 1999 to more than 500 last year, indicating a probably increase in curiosity among Netizens. Last year’s venue, the grand ballroom of the New World Hotel in Makati, was several times bigger than 1998’s Hard Rock Cafe in Glorietta. In attendance were IT CEOs, police officials, programmers, bohemians, artists, writers, musicians, jerks, geeks, and one big dude under litigation from a telco.

As we waited for the show to start, we noticed the intense schmoozing going on. Many were eager to meet other people whom they only knew through e-mail. After gathering a few business cards, we went around to ask the sentiments of the audience. Mylene Santos said, “This is my first time to go to the Webby awards, I’m pretty excited about it, and I hope my friend gets an award.”

It was a visual delight to roam in the New World Ballroom because we got to feast on Netizens that came in all shapes and sizes. It was an amalgamation of bespectacled, pen-laden geek outfits, traditional corporate looks, a splash of Hawaiian shirts, spunky hairdo, chunky platforms, and pico skirts. They were all chatting, err, talking and understood the universal language of the Web. We spotted Mediactive’s Noel Gonzaga who was hoping to replicate last year’s win for GMA Quest, but mumbled that it might be difficult as ABS-CBN was a sponsor of the awards. “Don’t print that,” he vehemently said.

A nominee for the Health category, Eugene Bacosa of Anlene said that he was positive on a possible in for their Web site saying that heir content, focusing on awareness against osteoporosis, and not selling Anlene itself might get it for them.

On to the awards

After a long wait, the program started with a different kind of invocation. It was a religious performance from the STI Silent Chorale where they left the message “God bless the Web.”

Judges this time around included personalities from arts, media and entertainment. We spotted goth artist/writer Karen Kunawicz, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Philippines Myrza Sison, and the most “remembered” vocalist of the evening, Rico Blanco.

He said that “Being one of the judges was an honor, if not a testament of how much time I waste on the Web.” He also comments, “The Web awards was pretty fun,” and that “there was more brain in that building that night than in Congress any day.” When we asked him if he felt that he was in his own environment that night, he snarked, “Every gig is my environment, and you’re all my captives.” We were indeed captured by the ear.

Hosts Mari Kaimo and Pinky Amador entertained the crowd with their wit and good Web sense. The first Web site to get the plum in the Art category was Hiraya Gallery. Aye Navarro, Webmaster of the winning Web site, said, “HIraya’s commitment to the promotion of art may have clinched the win for us, where the other wfinalists were more of personal sites.”

Sonic feast

There is one thing that we cannot deny about the elite digerati of the Philppines and that is their love for music. The awards that night was surprisingly a sonic feast of popular alternative bands, namely Mojofly, Rivermaya, and NU 107’s Best New Artist, Sandwich.

Everyone was responsive when Rico Blanco sang a little ditty about the life of an Internet enthusiast. He even gave a heart-pounding redition of how the love songs of our generations are sung.

The crowd also had a blast with the impressive performance of the Flip-hop music of Kulay. Hormones soard high once Chill got onstage. Web designers even made pledges to build the Web shrine of Chill. And Viktoria tickled the crowd with her new single.

Nominees, winners and the wild, wild Web

Looking at the competition was the Philippine Daily Inquirer Online’s Associate Editor, Abel Ulanday, who had kind words for LegManila and Business World, acknowledging that those sites would probably slug it out with them for the top plum. He also had kind words for the awards: “(The Web awards is) exciting, (has) grown bigger, and is bound to be an institution,” and adds, “It has helped a lot in the growth and use of the Internet, by encouraging (Webmasters) to do good in what they’re doing.”

On the Education side, Butch Cabanban of Newgen was confident that Informatics, a site they developed, had a good chance oif winning the award because of the site’s originality and creativity. He was also rooting for the La Salle site, in the same category, being an alumnus of that school.

Business nominee Bryan Lim, a Bench product manager, felt very lucky that they reached the finals, and pined that the award may go either to Jewelmer or San Miguel. He said that the achievement of being in the finals shows that Bench is “good not only in selling but also in presenting (itself) on the Web.” They plan to implement e-commerce at their Web site by January 2000. True to his prediction, the business award went to the pearl company Jewelmer, which has been successful in harnessing the Web to extend their business.

Miguel Syjuco of felt bad that despite the big scope of their site, it failed to clinch an award. But he then added that also deserved the award for Culture category because it represents the Filipino-Chinese community.

Cheryl Fuerte, Webmaster of three winning finalists, said that she was “Surprised, flattered, and very happy” about the awards that she got that night, and says that winning in the Showbiz category with the Donna Cruz website was sweetest because it was totally unexpected, and that she was against, in her own words “the great websites of Sharon Cuneta, and Jose Rizal the Movie.”

In Music, Jim Ayson of Philmusic thought that Vibestation might win. When the night ended, he swept all the Music awards, and then told us that he could finally pee.

Pulis Help Online was honored for the PNP’s brave bold venture on the Web. Now we can conveniently ask for assistance in times of trouble.

Compass Internet won the Computer Award and their representative ended his thank you speech with, “You’re one evil dude.” One Ocean, the winner for the Environment category, reminded  all of us to “support the ocean’s cause.”

The very gregarious Mae Paner, representative for the Government category finalist Bohol, said that the people behind the Web site, especially the Cultural Director of Bohol, Lutgardo Labad, were very excited about the wards. She said that the site, with its push for Bohol as a cultural and eco-tourism destination,  might get to sweep the awards. They eventually bagged two awards, the People’s Choice for Government and the Most Popular Web site of the Year.

The most controversial person in attendance, Gerri Kaimo, said that the Web Awards was his “fleeting 15 minutes (away) from the pressure (of litigation from PLDT),” and added that “a win here (for is a win for the consumer.” He then invited us to one of the hearings for the lawsuit filed by PLDT against him.

Heartfelt thanks

Winners that night seemed to be a bit homey, as most of them thanked their parents for the awards that they got. A number of them were very faithful because they did not forget to give thanks to the Divine Inspiration. And of course most of the Webmasters owed their work to their loving and patient significant others.

And as a fitting end to another year of controversial awards-giving, the night ended with another controversy when an apparent winner of the raffle’s grand prize couldn’t claim the prize because of a technicality — he didn’t have the winning ticket.

We know that the organizers have learned a lot from last year’s awards experience. And as we write this article, they are already planning Web 2000.

Web 2000

After the audio-visual spectacle that honored 1999’s best Web designers, we hung on to the remaining moments of the night as we savored the sounds, the lights, and looked at the bewitched people. As we observed the proud winners holding their own Webby babies, we also listened in on the finalists who were determine to bag those Webbies next time.

The 1999 Web Awards ended with a bang. As the digerati started going back to their respective cubicles and living their animated Internet lives, we thought about the potent power of the Web in its ability to showcase a far-flung province such as Bohol which can compete head-on with the big kahunas. Anything is possible. It’s really amazing to see the leveling of the playing field.

So we move on to the next millenium, with the promise of a bigger and better Philippine Web Awards 2000. Until we meet again, my wiggly, wonderful, Web friend.