Cebu-based developers work on a website to centralize Super typhoon Yolanda damage and relief information.

Cebu developers harness tech to help in Yolanda rescue, relief efforts

THE day after super typhoon Yolanda battered Cebu, developer Albert Padin of Sym.ph went to their office on Escario St. to play games and work on some personal projects. Saturdays, Padin said, are days when their team does hackathons on projects that do not involve their day-to-day jobs.

While combing through news and social network updates, Padin read a call on geekli.st for developers to pitch in coding skills to build a system to help in relief efforts. Since he already had a team that was ready to build things, Padin said they decided to hold a hackathon to build a website to help in relief efforts.

They started the hackathon at 2 p.m. on Saturday with the goal of wrapping up by 5 p.m. They finished at 10 p.m. instead because they worked on 2 things: 1) a system that can help track the search for missing persons and 2) a site that can centralize relief and rescue information in the different areas ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda.

They later closed the person finder service and redirected people to the Google People Finder website. Padin said the Google system was better and the people running it had experience using it in previous disasters. Continue reading →

SpellDial. Albert Padin and Nicole Macarasig are on their way to Silicon Valley for a 3-month immersion program.

Silicon Valley calls SpellDial

They were at a “really low point,” SpellDial founder Albert Padin said in our interview. After two years of chasing their startup dream to make the world dial names instead of numbers, Padin had to look for a job.

Padin said he could no longer stretch funding for his startup and decided to look for money. He linked up with Dave Overton of Symph, a technology solutions provider.

But weeks ago, SpellDial got a much-needed boost. It was picked by the Science & Technology Council as one of the 2012 ON3 pitching competition winners, along with Payroll Hero and NEXTIX, another Cebu start-up.

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WEAVING A PUSO. Marco Albeza learns how to weave a puso, a Cebuano favorite, as one of the tasks of the Gabii Sa Kabilin QR Code Hunt organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., Smart Communications, Inc. and MyCebu.ph. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

Using technology to preserve, spread heritage

Gabii sa Kabilin or Night of Heritage offered Cebuanos last Friday the opportunity to visit museums and heritage areas until midnight. The yearly activity was started in 2006 by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (Rafi) and patterned after the Long Night of Museums in Germany.

This year, however, the event had a tech twist – Rafi, Smart Communications Inc. and MyCebu.ph staged a QR (quick response) code hunt that brought teams to the different heritage areas in the city. (Disclosure: My wife and I run MyCebu.ph and are deeply involved in all the projects mentioned in this article.)

The QR Code hunt gathered teams of journalists, bloggers, students, runners, police and tech workers. They had to scan QR codes to decipher tasks they were required to do in heritage areas – learn how to offer flowers to the Buddha, sing Matud Nila, weave puso, find a painting, among other things. They then had to perform the tasks and upload photos as well as post in social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

WEAVING A PUSO. Marco Albeza learns how to weave a puso, a Cebuano favorite, as one of the tasks of the Gabii Sa Kabilin QR Code Hunt organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., Smart Communications, Inc. and MyCebu.ph. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

WEAVING A PUSO. Marco Albeza learns how to weave a puso, a Cebuano favorite, as one of the tasks of the Gabii Sa Kabilin QR Code Hunt organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., Smart Communications, Inc. and MyCebu.ph. Marco's team won third runner up and he and his teammate took home a Nokia Lumia. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

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Start up, get ready to go

The excitement was palpable in last Thursday night’s meetup among Cebu startups at the office of the Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information Technology (Cedf-it). So was the sense of optimism.

Members of the TechTalks.ph community, which is hosted in an account with meetup.com, gathered to meet other members with the arrival in Cebu of organizer Tina (she requested that we identify her only by her first name).

Last Thursday’s event was the eighth meetup of the group. Previous meetups covered such topics as Google applications, business of software startups and challenges of building one, and how to set up a company.

The group previously had as speaker Eric Su, the founder of photo-sharing service PicLyf. Su said during his guesting that unlike Silicon Valley or other areas where startups have succeeded, the Philippines is a “harsh environment” for startups.

Still, local startups are undeterred. Those present last Thursday–web developers, hardcore programmers, site managers, service founders–were excitedly talking about projects they were doing or planning during the meet and in the after-event meal and drinks.

Members of local startups meet in the Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information Technology (CEDF-IT) office at the Asiatown IT Park in Cebu City. (Photo by Honeylyn Balingcasag)
Members of local startups meet in the Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information Technology (CEDF-IT) office at the Asiatown IT Park in Cebu City. (Photo by Honeylyn Balingcasag)

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