Amid disaster, overseas Filipinos reassess issues of trust
NEW YORK—If there is one thing Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”) has taught Filipino Americans, it is relearning the meaning and essence of trust. Trusting where to send help and who to send it to.
Filipino Americans normally rush to help their compatriots when disaster strikes, and it seems to happen a lot of times. Last month, it was the earthquake in Bohol which flattened centuries-old churches and killed at least 200 people. In 2009 there was Typhoon “Ondoy” which claimed about 750 lives. There were many others, and in all those dreadful times, Fil-Ams were generous with their pockets, if not their time organizing fundraisers across the Tri-State and collecting old blankets and clothes.
But traumatic and often bitter experience from past disasters taught them that there are some Filipinos who would grab money and clothes from donations and run off with them.
Recently, allegations of corruption that approach wholesale plunder involving leaders of Congress are now being investigated. The amount of money fueling this gangster-like network of senators and congressmen is believed to be at least 10 billion pesos. The alleged ringleader, the well-connected Janet Lim-Napoles, is currently in jail and fearing for her life. She made a personal appearance in Congress wearing a bullet-proof vest and spoke nothing during her testimony.
Angry Fil-Ams in New York, denounced the wide-scale corruption with a march outside the Philippine Consulate building. They called on the politicians to resign and Filipinos not to vote them back.
This anger hangs heavy in the minds of some Fil-Ams debating the best way to assist the Philippines which was hammered by Haiyan’s powerful winds and rains. They want to help but should they send cash or clothes? Who can they trust to receive their cash donations?
A Facebook exchange captured a stream of conflicted thoughts.
“What is the best way to help? Money through Red Cross?” asked a Fil-Am newspaper editor from Westchester.
“Send money to trusted organizations,” replied an architect from Manhattan.
“I hope they trust their family members to distribute the goods or money. I also agree about the relief foundation free from government official involvement. So far there is no news of religious organizations involved in corruption. How about them?” wondered a Manhattan resident who works for a large entertainment venue.
“Many disasters happened and the warehouse is loaded with donations from all over the world. Where did it go but in “ukay-ukay” stores. Even then some people take advantage of the calamity and even get rich from it. The best is to send them directly to someone you know who will distribute those to the ones in need,” suggested a Fil-Am who works for a foreign consulate.
“I just want to warn everyone to be careful on fake organizations that pretend to help, but the donations actually don’t go to the supposedly recipients or typhoon victims. This is common that some evil people callously exploit the exploited for their personal gain. Though not all organizations are the same but we should be aware,” warned an artist.
The skepticism may be palpable but has not stopped others from moving into a direction where they can be of help. Comedians Air Tabigue and Rich Kiamco and the Broadway Barkada headlined a fundraiser at the Philippine Consulate on Nov. 22. Kevin Nadal of the Filipino American National Historical Society emceed.
“I just felt I needed to do something,” said Air. “I would have made myself available on any day.”
Rich said he was thrilled to be able to contribute my talents and “help in whatever way I can.”
Both funny men said comedy helps in the healing process, a way to connect with the community and “boost people’s spirit during the hard times.”
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