Editorial: The Help Filipinos Need

What does it mean to be resilient? Filipinos, with numerous calamities that strike the Philippines every year, have been identified (self-described or otherwise) with this term. Do we dare claim this word and bring it up every time our countrymen suffer the wrath of nature, like an instant ego-booster amid the loss and lack of resources?

A year after Typhoon Yolanda ravaged Tacloban, Leyte, and Samar, a handful of affected citizens organized a party and marketed statement shirts to raise funds for the worst-hit city, Tacloban. This was shut down after netizens expressed outrage over the insensitive nature of the event, and the offensive shirts that say “Eat, Pray, and Loot” – a reference to the incidents of massive looting in Tacloban after the landfall -, “Akala ko Tsunami, Storm Surge pala”, and “We don’t die, we eat puday (A Waray word for ‘vagina’)”.

Given that the organizers experienced the disaster themselves, and that they claim the government of Tacloban and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) approved of the event, is this what it means to be resilient? Are we so adaptable that we create humor out of a catastrophe that claimed more than 8,000 lives too soon? It is a good call for them to take down the event and vow to continue raising funds in other ways, but knowing that this went through conceptualization and pre-production, by presumably not just one misguided person, what were they thinking?

The prospect of a party showing how life goes on in Tacloban, that the people are alive and well, shows yet another band-aid solution. The survivors had suffered through this system enough. They have cried out to media, just last year, how in certain places there were a lack of relief goods, and where there are some, the available supplies are not enough for them to rebuild sustainable lives. These people could do better than with just one alcohol-induced night of euphoria and electro-music.

To backtrack a bit, this botched party plan is just one case that has been settled accordingly. Those disappointed by it could look to Gawad Kalinga (GK) for viable solutions that have helped and will continue to help thousands.

In their Bayani Challenge 2014 project, GK was able to gather 1.7 million volunteers that provided aid not just in Tacloban, but to other disaster-hit provinces throughout Visayas and Zamboanga as well.

In their Yolanda reconstruction report, GK stated that, with the help of partners and the global community, 2,923 houses have been funded, 70% of which are either under-construction or completed. They have also created 761 balangay boats to revive the livelihood of the fishing communities.

The best thing about this is that GK does not only show up whenever a province gets hit by a disaster. Bayani Challenge is an annual one-week event that started in 2006, in which volunteers help build homes in a GK community.

These kinds of help are what the Filipinos truly need and should be provided. It is time the government starts thinking more along the lines of this collaborative manner, and utilize well its abundant resources to create lives, instead of just supplying another day of survival to its citizens.

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