What started to be an online journal is now a very valuable tool I use to tell stories, inspire people and somehow stir change. When I started blogging in 2006, my only purpose then was to chronicle every adventure and misadventure I have wandering around the Philippines and our neighbors in Asia. As it progresses, it morphed from a simple travel blog to something that advocates tourism, environment and change. In the process I learned that this so called blogging is one great means to inspire other people, to influence friends, to encourage change and to make a difference. Blogging then becomes my way to inform and inspire other people with my personal stories.

Hand holding a Social Media 3d SphereTwo years ago, when Super Typhoon Pablo ravaged and flattened my hometown of Cateel in Davao Oriental, being a blogger, I used my blogs along with my social media accounts to speak out and let our little voices be heard. I maximized the use of all social networking sites to gather relevant aid we can send to our distressed hometown of Cateel.

The birth and success of Help Cateel Movement, an organization composed mainly of Cateelenos from all over the world that I started and headed on Facebook and shared on different social media tools was a great manifestation of how social media – which include blogs and social networking sites – can influence change to better the lives of the many. Our cry for help and our plea for unity posted on social networking sites and blogs encouraged the spirit of bayanihan not only in the country but across the world. It was shared and spread out tremendously that help immediately poured in. People responded to our call. Aid and support was unstoppable. The spirit of volunteerism touched many lives. Different nations cared. What we thought to be the saddest times of our lives was a chance to feel the very essence of humanity. And so to speak, our cry for help went viral. That from social media it even went to the mainstream media.

Cateel and PabloToday my town, my family and so our people back home are getting up, moving forward from Pablo’s onslaught. Pablo demolished our homes, raped our nature, assaulted our innocent children. But Pablo left us with one greatest lesson will never forget for as long as we live – that even in the greatest time of despair there are and there will always be people who will care, who are willing to help.

This so called SOCIAL MEDIA was a great part in proving that. SOCIAL MEDIA took part of that call. And I say, it was SOCIAL MEDIA at its best.

That for me was the best practice of RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN JOURNALISM in Social Media or in the INTERNET. That for me was the essence of how social media when properly and responsibly used can be the best channel of making difference and change.

In today’s digital age where information can be posted and shared across the world wide web, anyone can be a reporter – anyone can be a source of information. In fact, anyone can be called Citizen Journalist. But the question is, how responsible are you in utilizing this very influential tools for the greater good?  I believe being responsible is inherent to the practice of good journalism. When I say good and responsible journalism, it works within the context of values and the standards of accuracy and fairness.

Social media today has changed the face of communication. It truly breaks down the walls. It allows us to communicate our thoughts. It allows messages to reach a global scale in a split second. In reporting or disseminating information, what used to be a one-way communication is now a two-way communication. Hence it is no longer just informing people but ENGAGING PEOPLE. There is INTERACTION. We create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks freely, I mean FREELY – 24/7.

But this doesn’t give us the license to create and/or share information without verifying its accuracy and fairness. This is where responsible journalism comes in – being accurate, seeking the truth, being free from biases, and always checking the facts numerous times. We may not be “REAL JOURNALISTS” but we can always practice good journalism and become good netizens – good citizens of the internet.

The Travel Teller is one of the Speakers of the the 1st Davao Media Excellence Forum.

My experience being a blogger and a social media advocate for many years now teaches me the value of being RESPONSIBLE and ACCOUNTABLE. Along the way, I realized that blogging or being a citizen journalist, my role is not only to contextualize, to be factual, or to use stories to demonstrate human condition but to be PROGRESSIVE. Progressive in the sense to move society forward – to inspire them and make them care about their community.

Social media today can “make you or break you”. Hence, use it for something that will advocate change. That even you as a blogger or a citizen journalist will be inspired by what you do. My personal experience dealing disaster response during Super Typhoon Pablo through the help of Social Media has inspired many people not from my town but from across the globe. And honestly, it inspired me until now. Why? Simply because I realized at that moment I became the voice of our people. I become the channel of help, of change.

Everyone of us can do that. In our hands todays are gadgets that can be used as tool for good communication. Use it for greater good. Again, we all can be good citizen of the internet – good citizen journalist.

The Travel Teller is Davao Media Excellence Award’s Blogger of the Year and Social media Advocate of the Year for 2 years now.

My task did not end on the day my plea for help in social media was heard. It was just a beginning. It was a start of something greater. And I vowed to continue use this influential tool to convey messages that will inspire other people and somehow inspire them as well to use social media for greater good. To all those who help me achieve whatever it is that I am reaping now, SALAMATAY GAYUD KAMONG TANAN.