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Sandstorm 2014 Blame Game: A Blog Coverage Nightmare

Covering a crime story seems to be less stressful than doing Sandstorm 2014, an electronic music festival that kicked off in Batangas three weeks ago, because of the irritating blame game that erupted after consistent failures in their media relations.

The involved parties have foolishly played around giving us scripted apologies, but not owning up to the troubles we suffered from. They say they are sorry, but they claim it was because of other people.

Okay then, if no one wants to take the blame, let us just give it to the former president Gloria Arroyo, who is always the reason why failures in this society exist.

Days before the blog coverage, the group of Cherry Bustamante Burwell, The Big Different Communications, has been scouting for bloggers to do the media coverage for the 3-Day festival.

As promised, we will enjoy following benefits:

1.   Free transportation: Metro Manila to the venue in Batangas, and back after the event.

2.    Free food.

3.    Free villa and tents where we could re-charge our gadgets and secure our stuff.

4.    Free pass to the event.

5.    Free pass to a “plus one” who will accompany us in covering the event.

A Facebook group chat was created to discuss with us about the terms. although not all of us understood these points because of the irregular updates:

1.  Burwell or any representatives from Big Difference Communications will not be available at the venue since their group is focused on their other client- Ducati Weekend 2014 in Pampanga. 

Given the situation, we expected that everything was ironed out so our arrival would have been expected, at least. 

2.   We need to upload a total of three press releases on our website: Sandstorm 2014, Ducati Weekend 2014, and Bih-Zahr Restobar Opening, three of The Big Different Communications clients.

As a requirement, we complied.

3.    There will be no free liquor served to us at the beach party so we need to shell out from our funds if we wanted to drink.

Everything on top of the free pass, group accomodation, food, and transportation are on us. However, Burwell told us that she is STILL coordinating with the organizers for adjustments.

4. There was no mention of cash involvement, which was never a problem to bloggers like us.

Later on, Burwell claimed that she was asking the organizers an amount for our allowance. This information surfaced when Burwell was already feeding explanations to us when everything started to go rough.

Even without a formal announcement or email from the group of Burwell which we had waited for days, we thought everything was going well. And that they have already arranged things out for us.

Ginawang Field Trip?

In the morning of November 22 when we were set to go to Batangas for the blog coverage, I personally asked Burwell for the list of attendees for easier attendance monitoring once we are at the bus station. A fellow blogger Lee Rosario volunteered to do the coordination.

Burwell sent us a screen shot of the list, with a suprising side comment in the chat box saying, “Naman ang dami n(i)la g(i)nawa ata n(i)la field trip”. 

Note: The earlier version of these pictures show the names uncensored. Due to requests from people on the list, we are censoring all names on the list.

She might have forgotten that it was her group that approved our participation after doing the favor of uploading three press releases to our websites.

The list was inaccurate; my plus one was not there. We just decided to place their names in exchange of slots vacated by those who said they cannot make it.

Pila na Kayo Para Bumili ng Ticket

Before two in the afternoon, the bloggers alongside their plus ones were already waiting for the promised DLTB bus to bring us to the venue for free (as promised).

However, Mang Boy from the bus company told us that they were never instructed by Frances, their organizer contact, about the free transportation for media people. We actually did not know who Frances was.

Since Burwell did not give her number to anyone of us (I messaged her that morning, but she did not respond), I dialed Brian Macasa from Burwell's group, who was the person who placed me on the list.

Macasa informed me to contact a certain Dexter; he placed Dexter's contact number in our FB chat. We then dialed Dexter's number. Dexter assured us that they will fix it. As introduced in the chat, Dexter is an organizer, but he claims to be a mere supplier (we were confused).

After waiting for almost four hours, taking the initiative of bridging the parties that are terribly poor in coordinating things out, we were allowed to board the bus without paying anything. 

The DLTB bus station incident alone was already an epic fail and it has caused much rage from the bloggers and their plus ones. We were 20 all in all, who patiently waited for the bus; Joyce, a ticket holder, chose to commute instead.

I know my judgment is right:

1.   The PR group should have made sure that the FREE transportation for us was available beforehand because they know that no one from their group is there to coordinate for us.

2. It should have never been part of our obligation as blogger media to contact Dexter or anyone from the organizing team to complain on DLTB charging us. 

The main reason an event production hires a PR group is to have a set of peole do the coordination job between the organizing group and the media group. There is no way that the media group reports directly to the organizing group.

3.   Once the PR group learned from us about the trouble, they should have already made moves to prevent further troubles. 

With the above-discussed simple transportation concern, I did not want to think that Burwell's group cared about us.

Wala Naman Palang Villa

Before we reached the venue, everyone was charged P20.00 as sort of some tourism fee. However when we reached the venue at nine, Fish from the reception area said we were not supposed to pay that fee (confused again).

