Letters to the Editor

Boto Patrollers sending pieces of themselves through photos and videos

- Arlene Burgos -

MANILA, Philippines - Boto Patrollers, citizens who have come to embrace ABS-CBN’s Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula movement have sent possibly thousands of pictures and videos before. But none have come close to the submissions sent beginning Saturday, when Tropical Storm Ondoy lashed at the country.

These pictures and videos the citizen journalists sent to ABS-CBN through e-mail, or posted directly onto the Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo Multiply group site, did more than capture the agony that the storm caused thousands of families trapped on roofs, hungry and wet after record-level rains inundated their communities.

The photos came from everywhere: Boto Patroller Deepee of San Pedro, Laguna, in the early hours of the storm, for instance, quickly posted in the Patroller Facebook fan page photographs of his community getting flooded, and of the rainwater entering his garage. Geno Florendo sent to ireport@abs-cbn.com a video of rampaging floodwater in Zamboanga Street, Barangay Nayon Kanluran, West Avenue, Quezon City. That video consisted the early pictures of devastation that was unfolding, and was shown in ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC). Together with the deluge of calls for help by people seeking rescue efforts, telling ABS-CBN by cell phone where in Marikina, Pasig or Cainta they were, how long they have been soaked in rainwater and stuck in the roofs, the photos and videos sent by Boto Patrollers completed the story of catastrophe that ABS-CBN would be telling the nation Saturday night.

Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo staff, in turn, went on at least 30 hours of continuous work beginning Saturday afternoon to catch the submissions, and to gather calls and messages from citizens trapped and needing rescue. These messages were then turned over to the National Disaster Coordinating Council and other relief agencies to help direct these offices to locations where urgent help and rescue were needed.

While many of ABS-CBN journalists found themselves trapped in floodwaters, their homes and communities flooded, and unable to go to the office to help put together newscasts for a big and developing story, Boto Patrollers stepped up to the task to contribute and gave updates of what’s happening in their areas.

Boto Patroller Jeffrey of Batangas, found himself in the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) Saturday night. Saying vehicles had stopped moving after failure to maneuver in the rising floodwater, Jeffrey described for ABS-CBN journalists, and in effect for the public, how SLEx looked like. Part of his text message read: “Marami na pong tumirik na bus, trapik dahil sa sobrang laki ng baha. Marami na pong naglalakad na commuters dahil gusto na pong makarating sa paroroonan (Buses are stalled. Traffic is not moving because of big flood. Many commuters have gone down their vehicles to walk just to get to their destinations).

In the coming days, these Patrollers would keep alive threads of conversation in the Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo accounts in Multiply and Facebook.

They would also continue submitting compelling photos and videos of the devastation. Considering that these are citizen journalists – as opposed to professional journalists – the submissions far exceeded Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo staff’s expectations. The pictures were so compelling that at one point, Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo staff Beth Morrissey, a Princeton in Asia Fellow at ABS-CBN, found it necessary to re-do the Multiply layout of the Boto Patrollers’ group account. Beth took down all announcements and substituted these with citizen journalists’ photos to ensure that these submissions were properly showcased.

Among the photographs Beth ensured would be highlighted were the set contributed by a Patroller who successfully escaped the floodwaters. Evacuating his family for safety, the Patroller took pictures along the way, and captured compelling pictures of how other citizens were trying to flee floodwaters. The Patroller, Jun, said he took the photos to ensure authorities would see them. He said he needed to deliver that point — that people needed saving — as if officials have not been able to realize this.

Still another set of photos that amazed Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo staff no end was that by Larry L. Go. Having been featured in the Boto Patrollers’ report pages before, Larry’s pictures were amazing, to say the least, and captured in color, juxtaposition and composition the mood of that night when a fire — at height of the heaviest rains the Philippines has known in 40 years — razed shanties near the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City.

But the other amazing aspect of the Boto Patroller movement that has surfaced during the Ondoy crisis had little or nothing to do with submitting pictures or videos. At the height of the storm, and even before anyone has thought about how serious or massive a relief work would be needed to aid Ondoy’s survivors, a group of Boto Patrollers from Olongapo City called in to ask how they could help. Patroller Zosthy of Olongapo, who is with a Catholic school-based organization, sent to Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo a text message: “How do we help aside from donating money? Please advise. Do you need manpower?” It was a portent of the great Bayanihan spirit that was to surface days later, when strangers would converge, in places like the ABS-CBN warehouse, for instance, to pack relief goods for those who saw devastation.

Zosthy’s expression of concern was to be duplicated in other Patroller posts in Multiply and Facebook, with many of them asking how they could help.

The Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula may be a movement meant to engage citizens and encourage more active guarding of the 2010 elections through citizen journalism. But it also has that amazing imprint of Bayanihan written all over it. And citizens profess it in an even more amazing, unassuming, no-need-to-broadcast, no-need-to-do-a-press-release-over-it manner.


1. Drop-off points

a. For goods and cash donations: Scout Bayoran, Tomas Morato, Quezon City (in front of Rembrandt Hotel)

b. For food: ABS-CBN Center Road, Mother Ignacia, QC

2. Numbers to call

a. For donations call 163

b. For volunteer work: tel. nos. 4152272 and 9244101 locals 7014, 7015 & 7016

3. Update on donations (as of Sept. 29, 2009)

a. P 27 million in cash

b. P 49 million in goods and service

4. For donations you may also send via

Local: Banco de Oro, Mother Ignacia Branch

Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.

Account no.: 5630020111

Routing code for international cash donations: BNORPHMM ABS-CBN BDO


Overseas: 1-800-527-2820 or abs-cbnfoundation. org

5. Update on distribution of donations and areas served (as of 12 noon, September 29, 2009)

a. Distributed: 62,000 relief packs

b. Areas served: Marikina, Pasig, Laguna, Cainta, San Mateo, Montalban, Ortigas Extension, Bagong Silangan, Roosevelt, and Novaliches

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