Lessons We Learned from Typhoon Ondoy

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:

from wcsenario

from ondoy.tumblr.com

from ondoy.tumblr.com

from istine

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.

TxtPower donates more than Php1M to Ondoy victims

TxtPower donates more than Php1M to Ondoy victims

801 people and counting donate to TXTPower

801 people and counting donate to TXTPower

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.

People who turn this into this are really what we need right now.

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?

A fake account of Yubin, a member of the Korean group Wonder Girls

A fake account of Yubin, a member of the Korean group Wonder Girls

Jacque Bermejo, whose account has allegedly been hacked

Jacque Bermejo, whose account has allegedly been hacked

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?

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Posted on 10/04/2009, in Social Media at Work and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Lucky boy, you are!! 🙂

    And the use of social media at that critical time was really overwhelming. I don’t know how I could have stay informed about the status in Marikina if it weren’t for social media since our cable then was down.

    http://communicationexperience.wordpress.com

  2. strange, but the best lessons I got from Ondoy are not new social media related. i know NSM was a big help, but i don’t single it out or praise it far more than it truly deserves. 🙂

    i’m still waiting (and maybe in vain) for that blog post from anyone that will say: “Ondoy facts and lessons new social media didn’t give me.” or something like it. you get the drift.

    • In a way, sir, I agree. Social media is not enough, especially when help doesn’t arrive to the people who truly need it anyway.

  3. ..this tragedy might ruined ou life but i guees ithis is 1 way 4 us 2 be more responsible for our nature…
    ..’c0z we human have a big influence why this tragedy happend to us..

  4. I love this entry! 😛 I share similar sentiments, especially the fact that even with many people being proactive online, it’s not enough. The lack of central authority to ensure relief goods are equitably distributed makes me sad 😦

    http://mostlynerdy.wordpress.com

  5. ‘UglyYubin’ is NOT Korean!!

    Hello, I’m a Korean.
    I must say to filipino.
    I think that twitter author is NOT Korean, Anti-Korean Japanese.
    ‘Kim Yubin’ is famous Korean singer.

    if he/she is really Korean, why he hate Korean, and named as “ugly”?

    he/she is NOT a Korean, he/she is a Japanese who pretend to Korean.
    Remeber, Internet is anonymous world, anybody pretend to any nationality.

    Obviously, twitter author is NOT Korean, author is a Japanese who pretend to ugly Korean, and who want spread anti korea sentiment to world.

    We love filipino. So, don’t fall dirty Japanese trap.

    All people. Most of the nastiest posters are Japanese pretending to be various different nationalities. Remember that. Japanese are the worse scums of the earth. We hate their guts too.

    Think about it.

    According to common sense,
    if you are filipino, you want filipino singer name as “ugly”?

    if you are filipino, you want post “ugly” image of filipino singer?

    if you are filipino, you want post “i am a filipino, I want xxxx country person are die” write racist and dirty comment to other foreigner?

    All of This made by Anti-Korea Japanese troll.

    And, Korean don’t have ANY single antagonism to filipino.
    Why Korean write such comments? Any reason? Absolutely Nothing.

    Only Japanese racist troll who pretend to Korean, want made this trouble.

    I’m a Korean, if he/she is a real Korean, We 100% apology to filipino.

    But, I really really think that author is NOT Korean. Most Korean don’t act like that.

    This is made by Anti-Korea Japanese racist troll who pretend to Korean.

    We love filipino.

    Remeber, Internet is anonymous world, anybody pretend to any nationality.

    ————————————————————-

    YuBin Kim impostor on twitter also known as UglyYubin called Filipino Monkeys as she posted in the Fake Twitter account.
    http://pinoyambisyoso.com/entertainment/yubin-victim-fake-twitter-account

    ————————————————————-

    We”re hoping for your quick recovery from ○○.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
    You should fight this misfortune with everything you’ve got.

    Please take good care of yourself.

