Sunday, October 01, 2006

Milenyo in Philippines, Katrina in New Orleans, Volunteerism

I did not know that there was a typhoon in northern Philippines when I called my friend. He was at Greenbelt at that time when the winds started to pick up. There were many people stranded as rain began to pour in and the winds carried branches and other debris. I could hear people in the background screaming, not in fright, but in the change of direction of the winds as they tried to look for cover.

This morning, I read that at least 61 people are dead and 61,000 families are displaced.

Rewind. Last year, I was in Manila when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. it was the worst hurricane the US has ever seen as it flooded the entire city and everyone had to be evacuated. It was a vibrant city full of culture and the arts, but it was ravaged instantly. I saw clips on TV and how people were on top of their houses waiting to be rescued, and how thousands fled to the dome to wait to be airlifted somewhere. Millions became homeless.

George Bush was blamed for the slow response to aid the people affected. There is still a lot of discussion as to whether or not they did the best they could to help these people immediately. But thousands of volunteers from all over the US and internationally flew to New Orleans to help out. There is a great sense of volunteerism here in the US. When I was in college, my Jesuit university placed a strong importance on volunteerism and helping out the community. Noone from my school graduated without having volunteered for a cause. Me, I chose the homeless and impoverished people as my project. I became a coordinator for events for the low-income housing.

Fast forward. I wonder how strong volunteerism is in the Philippines. Growing up, I have been taught that the Filipinos of the past prided themselves on the bayanihan concept, that is, helping one another in the barrio. I remember seeing pictures of men carrying a bahay kubo, which meant to represent bayanihan or cooperation. The last few times I was in my province, I remember seeing the people working together for free to improve their neighborhoods. The barangay council organized a beautification project planting trees and plants alongside the road, building little nipa huts, and general cleaning up.

I wonder if these same people will ever be able to go to the ravaged areas hit by Milenyo and volunteer to help. I wonder if they will be mobilized by other organizations, recruited and bussed to go to help.

What I saw in barrio/barangay, I hope that it will be reflected nationally. There are so many things I would like to do in the Philippines. I hope that one day, I can organize a volunteer group to help the needy, the poor, and the underprivileged. I just have to remain focus. One step at a time. One day at a time.


snglguy said...

On the contrary, the bayanihan spirit has been replaced by opportunism. I saw a lot of those scavengers carting away fallen signages and overhangs from stores after the storm passed. There were even reports of downed electric cables being cut and hauled off to the junkyard, aggravating the already bad situation.

And get this, some so-called "volunteers" would only get those fallen trees off the road after a passing car pays a toll. Then later on these guys will put the tree back and do the same thing again.

So much for the bayanihan spirit, huh?

Anonymous said...

i've experienced being stucked in the storm with my sisters, we were still in gradeschool... this lady helped us cross the bridge that was underconstruction...

i think it still exists...

not because we are filipino.. but it is innately a human thing to help other people especially in time of a big major crisis.

unless they are your neighbors and they completely hated your guts... lol.

peach said...

I still believe that we will always have a heart for the needy. Its human nature and if ever you will be able to put up that organizaton, I will be the first one to sign up. I always wanted to be of service wherever I may be needed.

Anonymous said...

My belief is to take the weather forecasting from PAGASA and give it to COMELEC. The COMELEC can give a very accurate forecast.

Reyna Elena