By Greg Macabenta
The best in the Filipino manifests itself when a calamity strikes. In the wake of typhoon Ondoy, Filipinos all over the world have spontaneously and selflessly responded with fund-raising campaigns and drives for food, medicine and clothing to send to the victims in the Philippines.
Individuals, families, businesses and community organizations have dipped into their pockets, scoured their cupboards and pulled out items from their closets, while others are planning concerts and other major fund-raising activities. The consulates in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Honolulu, New York and Chicago have become the collection centers for relief goods, and local chapters of PEDRO, an acronym for Philippine Emergency & Disaster Relief Organization, have worked hand in hand with consular officials to mobilize relief efforts.
Ayala Foundation USA, Gawad Kalinga and ABS-CBN Foundation, as well as a group in Chicago called Filipino United Network, headed by prominent physician and newspaper columnist, Dr. Philip Chua, have offered their facilities to receive, process, account for, and deliver funds to the Philippines, most of them going to the Philippine National Red Cross.
As national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), I sent out an email while the typhoon was raging urging the federation’s various regional, state and city chapters to mobilize the organizations and communities in their respective jurisdictions. Almost immediately, responses came from all over the US reporti ng on relief drives being mounted.
We have been monitoring Filipino community associations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as all over the Philippines, and similar humanitarian campaigns have been launched.
At the 12th Filipinas Magazine Achievement Awards, held in the San Francisco Bay Area last October 1st , Wells Fargo Bank, one of the event sponsors, announced a donation of $100,000 for typhoon Ondoy victims and promptly turned over the check to the Red Cross.
This prompted me to comment, in my welcome remarks, as organizer of the event, that, as a Filipino, I was grateful to America for its announced donation of $100,000 and the use of some of its military helicopters.
After all, I said, every little assistance helps.
And then I added: “As an American citizen, however, I am embarrassed at this niggardly contribution of the United States – a contribution matched by Wells Fargo Bank.”
Laymon Jones, chairman of Inspire Hope, a non-profit based in Oakland, expressed the same sentiments at an emergency meeting called by Consul General Marciano Paynor, Jr. at the San Francisco consulate some days earlier. Jones, who is an Anglo but usually attends Filipino community meetings in barong tagalog, volunteered to head the political affairs committee of the Philippine Disaster Relief Coalition organized at the meeting. Jones’ assignment: to spearhead a massive letter writing, email transmission and phone calling barrage directed at members of the US Congress and the White House asking, as US citizens, for more substantial aid to a long-time US ally.
Whether or not President Obama’s conscience will be pricked remains to be seen. Meanwhile, no longer being seen on US TV are the remains of the fatalities claimed by Ondoy, having been preempted by reports on the earthquake in Indonesia and the tsunami in Samoa. Only GMA Pinoy TV and ABS-CBN’s TFC and ANC are left to report on the devastation.
Indeed, it is ironic that so much spontaneous heroism, selflessness and love of the Philippines and of fellow Filipinos are being displayed with very little urging.
And yet, the Philippines and the Filipino people have been suffering a scourge for decades to which those in the Philippines and Filipinos overseas have not responded as heroically or with as much concern.
It is a scourge that has caused a devastation worse than that inflicted by Ondoy and all the natural calamities that have visited our hapless homeland.
It is the scourge of politics.
The scourge of immoral, opportunistic, self-serving politics and politicians. The raw use of power to bend the law. Stifle dissent. Raid the national treasury. Bankrupt the economy. Starve the population.
Deprive them of basic services, including those pertaining to health and education. Corrupt the values of the youth. Rip families apart, as parents seek employment in other lands. Auction the nation’s patrimony to moneyed foreign interests. Destroy the environment. And exacerbate the cancer about which Jose Rizal had written and for which he died over a century ago.
The devastation caused by typhoon Ondoy is only one result of that scourge. Yes, you can say it was an Act of God. But it was also an act of uncaring citizens who have made garbage dumps of waterways, elected officials who have robbed their cities, provinces and the nation of public works funds, idiotic civil servants who act without thinking because they fear no reprisal having been earned their posts through influence rather than merit (they released the waters from the dams that caused the sudden rising of the flood waters). And a national policy ignorant of the impact of the abuse of the environment.
By Greg Macabenta