Iloilo: On the move for social change
ILOILO CITY, Philippines - Word of Rappler’s arrival in Iloilo spread quickly on campus. Personally, I was not very interested and rather indifferent towards the news site. I also did not possess an enthusiasm for technology nor did I adore the world of blogging. I thought it was pretentious to air one’s sentiments online, particularly when done anonymously.
But the fact that Maria Ressa would be gracing the MoveIloilo seminar gave me enough reason to get excited. The personality I so adored watching on CNN, whose eloquence in reporting I so painstakingly try to copy, would be addressing me, at least as a part of the audience.
Central Philippine University played host to MoveIloilo and students from Iloilo City’s key universities. The audience was composed primarily of communication students and campus journalists eager to lend their ears, and eventually their time, to become citizen journalists.
Ressa, who gave the keynote lecture, maintained the same eloquence I long admired. She talked about the role of social media in effecting social change, far from the common misconception that it is only a tool for pa-sosyalan.
It dawned on me that the potential of social media goes beyong connecting people. The connections themselves create the appropriate conditions that can forment social movements like the two EDSA Peope Power uprisings.
Defiance spurred by tweets
In the age of the information super highway, everything is fast-paced. Now imagine that a single tweet, with only 140 characters, could spur more tweets and Facebook status updates calling for an outpour of defiance. This would inevitably lead to movements as massive as the ones organized in the 60s.
The Arab Spring was fueled by emotion. But what helped protract it were a corps of vigilant bloggers whose only weapons were their computers and the Internet. And what’s more, they were organized themselves into communities and, in the midst of a cyber crackdown, reported on atrocities and showed the rest of the world the reality in North Africa and the Middle East.
MoveIloilo strives to create a community and place it within the larger frame of nation-building, drawing inspiration from the communities fromed during the Arab Spring.
To Ressa, it is just a matter of harnessing the power of social media. And provinces like Iloilo, which boasts of around half a million Facebook users, are evidently not lagging behind Manila in terms of online vibrancy.
Challenge to the youth
Politics is as vibrant here on the island of Panay as it is in Luzon. Iloilo has long been a place where political families thrive, campaign strategies follow errant paths, and black propaganda is rampant. The Ilonggo only has to step up and take a stand on this and other provincial issues as well.
To start, he has to be willing; he has to see the detriments of becoming complacent; and he has to understand that his role as a citizen stretches beyond the ostensibly democratic electoral process. To be a democrat is to participate. But to be a true democrat requires one to protect democracy.
A citizen journalist does exactly that by holding public officials accountable for promises they make, discerning campaign motives, and vigilantly upholding the public good by reporting on the clandestinely bad.
It was a challenge posed by Maria Ressa and the rest of Rappler to the youth of today. A challenge to emulate the youth of our history whose zeal sparked our nation's most crucial moments. That very same zeal we can find throbbing with our spirits. – Rappler.com
Reyshimar Arguelles is a graduating mass communication student at Central Philippine University. He is also the Associate Editor of the Central Echo, the university’s official student publication.