Post-Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda Thoughts (And Ways You Can Help the Victims)

It has been a week since Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda battered the Eastern Visayas region in the Philippines. And by now, it is clear as to how much damage it has created.

I was actually on vacation in the Northern part of the Philippines when it struck. When I got back from vacation, that’s when I thoroughly updated myself on various social media networks. Seeing photos and watching news reports of how Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda reduced buildings and houses into shreds, how it rendered thousands and thousands of people homeless, desperate, sick and hungry and how it reduced a population also by the thousands left me shocked, speechless and unable to write. I had planned on writing this post earlier this week, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Although the Philippines is an archipelago, it is a small one, so everyone knows someone who hailed from or was in Central Visayas at that moment. Filipinos are also scattered all over the world. For this, the story hits home, one way or another.

It is heartbreaking to know that this happened to our country. Year after year, we experience torrential rains and strong typhoons, as well as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – albeit not as much as the typhoons. But we have never experienced something so strong, and so its psychological and emotional impact are as strong as the winds and rains brought by the typhoon itself.

And for this, we are all doing our best to help each other out. This is why other government units have sent in financial aid and their staff to affected areas to help out.  This is why volunteer registration lists are filled until next week at the Department of Social Welfare and Development. This is why operations at the Ateneo de Manila University grounds are nonstop, twenty-four hours. This is why beyond the aforementioned relief operations, I cannot give more as there have been so many, I can’t remember all of them. Just refer to Rappler for an extensive list of relief operation sites. Apart from that, there are kind individuals who conduct door-to-door relief good donations and delivery operations. They are not affiliated with any group. They just want to help.

And speaking of helping here are other ways that you can help:

For those living outside the Philippines, you may give to reputable nonprofit organization that work or will be working directly for the communities involved. Please click on the name of the organization to know more how you can donate.

Typhoon Haiyan - Ways to Donate - NAFCON

Image Source: NAFCON Website

NAFCON (National Alliance for Filipino Concerns)

Typhoon Haiyan - Ways to Donate - Mercy Corps

Image Source: Mercy Corps Facebook

Mercy Corps 

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders 

For those here in the Philippines who wish to donate, kindly refer to this list of ways on how to donate from Rappler.

Here are some more creative ways you can give:

Typhoon Haiyan - Ways to Donate - YolandaActionWeekend

Image Source: Pepper PH

Eat and drink in one of your favorite restaurants / bars. Several restaurateurs have come together for #YolandaActionWeekend, wherein participating establishments will donate either 20% of gross sales or 100% net profit to the victims of typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Read more about the said campaign on the Pepper PH Website.

Buy styled donated clothing. One of the memories I have from childhood post-Mount Pinatubo-volcanic-eruption was seeing a child on TV walking and wearing a flower girl’s gown in the midst of lahar-torn Pampanga. That image stuck because it seemed bizarre to me that someone would donate something like that. But I learned this happens often. I’ve also personally experienced unloading a bag full of donated clothing including prom gowns, parkas and full office suits.

For this, the Philippine Red Cross, in partnership with stylists and clothing care products Downy and Ariel, have taken these uhm, “pre-loved” clothing, styled them and are putting them up on sale. Each item has a corresponding donation equivalent, like a set of ten hot meals, or a number of tents. For more details visit the campaign website: Aid Couture.

Typhoon Haiyan - Ways to Donate -Makati Medical Center

Or if you don’t want to go out or spend, the best you can do is sign this petition asking Makati Medical Center in Metro Manila to put up a mobile hospital and provide medical care for those in need.

We’re a strong people, so we’ll definitely get back up again. But hopefully after getting up, we would be able not only to stand, nor walk, but be capable enough as a people to run ourselves independently and responsibly, and lead all those who have helped us to look our way and smile at the changes we have made in our government, in our infrastructure, in managing our people and most importantly, in our relationship with the environment.

First Time Poll Watcher

tally sticks

I was blessed to be part of this year’s Barangay Elections as a candidate’s poll watcher.

I’ve been interested in participating in the elections as a poll watcher since I was in college. Unfortunately, all the training sessions were scheduled during school and work hours so I was never actually able to be one until now.

The Barangay is the smallest administrative unit in the Philippines. In English, Barangay means ‘village’. It is governed by a Barangay Captain and a Barangay Council composed of 7 Kagawads, who are assigned to develop and implement projects under various committees. The populations of barangays range from two thousand up to two hundred thousand. Thankfully, we reside is a small barangay, so there weren’t much people. The teachers who assist in the voting and counting, members of the police force and volunteers from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) actually felt relaxed during the voting hours.

The excitement came when voting was closed and vote-counting commenced. Unlike the national elections wherein voting is done manually, but tallied through a machine, both voting and tallying are done manually during Barangay elections. I guess this is because there is a large multitude of Barangays and it would be too costly for the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to distribute or ship PCOS machines again, collect the names of candidates, lay them out and print ballots for each of them.

As this was the case, the teachers posted a large tally sheet on a white board (Tally Sheet 1) – with one tally sheet per precinct. The tally sheets had a long box on the left for the candidates’ names, and had boxes to its left for the vote tallies. The boxes were enough to fit five tally lines.

