Philippine Typhoon Few Months On…

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On September 26th, 2009 Filipinos abroad were shocked to hear the news about the typhoon that hit the Philippines and left the capital city submerged in water. A month’s worth of rain fell in a space of 12 hours causing the worst flooding in the city in 40 years. Typhoon Ondoy internationally known as Ketsana left the Philippines devastated, killing 246 people and left hundreds more missing.

The next day rescue teams continued to save people, Despite the ensuing carnage there were footage of people on top of their roofs waving yet still smiling. Children posed to the camera, adults waving as the camera panned the scene and the people looked in high spirits even in the worst of times.

A few days after the tragic ordeal, the aftermath was horrifying. People and businesses’ belongings were either swept away or rotten by the wet conditions. Merely a week after Ondoy, another typhoon hit the Philippines although missing Metro Manila, Pepeng also known as Parma hit Northen Luzon in places like Benguet, Isabela and Pangasinan causing massive floods, landslides and strong winds that affected hundreds of families. The strong winds uprooted the trees, left the surrounding areas in chaos and left some families with no homes, many buried under the soil.

After hearing the news about typhoon Ondoy relatives abroad worry stricken relatives abroad attempted to contact their loved ones. Organisations, Companies and Individuals around the world including us here in the UK were thinking of how they can help back home. Should we send our old clothes? Some tinned food? or simply donate money online? These were our initial thoughts while hearing the terrible news.  

A few days after the event, an invitation for an emergency meeting at the Philippine Embassy in London was sent to all community group leaders and individuals interested in helping with the relief operations. Different groups were giving different ideas on how money could be raised, collections of item donations, concerts, parties and the like.  Everyone wanted to help and wanted to do something. A follow up meeting was held, and while it was clear that although there was will, there was little unity.  As a result, many organized “knee-jerk” events on their own, impatient to find out the true situation. Ultimately, little thought was given to what was to be done with any monies or donations raised.

There was some collaboration after that meeting but not to the extent there should have been. Is this the time to be divided? This emergency situation should bring us Pinoy together. ‘Bayanihan’ they call it back home, when someone from the village is moving location, the villagers would come together to physically move the house using two long bamboo lifting the whole house together to the new location. Back home they called the typhoons the event to that brought back Bayanihan, yet the initial meetings of the community here in the UK was frustrating.

Philippine Generations gathered all its resources and arranged a series of fundraising events for the victims of the typhoons. After so many phone calls and emails within the PG team, we decided to do two fundraiser events. The first fundraiser in October was the ‘PG Charity Golf Day’ this was headed by David Garidan, Vice Chairman of Philippine Generations and Janette Dalay-Robertson, PG Administrative Officer. They organized a golf tournament to raise money for the victims of Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepng (Parma). In a matter of one week they put together a tournament of over 20 players for the day, some guests and supporters including Deputy Chief of Mission Reynaldo Catapang of the Philippine Embassy, Manny Guzman Consul and attaché assigned to the second generation and Gen Ashley editor of OnePhilippines. After the tournament, the players and supporters stopped at the clubhouse where David announced the winner of the tournament, Richard Edgar who received a small gift from the team. It was a fantastic day and even the sun actually to turned up for the day!

The second fundraiser in November 2009 was the ‘Guanabana Charity Gig’, this was headed by Malcolm Conlan, PG Community Liaison. This event was a combination of efforts from the PG team & volunteers, Guanabana staff & Omar Shah (Guanabana Proprietor) who kindly donated some food, as well as the Artists who performed on the night. Including Ima Castro, Junix Inocian, Mark Villarosa, The Shaydz, Lirikong Supremo, Clencha, Jhay, Charisma, Carlos Mapano, Lester & Nicole, Trucolorz, the brilliant security team who also volunteered and our hosts Ligaya & Rhona, our DJ on the night DJ Carlos and of course the PG team. On the night we auctioned donated items including 2 tickets to any concert in Wembley stadium, signed pictures of Mayleen Klass, PG T-shirts signed by the pound for pound number one boxer in the world Manny Pacquiao. We also had an appearance from ex-Sugababe, Mutya Buena who also donated a limited edition book with CD which was auctioned off in the evening.

Six months on many might have forgotten the tragedy our country went through, many lives were taken, some left with nothing and some barely survived the trauma it caused. Someone would wonder how a country so devastated could ever stand up again. Questions include: What happen to the people badly affected by the typhoon? Did they manage to start again? You might be surprised to hear but they have! In time of crisis and disaster Filipinos always find a way to smile about it and also move on and get on with their lives. Start rebuilding and continue living. Political and governmental issues, problems with rations and donations not being distributed, Pinoys still continued to smile.
I went back in February 2010 and was so surprised at how people had moved on and that it looks like nothing had happened. There are obvious damages if you look hard enough but it seems the people just pass it all by and get on with their everyday lives. While I was there I didn’t hear anybody even talk about it, maybe it was too tragic and people preferred not to mention it?!?

