FOR a martial law baby, it was a bit overwhelming.
One minute, I got a text from a stranger, asking me to check my inbox. The texter was also the sender of the email, whose subject read: “Mayette, let's tell PNoy to require all public officials to take public transit at least once a month!”
I don’t know Dinna Louise C. Dayao but I got her drift: “The only way our government officials will understand the plight of commuters is if they themselves take public transit regularly.”
I clicked on her link, www.change.org/mag-commute, and signed the petition, along with 5,670 others, as of this writing.
Ms. Dayao of Manila, the “petition organizer,” emailed that it would take only “30 seconds” to sign the petition. I took longer than that. I read and reread the petition. Checked the articles related to it. Viewed a video. Googled the subject, including Ms. Dayao and Change.org.
I commute from Parañaque in the south to Quezon City in the north, approximately three hours on not so rush rush-hours, one way, for the past 17 months. But I still had to check.
Maybe I had time on my hands. Maybe it was a bit disorienting for a martial law baby. Being a “tibak (aktibista or activist)” during the dictatorship years was not just messy, tiresome, inconvenient, frustrating. It meant lives derailed, lost.
Compared to that, online activism is a picnic, a description that’s striking because that’s also how the news media described the Million People March to Luneta last Aug. 26: a “massive ‘pocket picnic’ get together” to protest against the pork barrel scam.
For this college activist who had to override paternal opprobrium, boycott classes, shake the unshakeable apathy of “burgis (bourgeois)” classmates, and plan contingency measures in case of violent dispersals of street rallies, Change.org gave instant, painless access so that I (and 5,670 others) called no less than the president’s attention to give reality lessons to blind and callous bureaucrats.
Right after I signed the petition, Change.org sent a thank-you message with an invitation to share the petition on Facebook with friends. It even considerately showed me a formatted email, complete with my name as petitioner, which I could forward with a click to my social network.
Change.org combines two compelling features of participatory democracy: anyone can start a petition and numbers have strength. This is according to another follow-up email from Change.org founder Ben Rattray.
My classmate, Dems, sent me links to other campaigns launched on Change.org. Drawing 826 supporters as of this writing, petitioner Dominique Francesca Marie Banaag of Manila wants a local fast food giant to “add more spaghetti sauce and hotdogs”.
“Because having more pasta and less sauce is just plain disappointing” is the tersely worded petition.
Petitioning the president of the United States is Brendan Glenwright of Utica, MI, who is calling for a ban on monosodium glutamate. So far, there are 202 who signed up, none from PH that I can see.
Online activism is here to stay, not only because it eases one’s social conscience with a click of the mouse or a wave of the hand activating an intuitive touchscreen. The Internet can gather the numbers.
Can it teach endurance, which Marcos and his minions (hardly resembling the cute critters of today) drilled into tibaks of the past?
When Dems, girlfriend Maggie, classmate Candeze and best friend Mark turned up in Luneta last National Heroes’ Day, they saw a crowd where the Doc Martens stood out even despite the mud, recalled Candeze. It’s a British brand of boots sold only in upscale malls.
Street veteran Diosa was more scathing. Sidelined in Luneta with her group that advocates for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill, she said many of those in the crowd last Aug. 26 still have to realize that advocacy demands more than Facebook likes.
Three days after her first text and email, Ms. Dayao emailed to report that our 5,631-signed petition had Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino now commuting. To challenge PNoy and other officials to do the same, she invited me to take a photo or video capturing my commuting pains and email, Facebook or Tweet these with the hashtag #camyourcommute.
It’s a brave new world. Now, let’s see if I can raise the digital rebel while surviving in the streets of Manila.
(firstname.lastname@example.org/ mayettetabada.blogspot.com/ 09173226131)
* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s September 8, 2013 issue of the editorial page column, “Matamata”