Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

A Virtual Pool of Free Knowledge on Eastern Visayas

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – The internet is a potent tool of communication, popular convention dictates. The worldwide web is a repository of useful information for various purposes - from school paper, to industrial research, to discussions necessary for decision-making. And yet as the information super highway offers truths, it is also strewn with hoaxes and half-truths. One should know, therefore, which information to pick.

Certainly so powerful is the internet that with just a click in the search box, data needed appears, like magic. What was once a sheer sci-fi is now very common reality. Various blog pages are providing lush ground to the feeding frenzy of the soul, heart and mind. What used to be tri-media has expanded into quad. Bizarre yet awesome, technology has evolved so swiftly that everyone or everything has to keep up or be sorry.

It is also very important to preserve and promote what is homegrown - especially the innate culture and dialect. For example, oftentimes when surfing on the internet or browsing a webpage for information of general interest written in Waray dialect, one could either only locate it in a blog site or as news written in the dialect - but never in encyclopedia form.

But such dearth of content in Waray is soon to be taken care of. A page linked to the Wikipedia, the widest read free online encyclopedia, is being loaded with information that is inherently Eastern Visayan.

Very recently, several Taclobanons joined hands with a Wikimedia community to take the initial step towards an ambitious project to fill up the Waray Wikipedia pages with content to answer the need for general information about Eastern Visayas (Region VIII), the so-called Waray region. Waray Wikipedia was created years back, primarily aiming to provide the website with facts and figures on the 2.6 million speakers of the Waray dialect.

The site, colloquially named Waray Wiki, is yet to celebrate its 10th year on September 25 this year but already marked 6th largest in terms of number of articles among the more than 290 Wikipedia projects. It is the first regional language and the first Asian language to have reached one million articles.

The local group, Sinirangan Bisayas Wikimedia Community (SBWC), which is duly recognized by the Wikimedia Philippines, goes to Samar and Leyte towns conducting Waray Wiki orientations and content-editing workshops.

Michael Glen Ong, SBWC coordinator and one of the administrators of the Waray Wiki sites, is zealous about this new development and devotes his time and resources propagating the cause. Ong is an accountant by profession and businessman by occupation while his partner, Taclobanon Harvey Fiji, is a practicing lawyer in the U.S.

The most recent editing workshop, held at the Tacloban Legislative Bldg. Session Hall Gallery, was proof of how passion could move other people to concrete actions. Wikimedia Philippines and the National Press Club Tacloban set the stage for Waray Wiki, and the activity was backed by Tacloban City Vice-Mayor Jerry "Sambo" Yaokasin. "It is a very worthy project that we all must support, especially the Warays," said Yaokasin, who facilitated for the venue and amenities needed for the half-day event. The participants, who were largely local newsmen, contributed articles that may now be browsed at Wikiwaray webpage.

Joseph "Jojit" Ballesteros, founding member of Wikimedia Philippines, flew in from Manila with wife Bel to open the web portal. Ballesteros disclosed that Wikimedia Philippines was created by some active wikipedians including himself. His wife joined two months after its creation.

The event, which participants call an edit-a-thon, "is basically a learning experience; a lot of people know about Wikipedia, but only a few, including myself, know how to use it and edit it," said one participant. A stringer of Agence France Presse is very thankful and elated to be part of the activity, saying, "We can learn a lot thru it especially about our culture and history."

"Part of the appeal of the Wikipedia is that it is available for use free of charge. Imagine if you are required to pay for using it, the Wikipedia would not be as popular as it is today," Ong said.

The Wikimedia Foundation, Ballesteros disclosed, sustains its operation through grants and donations; it does not accept commercial advertisements at their websites since "it might lead to pressures from sponsors [that are] contrary to the free and open content nature of the projects."

Wikimedia's mission is to empower and engage people to collect and develop educational content under a free license, and disseminate it effectively and globally. Its vision: "Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That is our commitment."

In Wikipedia, the battle is among sources, according to Bel Ballesteros. Hence, the more reliable the source the better the chance it retains its space. Jojit Ballesteros points out, "Nobody has the monopoly of knowledge and even ordinary persons can edit articles in Wikipedia as long as they have internet connection." He adds that "Wikipedia articles are not only freely edited but also freely licensed; meaning, all contributions can be freely distributed to anyone by any means as long as you attribute Wikipedia and you agree that the articles you distribute along with its revisions should remain free forever."












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