Thoughts on Calamities in the Philippines

photo from www.rappler.com with this caption: STATE OF CALAMITY. Filipinos get a free ride on a Philippine Red Cross truck through a flooded main road of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), Pasay City, Philippines, 20 August 2013. Photo by EPA/Dennis M. Sabangan

If you live in Metro Manila and other affected areas of Luzon, you’re probably updated with the recent calamity brought about by the combined effects of southwest monsoons (otherwise known as habagat) and tropical storm Maring (international name: Trami).

Yet AGAIN, thousands of families are displaced and are in need of help.

Whenever calamities arise (I think most especially since Ondoy), the concept of BAYANIHAN (where Filipinos help one another) arise, and everyone, in his or her own little way, helps someone. It could be as simple as sharing useful information, spring cleaning one’s closets and donating clothes, cooking food, packing relief goods or even as simple as staying indoors so as not to become a victim him/herself.

I am proud to be Filipino especially in times like these. The out-pour of generosity is just beyond words, and ordinary citizens suddenly act like millionaires with so much to give. It’s touching, really, especially when you know most of those who help are just regular citizens, trying to earn a living through honest means.

It just saddens me that this kind of team spirit is somehow taken advantage of by some mean and greedy people. Flashback Ondoy in 2009, I remember how someone close to us shared that his team’s donations were picked up by a politician (which they thought was nice of him), only to find out that the reason why they were picked up by the guy was so that he could stamp his name on the bags. What an a**!

I also hear of people giving donations only to find out they were sent to personal accounts. Big organization names were used to solicit money, only to bait those who think too generously to even double check.

And the saddest part, I think, is that, I think somehow this kind of attitude we have during calamities sort of keeps the greedy politicians’ dirty work unnoticed, because the private sector always answers for them in times of need. They should be responsible for making our country as calamity-ready as possible, yet I it seems like in their heads, they’re assured that whatever happens, someone will help out, so they can eat all the pork they want without saving some for those who having nothing to eat.

To be honest, I’m sort of torn. Should I continue helping out, or will my actions bring more negative effects in the long term? I am not being selfish here; I just like thinking a lot about the actions I make. Yes, I understand that helping out looks good on the outside and feels good on the inside, but I also believe that if I do something, I should make it as effective as possible. It’s not only about adding to the greediness of politicians and other people in power; it’s also other things like bringing in more plastic and waste by sending all these relief goods. What happens to all that waste after they victims have received their packs? Do they go to waste and clog the drains? Do they become part of the calamity we are trying to solve as a community?

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Here is one way to pack your relief goods, shared on instagram by RunAroundGirl. This is a great answer to the plastic problem! Of course you have to be able to give the shirt that fits the victim, or else it becomes another waste. It becomes an extra step in helping out, but it’s also more effective. I think it’s a better alternative than plastic bags. You just have to be able to gather enough number of clothes to actually feed many people.

But even with this, the question really is, when will it end? This is fast becoming a cycle we’re all trapped in. Every year, the same people seem to help out. After a while, we will run out of things to give, or money to shell out. It’s nice to help out, but what kind of help is really effective?

The most effective help I can think of now really, is helping out even in times it doesn’t feel urgent. Sure, help out in the most effective way you can during calamities, but don’t forget to help in your own way too even when nature doesn’t call for it. If it means constantly educating the public about the effects of not throwing garbage properly, or not recycling enough, or having more malls and high rise condominiums at the expense of killing nature, or understanding and sharing the effects of global warming to others, etc, your effort might actually change someone’s life. And the nice thing about this is you can do it everyday by applying what needs to be done to your lifestyle, too. Even if you don’t change somebody else’s life, at least one life is changed – yours.

This also means supporting the right kind of people, and the right kind of projects, and with that comes your right to ask for transparency in projects you support. We don’t want more people donating money or paying taxes for ghost projects. It’s our right to know where our money goes. It’s not about wanting the credit, but wanting the assurance that our money went somewhere and actually helpedĀ those in need.

After this calamity, everything will be back to normal, but I urge you to make simple changes in your lifestyle. Here are some recycling tips. Even small things can make a huge difference. You can start by helping save Mother Earth by slowing down the effects of global warming by being more eco-friendly at home and outside. Turn off the lights when you don’t need them, don’t keep the shower on while you’re bathing in soap, unplug your chargers, don’t use the aircon when it’s not too hot, if you have a hard copy, don’t read the e-book to save on electricity. Those are just some things we practice at home, and I’m sure there are more we can all do.

And then of course you can always voice out your concerns when yet another area will be reclaimed like this one, or more buildings/ roads will be constructed at the expense of killing mother nature!

And THIS ONE IS A MUST READ on WHY IT FLOODS AND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE. It was written last year, but I guess we all need to read it and shove it in our leaders’ faces, or else, it becomes like one of Jose Rizal’s writings – a hundred years later, the same problem exists.

So, those are some of the things we can all do. Sure, these efforts don’t look as “grand” as showing a picture of you helping out calamity victims, but it doesn’t make them less important.

Hope you’re all safe and dry!

 

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