Want to mobilize thousands of people for a cause? Use hashtags

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Fr. Xavier Alpasa, SJ, executive director of Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan tells participants how social media play a crucial role in times of crisis

MANILA, Nov. 24, 2013—A simple announcement on Facebook is all it takes to mobilize thousands to unite for a specific cause, a priest said. 

Sending hashtags on social media can instigate real revolution—not a bloody one, of course, but a social media revolution that can marshal thousands to act in time of disaster like Yolanda. 

According to Fr. Xavier Alpasa, SJ, it only took a simple post on Facebook to gather together thousands of volunteers to repack relief goods for typhoon victims in Culion, Palawan, one of the remotest areas hit by Yolanda. 

“In a couple of days we have thousands of volunteers packing the goods, we have more people going to the remotest areas, that the government was saying it cannot enter into,” he said. 

Alpasa, who was one of the speakers during the impact session of the Catholic Social Media Summit, shared how social media played a crucial role in their being able to provide a quick response to the needs of typhoon survivors in Culion, Palawan.

There was no commercial flight, no boat to reach the area, but “we were able to charter a plane, we were able to charter a yacht” to bring the needed relief, he said.

Thanks to social media, he said, their group was able to deliver the goods immediately to places, which the government claimed “were hard to reach.” 

Alpasa is the executive director of Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, a church-based group of committed individuals from various sectors that advocates social issues. 

The pries also narrated the impact of social media in bringing to the consciousness of thousands of Filipinos the plight of Casiguran farmers who lost their ancestral lands and livelihood through the creation of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (APECO) in Quezon province. 

Alpasa said the mainstream media were silent about APECO but it only took a video documentary which they posted on Facebook for people to become conscientize about the farmers’ plight. 

“We launched a video filmed by multi awarded Ditsi Carolino and uploaded it to Facebook and called it Apeco promise and in a matter of two days, it garnered 6 thousand followers,” he said. 

The media campaign was done ahead of the farmers’ march to Manila in December 2012 to seek dialogue with the president on the APECO issue. 

“Because of social media and Cardinal Tagle’s visit with them (farmers), the president and the entire cabinet went to Ateneo for dialogue (with the farmers),” he said. 

Alpasa said social media is a powerful tool to bring social issues to the consciousness of people. 

He encouraged participants to look into their hearts and examine their deepest desires. 

“Whatever is in your heart, you project in social media, and I believe that whatever we come up with from that desire through social media will be so powerful, powerful enough to actually affect people,” he said. 

The Catholic Social Media Summit is being held at the Colegio de San Juan Letran in Intramuros, Manila. 

It culminates today with a Eucharistic celebration to be presided by Msgr. Paul Tighe, the secretary of the Pontifical Commission on Social Communication and the keynote speaker of the summit. (CBCPNews)

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