Carolina: Cruising Past 70: WOW: Responding to Disaster

Friday, November 15, 2013

WOW: Responding to Disaster

taking care of those who perished: more than 3,600 with 1,200 still missing

saving what's left
Last Sunday I published my usual weekly post on my blog. It was about ‘Choosing Club Memberships for Social Growth’, third in a series of how Bill and I are getting settled at Viewpoint RV Golf and Tennis Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. Little did I know that a ‘perfect storm in terms of its sheer size, its circular symmetry and the tightness of its eye’ had set a world record and, the day before, hit hard Leyte and Samar, the third poorest province in the Philippines (poverty incidence at 59.4%). How insensitive of me, to focus on the comforts and luxury of resort living while countless people suffered back home! A rightful nudge by my friend June Lopez and concerned inquiries by neighbors, family, and friends woke me. 
looking for what they have lost

The status updates on Facebook at the time started with praises about the surprisingly good disaster preparedness, compared to previous calamities. The Philippines has one of the highest incidences of natural disaters in the world. But when news trickled in about the real situation, the status updates changed overnight. The extent of the devastation was slowly revealed and now authorities count over 3,600 dead, 1,200 still missing,12,500 injured, and 600,000 displaced. The emotional response is overwhelming. The US takes the lead in what is projected to be the third highest disaster aid in its history, behind the Haitian earthquake and the Indonesian tsunami. ( That is not even counting heroic help from US military.

helping themselves
Being 10,000 miles away, all Bill and I could do was to donate money to a reputable agency, the UN’s World Food Programme USA. And then we saw how a friend, Monette Hamlin, purchased 10 water filtration systems for help that has significant multiplier effect; how another friend, Jennifer Simons, pioneered in the relief efforts for those who were evacuated to Manila; or how the brother of a friend, Orly Tugob, reveled in the exercise he freely got as he carried heavy relief goods in Tacloban. So many inspiring stories in the face of adversity were shared in media, social or mainstream. Even Anderson Cooper finally admitted that he was amazed at the extraordinary strength of the Filipino people (

much needed water
And then, in the midst of the chaos that is natural in disaster scenarios, negativity found its way into people’s psyche.  Leaders began to get bashed for perceived incompetence, people began to criticize journalists’ reports, and looting was blamed on negligent law enforcement officers. My daughter April, tucked away in Newcastle upon Tyne in England, wrote an inspiring appeal on her Facebook page, which she followed with concrete informational help, for us to focus on positive things. Similarly, Bobbi Jo Domingo, a colleague from Development Academy of the Philippines, wanted to raise the level of discussion to something more fruitful. This is my small contribution towards their cry.
the Filipino rises every single time

I hope that the five basics of disaster response continue to be taken care of: early evacuation, emergency medical help, accessibility of food and water, improvised shelter, and infrastructure for better distribution and communication. It is also always good to remember the truism that staying with the positive will beget more positives. But the Philippines cannot escape from looking into the future for disaster risk reduction. If we do not have any experts in the science of disaster management, it will be worth our while to send scholars since such degrees are already being offered, as a matter of course, in American schools of higher learning. Hopefully, lessons learned are institutionalized in a powerful National Institution. Lastly, we can only be proud of economic gains if they are spread more evenly so that no more Filipinos have to live in shaky shoddy shanties by the sea, ready to be wiped out by the next big storm or gobbled up by the next big earthquake (


  1. This really raises the level of discussion and awareness to an intelligent level.

    First, I apologize if I contributed to the negativity by responding to criticism against the government. Now, I will research on survival techniques for calamity situations. (I wonder if ubod from fallen coconut tress would help alleviate hunger? How do you get the ubod from the tree?)

    1. It's okay, we make mistakes all the time! Ubod is from the trunk.

    2. Ubod is from the trunk of the coconut tree. However, it requires a big effort to harvest the ubod since it is the soft interior of the trunk near the base. It is better to harvest the fruit of the coconut if there are any. The coconut water is a good substitute for drinking water and the flesh is high protein. Coconut is often referred to as "the tree of life".

    3. Thanks for the help Manny Tongson!

  2. Excellent article, very comprehensive. Thanks for your insights.

  3. I was watching Steven Colbert the other night. He said that China, because they have some kind of political disagreement with the Philippines, is giving only $100,000 to the rescue and clean-up effort. He established a fund to show that Americans are more generous than that and is hoping to raise much more money. It is a contest to shame China for being so small about helping their neighbor. I am sure there are other places to donate. Please advise everyone to make sure anything they donate will go directly to the people in the Philippines. The whole world is hoping that there will be a quick recovery.


    1. Thanks Emma! China just upped it to $1 million but they will never be like the US.

    2. I hope you guys won't mind a contrarian joining the discussion.The much maligned 'kuripot' China has always been in the side 3rd world nations in Climate Conferences while the countries who have been much more generous in extending aid to the Philippines and are supposed to our friends have always fought proposed measures that would have slowed down the build-up of Green House Gases in the atmosphere. Only 'scientist' in the pay of energy companies dispute the almost universal consensus of world scientists that the ever growing atmospheric concentration of GHG is the cause of all the weather abnormalities we are experiencing. It is most unjust that countries with the least to do with CO2 concentration hitting over 400ppm,(the highest level in 10,000 years and could be the tipping point for a run-away global warming) like the Philippines, Bangladesh and the Pacific Island States are the ones getting the brunt of the ill-effect of climate change. Some us in the Philippines want to scream when we read that Environment Ministers in the some of the rich countries are even rooting for a hotter planet as it will extend the growing season in their countries and even some frigid countries wine-producers). Japan, at about the same time that it announced it is increasing its aid to the Philippines to $10 million, announced that it is backing out of its previously committed reduction in GHG emission thus making more certain that super typhoons will be the new normal for us. It just just makes me boil that heroic efforts of ordinary Filipinos to improve their lot will be laid to waste every now and then just because some people have to have their bling. .

    3. It is okay to voice out your opinion. Surely, the longer term view is to be looked at too, just like the other more immediate issues I brought up. I just can't help but know that the help from the US comes mostly from people like my neighbors at Viewpoint and relatives of Bill. They are ordinary people who are concerned and wanted to provide aid and comfort to the victims. We should be grateful.

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