How Typhoon Haiyan affects us

Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Appeal
photo credit: CAFOD on Flickr

In the Philippines, typhoons are a way of life.  Every June, classes started.  Every June, the rains came.  Every June, my classmates and I would start hoping for typhoons.  We were too young to understand the implications.  Rain just meant relief from the scorching summer heat (frankly, I don't know any Filipino who doesn't love hearing the sound of raindrops falling on the roof, and every kid I know loved standing outside and taking a shower in the rain).  Rain meant the chance to skip school.  Midwestern US schoolchildren have their snow days, Manila schoolchildren have Typhoon Signal #2.  Signal #1 was always met with groans because we still had to go to school (and possibly had to face some flooding along the way).  Signal #2 was great, because we got to stay home for the day.  Signal #3 was even better because it meant school would be out for several days.  Like I said, we were just kids.

As most people have learned by now, the Philippines gets slammed by 18-20 typhoons per year; it's the most exposed large country in the world to tropical cyclones.  For the most part, the capital city of Manila has always been spared the worst.  It's no accident that Manila became our capital: it has a natural harbor (one of the best in Southeast Asia and probably the world) with natural breakwaters to shield ships and people from rough ocean waves. It's also located in the Western part of the Philippines, far away from the Pacific Ocean (and all those tyhpoons).  So the biggest inconveniences Manila residents usually face from typhoons is falling branches, fallen trees (I'll never forget the time winds blew down the lanzones tree that my favorite uncle gave me for my 6th birthday), flooding (and that's more due to garbage that blocks up canals and sewage rather than giant storm waves or rain), maybe cancelled flights (like when Typhoon Quinta caused us to cancel our Boracay beach vacation last December).

Sadly, the areas that are hardest hit by typhoons always seem to be the poorest. And that's exactly what happened with the now world-infamous super typhoon Haiyan, the strongest ever recorded typhoon to hit landfall.  Haiyan spared Manila and much of northern Luzon, but tore through the central islands and left nothing in its wake.  Haiyan is like nothing Filipinos (or the world) has ever seen. We're looking at 600,000 people displaced and possibly up to 10,000 dead.

It's hard to look at all the photos of miles and miles of rubble.  Even people who weren't personally affected by the typhoon have a friend, or a friend of a friend who suffered.  My dad's hometown of Roxas City was hit pretty badly; no one I know is hurt, and houses are still standing, but there's a lot of damage and food is running low.

One of Alfie's and my goals as parents is to teach our kids that there's a whole world outside our little bubble.  We let them watch the news and discuss current events at the dinner table, so they know what's going on.  Hopefully they'll never look at a typhoon the way I did when I was a kid.

One last note;  I am so moved by the global response to the disaster in the Philippines.  Countries everywhere are sending food, money, supplies and manpower.  The outpouring of support is incredible.  If you 'want to help with Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, here are websites with lists of agencies that will take donations:

NBC News

Filipinos in the Bay Area can turn to local organizations who are organizing relief efforts (check out the Belmont Patchthe SF Chronicle and Reuters).  Every little bit helps.  Seriously.  Even $5 goes a long, long way in the Philippines.

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1 comment:

Tina Ryan said...

My prayers and thoughts to the people of the Philippines.