While everyone else was stranded in their schools or offices, drowning in at least knee-deep water/mud or scouring every store to find food as Typhoon Ondoy swept Metro Manila, I was at the comfort of my home. I was warm and had many to eat—and not even a single drop of rain fell on my skin.
And no, I’m not especially proud that while 80% of the metropolis was drenched in flood, all I had to do was worry about the flood in our village getting inside the house. It didn’t; it stopped mere inches before it even entered our front door.
Las Pinas had never been flood-proof. At least two great floods had soaked our village before now, so I didn’t think what Typhoon Ondoy did to our neighborhood (except ours) applied to any other part of the city.
I was wrong. In fact, what happened to places like Marikina, Rizal and Pasig was even worse. Nightmare-worse. Without the television by my side, I only had the Internet to tell me exactly what had been happening. And, must I say, the Internet gave sufficient information as to what the state of affairs at that time—and after—really was. Which leads me to five lessons all of us have learned (but probably didn’t realize) from Typhoon Ondoy, thanks to social media.
1. Social media is a source of information
We’ve all heard it at one point or another, that social media is a source of information. But how much information, exactly? And how does such information compare to that delivered by mainstream media such as ABS-CBN and GMA?
I only had to look at some of these photos, documented by Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube users, to understand exactly how much information can be provided by social media:
These are only part and parcel of the huge information delivered by social media users from the time Ondoy stroke until now.
While television reporters were stranded and practically unheard of by those whose cable televisions were down at that time, the Internet provided the much needed information about the gravity of the situation. What’s better is the fact that these snippets were provided by people who had firsthand experiences of how Ondoy felt like. This just proves how social media has truly become a reliable–and dependable–alternative to mainstream media.
While the typhoon was at its peak, I also regularly checked http://ondoy.tumblr.com/. It gave me a lot of insights as to how Typhoon Ondoy fared in places where it struck.
2. …and a means of helping
More than just providing information, Ondoy was able to mobilize people into helping—right at the comfort (or, well, discomfort) of their homes. All they need to do is access their paypal address and send their donations online. Paypal enables people from around the world to send and receive money—and afterwards credit it to their bank accounts. That’s exactly how Txtpower accepted donations from 801 people and counting.
It also prompted giants like Google into action, with their http://www.google.com/landing/typhoon-ondoy.html. This is something not present when Hurricane Katrina or Sichuan Earthquake wreaked havoc in the US and China, respectively. This just proves how the Internet and social media have unbelievably grown in such a short amount of time. It’s not just about information anymore; it’s about a globalized world reaching out to one another.
Such is the power of social media: it can translate something virtual to tangible assistance for our fellow Filipinos
3. …but it isn’t enough.
In the end, whatever amount of money or relief provided in the Internet is nothing—yes, nothing—if it doesn’t actually reach people for whom they are intended.
A friend of mine said so herself: the problem is not about the overwhelming help coming from all corners, but actually getting that help to the people who were affected by the typhoon. In her case, she only saw help from one organization—two days succeeding the typhoon. This made me wonder, where has all the help gone? Stuck in the traffic of the Internet?
In most relief operations, there is a surplus of manpower. Most of the people didn’t have anything else to do but sit down and talk among themselves.
Times like these, social media is not enough. What’s needed are people who actually go there and provide genuine relief. Not cries of glory from the media, expressing how their actors and actresses *coughRichardGutierrecough* have helped in the midst of the disaster.
4. Listening can be hard.
More than its positive value, social media also had its down moments during Typhoon Ondoy. Who hadn’t heard about UglyYuBin’s account and Jacque Bermejo’s unbelievably insensitive comments?
No one? Exactly. It’s amazing how, despite all the deaths and need for relief, people still find time to publicize such negative pieces of remarks whose veracity are unverifiable anyway. True enough, a counter-release from Jacque Bermejo, who was literally lambasted in the Internet, was released. As for Yubin’s account, well, check this genuine account of hers.
These are examples of how people can manage to exploit this situation and turn them into opportunities to assassinate another person’s character. Moreover, it proves how Filipinos will bite controversy anytime of the day, especially if it has anything to do with their identity. Nationalistic, perhaps, but rash judgement nonetheless.
5. Others need help, too.
More than anything, a lesson I learned from Typhoon Ondoy is how disasters like these happen everywhere. And through and through, most of us never really did anything but watch as it all unfolded before our eyes. I bet some didn’t even know it already happened.
Social media has given us the power, the upper hand to actually do something that will benefit people in times like these. Typhoon Parma has already hit Northern Luzon, an earthquake and tsunami has ravaged Samoa and a 7.2 magnitude earthquake has left more than 700 people dead and 3,000 people missing in Indonesia.
How will you use social media to help?