Yoyoyified history

Cebu has historians like Drs. Resil Mojares and Jobers Bersales as well as institutions like the Cebuano Studies Center and yet for the historic commemoration of the arrival of the Armada de Maluko, its news outlets turned to the eminent musician Yoyoy Villame. No, not just to reference his song, but for actual historical facts. Oh mother, mother I am sick.

One repeated the line that the Philippines was discovered by Magellan (imagine that!!! a local historian messaged me) while the other used his song to rewrite the actual timeline of the Spaniards in the Philippines. On the 500th year of their arrival in Suluan, the news outlet fast-forwarded to Limasawa (the Spaniards wouldn’t get there until March 28) because Yoyoy sang that they “landed in Limasawa at noon.” Oh mother, mother I am sick.

One outlet edited that mistake, the other decided to keep and continue the disinformation. It is disheartening to read the comments as some who tried to correct the disinformation were being asked “can you proved?”

MAGELLAN. Yoyoy’s ditty is apparently considered a historical narration by some journalists.

That news outlet did not take any effort at all to correct that disinformation. It tells you about the attitude by some journalists toward truth, accuracy, and correcting errors no?

Like any Bisdak, I love Yoyoy’s “Magellan.” But it’s a song and it’s meant for fun. It does not claim to nor should it be treated as a historical narration of what happened. It also has, it turned out, an insidious influence especially on perpetuating that discovery narrative. So insidious it even influenced journalists today – a time when access to information is trivial.

It certainly made me reconsider my attitude toward that EZ Mil song where he said Lapulapu was beheaded in Mactan. I’ve always felt that we should just let it be, it’s just a song and people know that Lapulapu wasn’t actually beheaded. But judging from the impact of Yoyoy’s ditty, who’s to say people in the future (including journalists who would then use it as basis for reports) wouldn’t think that Lapulapu was actually beheaded.

The 500th year of the arrival of Spaniards provides a historic opportunity for local media to shine a light on our history and rethink narratives.

The National Quincentennial Committee produced this video of Yoyoy’s song with annotations by historian Xiao Chua.

Until now, for example, there are still people who say that Magellan was here to “Christianize them everyone.” Magellan and the Armada de Molucca were looking for the Spice Islands not to evangelize or even conquer. When they fought Lapulapu and the Opon warriors, Magellan had a motley crew because the hardened warriors stayed away, Dr. Mojares said in a talk ignored by local media last year. These soldiers could not understand what they were still doing in Cebu when they should already be on their way to the Spice Islands.

There’s also the controversy on the “first recorded Easter mass.” For centuries, we’ve always thought it happened in Butuan. Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas 1565-1615 by Gaspar de San Agustin, for example, said the mass was held in Butuan. It was because of this early tradition that a monument to the “immortal Magellan” was built in Butuan.

It was changed to Limasawa in the 20th Century. During the 400th year commemoration of the Spaniards’ arrival, Limasawa was mentioned as site of the first mass. But proponents for Butuan never gave up and pressed their claim. The government has convened three panels these past decades to study the claim. All three panels ruled in favor of Limasawa. The last to do so was only last year, the Mojares panel.

You’d think the issue is settled, no? I did think it was and shelved an article I was planning to write. But no, some in the Butuan camp are still pressing that claim.

There’s also this: reference to this event is hyper-specific “the first recorded Easter mass” and not just the first mass, for a reason. The Spaniards held masses every day and likely held one when they reached Suluan or during the week they were in Homonhon. Pigafetta, an Eastern Visayas prelate told me, was a selective chronicler and likely did not mention about these earlier masses because these were commonplace, like having dinner or lunch. The Easter Mass, on the other hand, was chronicle-worthy because of the occasion and the presence of two local chieftains.

Our consolation despite this turn of events is that institutions like the National Quincentennial Committee, Cebuano Studies Center, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., and even brand like The Palm Grass Hotel are holding online events to talk about these important historical and cultural events. These events, except for those who paid for ad placements, are largely ignored by local media. If stories do come out, these are either press releases for upcoming talks or advertorials. The good thing, however, is that all these are online and can be replayed or watched at a later time if you miss them.

The celebrations in Cebu are still weeks away. Let’s cross our fingers we’ll read and see better-sourced and written posts by our favorite local news outlets.

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Where? For heaven’s sake tell me where!

