“The Philippines, being the 3rd most at risk to the impacts of climate change, is facing vulnerability issues that can have profound impacts on its people’s well-being.” — Climate Adaptive Local Planning, UP Forum, vol.14 #3
I’ve been an event organizer for 5 years or so, I haven’t really just attended one. Last Saturday, I did. Rappler held a conference at AIM Makati titled “PH+Social Good: The Manila Social Good Summit,” livestreamed on YouTube and watched by folks in NYC. I wish to commend them for a job well done. Lunch was an hour late, but nobody minded ‘coz the talks were so good, we were stuck on our seats. The topics revolved around climate change and how we can deal with disasters in this day and age of social media, mobile technology and Google.
#2030NOW is the global event hashtag; it’s actually a call to action. It means we could start making our future a better one, right here, right now. The talks kicked off with Toshihiro Tanaka, UNDP PH Country Director, sharing his learnings from recent disasters in Japan and our country, and how to best cope with such calamities using technology. In-between speakers, we were shown gritty short documentary films made by Pat Evangelista, Rappler Disaster Reporter and one of the event emcees (the other was KC Montero, who’s very funny).
What I like most about Maria Ressa, Rappler CEO, is how you can hear her passion in her voice. She discussed the role technology plays in solving wicked problems. She started out with telling us about what “Rappler” stands for (rap, to talk + ripple) and her experience as part of the crisis response team to the kidnapping of Ces Drilon, segueing to the definition of Big Data then going on to maps showing Twitter trends and how they may be used to predict societal behavior, commenting about the #millionpeoplemarch that it was boring ‘coz there’s no leader but nonetheless it showed us the power of social media, leading us to Rappler’s Mood Meter and noting that journalism must appeal to emotion because we decide based on it, and ending with illustrating how our digital exhaust defines our future (she gave as an example the movie Minority Report, where the possibility of the authorities knowing in advance you’ll be committing a crime no longer belongs to the world of fiction). A brief Q&A portion ensued and this is where you witness how good she is, the way she thinks and sees the big picture. The event was recorded and will be posted on Rappler so be sure to check out this segment.
Climate Change Commission Sec. Lucille Sering gave us a primer on climate change and global warming, through a Spongebob episode. Jumping to an actual scenario, she demonstrated that despite minimal government funding, they still were able to conduct a year-long study in Siargao and effectively come up with a solution on how our surfing capital can be climate change-adaptable. Less impressive is the speaker who followed her, Sen. Loren Legarda. She had outdated data (circa 1998), the pictures on her slides were mostly of her, and she read the text on her presentation like she was merely reporting. In the Q&A, she made a private joke to evade the question.
Next speaker’s Andrew McGlinchey. He talked about the power of Google. He pointed out that Google folks may not be hands-on in rescue situations but they do what they do best: organize info and make it universally accessible. I just learned that they create landing pages for major disasters (where the most relevant data are found, such as hotlines, updates on rescue and relief ops, etc), put alerts on the Google home page (Google is always either the top 1 or 2 most visited site in the world), harness satellite imagery for real-time referencing (like we see in CIA movies), et al.
Via Google Hangout, Patrick Meier of the Digital Humanitarians, shed light on the efforts of UN OCHA and how he was part of the team that collated, in a span of 12hrs, thousands of photos and videos tagged with #PabloPH and accurately mapped them so the UN could generate the appropriate crisis response action plan. I liked his talk ‘coz I learned some amazing stuff, like how the NY Times was digitized, partly with the aid of Recaptcha password technology and that this same approach could be used in tapping popular RPGs to help in tagging photos of disasters for micromapping. Follow him @PatrickMeier or read his blog to know more.
For the pm session, there were 2 panel discussions. The 1st focused on different agencies and what they’re doing to support the country’s disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts. We heard from representatives of Smart, Globe, the Office of Civil Defense, the World Food Programme, Weather Philippines and Project Noah. I’m proud to say that I was a student in undergrad (for a general education subject) of Proj. Noah driver, Dr. Mahar Lagmay. He presented the app they developed that determined flood risk areas, which was pretty impressive and obviously very useful for Filipinos. Before that though he showed a disturbing video of people dragged by a flash flood, and enumerated the three lessons we derived from it: flash flood can kill, it only takes a matter of seconds for it kill, and it doesn’t need to be higher than your head to kill.
On a lighter note, Gov. Joey Salceda blew us away with his totally informative and highly entertaining take on DRR. Thanks to his leadership, Albay is a model in disaster management. “Capacitation should be built-in (per community),” he said. His government encourages self-organization among the locals, e.g. the indigenous peoples, for easier administration. The degree of details he laid out for us goes to show that his knowledge stems from in-depth analysis and first-hand implementation. Doesn’t hurt that his punchlines hit the target all the time. Watch his whole speech here.
Aileen Apolo, the first Filipino Googler, tackled crisis management tools for volunteers. Having a personal experience of disaster, trapped in her basement during Ondoy in 2009, she has since been involved with crisis mapping at Google. One of the tools any of us can get a hold of is the Google Map Maker. Be sure to try it because what you input in the map, even a daycare center or a house in your village, could someday be used to save lives.
The 2nd group of panelists consisted of people from volunteer orgs: Ros Juan of #rescuePH, Jane of BlogWatch, Megan of Xavier U and Chair Dick Gordon of Red Cross PH (I voted him for president!). Ros mentioned that their loosely organized group of Tweeters aims to render the hashtag they trended a couple of years ago, #rescuePH, obsolete. Jane and Megan appealed to netizens and students to help in any techie way they can in terms of online promotion, participation in hackathons, etc. Dick expounded on the capabilities and timeliness of Red Cross, mentioning the 143 SMS hotline wherein you can text your emergency needs during a crisis (e.g. blood bags, water supply).
Here are some things you can do to help in DRR: spread awareness online, educate members of your household (i.e. about garbage segregation, lessening one’s carbon footprint, the benefits of donating blood regularly, etc) and join any volunteer group. Btw, AyalaLand has a contest: tweet a social cause you wanna help out in and tag it with #25Surprises. #MovePH has a volunteer program which you might be interested in. I enlisted as an “Online Messenger.” They also just launched Project AGOS: One Workflow, One Platform. It could be the answer #rescuePH has been looking for.
Maria Ressa went back onstage to tell us a story where a simple geo-hazard map could have saved lives. It was during Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao: The Heroes of Charlie Company (video). Not stated in the event program, this preceded the symbolic signing of Unity Statement. When she introduced 1st Lt. Alex Marvin Deazeta, he was received with a standing ovation. He then delivered a very thoughtful speech on how cooperation can bring about the betterment of our nation.
Up Dharma Down performed after but I’ve already left by then. Awesome, awesome event. I definitely plan to attend again next year. I didn’t take down notes; what I wrote here are off the top of my head, hehe. If there’s anything you’d like to add, comment below.