Saturday, July 6, 2013

Singapore Blog Awards 2013: Thanks everyone for your support!

I'm overjoyed and excited to announce that I won the Panasonic Best Eco-Challenge Blog category in the Singapore Blog Awards!

It's such a thrill to see my efforts in writing about nature and conservation being recognised and validated. Given that I cover a rather niche topic, and don't attract large audiences comparable to other more famous local bloggers, I'm really pleased that and Panasonic have provided such a platform for bloggers like me to reach out to a wider crowd.

The competition was tough, especially considering that many of my fellow finalists in this category do have a considerable online presence and following, especially in the local blogosphere. Being able to track the number of votes that everyone had received made things very stressful, but also helped to rally my friends and other supporters to vote daily, especially when I was lagging behind at the beginning of the voting period. I'm grateful to all who voted for me, publicised my participation in this competition and encouraged their own friends to vote for me as well, and shared links to my posts. Not to mention the judges, who deemed my content to be worthy of the title.

As I mentioned in my first post about this year's Singapore Blog Awards, winning this category means that I have a Panasonic HX-WA30 Camcorder (which I am going to use as often as possible while out on my frequent adventures), as well as a paid blogging assignment with Panasonic worth $600.

I attended the Awards Ceremony earlier this afternoon, which was held at Shanghai Dolly. Since I could bring a companion along, I invited Debby. She's been very actively involved in nature outreach in Singapore for several years, and is one of several other local nature bloggers whom I hold in very high regard for their dedication and passion.

Because of the 1960s-themed dress code, we drew inspiration from two wildlife icons whose careers were still just beginning back then.

Debby was channelling the young Jane Goodall, who began her study of the chimpanzees of Gombe in the 1960s.

(Photo by Hugo Van Lawick, from National Geographic)

While I attempted to dress a bit like young David Attenborough, who had already gotten started in natural history programming in the 1950s.

(Photo from BBC Natural History Unit Images)

I did say that we tried. Fine, if you don't think we managed to pull off the look, you can just think of us as generic safari explorers from the 1960s. Maybe we should have turned to one of the fashion bloggers for sartorial assistance. And yes, that's a toy scorpion on my palm, and a toy tarantula peeking out of Debby's pocket.

The presentation of the awards began with the Special Categories, which included the category that I'm in. I recall being really nervous when the list of nominees for the Panasonic Best Eco-Challenge Blog was read out, and then froze for a moment when I heard my name being announced as the winner.

While I was on stage, Evelyn Kuek, the emcee for the awards ceremony, pointed out the scorpion perched on my shoulder, and I spontaneously decided to ham it up for the audience by pretending that it was a pet and kissed it*. At least I didn't trip and fall down or cause further embarrassment to myself.

*Disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for any injuries sustained from attempts to kiss actual live scorpions. Besides, scorpions aren't allowed as pets in Singapore.

(Photo from Singapore Blog Awards)

Even after I'd returned to my seat, I was still trembling with excitement.

(Photo by Debby)

(Confused? Don't be. I have 2 separate Twitter accounts for different content and audiences.)

(Photo from Singapore Blog Awards)

Together with winners from the other categories, I had the opportunity to meet the Guest of Honour, Mr. Lawrence Wong, who is the Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information. We had a short chit-chat about the topics I write about, as well as the hope that the Singapore Botanic Gardens will be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

(Photo from Singapore Blog Awards)
The winners of the 10 Main Award Categories not only received a custom-made trophy, they also get to go on a sponsored trip to Northern Territory, Australia. How awesome is that?

Alas, during the group photo-taking with all the other winners, my face ended up being blocked by the people in front. Damn, I didn't notice the gap just to my right.

(Photo from Singapore Blog Awards)

Debby had a funny quip though.

(Photo by Debby)

More photos from the Awards Ceremony are in this photo album on the Singapore Blog Awards Facebook Page, as well as this photo album by Sze Ping, one of the other attendees.

