If you’re not from the Philippines, perhaps you might have read, heard or seen in the news how our country was devastated by disasters (both natural and man-made) lately. Last September, an armed conflict erupted in Zamboanga City, between government troops and factions of the Moro National Liberation Front–a group seeking for Mindanao’s independence from the rest of the country. Then in October, Bohol, an island province in Central Visayas was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. And then last November 8, Super Typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan) hit many parts of the Visayas.
So many people lost their lives, homes and livelihoods in these disasters and how they will be able to rise up from these odds still puzzles me, and I’m sure many Filipinos too. But as they say, we Filipinos are resilient (and we are!) and somehow we are able to find ways to survive, and times like these, our spirit of bayanihan (loose translation: sense of community; spirit of unity and cooperation) prevails.
My gradeschool bestfriend, Crystal whose father hails from the town of Loon–a small town in Bohol that has been greatly affected by the earthquake–thought of giving away a small sum of money for 67 families in her father’s village for Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Dinner). It was suppose to be her own little project but a friend of hers pitched in as his Christmas gift to her. And so she thought of inviting her other friends to join. Here’s an excerpt of her Facebook message to us:
My Tatay’s* family are all well and alive but they lost some neighbors. Their barangay is still without electricity and due to trauma (and houses still can’t be fixed properly because it’s hard to find people up to the task and aftershocks still strikes every now and then) they still live in tents.
Just like in any province their barangay** is close-knit, Tay saw for himself when he visited just days after the quake how everyone’s working together and helping in whatever little way they can, so this Christmas as a personal project I have decided to give noche buena money to each of the 67 families in the barangay. I was supposed to do this on my own however one of my best friends based in New York has already sent money to add to what I have as his Christmas gift to me. (Another friend also added to my donation for the re-building of the churches). I’m expecting no gifts this year so this is not in lieu of what you’re supposed to give to me. Last year for most of you Ate Alma, our helper who lost family members when Typhoon Pablo*** struck their place, was recipient of your generosity and so I thought that maybe this year you would like to join me once again in spreading kindness and cheer to people who need it the most.
I want to be a part of Tal’s project but I am cash-strapped lately but I’ve got lots of time in my hands so I volunteered instead to make the envelopes where she can put the money in. Another friend of hers who’s into calligraphy volunteered to make the notes that would go in with the money. Crystal’s father will be going to Loon this week to personally distribute the cash gift.
We all have been blessed this year and I’m sure we all have something to share no matter how big or small. Wherever you might be right now, please say a little prayer for these people who were affected by these disasters as well as all the others out there who needs help. This will definitely go a long way.
Also, if you want to donate to relief efforts in the Philippines, CBS, Huffington Post, CNN and Time provided a list of organizations you can give to. You might also want to volunteer in your local charities over your holiday break to spread some Christmas cheer.
Let’s always be grateful and share. Merry Christmas everyone!
* Tatay – Filipino term for “father”
**Barangay – a village
*** Typhoon Pablo (International Name: Bopha), also a Category 5 typhoon hit 3 provinces (Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and parts of Agusan del Sur) in Southern Mindanao last year