Hang in There…Philippines in the Aftermath of Yolanda (International name Haiyan)

Anderson Cooper cannot be any more farther from the truth when he gave very negative comments about how relief and rescue operations were handled in the Visayas region—area most impacted by the super typhoon. I was so ashamed that I veered away from the news for a few days. I wasn’t and still am not feeling very nationalistic right now.

I am not very proud to say that despite the encouragement of the government and majority of the Filipino people to remain positive and be helpful, all I have been doing is observing people’s negative actions and reactions. What have I done? Nothing except donate a meagre part of my salary through a payroll deduction system initiated by our company. I didn’t even participate in any of the activities such as repacking of supplies that will be shipped to my fellow countrymen—something that I would have selflessly done.

Through this post, I am hoping to be able to process my thoughts and emotions and get to the root cause of this very dismal feeling I have towards what’s currently happening in my country. So here’s a list of my observations over the past couple of weeks:

  1. United States was in the frontline of the rescue and relief operations quickly after the devastation. The Filipino government, army and church leaders were nowhere in site. I felt prouder of America than I was with my own country as I watched them help out.
  2. Close family ties—an attribute that Filipinos are so proud of—did more harm than good as people bounded busses and planes to join their relatives in the Visayas region, not realizing that they would just create more chaos in the place. They cursed at authorities and caused mayhem in ports as they insisted on being transported through the cargo ships that should prioritize relief goods. They ended up stuck in vehicles on their way to their loved ones which added more problems than the government can handle.
  3. Some politicians, despite the urgency, had time printing out labels of their names on the relief goods. Something like “Donated by______”. This is such an abomination.
  4. It was reported that over 1Billion dollars worth of donation was already shelled out by other countries…Add to that the cash donations given by private companies and people in the country…There’s the looming dark cloud of corruption. How will all of this be audited or monitored?
  5. Instagram and Facebook feeds are flooded with pictures of people helping out in relief centers from all over the country and I wondered if they spent more time packing goods or taking selfies and posing for pictures. Hashtag “Yolanda”, hashtag “love”, hashtag “care”, hashtag “bangonna”, hashtag “helpingothers”, hashtag “charity”…I am not questioning their intention or sincerity. I am sure a lot are sincere however I noticed some may be having too much fun collecting memories of their beaming faces for an album that will be entitled “Help for the victims of Yolanda”. Pun intended.
  6. Too many negative shoutouts, blogs and tweets can be read on social media. Much like what I am doing right now so maybe I should stop…

To my fellow Filipinos who were victims of the calamity, I only have one message for you “Hang in there”.

My family and I was once a victim of a major earthquake and I know how it feels to lose almost everything (transportation, communication, electricity, water) and how it feels to line up for basic needs. Yet, you know what I was more preoccupied with at that time? Not the hardship…I spent my time waving at helicopters carrying drums and supplies. I smiled as the soldiers waved back.

Resilience is the best weapon we have in the face of destruction.

Filipinos are known for their resilience and resourcefulness, like this man I met in one of my travels a year ago in Mindoro. He was shaving bamboo for a house they were building. So yes, despite what I have been feeling for the past weeks, I still am proud of my fellow countrymen.
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