15 November 2013

I don't think I'm a very good Filipino.

It's just about a week after Typhoon Haiyan hit shore and set havoc upon the Philippines. The strongest one ever recorded, ripping right through the center of the country, and laying waste to damn near everything in it's path. The pictures, videos, and stories coming out are heartbreaking, and my heart sinks thinking about the families, lives, and dreams shattered. But - a week later I'm operating pretty much the same way I was prior to the storm.

In the short hours after it hit, the mental checklists started happening. What towns did it hit? Do I have family in or close to any one of them? Where is it now? Do I have any friends in danger?

Then (for me at least) a quick sigh of relief. For the most part anyone I would be worried about was too far north, too far south, or just far enough away that I wouldn't have the need to start making calls or texts, other than to mom and dad to confirm - I didn't forget about anyone, did I? Contacted close friends. How's your family? Did I remember the name of your parents' town right? Wow. Not one response of missing loved ones. 

Over the past week I've offered no prayers, outside of maybe a short one quietly while seeing the footage starting to come through. Definitely not a full rosary. No candles lit and no jumping to mobilize volunteers. As far as I knew everyone I care about was safe and so I went about my daily business. The miracle of unlimited data allowed me to check on the most current events on the islands throughout the day, but my daily routine has been pretty much unaffected. It's almost as if I've detached emotionally once everyone was accounted for.

This is much different than how I felt in March of 2011

Ok, that was different. This is the Philippines - this is my homeland, right? I should be all over this. I should be organizing! I should be coordinating! 

I didn't. 

I haven't been running around my house and garage collecting canned food, old clothes, or shoes, and I don't feel the need to 'like' your Facebook status when you do. 

I didn't blast social media about the strength and will of the Filipino people in the face of tragedy, nor did I repost misattributed CNN quotes about the same.

I asked myself "How can I help?", and I opened my wallet but did not open a balikbayan box.

When news started floating around that there was a cargo plane destined for the Philippines that was stopping in Chicago to fly out Wednesday with any donated goods, I didn't (unlike many friends and family) jump to start packing anything and everything to send over. My first response was of disbelief and suspicion - all the information was vague. Has anyone who isn't Filipino confirmed this? When the effort made the local news and pictures of involved friends and family started flooding Facebook I thought "are they really sure this is gonna happen?" The skeptic in me tried to bite his tongue, hoping my instincts were wrong. I chastised myself for not encouraging this wave of good will, but rather encouraging the same folks to donate money instead.

So when Wednesday came and went, and when news came out that the plane had "not yet materialized" I was upset. Upset that I might have been right to be skeptical. There were a lot of people putting in tremendous work trying to support that. Effort that could have been directed in more positive ways than stockpiling bottled water, canned goods, and used clothes in Chicago rather than getting help to the people that need it halfway around the world. If that makes me a bad Filipino I guess I'll just have to accept it.

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