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Even though the coronavirus disease is spreading around the world, there have been moments of positivity and light relief to get us through. Here are some of the stories raising a smile during these unprecedented times.

  1. Diwata-1 microsatellite reenters Earth, ends four-year space mission

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Photo courtesy of NASA

The first Filipino-built satellite has finally reentered the Earth’s atmosphere, officially ending its mission that has gone way beyond its original life expectancy. Initially expected to stay in orbit only for two years, Diwata-1 was launched into space in March 2016. It has stayed in orbit for four years, sending back satellite images used for assessing impact of disasters, monitoring vegetation and bodies of water, and observing weather patterns.

2. Two new variably shaped and elongate glassine spined sea star species were discovered in the Philippines

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Photo courtesy of National Museum

The sea stars scientifically named as Hyalinothrix diversus Mah and Fujita, 2020 and Hyalinothrix vitrispinum Mah and Fujita, 2020 were recorded off Balut Island at depths of 150 to 250 meters, the National Museum announced on Monday.

3. Intramuros admin takes Filipinos on virtual tour of arts, culture collection without leaving home

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The Intramuros Administration offers online tours with the help of Google Arts and Culture where internet users can roam around the streets of Intramuros and view cultural items displayed at its museum: bit.ly/2UJwB0x.

4. UP Resilience Institute launches Covid-19 chatbot Yani

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Courtesy of University of the Philippines

University of the Philippines Resilience Institute introduced on Wednesday “Yani the EndCovBot,” the newest AI member of the UP Covid-19 Pandemic Response Team. It said that “Yani,” short for “BaYANIhan,” can provide information about the nearest hospitals, psychosocial support, or policy information. The chatbox is available at  https://www.endcov.ph/

5. DPWH eyes converting four convention, sports centers into health facilities

The Department of Public Works and Highways has recommended four public buildings to be used as temporary health facilities to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement on Monday, March 30, the DPWH said it is eyeing the following buildings: Philippine International Convention Center, World Trade Center, Rizal Memorial Coliseum, and Philippine Institute of Sports Multi-purpose Arena.

6. Google donates $5M in ad credits to PH govt Covid-19 information efforts

Google said it is donating $5 million dollars in ad credits to help the government roll out its information campaigns regarding Covid-19 response and relief efforts. The Google Digital Garage also said it is now offering a variety of free online courses for small business owners, job seekers, or people who would like to learn something new amid the lockdown, the Tech4Ed announced. Those who are interested may visit https://www.tech4ed.gov.ph for more information.

7. Coast Guard’s newest, biggest ship to aid in Covid-19 fight

The Philippine Coast Guard said its newest and biggest ship has arrived in the country from France, and it will be used to transport medical supplies, protective gear, and frontliners amid the crisis. BRP Gabriela Silang is now docked in Manila Bay after reaching the country’s waters Tuesday morning.

8. ‘Rapid Pass’ launched for faster inspection checkpoint for frontliners

Inter-agency Task Force has recently greenlighted the use of the software RapidPassPH, a system which uses QR code-based technology to facilitate speedy verification of those allowed to travel during the quarantine period. The system was developed by DCTX, a team of designer-volunteers under the Covid-19 Technology Initiative of the Developers Connect Philippines.

9. DOT provides Philippine tourist destination backgrounds for your video calls

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The Department of Tourism has released virtual backgrounds that can be used while using video conferencing platforms in a bid to encourage the public to “travel from home.” The photos that feature several Philippine tourist destinations such as the beaches of Siargao and heritage spots of Bataan can be downloaded from www.philippines.travel/fromhome for free. It can be used on video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Webex.

10. Ateneo develops FASSSTER, technology capable of data analysis and drawing up case scenarios and forecast 

In partnership with DOH and DOST, Ateneo de Manila University developed the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler (FASSSTER), a web-based disease surveillance platform currently being used to help forecast possible cases and scenarios on the spread of Covid-19 in the country. It uses data from the Philippine Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (PIDSR) system, Electronic Medical Records, and SMS-based reports of primary care facilities.

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