POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 22 December 2011, Thursday
All I Want for Christmas
All I want for Christmas is for tropical storm Sendong to never have happened.
But that it has, it’s inspiring to see how the public has pulled together to send aid to the stricken victims in the flooded areas. Technology-boosted communication played a vital role in bringing this about.
The role of social media in mobilizing efforts was crucial in making things happen and happen fast. As the news of the storm’s devastation broke, news and images were being uploaded to Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube within minutes. Public awareness spread quickly, much faster than in the days of when only radio and TV were around to carry news.
Computer-mediated communication also made it convenient and easy for donations to be made. Nowadays, if you can click on a button, you can send money. No excuse for couch potatoes.
By Saturday afternoon, links were created to click for donations to the Philippine Red Cross. One could donate via SMS (automatically deducted from your prepaid load or charged to your postpaid bill) or via credit card; one could also sign up to volunteer. Upon donating, a FB user had the option of wearing a Red Cross “badge” on his profile pic, not only to show that a donation had been made, but also to spread awareness.
Artists also threw their creative support into the mix, coming up with interesting graphic posters that drew attention to important information such as the donation links; these photos were easily “Shared” on FB, making spreading the word more efficient.
The telcos SMART and Globe also had similar “text to donate” mechanisms, offering a range of denominations, from five pesos to as high as one thousand.
Radio host and writer Gang Badoy, who has a strong Twitter presence, called for prominent companies to donate their services. Within a couple of hours, LBC responded, offering to transport gratis donated relief goods – “bottled water, food, blankets, clothes, etc.” – left at any of their branches.
Convenience store 7-Eleven Philippines offered to donate for every “Like” on their FB Page: “On behalf of our fans, we are donating P10 for every new like, up to 1 Million Pesos. You can help by liking our page, and hitting the ‘share’ button.” They came under fire for taking advantage of the situation to generate publicity, but as some other comments went, “At least they’re donating!” The store chain now also accepts donations from the public at any of their branches.
Special interest communities also went on board to raise funds for its members. Writers on FB were sorry to learn that the house of Palanca Award-winning poet, writer, and Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology professor German Gervacio (Hari Maniwari is his latest novel) was inundated by mud.
University of the Philippines Filipino literature professor Jun Cruz Reyes, who is in contact with German via cellphone, posted on FB: “Nalubog sa baha ang bahay ni German Gervacio. Hanggang bewang ang tubig. Warat mga gamit n’ya. Pati computer n’ya, damay, kaya ako na lang ang nag-post para sa kanya. Wala pa rin silang koryente. At wala na rin siyang mababasang libro. Back to square one ang mag-asawa. Tulungan natin s’yang makaahon.”
It horrified me to learn that German’s books were all destroyed and that he had nothing to read. No computer, pens, nor paper? How can he write? I started filling a box with books I think he might find interesting and wondered if LBC would ship it for free. My daughters asked: “But do they have food and water?” Priorities, indeed. But that’s how we writers roll.
The community sprang into action, and donations for German are still being accepted at the UP Likhaan-Institute of Creative Writing office at the Faculty Center building, UP Diliman.
It was German’s 44th birthday yesterday. Instead of celebrating, he is busy setting his house to rights – “Naglilimas na ng putik…Ang problema, walang mapaglagyan dahil mataas din ang putik sa labas”.
He is also helping others less fortunate than himself. More than 100 people in his neighborhood died; the homeless are crammed into a nearby covered basketball court with minimal sanitation facilities and nowhere to cook. No clothes, no shoes, everything gone.
The scene is replicated all over Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, and the other flood deltas inundated by Sendong. Unattended corpses lie piled at mortuaries. The living lack food and water. Many are sick, others fatally ill. The death toll, now at 1,002, is expected to rise. This is no time to point fingers and assign blame; we can do that later. For now, we focus on priorities.
It’s a bleak and somber Christmas for our brothers and sisters in Mindanao. Let’s make it a little better for them – click on that link and donate some load, clean out that closet and drop off the boxes at LBC or 7-11.
Get online and find out how you can help in your own little way. It doesn’t matter if you can’t give a lot – every peso counts, and they’ll add up. Here’s an example: yesterday, soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines offered to give up one day’s subsistence allowance for Sendong victims. That’s about a ninety pesos per soldier. But they are 80,000 strong, so together they have raised a total of P7.2 million. That’s news that warms the heart, and I snap off a salute in their direction.
Spread the holiday cheer with others, and have a meaningful holiday season. ***
Photo of Dr Gen Asenjo (De La Salle University), JennyO, and German Gervacio at the Palanca Awards Night last 1 Sep 2011.