Disaster Game App by Tulong Kabataan Volunteers' Network (TKVN) - Ilocos

Brgy II, Amianance, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur

Florence Kang, Eugene Hilaus, Lea Grace Alfiler, & John Loyd Taeza

DRR Game app is a text-based Role Playing Game that hopes to connect the youth’s interests in games to DRR awareness. By maximizing a mobile phone game as an educational tool for Disaster Risk Reduction, we hope to bring the youth into participating with the community by forming a youth-oriented disaster preparedness network.

TKVN-Ilocos envisions that the youth be able to utilize their talents and skills, and participate in creating a disaster resilient communities in Ilocos. We would like to see communities united in assessing their needs and is capable in mitigating problems that the community will face.

CONNECT WITH US!

Improvements and sustenance of the Disaster Game needs financial and technical support. We plan to have at least monthly updates on the storyline as well as technical aspects of the app. We also envision to replicate this project to other communities around Vigan City as well as in the region for the next three years.

We hope that with your help, the youth can be an agent of change in creating disaster resilient communities.

tulongkabataanilocos@protonmail.com

Know more about our story!

Naloloko sa online games eh. Wala na lang inatupag kundi maglaro! Nakatunganga sa harap ng computer buong araw!

Aside from Amianance being located in a low-lying area, the Mestizo river is one of the outlets of a dam up in Abra. When the flood gates are opened, it is almost certain for us here to get submerged.

FILIPINO MILLENNIALS AS ADVOCATES OF DRR

“Naloloko sa online games eh. Wala na lang inatupag kundi maglaro! Nakatunganga sa harap ng computer buong araw!”

These are the common complaints we hear these days from older siblings or parents of millennials. Or generally just any person older than 40. Sure. The millennials are self-absorbed, gadget-crazed, pretentious, and lazy. So if we pose the question on the possibility of millennials caring about disaster risk reduction, the invariable response is usually laughter. Or: if you can take them out of the internet cafe! Or: if you can take them off Facebook!

During the information session that TUKLAS Northern Luzon organized in Laoag in November 2017, two members of Tulong Kabataan attended. Tulong Kabataan Volunteers Network (TKVN) is an organization of young people who have pledged to help indisaster relief and recovery operations. Because they were engaged in education and advocacy, they broached the idea of making a game app that will help in their campaign.

Florence “Renz” Kang, lead of the TKVN Ilocos chapter, sat with TUKLAS Program Development Specialist Michelle Solano-Villariez and she offered suggestions on how to refine the idea. She shared to TUKLAS NL staff later that she was impressed at the enthusiasm of the TKVN participants. It came as no surprise then that the group was able to submit their proposal before the deadline of November 30.

It went on to become one of three final innovator teams of Northern
Luzon composed of young students. The innovation for approved for testing addresses the need to organize the youth from poorer and more vulnerable communities into being active and helpful during and after disasters. To do this, the app must be envisioned and developed with them. While the developers work on the app, in between testing, TKVN officers Florence Kang and Eugene Hilaus would facilitate DRR orientation with community members. The lecture-workshops tackle identification of hazards, emergency preparedness, planning for response, and task distribution among members.

Amianance is located in a riverbasin, with the barangay hall right beside the banks of the Mestizo River in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. It is derived from the Ilokano word ammianan, which means “north”. The barangay has experienced repeated flooding throughout the years. In more recent times, the most notable were in 2005 and 2012 due to typhoons Feria and Igme, respectively. Flood submerged houses near the riverbanks up to their roofs.

“Aside from Amianance being located in a low-lying area, the Mestizo river is one of the outlets of a dam up in Abra. When the flood gates are opened, it is almost certain for us here to get submerged,” shared barangay captain Jay Andia.

The TUKLAS team was pleasantly surprised upon meeting Kapitan Jay. He is one of the youngest barangay leaders (not yet 40 years old) and he teaches DRRM to senior high students of nearby Divine Word College of Vigan. He was very happy that Tulong Kabataan chose his barangay as their partner community. The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) leaders of Amianance, he said, were active and bright young people.

Kapitan Jay’s youth and advocacy can easily be seen in the emergency equipment stored in the barangay hall. While other barangays may opt not to be so complete, Amianance II has several megaphones, whistles, boots, life vests, ropes, ladders, helmets, chainsaw, foldable beds and a generator. Aside from this, the BDRRMC that he leads has already conducted drills to simulate evacuation from fire, earthquake, typhoons and flood.

