Passion and purpose in #MoveLeyte
MANILA, Philippines - It was in the most unlikely of places where I rediscovered why we do what we do.
Rappler was set to hold the 11th Move PH "social media for social good" chat series in the Visayas State University (VSU), our partner for the Leyte leg on January 25, Friday.
The VSU campus in Baybay City was a much-needed escape for someone who spends most of her waking hours in front of a laptop screen. At the edge of the VSU lower campus was the serene Camotes Sea, while the upper campus opened up to the lofty Mt Pangasugan.
A day before the event, it was clear we were going to be greeted by a very, very enthusiastic crowd.
Tweets using the hashtag #MoveLeyte came pouring in, all eager to finally meet the speakers: executive editor Maria Ressa, citizen journalism head Chay Hofileña, special projects head Josh Villanueva, multimedia reporter Natashya Gutierrez, and Rappler's self-proclaimed "problem child," Patricia Evangelista.
Politics: more fun in Leyte
Leyte is a perfect example of how politics is more fun (or problematic, depending on how you see it) in the Philippines.
Derek Aviola, one of #MoveLeyte’s lead organizers, told us that the provincial government was at odds with leaders from its capital city, Tacloban. The (comic) result? Two competing festivals: the Pintados-Kasadyaan and Sangyawan festivals -- held only a few days apart.
Political dynasties in Leyte, as with most places in the Philippines, are prevalent. The May 2013 elections will be the setting of a very familiar tale -- one political clan going against another political clan, and in some cases, bold newcomers.
Provincial politics and an insatiable appetite for progress set the agenda for the afternoon’s discussion. The audience, a mix of students and teachers from different nearby universities, media practitioners, and members of the 18th Infantry Battalion were curious and involved.
Given the politics in Leyte, how do they move forward? And what role can social media play in the 2013 elections?
Tired of politics?
In a roundtable discussion held before the event proper, one student said political dynasties in Leyte weren’t that big of a deal for her because they dominate national politics as well. Another said voters were to blame as well for picking familiar names for the sake of familiarity. “People don’t like to upset what they already have,” she said.
Watch a summary of the discussion here:
It was disturbing but strangely encouraging. Here were two sophomore college students who sounded weary. But disillusionment was not an option. I’d like to think awareness is the first step towards change.
And change is happening. Voters, first-time voters in particular, are changing their voting patterns. Gone are the days when money would assure you of a vote.
Young voters don’t always go for the candidates their parents support. But old, familiar names still dominate the national sphere. Name recall and familiarity are still the name of the game. Congress, for instance, is composed mostly of politicians from well-entrenched political dynasties.
And that’s exactly a concern of ours at Rappler.
Political dynasties don’t kill Philippine democracy. Refusing to change a mindset that puts inept and ill-prepared aspirants in power kills democracy. It dumbs down voters and feeds into a vicious cycle.
It’s the kind of cycle the youth in #MoveLeyte wanted to end. At the risk of sounding overly-enthusiastic and naive, it was encouraging to meet like-minded people who lived miles away from the Rappler headquarters in Ortigas.
Enter: social media
I firmly believe in the power and potential of social media to institute change. I had a slight social media-high in Leyte when I started hearing VSU officials talk about wanting to understand and maximize social media for social change.
I was even thrilled when I heard that some participants actually took time to create Twitter accounts -- for the first time -- just so they could join the #MoveLeyte conversation online.
Aside from your traditional sources of information, social media is key in making those informed decisions. In the recent US elections, both the Democratic and Republican parties saw the power social media had to sway voters.
Being social media savvy doesn’t assure you of a win, but ignoring the power of Twitter, Facebook, and intertwined networks puts you at risk of defeat.
It goes without saying that social media can only do so much. In some far-flung provinces, a decent Internet or cellular connection is a joke; electricity is a lofty dream. But it’s a start.
Grassroots work becomes all the more important in places where 140-character posts are inaccessible. “Waves of change start with tiny ripples,” Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa would often tell us. I hope the ripples we made during #MoveLeyte will eventually result in waves of change in Baybay.
The audience laughed when multimedia reporter Natashya Gutierrez encouraged them to file their own video blogs from Baybay City. “Nakakahiya (Embarrassing),” some of them said on Twitter. But if their enthusiasm was any indicator, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we see vlogs from Baybay City really soon.
And here’s another thing everyone should know: #MoveLeyte began with a tweet -- from Derek Alviola to Maria Ressa. If that doesn’t make you a believer of social media, I don’t know what will. - Rappler.com
Bea Cupin is among Rappler's 20-somethings in the Social Media team. She dreams about, and wakes up to, the social media world.