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SM Megamall flash mob planned in two days, thanks to Facebook, Twitter

"Cut your greed, not trees." Members of a flash mob express their sentiments in front of a crowd on the third floor of SM Megamall, the Philippines' third-largest mall. (InterAksyon)
The online news portal of TV5

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and text-messaging, four people were able to plan a small lightning rally inside the Philippines’ third-largest mall - and even print shirts for the occasion - in two days.

The 125-strong flash mob assembled at six locations inside SM Megamall at around seven o’ clock on Friday evening, temporarily eluding security to express their sentiments: that they were against mall management’s plans to cut 182 trees in its branch in Baguio, also known as the City of Pines.

The flash mob began with a Facebook Page and a text messaging brigade, Anj Heruela, one of four performing artists who convened the group told InterAksyon after the event.

After the convenors created the page on Tuesday, they sent text messages, asking their friends and friends of their friends to join the Facebook page, the convenors said.

By Wednesday, more than 300 people were already considered members of the Facebook page, Heruela said.

One thing led to another and by Thursday, one of the members—internationally acclaimed director Jim Libiran—was already helping the group get a lawyer for their planned action.

Libiran managed to convince lawyer Teddy Ridon, also the spokesperson of the Kabataan Partylist, to join. Ridon would later help in the release of two members temporarily detained by security.

On Twitter, Libiran was also able to get another volunteer, a Filipina wrestler, who vowed to protect one of the convenors, in case something untoward arose.

A meeting was later held in Quezon City at ten o’ clock on Thursday evening. Once plans were finalized, the group began to silk screen white T-shirts with their messages. Each shirt had a small number at the back—presumably for identification—and just one word in front.

The next day, minutes before the agreed-upon time, the group that started with a Facebook page was ready.

All 125 members were split into six smaller groups who were assigned to assemble at six different locations at the same time. These locations included the respective entrances of a restaurant, two clothing stores, a row of movie theaters, and the mall’s grocery and department stores.

Once at their assigned areas, those wearing the shirts then stood side by side, forming six different sentences that expressed their sentiments. These include:

"Leave me alone. I'm pine."

"They paved paradise to put up a parking lot."

"There's a reason why God created trees instead of cars."

"Cut your greed, not trees."

"Some day you're going to wish you gave a f**k for the trees."

"Sa dulo ng lahat, makakain mo ba pera mo?"

After staying in the area for at least five minutes, each group was tasked to move to their next location, which in turn was occupied by a previous group, until all of them completed the round.

But the plan failed.

All groups were only able to cover three, instead of six locations, one of the four group’s convenors said.

Fifteen minutes into the flash mob, the group that gathered in front of a restaurant was later asked to leave the area, attracting the curiosity of some shoppers.

Meanwhile, the group at the entrance of a clothing store on the second level was already being disallowed by mall security to stand side by side, Heruela said.

At around the same time, the group that convened at a fashion store was already being “eyed suspiciously” by security, Gold Villar, one of the four convenors told InterAksyon.

Before things got worse, two to three groups merged into one, marching along the third floor with Libiran in front, his right hand clutching an Apple iPad that filmed the whole event.

By this time, the group had arguably succeeded in sending their message across: more than a hundred shoppers at SM Megamall paused, curious as to what the whole thing was all about.

After some members chanted “Don’t cut the trees, cut the greed,” some shoppers even applauded the flash mob, Villar said.

Before the group reached Megamall A's escalator banks on the third floor, they were unsuccessfully blocked by about a dozen security members.

When they reached the second floor, all 125 flash mob members were already marching as one group, seizing the attention of thousands.

As they left Megamall’s Building A using the entrance near the Asian Development Bank, eight shoppers were temporarily refused to leave using another exit near Seattle’s Best Coffee on the other side of the building. Two of its members meanwhile would later be temporarily detained and set free some twenty minutes later.

While Heruela and Villar have expressed their plans to boycott SM malls, both clarify that the group has yet to make a stand regarding the matter.

As convenors, they are also mum about plans of organizing another flash mob.

“This is not just about SM nor is it just about the trees,” Heruela said. “We just wanted to make people to think about their choices.”