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 (