Editorial & Opinion

Indomitable spirit of the Filipino

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You often hear the saying, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” but seldom do you find a friend when you needed him most. This was put to a test when Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as “Yolanda”) struck Central Visayas creating a 25-foot tidal wave.

In one clean swoop, Yolanda obliterated the coastal areas where it made landfall on Friday, November 8. More than 11 million people were displaced or rendered homeless. Tacloban City, the capital of the province of Leyte was hit the hardest.

Indeed, Yolanda had come to be known as the strongest typhoon in recorded history. It was 3.5 times worse than Hurricane Katrina, which had devastated New Orleans in August 2005 and claimed the lives of more than 1,800 Americans. By comparison, Philippine government figures show that Yolanda left in her wake 3,633 killed, 12,847 injured, and 1,179 missing… and counting.

Before Yolanda came, the nearby island of Bohol was hit by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake last October 15. The killer quake destroyed many Spanish-era churches and caused massive landslides on the famed Chocolate Hills. The casualty included 222 killed, 976 injured, and eight missing. The quake damaged 73,000 structures, of which more than 14, 000 were totally destroyed. It was the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines since 1990. According to government records, the energy the earthquake released was equivalent to 32 Hiroshima bombs. And while more than 40,000 Boholanos were trying to put their lives back to normal, Yolanda struck.


Help from the US

Fortunately, it didn’t take too long for the international community to respond to the crisis. US President Barack Obama immediately ordered a carrier strike force (CSF) that was visiting Hong Kong to immediately deploy to the disaster area. The CSF is led by the nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier and accompanied by the cruisers U.S.S. Antietam and U.S.S. Cowpens, the destroyers U.S.S. Lassen, U.S.S. McCampbell and U.S.S. Mustin, and the supply ship U.S.N.S. Charles Drew. The USS George Washington carries 5,000 crew and more than 80 aircraft, including 21 helicopters. She has the ability to produce 400,000 gallons of fresh water daily.

It is interesting to note that the USS George Washington is moored near the shores where General Douglas MacArthur landed with a force of 174,000 military personnel on October 20, 1944; thus, fulfilling his promise, “I shall return,” that he made to the Filipino people.

Philippine Star columnist, Babe Romualdez, who hails from Leyte and a cousin of Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, has this to say in his column: “The arrival of USS George Washington in Leyte Gulf is reminiscent of the time in our history when Filipinos rejoiced at the arrival of General MacArthur on the shores of Palo, Leyte in October 1944 heralding our country’s liberation from Japanese occupation — the same sentiment that survivors and the public now feel at witnessing the rapid deployment of the Nimitz class super carrier and its strike wing, with cargo jets, choppers and American troops dispatched on the ground to help bring some semblance of order in the chaos and confusion that was hampering relief efforts several days after the typhoon.”

At press time, more than 250 Marines were already on the ground, supported by five C-130 cargo planes and four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Another 900 marines on board two US Navy amphibious ships — the Japan-based USS Germantown and USS Ashland – were on their way. The marines had already delivered more than 50 tons of water, food and medicine. Emergency shelters were coming from Dubai. In addition, the U.S. pledged $20 million in immediate aid.


Help from the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious was being deployed to the Philippines to provide humanitarian assistance. The HMS Illustrious has a crew of 900 and seven helicopters on board. The helicopters would be used to assist with the distribution of food and water to survivors. She also has the ability to produce drinkable water. She is due to arrive in Leyte on November 24. The UK also pledged over £20 million, which makes her one of the most generous donors to the ravaged country.

Australia, others pitched in

Another big donor is Australia who pledged another $20 million in addition to the $10 million she had contributed. Prime Minister Tony Abbot said Australia would also deploy additional military aircraft to provide logistical support. Abbott issued the following statement: “As a good friend and neighbor, Australia stands beside the Philippines as it deals with this humanitarian disaster. The additional funds will be used to address serious nutrition, child health and protection needs, purchase emergency foods and provide logistic support and non-food items.”

So far, two Australian military aircraft had arrived in the Philippines carrying Australian doctors, nurses, paramedics and defense force logistical staff. In addition, the Australian Defence Forces is preparing to provide water-purification systems and power generators to Tacloban. The HMAS Tobruk was also made available to support the relief effort if the Philippines requested it.

Other countries and agencies who pledged to donate or provide humanitarian aid were: United Nations ($25 million), U.N. World Food Program ($2 million), Japan ($10 million), Canada ($5 million), HSBC Group ($1 million), China ($1.6 million), Taiwan ($200,000), Israel, Indonesia, Spain, Vatican, UNICEF, Red Cross, World Vision, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Mercy Corps, Americares, International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders, Lutheran World Relief, Catholic Relief Services, American Jewish World Service, and many more.


Clarion call

The United Nations estimates that Typhoon Yolanda has displaced more than 11 million people. The world body also calls for help from the international community to raise $300 million for the relief effort.

Among those who heeded the clarion call were the more than 10 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in more than 120 countries. Once again, the Filipinos stood up to the daunting challenge of surviving from a natural calamity that was far too big than what Man could overcome. But the Filipinos’ resilience was far too strong than what Nature could conquer. Indeed, Yolanda brought out the indomitable – and bayanihan — spirit of the Filipino.

At the end of the day, the Filipino people owe the United States a Special Thank You, who over the years, come hell or high water, had always stood beside the Philippines. Indeed, the Filipino people find in Uncle Sam a true friend… and a loyal and dependable ally in times of crisis.

The Filipino Express

2711 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
Jersey City, NJ 07306 USA.

Phone: 201 434-1114
Fax: 201 434-0880

E-mail: Filexpress@aol.com

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