MANILA, Philippines — The heavy monsoon rains battering Manila and the rest of Luzon since Monday has been compared many times to Ondoy, that tragic typhoon that blindsided residents of the National Capital Region in 2009.
The three-day torrential downpour has indeed caused severe flooding comparable to Ondoy, with houses drowning in rain and river water, and families forcibly moved to their roofs awaiting rescue.
But the recent heavy rains have also borne witness to the undying Bayanihan spirit of many Filipinos, particularly online, which the world first witnessed during the unfortunate devastation wrought by Ondoy three years ago.
Times have slightly changed but the willingness of Internet users — some also stuck in floods, or had relatives affected by the rains — to coordinate and directly help their fellow kababayans have definitely stayed the same, maybe even grew stronger.
In many ways, the presence and wide availability of new media tools in the nation’s capital enabled Pinoys to breach traditional structures of rescue and relief, allowing them to move and organize by themselves to help those in need.
Here are some of the ingenious means Pinoy netizens used to once again help during the recent disaster:
Three official hashtags were used during the deluge on Tuesday: #rescuePH, #reliefPH, and #floodsPH. These tags were agreed upon by several non-government organizations, government representatives, as well as concerned Twitter users.
The unique hashtags sought to organize the quick onset of cries for help, relief efforts, and reports of floods that also became their own deluge at the height of the heavy rains.
The strategy worked, as it ensured the coordinated flow of verified information to the people and agencies that have the capability to act on them. For several times between Tuesday and Wednesday, these hashtags eventually became trending topics on Twitter.
While the hashtags were definitely helpful in mobilizing rescue and relief efforts, the steady stream of Twitter posts were just too much for individuals and rescue workers to wade through.
Enter Pinas911.com, a website put up by several Internet users to give concerned people a quicker and more organized view of reports that use the three important hashtags.
3. RescuePH Google Docs
So that every NGO, government agency, and volunteer is on the same page — literally — some users opened a Google Docs page where reports can be easily sorted and acted upon by the rescuers.
Through the Google Docs file, volunteers were able to pinpoint individuals and families that still needed rescuing. At some point, a personnel at Malacañang were coordinating rescue efforts using the file. Eventually, a representative of the Philippine National Red Cross was tapped to monitor cries for help also using the document.
4. Google Resources for the 2012 Philippines Flood
Google found the perfect opportunity to once again break out one of its most useful tools for crisis response during Tropical Storm Ondoy: the Google Person Finder.
Through the tool, users can choose whether they are looking for someone or if they have information about someone. They can then enter the necessary information to see if Google has a standing record for that certain person.
Aside from this nifty tool, other resources are also available through the microsite, such as: a shelter map where people can find the nearest evacuation center; donation centers, for drop-off of relief goods; and current weather situation, among others.
5. Monetary Donations
Much like during Ondoy, quick means to donate to the Red Cross has been put up so that funds can be mobilized and used quickly for relief efforts.
Mobile users who have load credits to spare can either choose denominations between P5 to P1,000 and send a text message in the format of REDamount to 2899 for Globe subscribers and 4143 for Smart subscribers.
But aside from mobile means, users with access to a credit card can also send their donations through various online means.
E-commerce portal Multiply Philippines has opened its payment gateway to receive monetary help from donors here and around the world. Donations through Multiply can be funded through credit card, PayPal, BDO or BPI over-the-counter payments, Smart Money, or GCash.