I cannot now recall the incident — whether it was a fire or debris falling from a building — only the deep frustration. “Asa na uy!” I was driving and apart from general curiosity, I also wanted to know where it was happening in order to decide which streets to take.

“Usa ka mall sa north reclamation area.” That usually means SM City Cebu in news stories. If the report mentions Mandaue, that usually means Park Mall. Robinsons Galleria, I think, is euphemistically referred to as “duol sa port area.”

That day, the reporter covering via live broadcast said it was in Cebu City and “duol sa usa ka mall sa North Reclamation Area.” (Near a mall in the North Reclamation Area.) SM City Cebu, I hazarded a guess.

It would have been simpler and more helpful to listeners for the reporter to say it outright: a condo tower being built across SM City Cebu.

But here we are, reduced to decoding radio-speak. Often I’d just check on Facebook and quickly find that bit of information. That time, however, I couldn’t check on my phone because I was driving.

News, as often stated in classrooms and training centers, are written with 5 Ws and 1 H. But depending on the people and brands involved, some of these Ws will be dropped. Keep this in mind the next time you read about an incident involving influential people and known brands.

Reporters usually avoid naming business establishments in news accounts – especially when the story is still breaking – for three reasons. One is the mistaken belief that mentioning the business has “commercial value” and is covered by the prohibition on unpaid promotions. This is prevalent in broadcast media. Second is that the business or its officers will get offended and would pull out advertisements. The third is that new reporters see and hear their older colleagues do it and just follow the practice.

Not included in the equation is the frustration of listeners and readers like me. The audience is typically considered last by these media establishments, hence the trouble they are in right now.

I cannot understand the refusal to render a complete news report because of “commercial value” in the mention of the establishments. Does Manila corporate HQ (usually the origin of the memo) think I would be encouraged to visit SM City Cebu because debris fell from the construction site across it? Or that I would suddenly decide to visit Park Mall because a motorcycle got involved in a road accident with a speeding truck near it? Weird.

As to the threat of an ad pullot, media organizations have been eunuchated by sharply declining revenues and would readily accede to requests by advertisers. In fact, from what I hear, marketing now has the loudest voice in some newsrooms. I once attended an event organized by a former colleague. When I asked her who was covering it, she mentioned the publications and blogs and said that one reporter was already on his way but had to abruptly cancel. Marketing stopped him from covering because the brand refused to place an ad. Imagine that.

Before the internet upended the media industry, newsrooms could afford to stand their ground on their reporting. A friend of mine once handled a story about the impending closure of a skating rink in a mall. It angered management and resulted in an ad pullout. Our paper’s management stood by my friend’s handling of the story and the reporter’s account (based on sources in the skating community who were informed ahead of the impending closure). The article was ultimately proven accurate. The mall eventually resumed advertising because back then, brands needed newspapers. I somehow doubt he would receive the same backing had it happened today. I suspect he would have been compelled to apologize.

This is sad. As a former newspaperman, I’ve always believed that the only way for media organizations to survive is to double down on journalism, not do less. Do you still read papers and news sites? I do and every day. You see less reporting now because newsrooms have been gutted. Enterprise reporting is gone. Stories are often prompted by news sources: there is a news article because somebody called a press conference.

The disintermediation brought about by social networks like Facebook helps news junkies like me. Organizations and public figures often livestream announcements and allow us to hear from them directly. And then you read the report that comes out. At times the reporter gets it right, at times horribly wrong.

Just a quick blog post while having coffee in this global coffee brand in a mall in midtown Cebu City.

The post Where? For heaven’s sake tell me where! appeared first on Leon Kilat: The Tech Experiments.

How Metro Cebu residents moved around during Christmas holidays

Mobility data gathered by Google showed how Metro Cebu residents did last-minute grocery shopping leading to Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and stayed home on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. This one is expected behavior but not only is having the data fascinating, it offers context on the extent of changes in how Cebuanos moved around.

Visits to Groceries and Pharmacies spiked two days before and on the eve of the holidays before falling off a cliff on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, when stays in Residence went up, although not as high as during strict lockdowns in May.

Mobility data in Metro Cebu
(The graph below is interactive. You can use the search field to drill down to specific locations)

The increases in visits to Groceries during the holiday rush were the only times Metro Cebu residents logged visits outside the Residence higher than the baseline in January, before restrictions were imposed on movements to deal with the COVID-19 spread.

