Kindness never fails to overwhelm me. Despite being miles away from the PH, I am still surrounded by a lot of people who, in their own ways, have shown concern re the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan/ Yolanda. When the story hit the headlines, I received e-mails, got phone calls and have been cornered in corridors by people I barely knew - all bearing urgent messages of concern and sympathy often introducing themselves with a simple three-word question: How are you?
"I am good. but people back home are not." is my usual response. This reply is obviously laced with guilt, I know. Here I am in Tokyo, credit card-less, a bit broke from moving out, and have been lacking the support system of at least having a Pinoy friend to have conversations with in a language I missed speaking not just in my head. I feel very disconnected to my homeland not because I am away but for the reason that I know I would be doing more to help if I wasn't in this "newbie in the diaspora" state.
Imagine the joy and warmth I felt in my heart when a classmate from Ghana changed his cover photo to the Philippine flag and messaged me to ask what he can do to help. Insane ideas went into my head but he thought it was best to start getting monetary pledges from people for this cause. And so, armed with a sheet of paper and a Ziploc eventually replaced by a tissue box, we roamed around corridors and offices asking people if they want to pledge a little of their hard-earned yen for a good cause. The response, I tell you, is beyond amazing! We have collected more than 50 thousand pesos using our pledge forms and charm (naks!). If that doesn't impress you, employees and research fellows who are Filipino (I didn't know there are a number of them here!) were also on board this drive and help made our donation drive institution-wide. We now have drop-off points for in-kind donations within campus and colleagues have been incessantly contacting me to give their pledges. I was also contacted by a Japanese student from another uni, telling me that they are planning to ship one container van of donations to Central PH and Palawan! All these took off from a piece of paper and a Ziploc I got from our lost and found bin.
This, my friends, is one of the many unobtrusive miracles that happen everyday. And I thank everybody for all the support and kindness you have shown me and Yaw in doing this initiative.
The aftermath of Haiyan/Yolanda was indeed a test of character. It tested the capacity of my fellow countrymen and women to endure suffering and pain. I've never seen people who raised their threshold for sorrow and desperation so high that experiences of death and devastation can still be recalled with humor and candor. Those hand waves and peace signs flashed by children as cameras roll to reveal massive destruction of communities, to me, reflect the triumph of life over everything else that sought to destroy it.
Apart from this, it also tested our capacity to GIVE. To feel beyond what our senses dictate and share regardless of how plenty or little we have. Personally, I forgot how amazing selflessness feels like. I have been living alone here in Tokyo for almost 3 months now and only have myself to look after. It was just until this week when I found myself carrying 3 bags of in-kind donations (given by neighbors) from Ikebukuro to Shibuya when I realized that I am still one of those crazy enough to attempt to change the world. And knowing that these efforts are not just done by a handful but are actually happening right now, as I type this, in different parts of the world using various forms - that is just unbelievable! That just keeps us going. I am certain this is want I want the global community to be like, in the long run. Constantly.
Again, I am extending my gratitude to every single soul who felt they needed to help and have actually done something to reach out to those affected by this recent disaster. There are just some heartbreaks that are easily surmountable when faced as a collective and indeed, this is one of those. Now I am thinking that maybe, we are all wired to live together, coexist and not leave anyone behind. That is probably how humanity should be defined.
Donations will be sent to the Daughters of Charity Sisters and Camilian priests based in Leyte and Samar