Saturday, October 31, 2009

UNDAS 2009: A Filipino tradition to remember

If the western world may call it a halloween celebration, Filipinos celebrate this occassios in honoring the dead. Every Novermber 1 and 2 of the year, Filipino families went to the cemetery and visit the tombs of their departed love ones. Often the occasion is treated as a reunion or banquet, with families bringing food and drink and camping out all day or even overnight. It is an official, state-recognized holiday, so people get leave from school or work on these days.

This year,the celebration was riddled by calamities and majority of the people who lived in the suburban Metro Manila and parts of northern Philippines suffered from the wrath of typhoon "Ondoy" and "Pepeng" and just recently, typhoon "Santi" triggered strong winds at the eve of "Undas". Nevertheless, the celebration goes on and it does not prevent every Filipino families from visiting the cemeteries and continue the strong ties that most of us continue to savor for years.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Should the Philippines start thinking the Web 2.0 way?

While the world turns its eyes on a boob tube watching our fellowmen drowned and helpless at the helm of typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana), who haven't thought that the online and mobile community would initiate a massive campaign to deliver its message across the global community inspite of failed telecommunication, electricity and disaster preparedness.

Shout for HELP! rung across the web via the power of social network facilities and community driven new sites. Mobile micro-blogging through Twitter intensified as text messages flooded the world's texting capital. In times of disaster, the Filipino community learned to act collectively and actively while delivering their messages accurately in real time more than our old media has achieved. Through this, Filipinos started again in pionering Participatory Urbanism.

YouTube becomes their own television, Flickr becomes their eyes on actual images while Twitter, Plurk , and Facebook becomes their news on demand updater- all powered by ordinary citizen like you. In the Philippines scenario, a new media news site like the Philippine Online Chronicles (POC) delivered its news via an online platform updated by online contributors. It updated the public on latest news gathering being done by the local media. The site demonstrates how to harness the power of the web and collectively gather all valuable information to inform the public in one site.

Just like POC, other news sites such as Inquirer, ABS-CBN News and GMANews maintain their own twitter page too. Twitter becomes a new compendium of news channel about the Philippines. If you study their sites, their constant follower doubles during the height of the typhoon. This only shows that in the new era of social media revolution, people relies on the web to get information right at their fingertips. People nowadays are engaging with the technology and through its power, they are learning how to make it a valuable tool to save lives.

These people who use the web during the wrath of Ondoy is our new heroes for these lucky individuals who were spared by the calamity had showed their voluntary engagement to be the correspondent of the news. With their own efforts, they help spread the information and seek the help of the national and local government units.

News media entities like ABS-CBN and GMA-7 also learned the power of the web and have proven that they were that effective. They had created fan page in Facebook where updates of the real time relief operation are being plotted, shoutouts was in place to accommodate user's interaction and interactive maps to trace the areas of the devastation and locate those missing people through the free service of Google technologies.

Now, who says that people who use Web 2.0 technologies are people who wants to flirt? We'll, we flirt because we wants to get noticed. We flirt because we wants to make a point and we flirt because we want people to know what we can do. The wave of new media era already made its point. The psychology of the web never stops at the helm of any disasters.

Web 2.0 in Disaster Management?

Why not? We have seen its effectiveness and needless to say, we have seen its power. If the government through its CICT have not seen this scenario, well, they should be. If the government can't do it, the private sector can help them and ten of those people who believe in the power of technology to achieve its goal. If DepEd is now integrating ICT in education, why not come up with ICT in Disaster Management System. The government should now study this move and learn to integrate social media into disaster management and planning.

We all know that the Philippines is under the ring of fire, same with our neighboring countries like Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia. Recently, we learned from the news about killer quakes that struck some of our neighboring Asian countries and yet the Philippines is waiting to be on the list (Let's pray it won't). We have to accept the fact that it's been predicted and was just waiting for the "Big One" to come. The Marikina Fault Line is causing an alarm and the government through its NDCC should act accordingly and not just showcasing its long list of relief operations report.

We have to save millions of lives rather than serving just a few. The examples I have mentioned above are ways and means to start with. Taking those steps are easy and not a rocket science. All we have to do is harness the power of technology and integrate web 2.0 tools to enhance the dissemination of the government's massive information rather than keeping it in a vacuum or in a museum of dust and termites.

We have to learn digital nowadays and throw that analog mindset in implementing government strategies and political will. I admire Jeremiah Owyang's blog which speak on how local government, authorities, and response teams should understand how these social tools work, learn how to integrate into disaster response, and evaluate how they will use them during emergency. But first, we must be cautious and plan a strategic approach to combat those with malicious intent. Nevertheless, it does not prevent us to Think of Nation in a Web. 2.0 way.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Typhoon Ondoy: A Wrath of Nature

At the height of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana), we have witnessed the anguished and anxiety of our fellowmen. Watched their helpless situation as they continue to fight for their lives.

I am one of those who are fortunate to be spared by this act of nature and very thankful that my family was safe and sound. When this tragedy happens, I was in Bicol region to pay my last respect at the funeral wake of my grand father. I have witnessed via television as things happens and was terrified to see those horrible encounters of men against mother nature.

We're still mourning and my cousins anguished in pain when they have learned that Ondoy's wrath did not spare their homes in Manila. Some of their children was left behind and don't know if they are safe. Phones were paralyzed at that moment and was thinking to go back to Manila the soonest time despite impassable areas in Quezon province.

Well, we all have our own stories to share but this is just a minor event compared to those who really have braved life in death in the 9-hour rains of Ondoy. In few days, we have seen depressing images and stories of victims of calamities brought by typhoon and many more stories untold from those people whose lips were silenced by their untimely passing in a tragic display of nature’s fury.

The tragedy has led us to reflect to ourselves, this moment we learn to pray intensely and continue to ask to ourselves how in the world a harrowing event so unimaginable could happen right the heart of the nation.

The bottom line... we never learned our lessons and mother nature made her own personal accounting. They say that nature has its own ways in making things pave way for people to realized what they have done to mother nature. She has accounted us for all our actions against the very law of life and balance.

Now, who's to be blamed?

Accountability and responsibility is a key lesson to be learned.. and how many lives should be sacrificed in such big calamity that has not just swept our dreams away and castigated our country. How can we prevent future catastrophe from happening once again the future... Ondoy has reminded us for so many times in the past already. Are we really having a chronic environmental amnesia?

Let's do our share.. climate change is no longer a hypothesis of the 21st century. We all have a responsibility to the the world we are living in.

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