My Great Internet Adventure formally began when our community at the Fathers' Residence of the University of San Agustin had our Internet connection set up on August 23, 1999. But my experience with the Internet did not start there; it began sometime in 1998 when the first Iloilo Internet Cafe was put up by one of our friars at the San Jose Parochial School. That Internet Cafe was closed down after awhile due to lack of funding and others have mushroomed in Iloilo since then. But while the Internet Cafe was open, I visited it quite a number of times, sometimes even bringing with me diskettes for downloading documents from the Vatican website. My first visits to the Internet was purely for information. Sometime later, I would discover that this was the original purpose of the Internet: to make the exchange of information easier. Well, I wasn't giving back something to the Internet then, that would come much much later... I was paying P 80.00 (eighty pesos) for an hour's Internet connection. (I could have had it for free, but I wanted to see that small establishment grow up and become stable. At that time, it wasn't just the right moment for taking advantage of the generosity of the proprietors.) And I felt that I was getting enough for my money's worth.
Some months after the San Jose Internet Cafe was opened, our own University Library put up an Internet section. There were some twenty units of computers there for students and teachers to use. I had my first free email account then, which I am still using until now. But for surfing, I still went to the San Jose Internet Cafe since the USA Library closed at 6:45 PM, which, at that time, was still work hours for me (I was teaching in a night class).
It was during this time that I accidentally discovered homepages. One night, I was looking for the topic "Augustinians." There were so many results to go through that I decided to click on the links at random. One link brought me to an Augustinian friar's homepage at Geocities. It was so nicely done that I wanted the owner (my brother in profession!) to know that I had been there. So I signed the guestbook. The significance of this small act of signing a guestbook will surprise me much later. I did not know then that the guestbook will bring my full name to the roving eyes of a search engine robot. But that is another story. pnp