Tired from the prior emotional and physical exhaustion, we asked the staff to guide us to the villa so we could rest. However, the staff was puzzled about it because apparently there were no instructions like that (confused again and again).

I called Dexter again, and he was apologetic about it. After minutes, another staff came looking for us. The staff led us to a 2-room villa, which was reserved for organizers. 

The two rooms were already in use but they fixed the second for us. We waited while the staff fixed the used blankets and even took his pillow before we could place our bags inside the room.

Naka-Plastic na Pagkain

Outside the room, there were 10 plastics of rice and another 10 squash currie. That was the first time I can no longer keep my cool.

I told the staff to please bring us more food because the 10 sets cannot feed 19 people (one from our crowd already left). All of us were terribly hungry. My plus one grabbed food and helped himself; that was totally heartbreaking and embarassing as the person who brought him to the coverage.

Another set of food came, and I was able to feed my stomach at last. With a promise of feeding us again after a press conference with disk jockeys, we proceeded to a restaurant where I finally met Dexter in person.

Sinalo Pala Kami

Jacob So, the main organizer, came in to meet us as well. One from our crowd started to emotionally complain about what happened to us. It was just a humane reaction; I cannot and do not blame him for that rant.

Nesty, another organizer, stood to rescue So revealing what actually transpired that left us poorly- treated.

1.  The organizers thought that Burwell was a great PR practitioner because she was handling Ducati Weekend. Bottom line: they hired Burwell to be the PR of the event.

2.  Burwell brought five bloggers with her during her occular inspection and she ended the inspection with some financial check out. She did not deny this, but noted that what she received was used to pay for their expenses during the inspection.

3.  The organizers decided to stop communicating with Burwell because she was demanding for things yet she seemed to have delivered nothing.

4.  Nesty proceeded to bad-mouth Burwell.

But days after, Jacob claimed Nesty denied those things leaving an assumption that we were lying when we reported to Burwell what Nesty had been uttering that evening. No way!

5. The organizers were not actually expecting us, they claim. They were surprised when they received a call from us about our arrival. 

In Filipino, sila ang sumalo sa amin after we were left behind in the middle of their poor relations with the PR group they hired to handle us.

However, we made it clear that in case they have misunderstandings with Burwell, they need to spare us. To some of us, these organizers appear to be the hero in the story.

Ano Ba Talaga

I explained to the group that the organizers have nothing to do with us since we are expected to file our concerns to Burwell who was the mere reason why were there. Since no one knew the contact number of Burwell, we just relied on Macasa who patiently lifted all my calls, and relayed to Burwell what was happening.

Because the picture was clear that we were in the middle of two opposing parties, we told So about our concerns:

1.    There was only room for us, and that it is impossible to squeeze 19 people into just one room.

2.    So apologized, and told us to give us free one bottle of liquor that evening.

Nothing happened to the above-listed things. Days after, So, in our FB group chat, claimed he left an amount for the promised liquor that never reached us.

The pancit served to us at the restaurant was really good. That was the only comfort provided to us after talking to So, who seemed to have gotten all our negative energy.

We still went back to our villa to just enjoy the night. Hours later, a staff came to ask for help in carrying a sofa bed for the group. I just stayed awake a few drinking the liquor we got for free for taking a group photo with one of the sponsors. Others helped themselves on the floor of the villa- that was all we have got for the night.

Ibalik Mo Na Kami Sa Maynila

The next morning, our breakfast was delivered to the room we were occupying. The food was still in plastic bags. No plates or even spoons were available. Thus, we ate with the food still inside the bags, laid on our lap, and using our bare hands covered with another plastic bag. It was a pitiful scenario.

There was no water in the toilet. Some of our companions had already lost their patience. I did not take a bath, or even cleaned my ugly face. Some went to look for water in common toilets.

I was quite nice when reporting what was happening to Micasa so I just gave Evo Contrivida, another blogger, the phone to be the next person to give a more emotional picture of what was happening really there.

Contrivida expressed that our angry hearts have no space for any explanations from Burwell, and all we wanted was to go home. The simple solution was to bring us back home. It sounded a demand because we were all mad at everything and everyone.

Burwell sent a message to Joren, another supplier, who was accidentally explaining to our group about the misunderstandings between their party and Burwell's. I could not swallow the terms Burwell used in the text message. It was plain “palengke” language.

Finally, Burwell informed us that two vans were coming to Batangas to fetch us. However, others have already left the resort and commuted instead. What a great relief!

Sorry Talaga, Pasensiya. Kasi...

We reached Metro Manila extremely broken-hearted. Burwell’s initial explanations was that she did not receive any money from Sandstorm organizers. I got totally annoyed.

