THE most striking contribution, if one may call it that, of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) to the Filipino people is the unification of global compassion and services for those ravaged by the storm early this month.
The surge of foreign and local aid, not just in terms of cash or donations in kind, was not the only direct contribution Yolanda generated but more importantly the unquantifiable services and manpower of people who volunteered to help the typhoon victims.
Interestingly, one local paper featured in its online version the different global newspapers which ran the Yolanda story on their front pages with prominent spaces devoted to photos of the devastation to lives and properties. The generous play-up by these global papers of the devastation in the Philippines may have been the reason for the outpouring of relief aid and services.
These services include those who ferried the relief goods to the affected provinces; the packers, the doctors and medical teams who gave their expertise freely; those who solicited and gave donations (whether or not they got the publicity mileage for it); those who held and participated in fund-raising drives and concerts; the foreign soldiers and pilots/ship captains who ferried goods and people to the typhoon-hit areas; those who parted with their precious personal possessions like clothes or bags; those who brought the victims who escaped the horrible memories of Yolanda in their provinces to join relatives or friends in Manila and other urban centers; the manufacturers of washing machines like Electrolux that volunteered to wash tons and tons of clothes to be given to the victims; the psychologists who are still helping the victims cope with their shock and trauma; and those who will be involved in the planning and execution of recovery and rehabilitation efforts in the numerous provinces leveled by the storm from hereon.
This outpouring of foreign support has also brought a change in the perspective and views of some Filipinos on other nationalities such as the Americans, Japanese and Chinese, among them.
A lot of Filipinos have harbored critical views of the Japanese and Americans for the wars they inflicted on the country and for the more radical ones, a continued suspicion that America wants to regain its strategic bases in the country. As for the Chinese, understandably the ongoing territorial disputes between the two countries have made many Filipinos critical of the Chinese.
Another expected positive result of Yolanda will be the zoning policies to be adopted to better prepare comminities to extreme weather conditions.
As renowned urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. earlier told The Manila Times, “we must now study our urban, land zoning and building policies particularly on the distance from water bodies and fault lines to mitigate future losses to lives and properties.”
Surely, there would not be a shortage of workers in the rebuilding process because the Filipino bayanihan spirit has never been lost, but what is needed most is the political will to do what is right, and not what is convenient.
This is because, if we don’t do what is right in accordance with climatic realities, we can’t always bank on foreign governments to help us since they too have to grapple with the harshness of climate change.
We also must change our planting priorities to weather-resistant crops and put up small water resources in strategic areas not vulnerable to floods or quakes so that when calamities stalk us, our people need not go hungry or thirsty and begging for food of water.