Close to Home: Of Typhoon Haiyan and Sonoma County

  • FILE--In this Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 file photo, children run towards a U.S. military aircraft as it arrives to distribute aid to Typhoon Haiyan survivors in the destroyed town of Guiuan, Philippines on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. Though aid has started to arrive in Guiuan, in the nearby town of Marabut residents complained that aid has been far too slow to come (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)

The news about the devastating typhoon and storm surge that took more than 5,000 lives and flattened cities and towns in the central part of the Philippines has faded from the local media's attention. Anderson Cooper of CNN has left Tacloban, Leyte, and we no longer see on the evening news the heart-wrenching suffering of typhoon victims.

Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda made us more aware of the impact of climate change on island nations such as the Philippines. Yeb Sano, the Philippine delegate to the recently concluded climate change talks in Warsaw, Poland, made an emotional appeal to address climate injustice; he went on a hunger fast during the climate talks and encouraged solidarity movements globally.

Filipinos have a core value called "Kapwa" (the self is in the other) that is grounded in a deep sense of kinship. This sense of "Kapwa" has united the many generations of Filipino Americans in Sonoma County in their desire to raise awareness of the long-term need for funding the recovery efforts in the homeland.

Many Filipino Americans in Sonoma County have relatives and friends who lost their homes and livelihoods to Haiyan. Their efforts to raise money and send relief goods to international relief organizations and to their families in the Philippines have been ongoing. Filipino Americans such as Trisha Hunt of Medtronics and Menchie Barker of Sonoma Cutrer have created awareness and concern in their places of work and encouraged donations in cash and in kind.

Local Filipino leaders met with the regional director of the Red Cross to understand the work of international relief agencies.

Indeed, we are grateful that many local organizations and businesses have come forward to support the Filipino community's efforts to help the homeland. Johnny Garlic's restaurant in Windsor hosted a "dine and donate event," and Pasta King Art Ibleto, with the Japanese American Citizens' League, offered to host a future fundraiser for typhoon victims.

At Manor Elementary School in Fairfax, the students, teachers and parents held a bake sale and raised more than $600 to donate to indigenous communities on the island of Panay. Indigenous communities are located in rural areas where they have been cut off from relief distribution centers and are often rendered invisible and out of reach of international relief agencies.

We are thankful to Sonoma County for these expressions of Kapwa solidarity as we all face the consequences of global climate change.

Today, it's the Philippines, tomorrow it can be a city in the U.S. damaged by a tornado or hurricane. In this planet we all call home, we are one another's kin or Kapwa.

We can help one another.

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