How Typhoon Haiyan Affected Me, a Filipino-American

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When news of Super Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation reached American ears, every Filipino-American was asked the same slew of questions. ‘Do you have family there?’ ‘Are they okay?’ ‘Are you okay?’ My mother received an email from her boss Saturday morning, a day after Haiyan first made landfall in the Philippines. When a co-worker approached me with, ‘You’re Filipino, right?’ I knew we were about to have the same conversation.

Steeped in feelings of sorrow, sympathy and an overwhelming sense of helplessness, I somehow feel more connected to my country than ever. I feel a strange understanding of every single one of Haiyan’s victims, as if they were my own kapatid (sibling) or pinsan (cousin), and this only deepens my heartache for them. When I heard the extent of Haiyan’s destruction, my first thought was, ‘How do I help?’ With 3,974 people dead and 1,200 missing (latest count released Sunday, November 17) the world is asking itself the same question.

The Filipino spirit is resilient and familial, and it is with this spirit that Filipinos have begun to help themselves. On November 18, Filipino President Benigno “noynoy” Aquino III tweeted “Kayang-kaya kung sama-sama,” which means “We can do anything as long as we’re together.” Together, Filipinos are clearing roads, lifting the dead, constructing temporary housing and repacking food.

President Benigno visited food-repacking centers in Metro Manila last Thursday, to thank volunteers for their efforts. His statement further reiterated the Filipino focus on family, or pamilya. Rather than numbering those affected in terms of individuals, he numbered them in families, stating that 275,000 families were affected by the storm and now cannot feed themselves. Each food pack serves one family of five and lasts for two days; all in all, volunteers are helping to feed 1.4 million people a day.

I called my dad asking him how the residents of Tacloban, the city most affected by Haiyan, were going to recover. He told me not to worry because other countries would most likely rush in to donate money. Sure enough, the U.S. has donated $20 million, Australia has donated $30 million and the U.K. has donated $16 million. To him, and many others, that is solace enough and an indication that the Filipino family exists on an international level.

But with two-thirds of the country affected, the Philippines needs more help. Various militaries are transporting supplies to distribution points but aid is only starting to trickle in, a week after Haiyan’s landfall. In addition, there are many remote island communities still ignored by relief efforts. These islands are hardest to reach, and therefore less aid is available.

It has only been a week since the initial destruction of typhoon Haiyan, however it is no longer listed as one of today’s CNN Trends, a computer-generated list of popular topics and articles. I hope that the Philippines is not forgotten. Though Tacloban is now in ruins, there are many who are committed to rebuild this beloved city. The Filipino people are resilient, and they have their kababayan (countrymen), but they need the help of their international pamilya.

Here are five ways you can help:

The Philippine Red Cross is facilitating relief and recovery programs and has deployed search and rescue teams to the hardest hit communities. Donate by choosing the Super Typhoon Yolanda campaign on their donation page.

Action Against Hunger’s first priority is providing people with clean water. Their team distributes emergency hygiene kits, including chlorine tablets, soap and other sanitary materials. They are also working to restore water and sanitation systems in Tacloban. Donate online or call 1-877-777-1420.

The UN Refugee Agency distributes aid via airlift to Typhoon-ravaged parts of the Philippines. They allocate supplies such as jerry cans, hygiene kits, mosquito nets, kitchen items, plastic sheets, blankets and sleeping mats. Donate online or call 1-202-296-5191 domestically or +41-22-739-8111 internationally.

The International Medical Corps is on the ground operating four mobile medical units on four remote islands. They are exploring rural areas with a team of medical staff and water and sanitation experts. Donate online or call 1-800-481-4462.

Save the Children is distributing temporary shelter supplies, mobile clinics and 500 newborn kits. They are also deploying technical and medical experts to offer immediate treatment to those who need it the most. Donate to The Philippines Annual Monsoon and Typhoon Children in Emergency Fund or call 1-800-728-3843.

Janie Post shares her own life stories and experiences to cultivate well-being and happiness in young women. She studied English at Fordham University and is now discovering happiness in her post-grad life. Contact janiepost@outlook.com.

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