it's not always rainbows and butterflies.
(valentine's season has me channeling my inner Lang-ay Leav manen) pic.twitter.com/JZDIAyIdCS
— Cousin from Baguio (@iugtan) February 7, 2018
That’s just one of the wittiest tweets of Cousin from Baguio, an anonymous Twitter account that has been entertaining Baguio netizens since mid of 2016. Using a mix of English and Ilocano, his tweets depict in a humorous way the day-to-day living in the mountain city, which residents and even frequent visitors find so relatable and funny.
He’s adamant about maintaining his anonymity because, as per his website, “it’s all in the spirit of ‘making people focus on the work, instead of the personality’ or some mumbo jumbo gibberish like that.”
He describes himself as “someone who enjoys country music, denim jackets, flannel polo shirts, leather goods of all kinds, strong coffee, and good company. He believes that positivity and appreciation for one’s culture are good things—and best admired in the same way we revere our precious cowboy boots” – an allusion to the Igorot people’s love for anything cowboy – country music, cowboy stories and western movies, and cowboy fashion staples the most important of which is a pair of leather boots.
We asked Cousin from Baguio a few questions and his answers lead us to infer that behind the anonymous social media persona is a grounded, unassuming, self-effacing but very talented humorist.
Were you born and raised in Baguio? Are we allowed to know your age and profession?
Yes. I was born and raised in Baguio. I was told that when my mother gave birth to me at the Baguio General Hospital, it was raining. I figured of course it was raining, it’s Baguio City. So I think that’s an undeniable, scientific evidence that I was born here—my life’s opening title credits were done with a backdrop of gray skies and rain.
I usually don’t tell people how old I am unless they’re trying to confirm if I’m old enough to be in a movie house or something, but I did graduate from Saint Louis University’s College of Nursing a few years back (good luck trying to narrow that crowd down). My professional plot twist is that I don’t practice it, nor do I work in a field that’s anything remotely close to nursing (again, good luck trying to narrow that crowd down).
As far as you can recall, when did you start becoming popular on Twitter and Facebook?
I began posting on Twitter around the middle of 2015. It’s the platform I preferred at first because there weren’t that many people from Baguio on it back then. It was less popular than Facebook and being that I was a “shy mango” in a way, I preferred to test my material there where I felt it would be easier to gauge if my jokes were any good since there were fewer users compared to Facebook’s audience (which is complete from everyone’s parents to their uncles to their homeroom teachers from Grade 3).
I also liked the challenge of trying to make something entertaining in 140 characters (now 280). I think anything can be made funny when given unlimited space to explain and set-up jokes or stories, so the 140-character limit was a creative challenge I enjoyed.
I admit that it feels strange reading and answering this question because I still don’t consider myself “popular.” I do remember things taking off on Facebook in mid-2016, when a user named Kate Caceres took screenshots of a few of my Twitter posts and posted them on Facebook. I owe the whole Facebook jump to her, and I appreciated how she took the time to link back and credit the account. It’s something I’ve always been very thankful for. In a time and age when it’s easy to copy and paste without a second thought, she credited the source and so became a big part of how a whole new platform opened up.
I remember waking up the morning after, wondering why notifications were raining in on my Twitter account. My guess was that people had either gone crazy—or there was one person who had too much caffeine and time on their hands, liking every single post thus creating 99 notifications in the process. I realized it was neither of those and saw that the commotion stemmed from her post. And overnight, seeing how most of the reactions were very positive, I decided to transfer some of my material over to Facebook and make a page there as well. Kate Caceres, I don’t know who you are, but you are the MVP, kabsat (sibling).
[heart to heart]
me: you’ve changed. bigla ka nalang lumamig… where did we go wrong? ayos ta lang met earlier but now… you’ve turned cold…
baguio weather: sorry
— Cousin from Baguio (@iugtan) January 13, 2018
When did you realize that you have a talent for crafting witty tweets that really connect with your audience?
Thank you for considering my habit for writing jokes a talent because I still don’t think I’m half as witty as people say I am. I know because I’ve met cousins and uncles and aunties who are quicker to the verbal draw than anyone else. They’d respond to questions in such witty ways that make me go “Ayu, why didn’t I think of that?”
A lot of it is trial and error. We’re all unique beings with different experiences and takes on life, so here and there you’ll find some things that connect with a wide range of people, and others that will be relatable only to a few. I think what makes some of my material connect with the audience isn’t solely because of the material itself. I think part of it is due to an audience that actively reaches out to pages like this to learn more about their culture, and its little quirks, while having fun. So, the connection and “omg-I-can-relate” moments are more a two-way street where on one side, I share an observation or a story that plays around the said cultural quirk, and the kabsats on the other end who relate and express their connection to it. It’s really a joint effort with everyone who reads and shares, playing off each other’s feedback and input. In the end, we’re all on the same team. And as they say, there is no “I” in “team,”— unless you spell it incorrectly.
How does it feel to be known as the anonymous Twitter account that has been entertaining Baguio folks with his oh-so relatable humor and poetry?
It’s a fun opportunity that I enjoy and feel grateful for. The original aim was always to find a way to appreciate and bring about an awareness for the culture. Since things got started, more and more similar pages have sprouted, helping take matters that were once seen—at least when I was younger—to be “corny” or “old-fashioned” and translating it into something relatable to a new generation of internet-savvy kabsats.
You have 50K+ followers on Facebook and 28K+ followers on Twitter; what do you hope to achieve with your social media influence?
