In the province of Eastern Samar, the word clan is a common fixture to a surname printed on streamers hanged for the annual family reunions. But these days, try asking young people in Borongan about what a “clan” is and they will most likely relate the word to text messaging and group messaging.
As early as 2002, cellular phones already allowed users to create messaging groups. The feature was not really popular because text messaging cost was at P1 per 160 characters sent.
But in 2005, Smart Communications introduced unlimited texting. A user paid for P50 to enjoy 10 days of unlimited texting.
This paved the way for the birth of the clans.
For a cause
According to a clan organizer who refused to be identified, clans are normally exclusive.
“We have a cause, like protecting the environment but membership is not open to all,” the organizer said.
So the individuals interested to become part of the clan have to submit an application form. For most clans, the membership is limited to those aged between 17 and 30.
“Then we interview them, ask them what they can contribute as an individual and as part of the group,” the organizer explained.
But the new member has to commit to send 15 GMs or group messages in a day. Otherwise, the newbie will be dropped.
“I meet new friends,” Martin (not his real name), a 17 year old male, says when asked why he enjoys being part of the clans.
Membership to the clan is done virtually because a member uses a code name and identifies himself or herself only through NSAL—this acronym stands for name, sex, age and location. A new member, when welcomed by other members of the clan is free to take on any personality.
Martin is a member of three clans and he admits sending out GMs takes up much of his time. Part of Martin’s routine is sending a GM in the morning when he wakes up to greet his clan, asking them what they had for lunch during noontime, and bidding them good night before he sleeps.
“Some of our leaders organize EBs, too.”
EBs or eyeballs are meet-ups done occasionally by clan members.
Under the influence?
The breakwater along Baybay Boulevard, referred to as “seawall,” in Borongan is a witness to the burgeoning population of the clans. Martin explains that being part of a clan also requires you to be part of a family—a smaller unit inside the clan. The family can also go out on excursions, and at times, drinking sprees.
What happens after the EBs “depends on you,” Martin says. He is quick to say that he does not want to step on dangerous territory.
Martin also refuses to describe what happens when the clan members prowl the streets at night under the influence of alcohol.
But Martin and his cousin think it is easier to meet girls though the clans. Martin has had three girlfriends from his clan and he is looking forward to meeting more.
Isaiah (not his real name), a clan organizer, says they normally get five to ten new members a day. Isaiah’s clan currently has more than 100 members and the number goes up by the hour.
Limitations in the offing
Globe Telecom has recently implemented a one gigabyte cap on the “downloading and streaming of media intensive” content for prepaid users of Globe Tattoo.
With the recent PLDT (who owns Smart) acquisition of Sun Cellular—the network that capitalizes on unlimited texting and calling, consumers fear they might have to say goodbye to “unli.”
“I think consumers will fight against that if it happens,” Isaiah said.
Consumer group TxtPower has warned against a potential monopoly because of the business deal.
But Isaiah says he is positive that even if a limit to unlimited texting looms the bridges they have built between clan members will not be that easy to burn. ###