    I’m really sure your country will rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
    We will be praying for a speedy and complete recovery for your country. May God bless each of you!

    we Korean were very sorry to hear sad news of the flood disaster of Philippines.
    We extend our deepest sympathies to you for your terrible loss.
    we hope that the Philippines are restored from the damage of the flood soon.

    Truth of incident

    1. Japanese pretend to Korean, and write hateful comments.
    2. Innocent filipino angry by this.
    3. I must solve this missunderstanding.

    I can pretend to Japanese also.

    ゴミのような猿フィリピン民族は地球上から消えろ

    See?
    See?
    Anybody can pretend to Korean.

    1. Copy and paste from Korean website.
    2. Using Google Translator
    3. or, learned korean language.

    It is very easy way to blame korean, pretend to Korean, and insult any foreign people.
    Seriously, There is NO reason that Korean hate filipino.

    I think He/She is a Anti-Korea Japanese troll who pretend to Korean.

    And, This is the reason that why I think UglyYubin is a japanese who pretend to Korean.
    Only Japanese said filipino as “Monkey”.
    I will show you how Japanese think about filipino.

    Source : Japanese largest website 2ch.
    http://unkar.jp/read/changi.2ch.net/comicnews/1249617731
    (Note : ‘猿’ refer to ‘Monkey’)

    #1. From Japanese website

    【 フィリピンメス猿を嫌いな理由・原因 】
    Reasons that why i Hate filipino. wriiten by Japanese

    #2. ● 自宅マンションやアパートにフィリピンメス猿ホステス群がいて、
    騒音やゴミ問題でさんざん迷惑をかけられて悩まされ、
    それ以来、嫌悪軽蔑している
    (住民達が苦情を言っても、フィリピンメス猿ホステス群は聞く耳を持たない)
    They are dirty, we Japanese can’t live with Filipino
    We ignored filipino monkey hostes. lol

    #3.● 近所に集団で住んでたフィリピン猿が、灯油を入れるポリ容器を
    持って突然うちに来て『HEY!灯油プレゼント!!』って話し掛けてきた
    (「灯油クレ!」の意味だってよw さすがは乞食猿www)
    Negihbor filipino monkey said polyethylene jar is a kerosene oil. and he gift it to me.
    filipinos are really beggar monkey. lol

    #4. ● 中学校の時の英会話補助教員のフィリピンメス猿から
    「うるせーイエローモンキー」と差別語を言われ侮辱された
    When i was middle school studnet, filipino teacher said i am a yellow monkey.

    #5. ● 夫・父親がフィリピンメス猿ホステスに貢いで家庭崩壊した
    Many Japanese Father have sexual relationship with Filipino female monkey hostess.

    #6. ● 空港のセキュリティーチェックでフィリピンメス猿ホステス群が
    空気読めずに流れを止めまくって迷惑をかけられた
    Filipino monkey harrassed japanese at a convenience store.

    #7. ● コンビニのレジでフィリピンメス猿ホステスが店員や客に迷惑をかけていた
    連れのヨッパライ馬鹿オヤジは全く周囲が見えてない
    Filipino monkey are dumb and don’t know how can pass at enterance at airport.

    #8. ● 在日ピン猿が産み落としたガキ共が、小学生の子供のクラスを学級崩壊させた
    Filipino residence in Japan disrupting Japanese elementary school studnets. (cause english teacher?)

    #9. ● 会社のフィリピン猿群が態度デカイし、一日中騒がしくて、
    集団で遅刻してきても反省の色が全く無し
    When Filipino monkey break a promise, monkey never says “sorry”.

    #10. ● 職場(飲食店)に精神異常のフィリピンメス猿とその日本人夫が来たが、
    メス猿と夫が突然店内で大声で叫んで暴れ、店員に暴行し店内が壊され損害を蒙った
    In my working place, Filipino monkey’s husband make a disturbance our working place.

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