Typhoon Yolanda has shown me two striking faces of humanity—compassion and indifference. In the midst of tragedy, human compassion shone the brightest, giving light to the hopeless people in Tacloban. I’ve seen the bravery of the people who sacrificed their lives just to save their family. I’ve witnessed the tenacity of the Warays, building their shanties again days after typhoon passed. I’ve watched the proactive response of individual citizens and different organizations in the country to pull together resources for the typhoon victims. And I’ve discovered that we were never alone in this tragedy with the outpouring love and support from various countries all over the world.
Sadly, I’ve also seen the dark side of humanity with indifference ripping the solidarity of Filipinos. I’ve read reports of the NPA sabotaging relief trucks and raping women. I’ve seen politicians use this devastating event to subtly promote their political ambitions in the guise of “providing relief.” I’ve watched how netizens blamed the government, its agencies, and practically everyone in authority, adding more disunity to our already grieving country. I’ve witnessed two high calibre broadcasters create division with their opinions. I’ve heard people judging and castigating the people who looted the groceries without even knowing the whole story. It was a cruel irony to see compassion and indifference existing side by side.
This typhoon has taught me many things and someday I will share these to my baby when he is old enough to understand. I want him to know that events like these make a mark in history not only because of the magnitude of the disaster but also because of the lessons that came along with it.
No Help is Too Small. In disasters like these, every form of help counts. Even if you don’t have money, there are many things you can do for your countrymen. We can pray for them, donate anything we have in excess (clothes, towels, shoes/slippers, blankets, etc.), volunteer in relief operations, leverage social media to disseminate information, and many more. If you have extra money, you can either donate it or buy groceries to be included in relief efforts done by different organizations. The amount you give doesn’t matter. Even Jesus recognized that the woman who gave a penny contributed more than the rich who gave more. She was lauded because she put everything she had to live on (Mark 12:41-44). I was so touched when I saw in the news a street kid who decided to give his alms to typhoon victims. My heart melted when I saw the photo of two American girls selling lemon iced tea for our kababayans. If you give from the bottom of your heart, that’s all that matters.
Do Not Take Anything For Granted. We often neglect the comfortable life we have. The basic things like having a roof over your head and not tarpaulins; lying down on your bed (with pillows and blanket) and not on folded boxes; having electricity (for your multiple gadgets and appliances) and not living in the dark; eating three times a day (with snacks in between) and not scraping under ruins for food; and having your family around (even if they annoy you sometimes) and not hopelessly looking for their lifeless bodies. I’ve shed tears watching those who survived calling out to their family members, begging them to contact them to let them know if they’re still alive. Seeing all these things gave me a new perspective on contentment. I realized that complaining over small things belittles the suffering of other people who practically have none. I’ve learned that we should cultivate a heart of gratitude for all that we have and never take them for granted. We should give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) because there’s always something to be grateful for.
“Benefit of the Doubt” Makes a Difference. We all have frustrations about how slow the relief is coming to the people in Tacloban and other towns in Eastern Visayas. I believe that these frustrations come from our desire to help our countrymen dying of hunger and typhoon-related injuries. Since most of us are not able to physically go there, we need to give allowance or leeway to the people in authority who are doing their best to help. Unless you’re a logistics expert in disaster coordination then by all means say your piece. Some were wondering where the first line of defense was not realizing that the local authorities in Tacloban were typhoon victims as well. Some of them died while some have lost family members. Some said the municipal government of Tacloban City didn’t prepare but I myself saw an earlier footage of the people already set in evacuation centers. Perhaps they should’ve thought of leaving the city but when “the strongest typhoon in history to make landfall” hits you the first time, no amount of preparation would have sufficed. So give our government some “benefit of the doubt.” Sure they have given us many reasons to doubt their credibility but in a time of need we need to set these things aside and focus on helping our countrymen. It doesn’t mean we’ll forget, it just means we will prioritize a greater need right now. We can all express our opinions and dismay but we should do so with consideration to the people who are actively helping in those areas. We should stop generalizing the government (because there are a few good men left there) and stop polarizing our nation. Instead, we should extend help in whatever form or capacity until this storm is completely over.
Relief and recovery is different. Tacloban may have been getting more food supply but our help shouldn’t end there. Relief efforts are temporary. Recovery programs are the ones that will have a huge impact in rebuilding the lives of the people in Visayas. The trauma brought about by a massive destruction like that can affect a person in ways I could never imagine. The construction of houses along with the restoration of livelihood will take a long time to accomplish. We should not stop praying for them and sending help to them until we really see these areas rise again. Rehabilitation is a long process that these victims would have to go through. We have to be vigilant and united in ensuring that this takes place as soon as possible. The recent news reports have been nothing but silver linings showing how the people in Tacloban are expressing their hope and strength. They created signs on wood and cardboards telling the whole world that they will indeed rise again. Some have started opening their businesses again to jumpstart the city’s economy while some victims have joined in relief efforts to help ensure that everyone gets the aid they need. These pockets of hope are symbols of the resiliency and steadfastness of the Filipino people.
We all have learned a thing or two about this recent calamity. I guess what’s important is that we will use whatever we’ve learned to change things—within ourselves, in our families, and in our communities. It could mean teaching our children about green living. It could mean being mindful of your trash and disposing it properly to prevent flooding. It could mean contributing consistently to a non-profit organization like Red Cross or UNICEF. It’s not about doing something on a global scale. It’s about working within your sphere of influence and allowing its ripples to make a bigger impact as it goes beyond your reach.