MANILA -- Dressed in all black to impress his virtual audience with hiphop moves, human resources officer Michael Tangca, films a TikTok video, finding a respite from the coronavirus pandemic that locked down millions in the Philippines and heeding authorities' stern advice: stay at home.
With Luzon's 1-month lockdown barely halfway, the Chinese video-sharing app is the most downloaded app on both Apple's iOS and Google's Android devices. Tangca, 24, confesses to making as many as 3 TikTok videos daily, though he doesn't share all of them.
“Na-i-ease niya yung boredom and it’s a good workout actually lalo na if you dance so productive pa din,” he told ABS-CBN News.
(It eases the boredom and it’s a good workout especially if you dance so it keeps me productive.)
“Noong una talaga nakikita ko lang ginagawa siya ng iba, like celebrities, influencers, other friends, but it's a good platform actually for showcasing your talent like dancing and acting, but in a fun and medyo techy way,” he said.
(At first, I only saw other people do it like celebrities, influencers, and other friends.)
With many Filipinos barred from leaving their homes, psychologist Dr. Ali Gui said the lockdown might lead to negative effects on one’s mental health.
“Nare-restrict ang movement ng tao so ‘pag ganyan, ang tao naiinip sila. Hindi tayo sanay na walang magagawa so ang nangyayari nagiging malungkot kasi anong gagawin mo?” she told ABS-CBN News.
(People’s movements are restricted so it leads to boredom. We are not used to that so usually, we become sad because what’s left to do?)
TikTok is one way of "creating freedom" for those who are left with nothing to do at home, Gui said.
"It’s an easy way out to kill the boredom and it’s also a way for them to show their talents," she told ABS-CBN News. "For an ordinary person, this is like setting them out. It’s creating freedom for them."
Luzon, home to half of the Philippines 100 million people, is on lockdown until April 12. Mass transportation is restricted while businesses are shut except for those providing basic services and necessities such as food, and hospitals.
"It’s a way for them to stay at home safe kasi wala naman silang ginagawang masama (they’re not doing anything wrong). It’s a safe way to pass your time at home lalo na meron tayo nitong (especially since we are under) enhanced community quarantine," Gui said.
MORE THAN AN ENTERTAINMENT APP
While TikTok videos on social media are usually geared towards entertainment, several users have used it as a platform to spread information on the pandemic that has claimed over 20,000 lives worldwide.
A 7-step video on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 produced by the World Health Organization for instance has over 12.5 million views, while its video on proper-wearing of face masks has nearly 42 million views.
The Philippines’ health department also produces online resources on the pandemic for TikTok. Its first video on how to prevent the spread of the disease has so far been viewed for over 1 million times.
Videos of proper handwashing paired with “#handwashtunes” have over 21 million views on the app with those of celebrities’ as the most-viewed.
“It's raising awareness since, as of now, TikTok is really in pop culture and influential in a way,” Tangca said of the health advisories on the app.
The app also has a section on the latest COVID-19 statistics both for the Philippines and the world.
Earlier this week, TikTok announced that it was donating $10 million (P510 million) to the World Health Organization as aid for the pandemic response.
“We believe it's essential to do everything we can to help the global health community in this fight,” TikTok said in a statement.
“This fund helps the WHO carry out vitally important work, including sending essential supplies to front line health care workers, ensuring communities have access to the latest science-based information, and accelerating efforts to discover life-saving treatments or vaccines,” it added.
As more people try TikTok during the lockdown, its enduring influence after the pandemic however has yet to be ensured.
“Kaya ko lang siya ginamit kasi I have a lot of time. When I get back to work, I'm not sure kung makakagawa pa ako ng content,” Tangca said of the app.
(I only use it because I have a lot of time. When I get back to work, I’m not sure if I can still make videos.)