Facebook in the time of Pablo

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Thursday, December 6, 2012


FILIPINOS watched out for Pablo on Facebook. With the time they spent on FB, you’d think Pablo was going to announce his arrival anytime via check-in.

You didn’t have to listen to the radio or watch news updates on TV. You only had to be logged on to FB to know Pablo’s itinerary and how people in Cebu, Dumaguete, Bohol, Davao and Cagayan de Oro were both preparing for his arrival and praying for his non-arrival.

For as long as people were logged on to FB, you knew things were still all right. If these were not, the Facebook news feeds on your wall wouldn’t have been regularly updated, or worse, would show inane posts, such as what one was going to have for lunch or snacks.

When power was out briefly, the posts on Facebook read like the apocalypse had come.

The brownout did not so much scare the wits out of the FB tambays than the thought that they had no Internet connection and therefore no FB.

Pablo arrived in Cebu but not in the grand manner that people had expected. Oh, he dashed through southern Cebu and devastated the beautiful seaside park of Boljoon, the scenic town of Mayor Teresita Celis. Nocturnal dates at the park will have to be suspended for now lest the lovers slip and hurt themselves in the rubble.

Pablo indirectly killed four people in three southern towns of Cebu: a farmer in Boljoon and another one in Malabuyoc when coconut trees fell on them, and two women when their houses collapsed, burying them in the piles of rubble.

In the urban areas of Cebu, everyone braced for the worst. They shared posts and photos of tracking maps of Pablo’s direction and scope, their trips to the groceries and their purchases of sardinas and flashlights, prayers and supplications, and advice to “stay safe.”

If you were Facebooking in your home, office or in Starbucks while waiting for Pablo to arrive, you were safe for as long as you had Internet connection. In FB parlance, to stay safe is to post what frappucino or coffee latte you’re drinking at the moment.

Because Facebook was inundated with Pablo updates, the super typhoon decided to cancel his trip to Metro Cebu. He went to where he was least expected to hit. More FB posts of thanks to God, Santo Nino and San Pedro Calungsod.

If it were not for San Pedro Calungsod’s intercession, Cebu would have suffered a fate similar to what it had in November 1990 when Ruping vented her wrath on the booming province of then governor Lito Osmeña.

In 1990, there was no FB. Cebuanos relied on the news media for updates. The radio blared 24 hours in many houses. And Lito Osmeña took charge.

The governor, whose “Magbuot mo?” utterance of challenge to everyone who questioned his decisions, took extra-legal means to get things going after Ruping. Everyone had the time to help his neighbors because they were not Facebooking.

Because there was no FB yet, thieves and looters had more time to saw off or steal fallen cable wires. That was the downside of no FB in 1990.

But even if Facebook had been around in 1990, it wouldn’t have served its purpose of getting post-typhoon updates. Cebu had no power for two weeks.

Today, if power was out after a typhoon, Facebooke

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 06, 2012.

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