BURNING BRIGHT: Dragons use social media to blaze a trail for ‘Habagat’ relief

BURNING BRIGHT: Dragons use social media to blaze a trail for ‘Habagat’ relief

by UA&P News Desk on August 10, 2012 - 2:03 pm

by Francesca Nicole Torres, IV School of Management

Mid-day of August 8, 2012, a shout rang through Study Hall A: “UA&P is trending on Twitter!”

For those not in the know, a “Twitter trending topic” is a term or phrase with a large aggregate number of mentions on the popular microblogging site. With over eight million Filipinos using Twitter, for a tiny Ortigas university (certainly not a “big four”) to make it to the trending list alone was no mean feat.

But make it we did, and that initial position would prove only the beginning of a social media shockwave that would catapult UA&P to the very top of the nationwide Twitter trending topics (and with the hashtag #UNITAS following at number eight), and even earn it a spot on the worldwide list.

What was it that was capturing so much social media attention? Relief.

UA&P’s Twitter phenomenon was a product of sheer Dragon determination to help fellow Filipinos during the August 6-7  Habagat Tragedy.  With rainfall surpassing even 2009’s terrifying typhoon Ondoy, the collision of monsoon rains and low pressure areas caused massive flooding all over Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, leaving many people stranded, homeless, and in need of rescue.

In response to the need, UA&P H.O.P.E.S.—the relief arm of the University—rapidly mobilized relief efforts on the afternoon of August 8, just as reports of the damage wrought by the storm trickled in.  Since floodwaters were still at their height, many could not answer the call for volunteers, and so took to retweeting calls for rescue, lists of relief goods needed, and UA&P updates in a frantic attempt to still be of service.

The social media storm continued into Day 2 of relief operations, with students manning laptops on campus throughout the day as part of a dedicated social media team.  Sending messages about missing classmates (including the hashtag #Patco for the rescue of UA&P junior Daryll Patco), real-time updates about needed relief goods, or simply tweets of support, Dragon Tweeters—and their support team of Dragon Facebookers—created a virtual relief effort that helped attract volunteers and donations to meet the 5,000 relief pack target.

But even after activities had paused for the night, the tweets kept coming—this time, not just from Dragons, but from Filipinos who had noticed the Twitter trend and were awed by the “small school with a big heart.”

Many pledged to join the next batch of relief efforts.  Some even started asking for applications to the University.  A few “haters” tried to criticize the #UNITAS movement, but they were promptly drowned out by the overwhelming response of “Pinoy Pride,” further embodied in the #UNITAS Beyond Campus movement, with volunteers from ADMU, DLSU, CSB, UP, and LSM joining the campaign for hope and Habagat Relief.

Now, into Day 3, UA&P fell to number 5 as a trending topic, but the Tweets still keep coming, with students using social media to call for more donations.  With the sheer force of #UNITAS, UA&P Dragons proved to the world—the Twitter World, at least—that in times of crisis, anyone can be a hero. All it takes is to stand UNITED.

 Corrected (August 12): UA&P was fifth on Twitter on Day 3.
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