It’s been a week since the world found out that a catastrophic typhoon had hit the Philippines. It took me to four days afterwards to really find out how catastrophic the typhoon really was. It took donation boxes from non-Filipino organizations in both colleges I go to, it took a couple days worth of mentions on NPR, and continuous coverages on CNN for me to realize how big the calamity was.
This was because the Philippines isn’t really new to typhoons. Having lived there for 12 years and experiencing a couple mid-category storms myself, I knew that there will be places flooded and houses destroyed—as coldly as it sounds, I thought, it’s nothing new.
But after hearing an estimated 10,000 people are dead, it still took me a couple more days to really sit down and think about it. I think it was my way of coping. I think it was because I knew and (subconsciously) decided to avoid the topic because as soon as I let myself get involved, I would end up with emotions both anger and sadness.
Whenever I am in the living room at night and my dad gets home, he would flip the TV to the Filipino channel. I would see a couple seconds of damages and hardships before I beg my dad to flip it back to Thursday Night Football. I would rather not have the images in the head. I would rather not think about it.
I was listening to a conversation my parents had with their friends at the dinner table and I completely broke down. I couldn’t help but cry. It’s embarrassing, that before people decide to give to relief, they first make sure that the money go straight to those who needs. It’s embarrassing that even through the disaster, our first worry is not the people’s needs but the corrupt government. It’s embarrassing that all of it is true. It’s embarrassing that this isn’t the first time it’s happened and that it’s the reality.
It angers me, that no matter how “used to it” the Filipinos are, primary precautions and first-step programs to reliefs are still slow and unorganized. It angers me how the higher government hasn’t taken firm actions in assuring the most affected towns are safe and stable. It angers that even after mother nature herself, has taken it upon her hands to destroy and kill our own brothers and sisters, that afterwards we are still able to let them die.
Seeing Anderson Cooper’s reporter’s notebook on the Filipino spirit made me wonder, how is it that the Filipino people are still able to smile and laugh and move after such a calamity? It’s because the Filipino people ARE use to it. Before the calamity, this is the life that they lived. Hardship after hardship, and the calamity is just another hardship in their life. Throughout the years, the Filipino people became resilient. A resilience that stemmed from the fact that, they were never given the help they most needed. The government was never there to support the people in need and this made the Filipino people independent. The Filipino people had nobody to depend on but themselves.
So in hardships like now, we see regular residents saving their own and save each other. We see regular residents and volunteers attempt to clean up their own towns. We see regular residents pick up the bodies of the dead and bury them. We see regular residents build back their own homes.
For those who do help that are outside of the country, thank you. But the reality is, it’s rare for the those who need them to see the help affect their lives. The are so many filters those help go through. So many filters in the government. In this country, the poorer gets poorer and rich gets richer, no matter how much external help there is. It’s the sad sad truth.
So for the political leaders of the Philippines, here is a short open letter to you:
I no longer want to be angry with you. I no longer want to criticize you; you’re already getting enough of that from the whole world. But I am telling you that this is the time to prove yourself to your people that you are the leader you claimed to be. Let this be the time that you do the right thing and help the people who you are to serve. This is the opportunity to redeem yourself and prove all the criticisms of the government wrong. This is the time to change.
So I beg you, let go to of the greed, let of the gluttony, let go of the pride. Save your people.
And for those of you who have given donations to my country, on behalf of the Filipino people, we thank you so much.