I never really “planned” on anything of this magnitude, nor did I start off with a mission saying “Oh, I should reach 100k” or so and so. I honestly still look at the whole situation sometimes and think of it as silly. That’s not to appear ungrateful, or to demean the positives, but the concept of “social media influence” by an imaginary virtual cousin is such a strange idea for my brain to absorb that it still gets me flustered. I’m not a fan of buying into your own hype. It’s easy to think that all those followers follow YOU like some egomaniac, but the truth is they follow the material. I’m just enjoying the ride and the challenge of having to come up with new material and ways to express certain points. Maybe one day an answer will fall from the skies and hit us like a strong tapey (rice wine) on an empty stomach. Maybe I’ll tell everyone to go plant a tree or something. But then again, if you need a social media account to tell you to do what you should already be doing, then something is wrong—on a real-life level.
when you're tired of unrequited feelings
me: you remind me of my hometown
crush: aw because i'm pretty?
me: no. bcos u r cold
— Cousin from Baguio (@iugtan) July 14, 2017
Have you ever thought of monetizing your social media influence? Has any brand/company offered you money in exchange of marketing their products via your social media pages?
A few groups have approached me in the past, but I’ve always felt like it wasn’t for me. Nothing against their products or services, but I just didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to do. Everyone has the right to accept offers if given the opportunity, and if that’s your thing then go for it (and good for you). For me and the account, it was always about enjoying the challenge of writing and sharing a laugh. The idea of making money off it wasn’t really on the immediate radar. I feel that when something is monetized, you begin to have issues with authenticity. It’s easy to bite on the first offer of cash, but then you’ll have your creativity tied to the whims of whoever gave you the cash afterwards. Suddenly, you have obligations to please or pander to a certain few, and I don’t think I’m up or ready for that.
I feel like most of us view monetization of social media as the end game. That’s the main goal: get famous and monetize content. In a society that equates success with making money, I think it’s understandable to have the same mindset in the social media sphere. If that’s what a person wants to believe in, I think there’s no trouble with that. I personally don’t, so I don’t think of it too much.
I think my current concern comes with other certain pages that copy material off me or other sources and then attempt to monetize it. Some Baguio-humor based pages are nice because even if they take similar topics, they put their own unique spin on them, which is cool and good. But then there are others who make it their job to scour the net and take material word for word before passing it off as their own, which makes me shake my head and say “ni apay ngay?” (why, oh why?)
If I do end up gaining something from all this, it would be from related projects outside of social media that would need to be “monetized” simply because of the process involved—like perhaps the printing of a book? Shout-out to Manong Frank and Manang Mia!
How long have you been a columnist for the Baguio Midland Courier? What topics do you write about in your column?
This is a common misconception. I am not a columnist for the Baguio Midland Courier. I do send in articles regularly for their section that accepts user submissions, but I don’t officially write a regular column for them nor do I get paid for it. I usually write about anything I feel has been swimming in the chaos that is my head. Writing actual paragraphs are my own personal break from the 280-character limit of Twitter and allows me to dive into longer trains of rambling, incoherent thought. I’m thankful that they’ve published pieces I’ve made though (maybe they have a quota to accept one nonsense-ranting article every month and I fill that). While on this topic, I do still encourage everyone else who has a story to tell, to write their pieces.
How did you develop such a talent for writing?
Thank you once again for considering what I do a talent. I feel like its development compares to banging your head against a drywall until the wall gives way and you’re able to walk into the next room—where another drywall appears. I write constantly and maybe 80% of what I make gets tossed or saved under a random filename like “dsadafa.doc” onto my hard drive and filed away to be forgotten. The remaining 15% gets sent to imaginary projects that never see the light of day. And the remaining 5% is what gets posted or printed or released. It’s this constant pushing (and banging of the head) that refines you a little bit, I would like to think.
A behind-the-scenes look at writing is rarely pretty. There are days when you stare out into the tree in the distance, racking your brain for an idea or a joke but nothing comes out. I once spent a whole afternoon thinking about how to phrase a joke, only for a totally different one to suddenly appear out of nowhere. I think it’s about capturing “the feeling” while it’s there. We all know “the feeling.” Maybe it comes with writing, or painting, or singing, or acting, or dancing, or doing accounting tables—we must capture it while it’s there.
Was there ever a point when you were compelled or pressured to reveal your identity?
A few times but nothing major about them. I’ve had people I know share the page to me, saying I would like it. I thank them and reply that this person must be great, amazing, terribly handsome in real life, and above all, “very, very humble”.
The man in your Display Photo has become your now very recognizable trademark. Would you be able to tell us who he is?
Yes, he is my maternal grandfather. He was a policeman of Baguio in his heyday. He’s part of the reason why I don’t want to monetize this and why this entire thing has always been close to my heart. Also, I think he looks a lot better than I do, so that’s probably responsible for half the number of followers right there. If I used my own face, we’ll probably end up with a total of 10 followers, all of whom would be my friends.
A clock has 3 hands.
the hour hand
the minute hand
the second haND CLOTHES IJAY NIGHT MARKET NEW ARRIVALS 150 LANG NI
— Cousin from Baguio (@iugtan) March 7, 2018
Everyone’s question: why remain anonymous? How does being an anonymous Internet star work for you?
I think because it refocuses one’s view from the personality to the actual work. We live in a day and age where one can become “famous” simply because of an identity or a name but leave much to be desired in the manner at which they carry themselves or in how they do what they do. Also, it goes back to how I still sometimes see this entire thing as silly. “Fame” and “popularity” are fickle things that can change quickly, so it’s not such a good idea to build a strong attachment to those concepts. Finding purpose in what you do, and doing it well, I think is a better priority. And so, staying anonymous helps me maintain that.
It works for me because I get to walk down Session Road in peace. Although I doubt Baguio folks would care anyway if they did know. I’m no Internet star. I’m just your Cousin from Baguio.
i am staying home ta
A) i am under house arrest
B) a curfew has been established
C) panagbenga parade
— Cousin from Baguio (@iugtan) February 25, 2018