After Yolanda: Helping beyond our relief goods
In the aftermath of the most devastating typhoon to visit the Philippines last November 8, the prompt response shown by Filipino Americans and their friends in the Chicago area is indeed very encouraging. Even six weeks after the deadly super storm, various groups continue to raise funds to help the hundreds of thousands who continue to suffer from sickness, homelessness and joblessness.
Happily, the year 2014 begins with the spirit of hope and caring. Both international agencies like the United Nations and the USAID determined that the needs in the affected areas are enormously high. The cost of reconstruction and recovery is pegged to over a billion dollars.
What is not yet factored in is the cost of preparing for the next natural disasters. The specter of more violent typhoons always looms in the Philippine horizon. Our homeland is situated in an area that is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The annual average of tropical depressions that visit the country is 25.
Though we are buoyed by the wide-spread kindness shown by peoples of many nations, Filipinos will have to face up to the reality that they are going to deal with many more future natural disasters. It not comforting to realize that the effects of these disasters are aggravated by decades of abuses.
Greedy exploiters of our natural resources like our rain forests; failure to provide infrastructures that are strong and safe because of public funds being pocketed by corrupt politicians; and the lackadaisical attitude of mostly poor and ill-educated citizenry-- all pour down into a pot where storms percolate into a deluge of biblical proportion.
When disasters come one after another, one dreads the day when concerned citizens will be pushed into indifference or do-gooders will be afflicted with donor fatigue. Filipinos abroad should see happenings back home in a better perspective. Overseas Filipinos should get to see developments back home with critical minds. Thoughts enriched by the experiences where things are done right in their respective host country.
Take the endemic corruption that takes away much needed funds from important public works that are necessary to make a nation progressive. Filipino Americans here can certainly pass on the value system they learned here to help their loved ones back home to be responsible citizens. Electing trust-worthy and competent public officials is one of the keys to a strong government capable of confronting challenges.
Filipinos abroad should go beyond just remitting their earnings to recipients who are often quick to spend the money on non-essential consumer goods. Our savings and excess capital should be wisely invested to create wealth and jobs back home. Reducing poverty through meaningful investment is an avenue that unclogged esteros of jerry-built shacks during heavy down pours. Just think about that.
Our good-heartedness here should also be demonstrated in our pro-active concern for social issues like global warming and the promotion of clean and renewable sources of energy. In the practice of their faith, Filipinos should be good stewards of God's creations. Wasteful consumption should be curtailed. Climate change is exacerbated by the lack of the virtue of simple living.
Getting organized around environmental issues can be an exemplary community undertaking. Community members that lobby their political leaders to support treaties that address climate changes is a great step forward toward a solution that help poor countries like the Philippines on a long term.
Getting these things done assures us that our poor kababayans don't get the brunt of the developed nations' abuse of the environment. It happened recently to millions of poor families living along the coastal areas in Island-nation like the Philippines, and it will happen again. What's to be done? The spirit of bayanihan in tackling these initiatives is far more lasting if done along with filling balikbayan boxes with relief goods.
Lastly, even in the reactive endeavors like most of us had participated in after receiving news of the effects of natural disaster, we can continue to unite by working on a cooperative, coordinated and comprehensive plan to mobilize different sectors of our community. This way, we can extend our help effectively. Many of us have the heart to help, now let us have the mind that can get us smart by devising a well-thought program of extending our help.
And as we move on to 2014, let us therefore resolve to engage our collective hearts and minds in focusing to achieve higher and noble goals that will benefit the greater good of ourselves. Let us set aside petty differences for the sake of transforming our homeland into a progressive and outstanding nation.
Happy New Year!
Las Vegas Story
As we go to press here is a heart-warming news welcome at the frigid last days of the old year. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that A Filipino-American Yellow Cab driver, Gerardo Gamboa, found a stash of cash in his taxi Dec. 23 amounting to $300,000 which he returned to an unidentified poker player. The Pinoy said: "If he doesn't give me anything, that's OK, I'm not waiting for any kind of return. I just wanted to do the right thing, and I appreciate what the company did for me."
Report has it that he was given a $1000 reward for his honesty. We are proud of you Mr. Gamboa.