A social (media) order

Our dependency on social media has demonstrated how intertwined our lives have become in the digital space. Everything we need to know about any subject matter, we can almost always find online. It has made governments more transparent and accessible to the people, giving everyone a chance to either praise well-performing officials or “cancel” those who are missing in action in their communities but seem to be busy learning a new TikTok dance. The free web, with its lifted paywall, has allowed fans to watch online concerts, stage plays, read books, visit museums, and attend special masses led by His Eminence, Pope Francis. More importantly, it has instigated a new social order where the world, simply, can connect and share — a microcosm of what a society and its people can do in times of adversity; how human kindness and compassion come into play in this long invisible war.

Take the case of Jerome, one of the thousands of grounded tricycle drivers who was left to devise a plan on his own to survive and feed his family. When he learned about SuperTsuper, a Facebook page created by a group of University of the Philippines alumni to help displaced drivers like himself, Jerome immediately signed up. In an online news interview, Mariel Cunanan, one of the group administrators, said that SuperTsuper was borne out of the desire to help these sidetracked drivers who can appeal directly to the members of the group for financial assistance and course donations through mobile bank transfers. The group was formed in the last week of March and has now close to 35,000 members, a good mix of drivers and interested donors.

To be able to post on the group, the driver has to submit identification documents to the group administrators for easy verification. As I scan through SuperTsuper’s page, photos of the drivers’ families, their vehicles, and anything they feel would help tell their story like photos of medical bills and prescriptions filled the newsfeed. Some would post on behalf of a relative like Jerome, who made the plea for his cousin who is also a driver and needs to undergo dialysis in the coming weeks. But what really amazed me was the overwhelming response of the donors who would comment that they have #donated on the posts. The support and solidarity of this online community shows how willing people are in helping others; that the interaction between the donor and the recipient has become personal rather than transactional.

#RockEdCarpool, organized by Edwin Soriano and JP Loh, wanted to fill the gap of the lack of available transport systems during this lockdown period. When a call for volunteers to transport health workers to and from their places of work was put out on social media, Tina Alviar Agbayani was one of the first people to respond. A dedicated volunteer, she provided transport during relief operations for Typhoon Yolanda thus doing the same for the frontliners is nothing new to her. However, this time, she has to be extra careful in protecting herself from the virus. As of writing, around 60 volunteer drivers have already enlisted and ply around Luzon and even as far as Angeles City. 

As JP admits, the process is not easy. They have to contend with the security checkpoints and curfews along the road and the discipline needed to ensure that the volunteers follow the safety procedures to deal with the pandemic. But this cannot be move along without the able help of the volunteer coordinators who have to manually but systematically do the routing and sharing rides for efficiency. Together, according to JP, they have been working like a well-oiled machinery and though not perfect, it gives them a certain satisfaction to see the pieces magically fall into place in the spirit of Bayanihan. Though #RockEdCarpool continuously try to improve the process and adapt to changes as the situation demands, Edwin and JP are still hopeful that they will be able to sustain and continue to wield their work magic and thank the Divine Providence for the many miracles that have happened as they operate this noble enterprise. 

Meanwhile, Jerome continues to get donations for his cousin’s dialysis. And Tina, aside from ferrying our health workers to their places of destination, offers a blind man walking the stretch of the highway a ride home. I am sure that there are countless more stories about our unsung heroes and silent donors amid this health crisis and I can only wish that blessings come back to them tenfold.

I end this piece with Pope Francis’ Palm Sunday message:  In these holy days, let us stand before the Crucified One and let us ask for the grace to live in order to serve. May we reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need. May we not be concerned about what we lack, but what good we can do for others.

You may reach the author at [email protected].

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