Tag Archives: cagayan de oro

An Appeal…Please take a moment to read

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.

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Out of our hands but close to our hearts

At some point – now I don’t remember when – on Friday, I decided to glance at the headlines.  So much happening in the world lately…as much as the news depresses me, I’ve been trying to stay up-to-speed.  Right away, I noticed a story about a typhoon in the Philippines…this is nothing too shocking, because, as many of you will have heard and read in the news over the last few days, typhoons hit the Philippines several times a year, particularly in Luzon, where Metro Manila, with its 11.5 million people, stands at the as-ready-as-it-can-be year on year.  But this headline said “Southern Philippines,” which was unusual.

Mindanao, the second-largest of more than 7000 islands in the Philippines, is called the breadbasket of the Philippines for good reason.  Fruits, vegetables, and fish are abundant there, but also minerals and hard wood, with the potential to bring a weighty income into the country.  Of course, it has never played out that way – all the resources of the island are routinely exploited by the “haves,” while the “have-nots” are tasked with honing the skills and producing the labor necessary to line the pockets of foreigners and a few very wealthy Pinoys.  Without a doubt, extensive logging and mining take their toll, and most recently that toll has been human life and livelihood.

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Point A to B, Pinoy Style

Among the many things that blow me away about myself is how well I’ve taken to Filipino transportation, when – and this is the honest-to-goodness truth – I found London transportation emotionally debilitating.  Not exaggerating.  At all.

How does this make any sense?  In London, one can catch the tube, a train, or a bus.  There are pretty clear and well-defined routes, although…sometimes there’s a strike.  Sometimes a tube line breaks down, or has to stop because someone on another train got sick.  Sometimes the trains can’t run because there are leaves on the tracks.  That is no joke.  Happens quite often, in fact.  Sometimes your bus gets re-routed and you can miss your stop by several miles and have to find another route.  Here’s how I see it:  you’ve got this incredible infrastructure, with all your basic needs met, all the information provided, etc.  But in a city where more or less every house is Victorian, weather is moody and there’s a 50-50 split between private and public ownership on the transportation system (or has that now changed?), there is a prime set-up for a very confused immigrant who is late for her new job and now just needs a good cry and a pint.

But here…there’s no system to speak of!  I mean – OK – that’s not fair exactly…but the way it works is just incredible to me.  There are a number of modes of transport available in Cagayan de Oro…these are the same throughout Northern Mindanao, with a couple of mild variations on availability.

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u.s. road trip…day 34

we woke up super early – had a really long drive ahead, and planned to pop by my big brother’s and drop off the gps he had loaned us (THANK YOU BIG BROTHER!!!  what a lifesaver that little gadget turned out to be!  least stressful road trip of our lives!) on our way to shoshana and brian’s place.

looking over the map, plotting our journey, we happened across something we’d both been dying to see…LONDON BRIDGE.

now, many of you may have heard this story, so skip to the next paragraph if that’s the case.  but we were told, whilst living in london, that there was a very funny story attached to london bridge, az.  robert p. mcculloch, the story goes, was this ridiculously rich bloke who went on to found lake havasu.  but there he was, on holiday in london, when he spied the beautiful tower bridge.  now, there are no famous songs sung by children in the u.s. about tower bridge, and so, as this was by far the prettiest bridge in london, he surmised that it must therefore be the famous london bridge – a simple mistake made by many visiting london for the first time.  ohh-ho-ho!  but do not underestimate the perceived hubris of  nouveau-riches americans!  as the story goes, the then decided he wanted that bridge.  no, not a replica of the bridge – that bridge.  apparently ‘everyone’ knew that he really meant tower bridge, but they were so shocked by the sheer audacity of his coming to a city and buying a bridge, only to have it dismantled piece-by-piece, with each piece numbered, and then flown to his home town of nowheresville, az, they just let the error turn into a famous story made even more famous by way of it’s hero’s inevitable demise.

except, i guess that story’s not true.  i’ve since been told that everything else is – he saw the bridge, he wanted the bridge, he bought the bridge itself, but he didn’t think it was tower bridge.  still funny.

at any rate, this is the bridge we have decided to detour to see.  we didn’t realize, however, that it was so far off the freeway we could have detoured to see nevada just as easily.  but it was a case of, well, we’ve gone this far already…we gotta keep going…and so on.  finally we come to a road called london bridge road.  cool!  we’re on the right track.  for a long time.  no sign of a bridge, or anything over which to build a bridge.  so we see this little lady pushing a stroller up the road, and chris says, ‘ask her if we’re going the right way.’  so we pull up beside her, and ask.  ‘yes,’ she replies. ‘just keep driving that way.’  i happen to notice that she’s pilipina, so i say, ‘are you pilipina?’  to which she replies affirmatively.  i inform her that we’re moving to the philippines in just a couple of days, and she asks where we’ll go.  ‘mindanao,’ i tell her. ‘mindanao?  i’m from mindanao!  where in mindanao will you go?’  ‘cagayan de oro,’ i tell her.  ‘no way!  i’m from cagayan de oro!  take a picture of my baby!’  it was hilarious.  seriously – there wasn’t a car, or another soul, on that whole long road.  but the ONE person we saw wasn’t just from the philippines – wasn’t just from mindanao – she was from cagayan de oro.  this isn’t a small town – don’t get me wrong.  but there’s less than a million people here, so what are the chances, really?

so we went to london bridge, parked across the street to not pay, ran over to the bridge, took a couple of pictures, ran back to the car, and got back on the road…

from there we just really drove…getting back to l.a. was a bit of a drag…traffic was bad, we were tired, and still had a few hours of driving ahead.  so we took a toll road.  holy crap – those things aren’t cheap, are they???  i mean, ok – it was a total of $5 to my brother’s, but that’s one-way, l.a. to south orange county…we tried in our exhaustion to do the math…that’s $50/week if you took it to and from each day!  wowzah. but that would, of course, explain why it was such…smooth…sailing…amazing views, hardly a car on the road…so this is how the other half live…

and that’s it!  that’s the end of our u.s. road trippin’ adventure!  we plan to do the eastern half of the u.s. one day not too far in the future…of course, it’ll have to be in summer…the cold was a little too much for my liking…but how amazing…how beautiful and wonderful everyone was to us all along the way…i guess the most poignant part of the journey was the realization that we have so much to be grateful for…so many friends and family  who welcomed us with open arms, fed us delicious meals, made our trip a little easier to bear…

if you’re all not sick of hearing it, thanks, guys.  you rock.


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