And here are some posts by other bloggers who attended the event:

After the event, while I was talking to journalists covering the awards, I managed to share my interests and passion, and talked about my motivations and why I chose to write about niche topics like nature and conservation. I used the opportunity to mention how a childhood interest in animals, combined with inspiration from people who have been very active in the local biodiversity community, such as Ria and Siva, led me to focus on nature blogging. Sure, I may not get the attention that many food, lifestyle, and beauty bloggers receive, and I probably won't be flooded with sponsorships and gain much meaningful income from this, but that's not the point. I'm passionate about nature, and people say I write well, so I suppose it's only natural (heh) for me to write about biodiversity and natural heritage, while at the same time highlighting many of the issues and challenges that Singapore faces as we try to strike a balance between conservation and development.

Update: I'm in The Straits Times again.

"Mr Ivan Kwan's post on what seemed to be an eviction notice to Pulau Ubin residents set the public abuzz."
(Photo by Desmond Lui, from The Straits Times)

When Mr Ivan Kwan conceived his now award-winning blog in 2008, it was out of a personal interest in nature and wildlife conservation.

The former research assistant never thought that his post in April on what seemed to be an eviction notice to Pulau Ubin residents would set the public abuzz.

It even got the Government to publicly apologise for the poorly- worded letter, which was really meant to inform 22 households that they had to pay rent to continue living on the island.

This helped Mr Kwan become one of 19 winners at the Singapore Blog Awards held yesterday at a River Valley Road venue.

Since it was free seating and we were scattered all over the venue, I didn't get the chance to say hi to the other finalists in my category and hang out with them, which was a pity. We'd only met up once before during the Panasonic Go Eco, Get Crafty workshop, and chatted briefly, but I guess I'll probably have the chance to meet them again at future events.

In any case, here are the rest of the finalists in the Panasonic Best Eco-Challenge Blog category. Do take a look at what they have to share.

It was a pleasure to have met you guys, and despite the rivalry, I'm glad that we've all shown in our own ways how we care about the environment through our thoughts and actions.

Wait... does this kind of mean that I could be considered a celebrity blogger of some sort now? (I kid)

Still, now that I'm somewhat kind of slightly more famous (for that metaphorical 15 minutes at least), if you wish to meet me and get autographs (YEAH RIGHT), head to VivoCity next weekend for the Festival of Biodiversity!

Many of us have been working very hard over the last few weeks, and we can't wait to showcase Singapore's natural heritage to the general public, many of whom might not know about the many species that still survive in Singapore, and the many threats that they face.

In the morning, I was at a briefing and training session for the Raffles Museum Toddycats!.

We've got quite a number of volunteers, all eager to help out at the Festival. Some of them are new recruits who heard about us and wish to contribute.

(Photo from habitatnews)

Some of the more senior volunteers were appointed as subject specialists, presenting facts about some of the animals that we were going to showcase at the Festival - Marcus had his audience learning about native mammals found in our forests, David entertained his group with his imitations of bird calls, Oi Yee had plenty of stories about freshwater life, while I talked about marine animals.

(Photo from habitatnews)
Chay Hoon taught some of the other Toddycats how to make little clay models of our wildlife;

(Photo from habitatnews)
Maxine is a graduate student doing a research project on plankton ecology in Singapore. With the assistance of some of the Toddycats! and several microscopes, she'll have the chance to highlight the importance of plankton in freshwater ecosystems, and how human activities can influence the populations of these microorganisms, thus affecting the quality of the water that we might end up drinking.

In the meantime, a small crew of Toddycats! as well as friends and affiliates of the Toddycats! were tirelessly working on creating more plush mascots for the volunteers.

(Photo from habitatnews)

I had to rush off halfway through the session so that I could make it to the Singapore Blog Awards Ceremony, but I'm sure the newbies learned a lot, and everyone is getting themselves mentally prepared to face the crowds at VivoCity and put up a great presentation of Singapore's natural splendours and what we can do to protect them.

Once again, my gratitude to all who voted for me or showed their support in other ways. Now that the Singapore Blog Awards 2013 have come to an end, it's time for me to focus my energy on other upcoming events. See you at the Festival of Biodiversity!