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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Typhoon Ondoy and the Filipino Bayanihan Spirit

It has been a difficult past few days in Metro Manila and the surrounding areas.  Last September 26, Typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) brought record rainfall of almost 18 inches in 24 hours (the previous record was 13.2 inches in June 1967).  This caused severe flooding in so many areas, resulting in  lives lost and thousands of people homeless.  Everyone here has a story to tell about someone they know who has been affected.

Rich and poor were not spared.  One of my friends has a brand new house in a gated subdivision.  But there is a river nearby.  The flood in that area reached up to the ceiling of the first floor.  And all their brand new furniture, curtains, and everything else on the ground floor was left with a thick coat of mud.   The flood rose so quickly, and for many there wasn't even time to bring their things upstairs or transfer cars to higher ground. Others we know lost all their belongings as the flood just washed them all away.  So many people who lived along the river banks lost not only their belongings but their homes as well.  And all along the roads, expensive cars and SUVs were submerged in the flood, sometimes ending up one on top of the other when the floods subsided.  And yet, those who lost their material possessions have still been able to be thankful that they and their families have survived the typhoon.  So many others lost their lives.

Difficult times can bring out the best in people and the Filipinos' Bayanihan spirit has been evident during this time.  The origin of the term "Bayanihan" can be traced to the tradition which used to be very common in the rural areas.  When a family was going to move to a new place, their neighbors would volunteer to help them.  They would use a strong bamboo frame to lift the house stilts from the ground and men positioned at the poles would carry the whole house to the new location (the house was made of bamboo and nipa).  The word "bayani" is Filipino for "hero".

And so, just as everyone has a story to tell about someone who has been affected, it is heartwarming to see how so many have also done something to help.  The Bayanihan spirit, where everyone lends a helping hand to those in need, is still very much alive in the Filipino.  We have seen how so many have helped clean up muddy homes, clear the streets of mud and debris, pack relief goods, and donate money, food, blankets, clothes and other goods.  So many companies and individuals have done and are continuing to do their part to help out. There are drop off points for donations all over and people have been volunteering to pack and distribute goods. There are medical missions for those affected by the typhoon. Even students have volunteered to help in relief efforts.  There are even ways for people to donate to Manila from abroad.

All over the world, not just in times like these, there are so many people in need.  Let each one of us do whatever we can, wherever we are with whatever we have. Let each one of us, Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike have the "Bayanihan" spirit and be a "Bayani" to those in need.

1 blog hugs:

Great-Granny Grandma said...

That is such a tragedy, and such a reminder of how we should never take anything for granted. How importanty it is to make the most of each day and tell our loved ones we love them, since nobody knows what even the next moment can bring.

On the other hand, it is heartwarming (as you write) to see how people have bonded together and are helping each other out.

Was your home affected?

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