There was also an increase in visits to Parks (which covers beaches) in the days leading to Christmas and New Year but these were way lower than those recorded in January. The highest recorded visits to parks and beaches were on December 23 (-7%), December 24 (-8%), and December 30 (-8%).

There were spikes in visits to Workplaces on December 19 (-10%) and December 20 (-11%). I wonder whether these indicated office gatherings for the holidays.

Retail and Recreation, which also covers restaurants, went up to -14% on December 23, which probably indicates people going on Christmas lunches and dinners. Retail and Recreation visits in Metro Cebu for the rest of the year were very low compared with other locations and in relation to the baseline.

Compared with other urban centers in the Philippines, Metro Cebu recorded significantly lower visits to locations outside the Residence.

The data is gathered from users of Google Maps. The changes are calculated by Google “using the same kind of aggregated and anonymized data used to show popular times for places in Google Maps.”

It was made available by Google to help inform governments and institutions in the fight against COVID-19.

The post How Metro Cebu residents moved around during Christmas holidays appeared first on Leon Kilat: The Tech Experiments.

Tabula rasa

I like to start on a new notebook on New Year’s Day. It’s symbolic both of a fresh start and a clean slate. Or scraped tablet as the phrase “tabula rasa” translates to, describing the process by which wax tablets of old were reused, blanked by scraping off the writing. I love that idea, like shedding yourself of preconceptions to imbibe something new.

I keep several notebooks for different uses: reading and research notes, project logs and ideas, article drafts, and musings.

BLANK SLATE. Opening the Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Journal to start taking notes on New Year’s Day.
BLANK SLATE. Opening the Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Journal to start taking notes on New Year’s Day.

I’ve long wanted to own this Atlas Obscura notebook. I’m a fan of the site and one of its founders – the writer Joshua Foer. In the course of writing his wonderful book Moonwalking with Einstein, he won the US Memory Championship.

But I could only find the Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Journal online and at considerable cost for a notebook. I’d rather splurge on locally crafted leather journals.

ON SALE. Bought these Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Journal from Book Sale branches in Cebu City.
ON SALE. Bought these Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Journal from Book Sale branches in Cebu City.

It turned out several journals were (take note of the tense, I bought everything I could get my hands on that day) available in Book Sale for a fraction of the original price. After a quick side trip from yearend engagements, I got my haul. Some I set aside to give away, others I reserved for my use.

Today I opened one, wrote my name and contact details on the first page and jotted down my first written notes of 2021.

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Mobility data show how Cebuanos rushed to groceries on Dec. 24, stayed home on Dec. 25

This was expected but it’s fascinating to see actual data. Google Mobility Data showed how residents of Metro Cebu rushed to Groceries and Pharmacies with visits hitting 19 percent higher than the baseline figures of January 2020.

It was the only time that visits to Groceries and Pharmacies – or to any location outside the home – in Metro Cebu exceeded the baseline. Other urban centers in the Philippines logged visits to groceries higher than the baseline several days in mid-December leading to Christmas Eve.

Mobility data in Metro Cebu

(The graph below is interactive. You can use the search field to drill down to specific locations)

On Dec. 23, data showed spikes in visits to Parks (which covers beaches) at just -7%, the highest since before our strict quarantine lockdowns. On the same day, visits to Retail and Recreation (which also covers restaurant visits) hit -14 percent, also the highest recovery since before lockdowns.

Visits to Workplaces, on the other hand, hit the highest recovery compared to baseline on Dec. 19 at -10%. That figure was the highest since before the strict lockdowns. What does it show? Does it indicate a rush to the office to get something in preparation for the long break? Or does it indicate people going to the office for Christmas gatherings?

Data for Residential locations, on the other hand, showed the highest percentage rise compared with baseline but not by much. It’s not a significant increase compared with recent months, even during the strict lockdowns.

The data is gathered from users of Google Maps. The changes are calculated by Google “using the same kind of aggregated and anonymized data used to show popular times for places in Google Maps.”

It was made available by Google to help inform governments and institutions in the fight against COVID-19.

The post Mobility data show how Cebuanos rushed to groceries on Dec. 24, stayed home on Dec. 25 appeared first on Leon Kilat: The Tech Experiments.