When Taal Volcano erupted last month, it set social media on fire.

It hogged the headlines for weeks and quickly became a “trending topic” online. Social media users sought news updates; checked on people in the affected areas; and shared what they learned from other information sources. They also asked what they could do to help.

“Social media really played a huge part in the relief operations,” said Luis Ferolino, a resident of Alfonso, Cavite, a volunteer relief worker. “By simply posting what’s happening in the evacuation centers, people became more aware of what help was most needed. Because of Facebook and Twitter, it became a lot easier to ask for help.”

By connecting with other like-minded people online, they were able to gather resources swiftly. People pitched in to buy relief goods, clothes, and basic hygiene products, not just for the affected families, but also for their pets and farm animals.

Coordination on the ground also became easier through chat apps. The situation in the evacuation centers varied, with some needing more urgent help. “Through chat groups, everyone got to share information about what was needed where,” Luis added.

Apart from immediate assistance, Luis and his friends also created a safe space for child evacuees through games, art and learning activities. This initiative was inspired by online suggestions.

“I just tweeted that we could use some coloring books for the kids in the evacuation centers and in a heartbeat, offers came in,” Luis exclaimed.

In support of relief efforts, PLDT wireless arm Smart Communications also provided free calls, phone charging and Wi-Fi to ease the distress of affected residents and their loved ones.

“This just shows how ‘bayanihan’ can take on many forms. Now more than ever, access to reliable connectivity is key to building well-informed, resilient and empowered communities,” said PLDT-Smart Public Affairs head Ramon R. Isberto.

“Luis and his friends are proof of this growing number of Filipinos who are harnessing the Internet to create online movements for good,” he added.

Digital communication is marked by convenience and speed, with hundreds of billions of mobile and online messages exchanged daily, according to tech media reports. Imagine the boost technology has vested in the traditional bayanihan custom!