It was an awesome experience to be part of Philippine history. From the so many typhoons that my country have every year, the typhoon with international code name Ketsana, proved to be the worst since 1967.
Working with my computer from the northernmost island of Japan, the Hokkaido Prefecture, I was monitoring the weather situation from Philippine AM band radio through the Internet. From the beginning, I sensed that this weather disturbance was rather unusual. The Filipino radio commentators seemed more toxic than usual in sending emergency telephone numbers to the public. So, there I was in front of my PC carefully jotting down the contact numbers of agencies concerned with disaster management, and posted them in, where else, Facebook!, referred to as FB from here.
Few minutes after sending one or two wall postings, my FB friends reposted the same message. I was surprised with how the speed of communication took place. It did not take long to realize that FB could be used as a tool to provide the correct information to everyone. A bit more later, the same postings became more sophisticated as I was feeding more developments from the tragedy.
I remember the long list of threads that I had to tell all of my FB friends to hide me in their account for the time being as I could not help but relay the information to the public, my own little way of helping the country in times of calamity like this. I worried that they might find it irritating as the calamity was just starting to unfold. I was more surprised to know from my friends that they received more information from my feeds than they did who are in the Philippines themselves.
Later, I could not leave my PC because there was too much information that needed to be relayed to the public. Thank heavens that the Internet connection here in Japan is so fast I could gather additional information from all over the web space. One by one, some of my FB friends, whom I haven't even met, started to relay the much-needed information also. I was getting more excited as there were additional manpower to send out warnings.
In addition to emergency phone numbers, we relayed the situation in various areas of the metropolis that were heavily hit by the storm, the number of affected people and casualties, traffic situation, stranded people, and much later, rescue and relief operations and all. It was a nice and exciting moment to miss, to be a part of this momentous event however tragic it was.
Some unbelievable moments were women who were about to give birth in the middle of the great floods who had to be airlifted to hospitals; a decapitated person; one Korean student who died due to electrocution; and requests for decent donations like food, water, fresh towels, and underwear, unlike the useless gowns, costumes, swim suits, and torn shoes.
As the events unfolded, several agencies opened up as relief agencies. Many blog sites, including mine, provided information where people can send their own contributions. From there, several national and international donations poured in.
I have to mention some remarkable people from my own circle in FB, and I salute all of them. Marissa M. Andal-Zamora; Chris Otero; Manuel L. Quezon III, his wall postings were so fabulous I think I relayed his messages the most; Alvin Trono; Marou Pahati Sarne; Xerez Baluyot, became an instant FB friend when we both requested a son of a politician against his untimely politicking in FB, thank heavens the politician removed it; Edgar Antonio Portugal Bautista; Ricky Bacay; Jinno Rufino; Mari Kaimo; Noli Dazo; Bam Aquino; Jojo Digao; Henry Uri; Gilbert Teodoro, his postings were timely and useful as well; Ramon Mitra; Leah Navarro; Charo Santos Concio; Andy Jocsing; Rico Hizon; Ruffy Biazon; Jim Paredes in Twitter; and US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, you rock Madam!, thank you so much for being cool, and help to my fellowmen, I admire you.
Likewise, I was fortunate to have a first-hand experience who in the Philippine political scene should be forgotten. There are senators and children of politicos, now politicians themselves, who, without being sensitive to the situation, had the audacity to post their infomercials and a big dead snake video in FB. It was an entirely useless act to politicize and joke in the middle of a tragedy. I had to plead several times in my own wall and in their respective walls to refrain from posting those that are not directly helpful the time, they can find another occasion for that, so please cooperate. I also had to repost their message so that the people will become aware what kind of people we have in the public office. There was also this rich politician, who allegedly labeled the relief goods with his name. Another rich politician was seen in a liquor house probably buying the finest wine. The images are circulating all over the Internet. Expectedly, these politicians removed my message in their wall. There were also many political personalities who were silent during the critical moments only to surface when the sky cleared. Too much learning experience in such a short time, indeed. I shall re-read this article before the May elections, really.
I also could not believe that some of my FB mates had the time for Farmville, Mafia wars, and Poker game. Some also posted their family and travel photos. While I appreciate them during normal times, I had to hide them during those toxic moments because they clog my wall. I had to relay the more important information to others.
This exercise once more proved the resiliency and the camaraderie of the Filipinos in times of calamity. We have had many in the past. But sadly, we never learned from history that is why it keeps on repeating: the bad habits, and we know what and who they are. Unless we change, the lessons will keep on haunting us.
I was pleased that despite the heavy flood, my family is safe in Manila. There are many avenues on how to help the victims. Aside from prayers and monetary assistance, I chose to give my time and I feel happy about it.
Rehabilitation is necessary. Seat not on our laurels. Another storm is brewing. Enjoy the ride.