We had three precincts, so there were three counting paper sheets.  Another tally sheet was prepared on a table adjacent to the precinct’s ballot boxes and white board (Tally Sheet 2). Then they listed the names of the candidates down on the tally sheets with a black marker. One teacher was assigned to read the votes, another one was assigned to tally the votes on Tally Sheet 1 and another was assigned to tally the votes on Tally Sheet 2. Prior to the counting, PPCRV and the candidates’ poll watchers were also made to sign documents to validate their participation.

Each poll watcher was required to bring his or her own tally sheet. Before the official tallying began, I wrote down the names of the candidates on my own tally sheets.

The tallying soon started after I wrote all the candidates’ names down. The teacher assigned to read the votes in the precinct I volunteered for read the votes at a fairly steady pace so I was able to count along with them. For each 100 ballots, we tallied the partial results before proceeding onto the next hundred. After about an hour, vote tallying was done and the total for each candidate was written down on the official tally sheets and validating documents were signed. Soon after, the winners were proclaimed.

During the vote tally, voters are free to go to the polling place and watch the process. I wasn’t aware of how many watched the tally until it was over. I was delightfully surprised to see many people there. The Barangay is the smallest unit – and for some – the most useless. But I am thankful that people in our community continue to see its value.

My Poll Watcher I.D.

My Poll Watcher I.D.

I want to thank the COMELEC and DepEd’s teachers for the smooth voting and tallying processes. I would like to especially salute the teachers who were assigned in larger barangays – I am more proud of our public school teachers than ever! With that experience, I hope to participate again as a poll watcher for the coming 2016 elections.

I am very happy to say that the candidate I volunteered for won. As part of the team, I was very nervous, even as I was counting. I could not imagine how that person must have felt! Thank God for the win, now we can all rest and look forward to a new chapter for our community!

The Zamboanga Crisis: Diversion Tactic or Not?

So many times we Filipinos have been subject to “diversionary tactics” in the past that certain problems now, though real, are thought of nothing more than a theatrical act. I’m speaking in terms of two political issues plaguing our country – the pork barrel scam and the Zamboanga armed conflict.

Let’s say the Zamboanga armed conflict is a diversion orchestrated by the government from the pork barrel scam. It is a weak one then, since the situation itself has lead people back to thinking about the scam – “If not for the monies stolen from the nation, our military would have the resources to defeat the rebels”. On the other hand we could think, if not for the Zamboanga armed conflict, then the president and the Department of Justice would have prohibited the exit of some of the accused through judicial orders, including Representative Rodolfo Plaza, and Atty. Gigi Reyes. But then again, crisis or not, the administration would still be soft, given the fact that some of their allies are involved in the scam itself.

So, the Zamboanga armed conflict is real and not an orchestrated diversionary tactic. The government does not need it to protect the accused, because they have been defended from the start. If not for Benhur Luy, then nothing would have happened, and the administration would still be issuing a budget for the PDAF, including their allies involved in the scam. They struck strategically, when the government is the weakest and committed to another issue. Given that these two issues simultaneously occurring, the government must strengthen itself and address both issues at the same time. We are watching you deal with these two issues.

Just to give a background, the Zamboanga armed conflict is said to be the result of Nur Misuari’s disappointment over the 2012 Bangsamoro Framework Agreement (which you can read more about here), from which his group, the Moro National Liberation Front, was left out. Only the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was recognized. In other words, it is a classic case of obscuring and failing to make policy inclusive, which lead the excluded faction to rebel. I admit I wasn’t looking and I guess many of us didn’t care until this happened. So now, we owe it to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao to ensure that they live in a peaceful and democratic society by making sure that the government would be more careful, inclusive and engaging in the future policy and governance processes that they will embark on, after the crisis. Meanwhile, we can donate and help them through the following networks (I know it’s hard to trust now because of the pork barrel scam, but again, the armed conflict is real and hurting our fellowmen and women, so let’s help):

AdZU

Tzu Chi Foundation

Update! Here are more ways you can give to the Zamboanguenos: (Updated 25 September 2013):

Z crisis donations PH Red Cross-Red Crescent 1

Z crisis donations Ateneo 2

The Philippines’ Million People March

It has almost been a week since the Million People March in Luneta, here in Manila in the Philippines. The Million People March took its name from the 1995 Million Man March movement that fought for African-Americans’ civil rights.  The Million People March was prompted by the widespread anger against the intricate system of corruption … Continue reading

Public Perception and Neutrality

Two weeks ago, a man was arrested on charges of scamming Philippine generals.  Just yesterday, a man was arrested on charges of importing 8 kilograms of methamphetamine. What’s common about both of these men is that my guy and I have seen and interacted with them as they belonged to the same educational institutions we used to go to.

It’s pretty shocking to read up on news about someone you’ve known – either personally, by name or by face – being arrested for involvement in a crime. What’s sad is that they end up being on the news because of such incidents. Their guilt has yet to be proven but  unfortunately many people are already judging them. While perceptions may change as soon as trials commence and other facts come out, for now, many choose to castigate them. Many choose to not care about them as good people in school, to their friends and family or their right to fair trial because of what they have allegedly done.

Such is the misfortune of people who are perceived to be involved in crimes and other wrongdoing in society. To be viewed by the public negatively is inevitable. This is why some people are lynched on the streets and some people are being subject to trial by publicity. And this is why one must surround himself or herself with positive people and avoid tricky situations to prevent things like this from happening later on.

Neutrality will never be the norm so we must always be careful with our decisions and actions.


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