A trip to the innovation Valley

This blog turned one this September and I'd like to believe that there are Filipino readers out there who regularly check out the "IT rantings" that I pretentiously dish out in this corner.But, I apologize for not being able to post an update last week.

This blog turned one this September and I'd like to believe that there are Filipino readers out there who regularly check out the "IT rantings" that I pretentiously dish out in this corner.

But, I apologize for not being able to post an update last week. That's because I was in Silicon Valley-–the technology heartland of America, upon the invitation of Internet company Yahoo.

It was not my first time in the U.S., but the trip brought a certain excitement in me as an IT reporter. And who wouldn't be? Ever since I got my first e-mail account, I've always wanted to go to this IT hub that has spawned some of this generation's greatest technology innovations.

Our hotel was located in Palo Alto, California, just a 30-minute jog away from Stanford University. I've heard a number of stories about this school from some Filipino IT alumni like Dado Banatao, Jay Sabido and Paco Sandejas, and it thrilled me no end that I was about to set foot on its beautiful campus.

Regrettably, I wasn't able to do that due to lack of time. However, we had breakfast at a place called Stanford Shopping Center, which is well within the university's vicinity. That's the closest I got to my dream school.

I was, however, able to shuttle back and forth to the famous Yahoo campus in nearby Sunnyvale. Now I know why it's called a campus-–aside from the fact that the buildings are spread out over a sprawling compound, the atmosphere of the whole place is, in the words of a fellow journalist, "egalitarian", giving it a university-like feel.

There's probably no place like it in the world-–except perhaps Google's equally famous campus in neighboring Mountain View. I've been to the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, but it exudes a "corporate-y" atmosphere that is far different from Yahoo's. Indeed, it would have been a terrible culture clash if Microsoft succeeded in gobbling up Yahoo.

One "curiosity" at the Yahoo office is the company's co-founder himself, David Filo. He is famous among Yahoos (that's what the employees call themselves, with Filo as chief Yahoo) as a no-frills guy.

So when Filo showed up during our media briefing sporting a worn-out pair of Adidas sneakers, we thought it was the same shoes he wore when he and Jerry Yang (the current CEO) started Yahoo in a Stanford dorm in 1995. But no, they weren't the original shoes, just the same model. I'm attaching a couple of photos here, including a snapshot of a photo montage detailing the company's history, so you can see it for yourself.

I almost forgot, but the main reason Yahoo brought us to their HQ is because of an event called Open Hack Day. It's a developer conference where non-Yahoo employees are given the chance to "hack" using Yahoo APIs and Web services tools. A Southeast Asian delegation, composed of one representative each from the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, took part in the geek contest. Luck was not on their side, however, as the team failed to win any award.

On a more personal note, I'd like to cite a very interesting experience I had after my Silicon Valley stint. My college-mate, Millard Canceran, invited her co-teachers in California area--among them Romano Delos Santos, Carol Ocampo, Maria Luz, Martina Isaac Zabala, and Joseph Alvarico--for her daughter Tatiana's third birthday bash. Another college-mate of ours, Tina Magtultol, also flew all the way from Maryland to join the festivities.

One of Millard's colleagues who also came was a fine lady named Elizabeth C. Dela Cruz, who used to be a college dean at the Philippine Women's University (PWU) in Manila. It turned out she was the same teacher whom my eldest sister spoke fondly about when she was still a student at PWU.

But the more interesting revelation was that Dela Cruz is also the older sister of my own highschool teacher, Cecille Concepcion. She can't remember it but we used to go to their house back then to visit our high school teacher. It's a small world after all.