Technology in the time of typhoons

by Ka Edong on November 4, 2009

Kumusta na? Ayos pa ba?

It’s been an awesome past many months for me. Although I haven’t been blogging about all that’s been happening in my life, specifically my technology life or “Technobiography”, I’ve been happy being involved in many awesome activities that have been truly life changing.

The typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng crashed through the Philippines. We saw how Filipinos can band together if we choose to do so. I took a few trips to Baguio and I was there right smack between Ondoy and Pepeng. Took another trip to Baguio after Pepeng to document some of the relief activities.

And through all these, I’ve been steadily keeping up-to-date with the goings on through the help of technology. Here’s how technology has helped me help others in the past months.

Keeping posted

When the typhoon hit Manila on September 26, Saturday, I made my way from Quezon City to Makati. I wasn’t expecting the typhoon to cause so much havoc. And as we took one route and then another and then another because we were hitting flooded roads, I finally reached the MRT which was working well. I kept up-to-date via Twitter @ka_edong with the disaster that was unfolding. I access Twitter via a Nokia N82 loaded with TweetS60 . It was good for getting news of the floods around the metro.

Citizen Reportage

As I was making my way through EDSA on the MRT, I started taking photos of the traffing and uploaded them via MMS to . I had a photo of what was later re-labelled as “the world’s biggest parking lot” (thanks @jimayson).

As I was tweeting from the MRT, I saw a half submerged bus on the Northbound lane of EDSA in front of Camp Aguinaldo. I circled back because I wanted to share to the world what was happening in the Philippines. I got ready with a mobile video through

And now I have my most widely viewed qik video: Half submerged bus .

Half Submerged Bus

Half Submerged Bus

Search for missing people through Google Docs

I spent much of Saturday indoors, but braved the floods in the early evening to visit family. My batteries were dead by this time from tweeting and qiking. When I got back home, our condo did not have any electricity. I went to the nearby Mini Stop and charged my phone with the vending machine . Then got myself some tweets.

And then I realized the extent of the flooding. I was seeing tweets from all over asking for rescue in Marikina and Antipolo. People were frantically passing on the appeals for rescue with the hopes that others would be able to rescue. It was heart-wrenching just seeing names and situations of people from the screen of my phone. I had to do something.

There was all this info flying around via twitter, facebook and SMS. It was important to get all this information down pat in one location so that people would have a place to report and rescuers had a reference of where to rescue (of course there was so much help needed, rescuers just went to the nearest place they were needed).

Thus was born the Rescue Hub ( . The Rescue Hub was the very first initiative that organized information about the typhoon, specifically rescue information. I put together a spreadsheet using Google Documents. Created columns which people can populate with their own set of information. It had to be an open document which anyone can edit.

When the spreadsheet columns were in, I sent a google chat to @arnoldmagno first: “Bro, work with me” . It was my first online invitation for BAYANI-han! When I saw Arnold populating the spreadsheet without any questions, that meant the spreadsheet was clear enough. I spread the word via twitter: “Guys, work with us.” .  Then, on the spreadsheet, within just a few minutes, there were more than a dozen people inputting data into the spreadsheet. These were reports of people needing rescue.

It was spine-tingling – nakaka-pangilabot! On one hand, we found a way for people to rally together for the same cause and help Filipinos in need of rescue. On the other hand, it was scary how sooo many people needed so much help. It was doubly frightening when I saw my officemate’s name on the spreadsheet. Seeing my friend’s name on that rescue spreadsheet made this typhoon disaster so real to me.

Once Lost, now Found

The morning after, I logged on to twitter and to the RescueHub to find out how the Philippines was doing. The sun peeking through the clouds but the floods were still there. And Filipinos were just starting to understand the extent of the damage. I saw over the tweets that people were now looking for missing people. I added a new spreadsheet to the RescueHub where people can report missing friends/relatives.

A friend, Franklin Naval, took on the role of mapping out the many addresses that were on the RescueHub. That became a tool for people to understand better visually *where* the help was needed.

Over the next few days, I monitored the spreadsheet from Baguio, cleaned it up when I had the chance and more importantly kept tabs on how many reports were being closed. I wanted to track how many people were being rescued, found or reported safe.

Ka Edong @ BAYANI-han article of Manolo L. Quezon

I was pleased to find out a via Facebook that Manolo mentioned me in one of his articles about how I and many other contributed to the relief efforts, BAYANI-han style. Of course my mom had a newspaper clipping of the article (thanks ma!). Other friends told me that they heard Manolo mention my name on his TV program, the Explainer. Yes, friends, that was me.

Ka Edong on mlq3's Article

Ka Edong on mlq3's Article

ka edong on manolo's Inquirer article

ka edong on manolo's Inquirer article

It reads:

There were Edwin Soriano, and others who established another Google document (“Rescue InfoHub Central”) that allowed people to list cases of people requiring help and rescue (an SOS subpage); to the extent that cases could be evaluated (a Missing/Found People subpage) regarding the threat level to life and limb represented by each case, and the progress of rescue efforts tracked, too. With so many people in so many places requiring help, concerned family members and friends could focus their energies on reporting cases, while volunteers could identify where and how they could effectively help (Emergency Numbers and Where/How to Donate/Help Pages).

And there were thousands of Filipinos who stepped up and just helped, without question, without asking for anything in return. I continue to hear stories of heroism from so many people.

Now, where do I find a non-political page where Pinoys recognize the heroes among us? Which website is it? I want to read more! 🙂

Proud Pinoy!

That is why I am so proud to be a Filipino! Because there is something great in us and nobody can take away the greatness in us.

“I prayed to God that Filipinos recognize their greatness! And then God gave us Ondoy! Awesome God!”

ka edong


Previous post:

Next post: