Sunset at Dimakya Island, Palawan, Philippines

Sunset at Dimakya Island, Palawan, Philippines

My husband and I went to the Philippines in 2011. Two of our close friends, American and Filipino, were getting married on a remote island in the province of Palawan. We’d never heard of Palawan, nor did we know exactly where the Philippines were. What we did know was that such a special invitation to such a distant place was not something we were going to pass up.

On the boat to Dimakya

On the boat to Dimakya

We made the long journey across the Pacific (we lived in the US at the time) and stopped in Manila for the night. Among some fantastic Jeepneys and the chaos of the airport we found our hotel and stayed for the night. In the morning we flew to Coron on Busuanga Island in Palawan Province. The timing of our arrival on Busuanga just happened to coincide with the arrival of the Filipino family of the bride. We received such a warm welcome from them — family members we’d never met who treated us just like we were family. We all piled in a van and drove to the coast of Busuanga, talking and laughing, where we boarded a boat for the final leg of our journey to teeny, tiny Dimakya Island (you can see an aerial photo here).

Dimakya Island, Palawan, Philippines

Dimakya Island, Palawan, Philippines

Over the next few days we got to know everyone. The wedding party and guests had nearly filled the place — the only “resort” on the island — so everyone was related through friendship or family ties. We hung out together throughout the days, enjoyed meals together, explored the tiny island (you could walk from one side to the other) and savored our first impressions of the Philippines — lovely people, smiles, luminous blue-green water, sugary sand, succulent mangoes, saturated sunsets and the rare feeling of being a million miles away from anywhere. We were already making plans to go back someday.

philippines3The wedding was magical — a late afternoon ceremony at the edge of the island with a stunning view of the sunset. Afterwards, the party continued on a lantern-lit beach where we had dinner with our toes in the sand and celebrated the union of the happy couple. A perfect ending to a perfect trip to the Philippines.

***

Busuanga and Dimakya were directly in the path of typhoon Haiyan. Two people are dead, 21 people are missing, and the airport at Busuanga where we arrived and departed on our trip remains closed. I think about the people there — especially the people living on Dimakya Island — and wonder how they fared against the wrath of Haiyan. So remote, so alone, with so little protection. Do they have water? Food? A roof over their heads? Do they still have boats so they can access the mainland? Has anyone even gotten to the people on Dimakya island to assess the damage and account for their needs?

As I sit here and type from the comfort of my home, the reality and struggle of the central Philippines goes on for another day. I, and most of the rest of the world, sit on the outside looking in. There is some comfort in seeing numerous countries and military forces mobilizing to help. But I ask myself, what’s the best way for me to help the communities we visited in a direct, meaningful way? Giving money is one answer, but I think we need more answers when a disaster of this magnitude strikes. What happens to the widows who have lost the primary wage earners in their families? What happens to the children who have lost their parents? What happens to the fishermen who have lost their boats and their way to earn a living? What happens to the people who have just plain lost everything, including hope? How do we help these people, not just for this week or this month but for the long term?

I don’t know the answers but I do know I’ll return to the Philippines — now with the pledge of personally making a difference in the life of at least one person affected by Haiyan. I don’t yet know exactly how I will help or who the person I help will be, but I will help someone — one human to another. I live close enough in proximity (Singapore) to make it happen. The journey will reveal itself in time and perhaps it may even involve you, dear readers. Can we buy a boat for a fisherman or rebuild a home for a family? Let’s think about it together and please feel free to reply with your suggestions.

Out of disaster comes opportunity for the rest of us who weren’t affected. We can empathize, we can choose to act, we can pay it forward — because in this changing world, you never know when the person who needs help is going to be you.

18 comments

  1. Well said. The questions you pose are universal, but for many Filipinos, they are all too real, too palpable. Even with a “regular” typhoon, I remember the power of the winds and the deluge of water that arrived. This most recent storm is beyond words and photographs.Hopefully many can contribute resources not just in money, but in talents, compassion, cooperation and empathy.

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  2. Count me in! When your plan is realized, and you find that person or family or village that you will help, let me know (your Mom has my email and phone number). I can’t think of a better way to give back directly to someone.
    A wonderful post, K.

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  3. What a lovely post and a wonderful idea to help a person directly. count me in too! So often I think about helping but always wonder what really happens to the money. This time we can be sure it will go to the right place.

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  4. Awesome! I totally agree with you — you just never know where the money goes. So let’s take that issue out of the equation and see what happens. Thanks so much for offering your support! I’ll keep you posted.

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  5. When you’ve been in such a privileged position, you’re bound to feel it more. I sent money through an agency this morning having received an invitation to contribute personally from another blogger. I got quite cross because I couldn’t make the links work, so went with a charity, but you’re so right. The Admin costs alone must be frightening, but that’s no excuse to do nothing. Thanks for taking the initiative.

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  6. What better way to leverage a blog following than in the pursuit of help for the Philippines – I would like to lend my help, first by re-blogging and then in whatever direction the effort toward helping the people requires. I much prefer this route – the direct route – to any mega-charity where my help becomes ineffective due to time delays or where I have no confidence that my contribution of $$ would ever really be properly allocated. I want to help quickly and efficiently.
    Count me in – I want to help.

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  7. Reblogged this on the creative epiphany and commented:
    I am re-blogging this post because I can think of no better way to utilize a blog than to be of help in a situation like the disaster in the Philippines – please consider joining this group of people who are wanting to help – I know the author of this blog quite well and can assure you that your help will be properly used.

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  8. Thanks Kelly! Heard from Club Paradise today that all their guests and staff were safe and doing fine. Repairs and cleanup have already commenced and they hope to get the island up and serving guests again by early December. I will share this post to family and friends in the Philippines so they can help with this initiative and make a difference. Please keep me and Mike posted of your plans. Count us in. Love and hugs -gracie

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    1. Awesome! Thanks Gracie! Great to hear Club Paradise is in relatively okay condition. Thanks for sharing this post with family and friends. It’s GREAT to have a local connection. If your family or friends know of any specific needs of people who have been affected, please let me know. Friends, relatives and blog followers have all offered their support. Now we just need to find our path! I’ll keep you posted. Love and hugs back to you and Mike! xo, K.

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  9. Have been meaning to write in response to this post! I too, am moved to help in any way we can. Such things are beyond the realm of imagination. One can’t even begin to know where to begin. Please do keep us posted. Our hearts go out. Thank you for this. Being away, was out of the loop. Let me know how things are progressing and if re-posting would be helpful?

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