MANILA, Philippines – There's a new Filipino superhero in town. Meet Juan Handa, the face of the Department of Education's (DepEd) disaster preparedness campaign.
“Mula ulo hanggang paa, handa siya. Handa siyang sumabak; handa siyang tumulong,” said Mark James Geronimo, a young artist from Metro Manila who sketched the mascot design.
The mascot was chosen on Wednesday, May 17, as the winner from among regional finalists in the mascot-design contest for public and private elementary and secondary schools. The Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service (DRRMS) office, the coordinating unit for DepEd's disaster risk reduction and management efforts, organized the contest to promote a culture of safety in schools.
Schools are often hit by typhoons, floods, and other natural disasters. School buildings are also used as evacuation centers.
Among elementary schools, 32% reported having been hit by a typhoon once in 2013 alone, and 35% said they were hit two or more times. That translates to about 12,000 individual schools reporting that they were hit by typhoons more than once. Among the high schools, 38% or more than 2,400 said they were struck by more than one typhoon. (READ: Schools constantly at risk of natural, man-made hazards)
Ready for disasters
According to Geronimo, who studies in Rizal High School, he named the mascot Juan Handa after the iconic name which is closely associated with Filipino identity.
Juan Handa wears a costume inspired by the colors of the Philippine flag – blue, red, and yellow.
The mascot also symbolizes the country's aspiration to be resilient during disasters. He wears safety goggles and a helmet with a flashlight. He has an emergency whistle, a rope for rescue operations, and a bag that contains food, water, and a hygiene kit.
The mascot carries a booklet, representing his role to raise awareness on disaster preparedness.
"From head to toe, a responder should be ready for disasters," Geronimo said in Filipino.
Geronimo urged his fellow students to use technology to know more on how they can help their families and communities in preparing for disasters.
“Bilang bata, maaring gamitin ang cellphone, ang technology, sa pag-check ng updates sa balita, mag-research ng mga kailangang gawin,” Geronimo said.
(We can use our cellphones, technology, to get updates and to research on what we should do to be prepared.)
Agos powered by eBayanihan
According to DepEd DRRMS Director Ronilda Co, disseminating disaster information using social media and technology is easier and faster.
As part of its disaster preparedness program for the new school year, DepEd on Thursday also inked a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, to use the disaster information platform Agos powered by eBayanihan. Agos eBayanihan gathers and visualizes reports from social media such as damage to critical infrastructure, rescue call outs, and evacuation centers in real time. (READ: DepEd, Ateneo, MovePH agree to use Agos for disaster preparedness)
“Isa sa feature nung partnership ay para maging mas madali po sa amin yung determination doon sa ginagamit na evacuation sites” Co said. (One of the features of the partnership is for us to easily determine the status of evacuation sites.)
Co also added that the partnership also teaches the students and citizens about disaster awareness and preparedness.
The MOA formalizes an ongoing partnership between the Education Department, MovePH, and Ateneo de Manila University’s eBayanihan program on the use of social media and technology to crowdsource critical information in times of emergencies. – Rappler.com
Jonnel Gozo is a Rappler intern. He is a student at the Lyceum of the Philippine University - Dasmarinas