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“Breaking news: as of a few minutes ago,” event organizer Tonyo Cruz said, “we were only expecting 300, but we can say that we reached 411 participants!” The large turn-out at the 30 June Social Media Capital affair, the first of its kind in the Philippines under Mashable's Social Media Day worldwide event series, showed the vibrancy and willingness of some of Manila's social media denizens to gather and celebrate the importance of social media in the country, past and present. As of last count, 444 participants were registered for the affair. “We were surprised in a very pleasant way,” Cruz told GMA News Online in a phone interview.
The event, held at the Philippine Stock Exchange Plaza in Makati, was one of a series of parallel events held throughout the country. Quezon City had its own Social Media Day gathering, as did Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao. The name was chosen because of the fact that the Philippines has had a consistent record of being either early adopters or leaders in using social media.
Addressing the gathering on harnessing the Philippines' social media capital were social media pundit Carlo Ople; celebrity and UNICEF campaigner Daphne Oseña-Paez; and Gang Badoy, founder of the advocacy group Rock Ed, which celebrated its seventh anniversary yesterday. Ople spoke about the overall social media landscape in the country and the issues confronting social media users in the country, including the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act which would potentially make it easier for companies and other individuals to sue Internet users for “online defamation.” The other two speakers also discussed how social media helped their advocacies and encouraged listeners to do the same.
Apart from the addresses, there was a special appearance by this year's Miss World Philippines winner Queeneerich Rehman. There were also games and give-aways, a common fixture of similar and much smaller gatherings known to some Twitter users as “tweet-ups.”
It was at such a tweet-up back in late May where your correspondent was present that a special event to mark 30 June's Social Media Day was first announced. Cruz said that Social Media Day has been celebrated for three years now, but it was only this year that an event was planned. Cruz and online marketing specialist Rosario Juan were the lead convenors for the project. Finding sponsors for the event turned out not to be a major problem. “People were skeptical that we could get Smart and Globe together [to back our event],” Cruz said, “but social media is for everyone.” The only hitch was getting the eventual venue, which required the usual bureaucratic niceties.
“Netizens are already somewhat aware of their social media capital,” Cruz noted, saying that this has given them direct access to businesses and government. Social media became even more useful in times of disaster, especially in coordinating relief efforts and providing information. During this event, the organizers launched Project 140, an initiative to help 140 of the poorest schools in the poorest parts of the Philippines. This project will continue throughout the period between this year's Social Media Day and the next. — TJD, GMA News
Ren Aguila writes about music and health for GMA News Online.