I was not going to write about Haiyan.
The only mention I made of it before now was on my Facebook page where I shared the news that our Filipino men posted at Ayungin Reef are alive. Let me expand on that here. They weathered the storm in a rusty WW2-era shipwreck called the BRP Sierra Madre, which is used as a makeshift base. The Chinese ships in the area had fled in fear of Haiyan and many are calling it a small victory for the Philippines (actual occupation gives us the stronger claim over the tiny cluster of islands. Read more on that here). But the Chinese will be back to bully us again another day in their shiny, fully-functional “fishing” vessels. What’s heartbreaking is that our Marines didn’t even have the choice to flee the storm. The sad, sorry excuse of a base, though seemingly formidable from afar, isn’t even capable of moving them an inch toward safety. Our men could have died and our (literally) poor country couldn’t give them any advantage in trying to avoid that.
I was not planning to talk about about Haiyan.
News coverage and the cries of our people on social media have already permeated every corner of my life and I am sure you’ve had your taste of it as well. Enough at least to know that the typhoon was one of the strongest in recorded history, that it flattened town after town in the Visayas, and that it caused the storm surge that left lifeless bodies strewn all over Tacloban, the city that undoubtedly got the worst of it all. Leyte province’s capital city is suddenly known throughout the world–the people of Tacloban this, the people of Tacloban that. At first it was funny to hear the foreign news reporters mispronounce the city’s name, but I’ve heard it so often now that my ears hardly pick up the difference anymore. I wish there wasn’t a disaster to report about at all.
Mayor Duterte of Davao visited the city today to survey the area and bring much-needed aid. The normally very composed, tough-talking mayor was emotional and seemed to hold back tears after seeing the plateaued city. Relief efforts have been shameful and the local government was clearly totally disabled because they were the victims, too. “God must have been somewhere else or he forgot that there is a planet called Earth,” said Duterte, and I do think that the fact that a man like Duterte was close to tears nearly says it all. Add climate change representative Yeb Sano’s emotional speech (see that here) before the UN climate meeting to that, and you’ll get a sense of the levels of frustration we’re all probably experiencing right now.
But I need to talk about Haiyan, as an individual. As a Filipino.
If only to say that my heart is broken and bleeding for every single soul that was lost to a damned super storm. The death toll climbs by the day but even the thought of just one person being ripped away from their family guts me from the deepest pit of my stomach. Many people in Manila and abroad have not heard from their families in affected areas. How agonizing must it be to sit and wait, relying on a missing persons database or messages passed through one person or another. The dead line the streets. Each body was once someone’s someone.
My heart is screaming for a government that actually does something for its people both in times of emergency and otherwise, but most especially now. The relief effort, as I mentioned earlier, is shameful. Four (close to five) days have passed and still there isn’t much help arriving at Tacloban, and even less to more remote areas. “Trickling in” is the phrase that reporters seem to be using to describe the relief efforts. Much of that help is coming from other countries.
My heart is humbled by their generosity. The US, UK, Japan, Australia, and several countries from the European Union have pledged everything from money, to ships, aircraft, troops, and supplies. Thank you is not enough.
I’m not writing this post to call for donations or to tell you what you should be doing to help. You can decide what to do on your own. This tragedy has left me frustrated, angry, and deeply saddened. My humanity tells me not to sit on those feelings. Your own humanity will tell you what to do, if only you are willing to listen. Write. Share articles/info online. Pack goods. Donate money. All those things are fantastic–but get riled up about it. Do it with feeling. Make it come from the heart.
I love my country and my heart will swell and break for it for as long as I live.
* All photos from CNN.com, clicking on them will lead you to original article
** In case you do want to donate/help and have no clue where to begin, check out these pages: