From Stones to Scrolls; From Scrolls to Screens

"I fear the newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets." Napoleon Bonaparte once said.

But today I say there’s something greater to be feared: the Internet.

Every splinter of information in the world today can be yours in the click of a button. Editorials on global issues, sports coverage from the Olympics, indie documentaries, government announcements — most of what we know and what we ought to know can be accessed in a flash. This evolution in the connections between humanity to humanity produced a trending term: digital literacy.

An evolution is defined in the Webster’s dictionary as “the process of development or growth”, and the evolution of ways people obtain data is something our world witnessed. We went from hieroglyphics and stone tablets, to Papyrus scrolls that contained myths and hymns, to the Renaissance’s printing press by Johannes Gutenberg.

Enter the invention of radios and televisions to the already widened influence of newspapers. The restraint of worldly ideas shattered in the literacy this provided to even the misfortuned. People became aware of scientific advances and current issues. They even took upon their palms an inclination to poetry and sugarcoated realities.

Then came the name Bill Gates to magnify the steps to this particular evolution. If digital literacy were an ongoing forest fire, Microsoft could be one of the matches that ignited it way back. Together, humanity and awareness considered technology as their ladder towards “the more of plumes”.

Though if the creation of computers and their programs were matches, the discovery of the Internet would be the gasoline to fuel everything greater. The international databases that weaved into one another formed eyes and ears for the world. However praiseworthy anyone can make it sound, the truth only lies in that we are undeniably making use of this today.

Facebook. Just one word originally from Mark Zuckerberg’s tongue that swiftly became the word of mouth internationally. But we must know it very much symbolizes the progress — in a literary definition, anyway — we reached. Pictures, videos, even statuses, no matter how “petty” they may be at times, they all allude to this concept of digital literacy.

Blogs. Publication sites. Forums. Look at our difference from our ancestors who carved their thoughts into stones and caves. The mundane liberty to voice out sentiments is not comprised in our digital world. Writers now call themselves bloggers. The library online is one containing every book ever published, ready for downloading. There is no excuse for us not to be aware of civilization’s advances, and added to tradition, technology is set to improve our intellect. But awareness includes a footnote: we are still supposed to know our boundaries.

Photographs can be shared in the click of a folder, and videos go viral in the blink of an Internet surfer’s eye. If words have the magnitude of an earthquake, how much does the trillion in Wikipedia and Google mean? Our traditional New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today all host sites for their news articles. This is digital literacy.

"The pen is mightier than the sword." Dr. Jose Rizal once said.

But today I say the keyboard might be mightier than both of them.

Searchlights for Lalang

You are not a Filipino if the name ‘Lolong’ does not ring a bell.

Either that or a crocodile the length of 21 feet which is speculated as the largest in the world today hasn’t caught your attention for even a second. The eyes of the Philippines were sultry on the discovery of the 100-year-old creature about several weeks ago that there was a paradigm flashing continually that I dare say we fail to notice.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) had interesting perfervid reactions. The townies had an equally severe sentiment. Onlookers had the biggest sparkle of interest. Crocodile dundees were all set on finding Lolong’s supposed companion, whom they theorized as even bigger. I often wonder how these people hadn’t found Lalang yet when I’m just a high school student in Bataan (about many, many miles away from Agusan) and I know exactly where it is, what it’s doing, who it’s terrorizing. There are others like me, of course, and I hope you are.

Some crocodile swamps are muddied with ceaseless numbers and crumpled receipts, ‘unlisted’ thousand peso bills and more utter filth. They’re brought to their wooded hideouts by red plates and into the wildlife of where the ‘wastage’ goes. Oh, I bet you’ve already seen such signs but overlooked them.

Hard skin. A large mouth. Claws never seen until in front of you. We know this much from Lalang.

From second grade we learned that these reptiles are carnivores. They feed on the flesh of those who work hard and strive on their own, for their own humanity. Predators of the most fearsome kind in the nation - because what beasts live with their conscience, really? Sources of theirs include those local highways and city establishments (they built, perhaps?) that it’s such a paradoxical fascination to me why some people aren’t scared of being eaten alive.

Then, there are the lizards. They will grow to be larger reptilian monsters sooner or later, but for now I suppose they’re satisfied with clawing at and swallowing whole the food from “under the table” and little amounts worth of their diet from the streets when someone walks a wrong way or is blinded from a red light. They take what leftovers they can but they’re still spawns and allies of the bigger ones.

It’s cruel to wish for the extinction of anything at all but some liken these creatures to the oldest cancer of society, preying on our richest resources without anyone ever wanting them to steer clear simply because they’re very powerful.

100 people were needed to pull Lolong from the swamp in Agusan. It is a certainty that that great strength and a greater risk for the people who bore the responsibility and braved the muddy waters. To find and encage 'Lalang', it would be an even huger risk. There’s no going back. We don’t need flashlights. We don’t need safety suits. We don’t need thick metal chains or thicker ropes. We don’t even need hooks.

Because where is 'Lalang', really?

She isn’t the one we’ve been trying so very hard to hunt. She is just between our line of vision. For several decades in the Philippines, or even centuries, she’s been preying on us without causing the townspeople to act upon it. Because the crocodile bigger than the biggest is not in the swamp. She is seated in the most influential thrones of our country. 'Lalang' is the very embodiment of corruption.

Studies have shown that the Philippines indeed is one of the nations in Asia at the top of a corruption case. If Lolong needed a whole 100 people to pull him away, what will Lalang require?

"He is the star in our park." Elorde, supervising the wildlife conservation center in Agusan, pertained to Lolong. "This is in hopes of turning the threat into an asset."

And most of us are proud. The male crocodile is presumed to be an imminent submission to the Guinness Book of World Records. I wish it can be as easily laughed upon if we entered the more dominant crocodile in our country, at least then we’re taking a step, all ridicule aside. Even our own president, Mr. Noynoy Aquino, has promised to be a captor of this reptile. We hope to hold him true to his words…

…Unless we aspire to have a worse entry in the Guinness for today and the impending tomorrow of our nation. You are not a Filipino if the name 'Lolong' does not ring a bell but you are even less so if you haven’t yet seen the implication of this.