Philippine Generations continually vetted NGOs in the Philippines involved in grassroots work to help the typhoon victims. We finally identified two which were doing an amazing job. The money raised was donated to AKAP-Pinoy Alyansa ng may Kapansanang Pinoy’ (Alliance of People with Disabilities), an umbrella organization for People With Disabilities (PWD) and the Philippine Community Fund (PCF), a UK based charity recently awarded an accolade by the Queen for helping Pinoys out of poverty.

After the typhoons, there was plenty of donated food and clothes, but there were many still living in tents and evacuation centres. The fund that Philippine Generations raised went to rebuilding and repairs.  We believed a targeted approach bypassing government agency/company or big charities like Red Cross and Oxfam, insured the money raised would go straight into helping the most in need.  Hence, we searched for NGO (Non-Government Organisation) groups in the Philippines. Luckily we were in contact with VSO UK (Voluntary Service Overseas) who had a counterpart in the Philippines, VSO Bahaginan.

My recent trip, was sponsored by VSO UK, not only cemented our new project partnership with them but gave me and my colleague Sam Jennings, PG Project Manager, a chance to visit these NGO’s with the help of VSO Baganinan. We met the President of AKAP-Pinoy Navy Capt. Oscar Taleon, a PWD himself and his good wife who assisted with his everyday tasks as he is blind. They took us to the centre of MPK ‘Munting Pamayanan ng May Kapansanan’ (Small Community of People with Disability), a group under AKAP-Pinoy.

MPK has a centre for blind people, It is unfinished; the first floor was left open after the global exchange volunteers came to build the building.  Surrounding the centre is a community of families who have a family member that is blind. They also have a nursery attached to the center. The main uses of the centre are for group functions, meetings, events, they do feeding programmes for children and pregnant women and a school for blind children. We were introduced to the President of the group who is also blind. They are very happy that we donated some money to them. They have been raising money to finish the building, when the typhoon hit the Philippines their village, Manggahan Pasig were one of the villages that was badly affected. Many of the blind families went to the centre to shelter and to get to higher ground. They went to the first floor, the stairs were unstable and there were no banisters on the stairs or the top floor. Due to the flooding from the typhoon the whole electrical circuit of the building was damaged beyond repair, they need to redo & replace the whole circuit. They also need to examine the whole building as it was left submerged in water for days, there were some cracks in the building and ceiling. They lost lots of equipment, particularly music equipment and brail books due to water damage. The group plays music at events like wedding, corporate events and birthdays as a way to earn a living.

After our visit to their center and meeting all the people involved, I was inspired to do more and to spread the word about them. PWD’s in the Philippines need lots of help, the government do not acknowledge them enough, the education system for people with disabilities is almost nonexistent.  The money we donated will go towards replacing and repairing the electric circuits in the building, they currently do not have electric. This will help them ease the after effects of the typhoon. It might not help them finish the building but they will have small luxuries such as electric fans, TV or Radio, a fridge in the kitchen and other amenities that require electricity.

PFC (Philippine Community Fund) is a charity based in UK and in the Philippines. Lynie Pispisano, PCF Project Coordinator showed as around Smokey Mountain. It was also badly hit by Ondoy, because the houses are poorly built it was easily ravaged by the flood. The money donated to them will be spent on building 6 houses in Manila and Baguio. We visited one of the families in line for rebuilding their house. We couldn’t find her at first but eventually we found her busy volunteering in the area, feeding children and pregnant women. I know what you might think, Smokey again?!? Surely there are other NGO’s who are doing something to help the victims of typhoon. I’m sure there are, we wanted the money to go to an established organization and  we were assured that the money will be spent on the people affected by the typhoon. Seeing their state of living can be overwhelming, giving 6 families a stable home will enhance their way of living. As we all know that these people are living in extreme poverty and the money we donated to 6 families will be greatly appreciated. Both organizations will continually send us updates, pictures & financial reports for continuity.
Unfortunately the typhoon couldn’t choose who its victims would be or where, it just happens that the Philippines is in Western Pacific Ocean where cyclones are usually formed in Asia. The country encounters at least 20 typhoons each year. In a way they are already immune to flooding but Ondoy and Pepeng really stood out because of the amount of rain, ferocity and how the second typhoon formed so quickly after the first.
On behalf of the PG team, I want to thank everyone who supported the fundraisers for the victims of Ondoy and Pepeng. We appreciate all the hard work and effort of the whole team and our supporters. We wanted the money raised for the typhoon to go to the right people. Your donations are in good hands and will be spent on the people who were affected by the disaster and who truly needed it. For more information about the donations and pictures please visit our website

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