Harnessing the power of storytelling during a crisis

Stories have always been part of our identity as humans. Since the dawn of our consciousness, we have been weaving tales. From the cave paintings in Lascaux to the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare, humanity has always found a way to communicate stories may they be fiction or fact.

From moments of great victory to times of pain and suffering, we have made it a point to record our lives. Today, amid a once-in-a-generation health crisis that has shaken us to our very core, the importance of storytelling is made more apparent.

In the past few months, under the dark clouds of isolation and anxiety caused by strict quarantine measures, we found slivers of hope through the stories we saw and heard.

These stories inspired us and made us believe that though we may feel like we are lost in the midst of a protracted battle against an invisible enemy, one day we’ll come out of this stronger and better.

Many organizations have contributed greatly to storytelling in the time of COVID-19. Many have chosen to share how they reached out to their respective communities amid the pandemic, some highlighted the passion and dedication of their workers even during an enhanced community quarantine, while a few talked about how we can move on from the impact of the pandemic on our lives.

Magis amid a pandemic

For Ateneo de Manila University, one of the most respected academic institutions in the country, a specific focus was how they were embodying the essence of Magis, meaning “more or greater” in Latin, and a guiding principle within the Jesuit community that means doing more for God and others.

The university spearheaded several donation drives to assist poor communities. Various stakeholders within Ateneo also came together to design personal protective equipment such as HAZMAT suits and face shields to be used by frontliners. The university also provided mental health support to medical workers.

But one of the most important efforts of the university is its series of webinars called Acts of Magis: Ateneans at the Forefront of the Pandemic. Acts of Magis features various experts from Ateneo to discuss their important contributions during the COVID-19 crisis. One of the highlights was the twin discussions of Dr. Ma. Regina Justina Estuar and Dr. Elvie de Lara-Tuprio about the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases (FASSSTER) platform.

FASSSTER is a groundbreaking modeling platform that is now being used by the national government and several local governments to track and forecast the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The platform has been instrumental in guiding official policy regarding the fight against COVID-19.


Through the webinars, Ateneans showed how they are directly helping in addressing the spread of the disease through various disciplines—data science, mathematics, chemistry, and psychology.

The contributions of Ateneo, its stakeholders, and the community show how Magis has truly influenced them to stand united and bring relief to those who need it most.

Building a community of good guys

SMDC has long been invested in enabling their residents to be good guys that work to transform their communities and society for the better. The company has implemented various programs that specifically focus on physical health, mental wellness, and security and safety.

As the pandemic started, SMDC’s efforts have evidently taken hold. Across its various developments, residents have taken it upon themselves to help their frontliners—the security guards, the maintenance staff, and janitorial personnel—through a donation drive. The residents gave food items, cash, and even PPEs like masks and face shields.

SMDC also implemented a unique program that aims to directly connect SMDC’s residents to farmers who have been affected by the community quarantine in Central Luzon and Benguet. Through The Good Guys Market, SMDC served as a direct link between farmer beneficiaries of SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan program and the residents of SMDC developments.

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Defining digital banking in the new normal

UnionBank has been the banking industry’s leader in terms of digital transformation. Their pioneering work has been recognized by many international award-giving bodies. And up to this day they continue to lead in terms of innovative solutions that elevate the banking experience of many Filipinos.

During the enhanced community quarantine, UnionBank was one of the first few banks to deploy a Bank-On-Wheels initiative, which provided customers easier access to their accounts. But UnionBank’s approach to this initiative was novel, as they did not only offer ATMs but other bank transactions as well, making it an all-in-one solution to serve the needs of the Bank’s customers.

Aside from this, UnionBank continued to strengthen their online and mobile platforms as an uptick in digital banking transactions was seen. Customers in social media heaped praise on the mobile and online banking services of the bank for its dependability, ease of use, and useful features.

As the country transitions to the new normal, UnionBank remains dedicated to empowering its customers through digital banking. With its increased focus on PhyGital—a hybrid of physical and digital—banking and strengthening of their artificial intelligence and data analytics capabilities, UnionBank is gearing up to be an important partner for every Filipino in a growingly digital future.

The efforts of the bank amid the pandemic didn’t go unnoticed, as they were named the second most helpful bank in the Asia Pacific during the COVID-19 crisis by the BankQuality Consumer Survey on Retail Banks, a testament to the power of innovative thinking harnessed to serve during times of crisis.

The power of stories

Stories of service, unity amid adversity, and innovation serve as inspiration in these difficult times. And through the efforts of Ateneo, SMDC, UnionBank, and many other brands who came out and showed up amid the pandemic, we are seeing that powerful storytelling even during quarantine remains resonant.

Utilizing various platforms, from traditional media to digital tools like Zoom and Google Meet, brands have reached people across a wide spectrum of our society, helping influence the way people think and the manner by which they approach solutions to the current problem we face.

Here lies the important role of storytelling for brands. It is often mentioned that public relations can be summed up simply as doing good and telling others about it. But in this age, we don’t simply tell others about the good things that brands do, we make people see, we make people learn from it, and we build a culture where people can replicate it to further spur social transformation. Through effective storytelling, brands also serve as catalysts for change. And that’s a powerful thing.

The stories that we cited also show the resilience of our people, and how they have steeled their resolve to use their knowledge to create avenues where they can make a difference in the lives of people. These stories also inspire people to think out of the box, to push the envelope, and redefine our approach to problem-solving during a period of great uncertainty.

As we have said many times, stories have an important role in our lives. It is vital for the development of human civilization. And in times of severe hardship and despair, stories have proven time and again that we can and we will overcome, because we have always done it.

And when history looks back at this time, when stories are written about the plague that humanity faced in the year 2020, we are sure that it will be punctuated with proof that humanity has once again stood tall and proved that our spirit and determination is stronger than any virus.