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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, December 12, 2014
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia



You know your countrymen need to reassess their priorities when you see messages of support for the Azkals all over social media networks after they lost to Thailand in the Suzuki Cup and compare it to the scorn and ridicule Filipino netizens have heaped on presidential aspirant Mar Roxas after a report of him figuring in a motorcycle mishap sans helmet on his way to a disaster area threatens to break the internet.

Yes, Mar Roxas may never shed the unfortunate label of  being a photo op disaster, a title that he justifiably earned after a couple of ill-advised photos of him trying his darned best to present himself as “masa” and “working”. It wouldn’t even be surprising to discover that if he was posing for another one of those photo ops (hence the lack of a helmet) right before he lost control of the motorcycle, but the fact of the matter was that he was on his way to a disaster area at that time. Compare that to 95 percent of those who ridiculed him online who, in all likelihood, weren’t anywhere near a disaster area or engaged in a relief effort the entire time Typhoon Hagupit was visiting and it shows you just how shallow, mean and pathetic Filipinos can be.

I hope the ridiculous motorcycle mishap taught Mar a lesson and he finally gives up on trying being someone he is not. He should fire his PR people, start wearing a power suit or the swankiest gusot-mayaman barong he can afford, and just work his ass off the way his privileged upbringing and Wharton education taught him. Come to think of it, isn’t it depressing how we live in a country where being relatively smart, rich, and well educated is a disadvantage for anyone aspiring for the presidency?

I know it’s impossible to ask a politician to stop thinking like one and to just do the right thing day in and day out, but his dismal performance in the surveys should have told Mar Roxas that his pa-masa approach isn’t working. He should just transform himself back into the promising technocrat that he was and show this country that he deserves a shot at the presidency because of what he can bring to the table, and not because he has photos of him driving a trisikad, lifting a sack of rice, riding the MRT, or figuring in a motorcycle mishap while in a disaster area.

Can he do that in less than a year? I don’t think so. His stint at the DOTC was a failure and he never really stepped up to fill the giant shoes left by Jesse Robredo at the DILG so he has to risk looking stupid by having his people post silly photos of him doing silly things. But he is relatively young and 2016, like 2010, is not his only shot at the presidency, so if he can find a way to reinvent himself and become really good at something that the country really needs, he can still run for president after 2016.

If Mar can reinvent himself and get a solid shot at the presidency then Filipino netizens should also be able to reassess their priorities and sensibilities. If you think about it, so many people on social media are all noise and fury but have done nothing substantial while the silent ones who rarely complain are the ones who are volunteering their time and resources to this country. But since these people aren’t running for public office nor are they accountable to anybody, we can expect this kind of behavior to continue, whether the target of their ire does a good job or not.



While we are on the topic of social media, Hagupit, and the ridiculous, I might as well share my frustration on how schools that claim to be the best in the land still do not know how to use social media during typhoons. I wouldn’t mind it so much if they weren’t in social media in the first place, but schools that are on it should be aware that it is not just for praise releases when things go right, it is also a very effective and efficient emergency announcement service.

I say this because last Friday morning when the country was preparing for Typhoon Hagupit I got a text from a fellow parent saying classes in our kids’ school had been cancelled. Imagine that, they were using a text brigade in 2014. Being the type who requires confirmation before believing everything that is texted to me, I hopped on social media to check if the school had made an announcement and was frustrated to see there was none. The school’s Facebook and Twitter accounts were silent.

I texted another parent, hoping to get confirmation, but didn’t get an immediate reply. Then I had a brainstorm: I used the landline telephone to call the school and ask and, upon getting an answer that was the only time I broke the news to the kids and told them they could change out of their uniforms.

I felt like a savage. It is 2014 and there I was, using a telephone directory, dialing a landline, and talking to a real person to get information that is supposed to be broadcast to as many people as possible.

Joking aside, I got the feeling this isn’t an isolated case and that most primary and intermediate schools in this island have no idea how social media can help them in situations like typhoons. Someone was able to compose the text that was to be passed around. Someone answered the phone when I called. That means someone was already there to update the school’s official social media accounts and it would made a confirmed official announcement  that would have saved, their students, parents, and even them a lot of trouble.*



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