So was later on added to the group chat; he was apologetic (once again) about the things that happened. Part of his explanations were really unacceptable for me until he mentioned about “lessons learned”.

Charity Marces, one of the blogger attendees, started a conversation in the Blogapalooza group on Facebook, to share to the blogging community about our sad fate. It may appear below-the-belt to the involved parties but I say it is but the right thing to do. Our co-bloggers need to know about the people they should get rid of, and the things that might happen to them when the organizing team and the PR group have misunderstandings.

In fact prior to the coverage, I already received two warnings on the Sandstorm production. What happened to us proved that the warnings were responsibly done. If my judgment is right, the troubles were already expected before we went there.

Anong Kinalaman ng Mason Jar

Contrivida called to inform me about Burwell messaging him making referrence to a mason jar at Bih-Zahr Bar she accused us of stealing. Weeks before, Burwell invited us to cover the soft launcing of Bih-Zahr Restobar in Quezon City. My anger has already rose to greater heights. 

Very first of all, I did not steal anything from Bih-Zahr.

If a simple first grader anlyses the situation, there is no illogical connection of that stolen mason jar and what happened to us at Sandstorm:

1.    If it was true that the mason jar was an issue to Burwell,  she should have confirmed to us that we indeed stole that mason jar. 

Why did it take her about a month to bring out that issue? After our Bih-Zahr event, we even had a chat on FB with her asking for my generosity to upload her press release to my blog site.

2.    I scored to Micasa who was trying to reach out to me that even if I stole the whole Bih- Zahr Restobar, it has nothing to do with what the Sandstrom coverage. 

3. If the mason jar was really a valid concern, why was she mentioning it now that she is under fire. FAULT-FINDING undeniably!

Just Wanna Make Up 

I appreciate Burwell sending me a message on Facebook which I ignored because my heart was still bleeding that time, in trauma. Ignoring them is a better option for me, rather than getting overridden by my emotions and cursing them at the top of my lungs.

Everyone keeps on asking why the hell did Burwell pushed through with our coverage if she knew beforehand that there were misunderstandings between with her and the organizing team. 

She should have been more open to us about it so we were cautioned properly to any bad fate possibilities, and that we should have canceled our participation because of the risk.

I am writing this blow-by-blow account because I want to share my side of the story. I just digested the incident from my view point for clarity's sake.

This is part of my moving-on stage. I cannot just forgive and forget without releasing the tension in my heart. And revealing about my real experience at the Sandstorm 2014 coverage is the way it should be as a blogger. 

At the end of the day, I know I will still meet Burwell, So, and those bloggers involved in this controversy, and we will work with them on further projects.

On the brighter side, I am thankful for this misadventure. I have met 20 people that instantly became good acquaintances. I enjoyed the party and the stories while finishing the bottle of Emperador Lights. I may be embarrassed to my plus one because of the poor treatment but at least, we now have a parcel of memory that we share together. Honestly, understanding what happened is easy but grasping how these two parties justify themselves terribly sucks!

Christian is a Marketing Communications practitioner in Quezon City. He is an Igorot from Sagada, Mountain Province. To get in touch with him, please shoot an email to christianaligonow@gmail.com.


  1. sa plastic lang talaga yung food? :(((

  2. Grabr wala man lang utensils?? Dont trust that woman named cherry burwell again!! How inconsiderate and such a liar!

  3. yes, walang utenils. sana hindi na maulit ito sa mga kapwa bloggers.

  4. yes pero on top of that kasi, ang masaklap is how the PR handled us. madaling mag forgive sa pagkain na ganyan pero pag binigyan ka ng rason nang kung anu-ano, ibang usapan na yan.

  5. Actually ang masakit dun eh yung parang nakakababa ng pagkatao yung ganung klaseng treatment. For sure yung mga bloggers na pumunta eh they have a decent way of living naman. They deserve some decent food and place to sleep in. Nakakaimbyerna talaga to the point na invited sila dun. Di naman ngpumilit mga bloggers pumunta dun. Nakakatakot katransact yung cherry burwell. So unprofessional

  6. Wonderful items from you, man. I have understand your stuff prior to and you are re just extremely fantastic. I really like what you have got here, certainly like what you are stating and the way during which you are saying it. You are making it enjoyable and you continue to care for to stay it sensible. I can’t wait to learn far more from you. This is actually a wonderful website.
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  7. We often hear complaints from PR people about bloggers who feel too entitled and demand a lot of stuff from them. Then we read something like this where the bloggers were in a really pitiful scenario. I'm not sure what excuses the organizers gave, but for me, most of the blame goes to the PR group. Everything was terribly handled. Granted that they had a big event in Pampanga, can't they spare at least 1 person to handle the Batangas event?


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