As you all know, Chris and I moved to France in October after a year of living in the Philippines. We stayed in Cagayan de Oro, and I worked both in CdO and Iligan, for the entirety of the time we lived there. And if you’ve turned on a TV, read a newspaper, or listened to the radio in the last few days, you’ll know that there has been a terrible disaster there, the effects of which cannot yet be surmised.
I think it’s important to give context to what has happened. Washi was not a typhoon – it was a tropical storm during which roughly one month’s worth of rain fell in less than twelve hours. Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City were the worst hit for three reasons: 1. They are port towns, so they are highly populated; 2. They are both home to vast river systems which were unable to withstand the rainfall, and which also contribute to the high population; and 3. As they are so populated, they are home to many poor people, and as is usually the case, the poor were the most affected in this tragedy.
Neither Iligan nor Cagayan de Oro could have been prepared for this; in all the time that we lived there we were constantly told how “safe” it was there as compared to Luzon, where typhoons are the norm every year. People with no access to electricity could not have known the danger that was coming. Worse yet, many people lived in shanty towns along the riverbanks, and were the most affected.
However, one of the reasons that the disaster is on this scale – that is, why so many people have died and have lost their homes – is not the storm itself, but the landslides that followed suit. These landslides were the direct result of irresponsible logging and mining practices that have been taking place in Mindanao for decades. And the vast majority of the companies who run those operations are not Filipino at all. Millions are made every year off of the hard woods and minerals that are found on this amazing island, and the end result is unsafe working environments for miners, loss of habitat for indigenous species, loss of ancestral lands where the mines exist, deforestation to the point of desertification in several areas, increased conflict in the face of increasingly fewer resources to exploit, and landslides that have been the source of lost homes, destroyed livelihoods, and loss of life for a long time. This horrible tragedy is in large part just one side effect of the greed of these corporations and their disregard for the impact of their business on people’s lives.
There are certainly tragedies like this every year – sometimes a few times a year – and we realize it is difficult to part with funds right now, particularly as it is Christmas/Chanukah and times have been rough. But right now the opportunity to pitch in is a whole lot different. That’s because we’ve got friends on the ground there who we have worked alongside and trust explicitly, and who can see to it that anything you can donate will go directly to the source. That is to say:
1. If you want to donate to an organization working with children, we can make that happen.
2. If you want to give money to a specific family toward rebuilding their lives, that is completely doable.
3. If you want to donate to a grassroots organization working in the most profoundly affected areas, with specializations in disaster risk assessment and disaster risk reduction, that can be done.
And I’ll do anything I can to make it as easy for you as possible.
This tragedy, like all the others, will pass out of the limelight eventually. But remember that anything you can give would mean so much. To give you an idea, US $20 is the equivalent of Php877. That’s enough to buy food for a large family for more than a week, to provide safe drinking water – although how much, I’m not sure, because I know there are severe shortages at present. 20€ is Php1,146. £20 is Php1,370. Our friend Laura, who works for the German development branch DED/GIZ has raised 5000€ in the last few days, and while it’s a drop in the ocean, it’s a pretty nicely-sized drop, and will be spent directly on the people experiencing this disaster. She’ll be helping us to make sure your money goes right where you want it.
Again, I know times are tough. But I also know that you are amazing people with huge hearts, and that some of you will be able to part with a little to help a lot. I’ve never done something like this before, but I feel really compelled, knowing how bad this has been and how directly you all can help. Please consider – and if you can help, just email me at ann at presentpathway dot com and let us know which of the three methods I’ve listed you’d like to take. For what it’s worth, we seriously appreciate you taking the time to read this, and we really look forward to hearing from you.