“It would seem that indeed, Amianance was a model barangay for DRRM,” said TK team lead Renz. “But during our baseline survey, we found out that only half of the barangay were able to attend the drills.”

The reasons listed include (1) location being too far and (2) conflicting work schedules. As for the youth, many could not make time because they were attending high school or university classes.

“All disaster preparedness plans and equipment will be all for nothing if there was no one to implement or use them,” adds Renz.

CONVINCING THE YOUTH TO CARE ABOUT DRR

It was a no-brainer for the TK team that any DRRM program of a local government unit will not be as successful if their constituents do not participate in implementing it. Oftentimes, in any given barangay in the country, only a few BDRRMC officials were trained to do emergency response. If a large-scale or faster rescue effort is needed, their numbers were inadequate.

Eugene Hilaus, TK team member and community organizer, used to live in Quezon City in Metro Manila. He tells of how, when floodwaters rose to the second floor of houses in their community, the BDRRMC could not get everyone to safety even if they had rubber boats. Only five were trained to do so in a barangay of 3,000.

“Having young and able-bodied volunteers who knew what to do during emergencies can add to the barangay’s emergency workforce,” he said. “In Vigan, the CDRRMC offers basic first aid trainings and more. The opportunity is there. We only need volunteers.”

If the older adults were to be believed, teenagers and young adults of today were difficult to convince when it comes to volunteering for the community. But this was refuted even during the first time, TK opened the TUKLAS innovation project to the SK and several barangay youth. They welcomed the idea of an app that would help them learn the concepts of disaster risk reduction and train them to make the right decisions when confronted with certain hazards.

Upon being asked for suggestions for app features, the young participants suggested that an evacuation map be included, listing of emergency hotline numbers, and useful links to online articles or news. They had so many suggestions that the volunteer app developer for TK said it would not be possible to include so many considering the time constraints and that the app concept itself was for an educational game.

GAME TESTING AND RESULTING COMMUNITY IMPACT

During the ideation stage, the game concept was similar to Fruit Ninja, a popular mobile game app that involved the selection of fruits and avoiding certain objects like bombs, etc. The idea was to replace the fruits with items needed in emergencies such as flashlights and blankets; and avoid non-emergency items such as ice cream. This did not push through because the required game assets were too expensive.

Around July 2018, the group decided to change to a trivia game, upon discussion with the SK members. They thought it would be good for memory retention and gameplay would be like that of “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” However, during the Tuklas-sponsored expert panel review, the app developer expert pronounced their game boring. If the app was supposed to help in recruitment of young volunteers, it had to be more engaging. With short attention span and the internet’s infinite number of websites to visit and apps to open, how can their app compete and achieve its goal?

In September, while still pondering what kind of game would be feasible, supertyphoon Ompong (Mangkhut) came hurtling across Northern Luzon. The impact of the group’s DRR orientation and training were immediately seen when several of their youth partners in the barangay volunteered to assist in the preparation of hot meals for evacuation centers in more vulnerable and remote areas of the province, not only in Vigan, but also in Candon and Santa. Some of the TK team members also assisted in the damage assessment spearheaded by TUKLAS innovator, Laoag-based, Ilocos Center for Research, Empowerment and Development (ICRED), and got to use their prototype Quik Data, a damage reporting tool, in the field too.
After the situation in the province stabilized post-Ompong in November, the team sat down with TUKLAS Lab staff to finalize the game script for their third prototype, a story-based game app. The script had been workshopped with the Amianance youth partners, with characters based on people you would normally meet in the community. This was passed to the developer and reviewed by the expert panel in early December.

“There are some bugs, and still a lot of comments for improvement,” said Renz, recounting the app’s beta testing. “But there was a lot of laughter. Nakaka-relate sila eh.”

The TUKLAS documentation team came to Amianance in mid-November to conduct interviews with Kapitan Jay and the SK. They also invited the mothers of some of the testers and new TK volunteers from the barangay who signed up.

The nanays (mothers) were excited for their turn to be filmed. When asked if their children were spending too much time on their gadgets, they just laughed. They didn’t mind, they said, as long as they were productive members of the community.