Finally found some courage to write about what’s going on in my head on our recent disaster. 

On Yolanda –-

Been staving off from posting anything anywhere because I know that anything I say that isn’t about helping is futile. Been posting at the account of the company I work for, yes, but I personally feel mute – like I have nothing to add but online noise; didn’t feel the storm (in Manila, that is) and am therefore not entitled to a (pretentious) voice.

I am not the best person to drag to any depressing form of entertainment (think Titanic or Les Miserables) because I find it hard separating my own emotions from the overall feeling of sadness – blame my jacked-up Feeling trait (F-trait) from the personality test for films/books/stories skimped on for fear of getting too emotionally weary.

This super typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as is locally known, has brought such widespread and unavoidable heartache to the Philippines. Imagine reading the news of a 6-year old girl surrendering to death telling her mother to let go and save herself instead or reading on Facebook friends of friends who’ve told their tales on after almost drowning from buildings flooded with water, walking on carcasses after the storm surveying what’s left behind. Each released account is sounding more and more like an end of the world/zombie apocalypse movie come to life and the aftermath is even more horrific. Cities wiped away by the storm. Even people who have braced themselves in some evacuation centers weren’t spared. People (even our president) are saying that the reported 10,000 forecasted death toll is exaggerated but that’s when you know that the numbers are becoming more of a statistic to others than anything else.

And still I feel immobile. Somehow, going through boxes of clothes and donating them don’t seem like help enough. Yes, joining events to auction items off to translate those into more pressing donations like food and medicine is good too but that doesn’t seem satisfying either. Being on my email the whole day, ticking things off my work checklist and the rest of the activities in my daily routine don’t feel right – like life going on is immoral.

I’m not looking for reassurance that going back to normal is okay. I’m not looking to satisfy myself either and think of the most fulfilling way to help because helping isn’t and shouldn’t be about me. I do realize, however, that no matter how much we help it will never be enough. We cannot rebuild their lives, no matter how much food, clothing and shelter we provide. We most definitely cannot lessen the loss they feel for both their homes and their loved ones. And we can’t make them forget what they went through.

I guess the most we can hope for – with all these donations, love and prayers we are sending the victims – is to spark a glimmer of hope in their hearts  – that they have not been abandoned, that they aren’t alone and that, maybe, they can get through this.

With that said, here are some online messages I’ve been seeing that I would like to comment on and other ways to help –

  1. Share important information. Who cares if you’re retweeting known competitors or if your retweets are all over the place? The more people the information reaches, the better.
  2. I’ve read that people are discouraged from donating clothes because clothing is not an immediate need. While I get that food, water and medicine would definitely be more important as of the moment, please stop making a giver feel bad about giving the “wrong” donation. If people want to help which I know they do, please don’t rob them of that. There is no wrong donation, there is just a donation. Give what you can. If it’s all you are capable of giving, I’m sure down the road, the people you’ve clothed will appreciate what’s one their back. Unless these people are organizing something to turn clothing into something else, do not dissuade people from giving.
  3. On social media noise – quite frankly, while I usually do, right now I do not care much for how well you did at the gym today or whether your dessert was fantastic. I get that our lives need to go on. But if you could just refrain from (or even limit) posting typhoon-irrelevant, nonsensical stuff for just a little longer, or at least keeping your back-to-normal-nothing-happened life private, that would be great. On a similar note, please try to limit self-promotion or promotion of any kind branding every single Yolanda post with your now ubiquitous logo.
  4. On the report that the Philippines was “privileged” to bear the storm: this is probably one of the most insensitive things I’ve ever heard. No one is “privileged” or “deserving” of death and loss, especially of this magnitude. No one.
  5. It’s okay to be constructively negative online. And by this I mean tweeting about making sure the government keeps their hands off the donations, etc. etc. because it makes people a little more wary of where the donations are actually going (and that is always a good thing.) Negative attacks on the integrity and the intent behind helping however is not welcome. While I agree that some people may have ulterior motives in helping (and, consequently, announcing it to the world), if at the end of the day someone was aided, who cares what the motive really was?

Anyone can help.

I find the countries who have rushed to our aid admirable in doing so. Filipinos all over the world are also finding ways to spread the word and help. Filipinos in the Philippines are coming up with hundreds of their own little relief operations in their communities to help too and it kind of restores your faith in humanity somehow.

Again, I repeat, anyone is capable of helping rebuild a life. Let’s not waste the opportunity.

Here are links on how to help:

  1. A list of where to dine for a cause where proceeds go to charities:
  2. A list of how to help for those overseas:
  3. A list of local relief operation centers PER region/city:
  4. For the blogger community, will be holding an online auction tomorrow at 9PM with clothes from your local bloggers. Will be auctioning off some items there too.
  5. For Katipunan/Ateneo folks, there is a #BaHAIYANihan event in Katipunan NEXT TUESDAY  – sort of a garage sale x hangout. I’ll also be selling stuff there (not just clothes, fashion magazines (like Vogue!) will be up for grabs too). Will be announcing more details once I have them.

A last note: if you have friends in the affected areas, please try to get word on them if they’re actually getting the relief goods. I know the media can paint a pretty skewed picture of reality so accounts of people who are there should be given weight – and from what’s being posted on social media, the help is yet to be felt. Let’s all keep lending a helping hand.