Smith: Dr. Weil saw Filipinos rising up

  • Santa Rosa Kaiser Emergency room Dr. Joshua Weil leaves on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013 for the Philippines to help with relief efforts. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Joshua Weil, the Kaiser Santa Rosa doc who flies off to serve at natural disasters, is home from the Philippines with a thousand mental images and potent impressions.

Two dominate. One recalls the dauntingly vast and deadly impact of the wall of water driven by the Nov. 8 typhoon.

"We heard people say they didn't understand when the government said there would be a 'tidal surge,'" Weil said. He gazed in pained awe at areas near coastal Tacloban, where a largely unexpected swell about 20 feet high swept away virtually everything and everybody in its path.

Weil, who served for two weeks with the team of Kaiser Permanente volunteers he directed, found the devastation to be even more widespread than that he witnessed in Haiti shortly after the earthquake of January 2010.

He helped to treat more than 3,000 Filipinos. At this point, more than a month after Typhoon Haiyan, he and the other volunteers saw mostly people injured while clearing debris or rebuilding, and people for whom medical care is a luxury and who sought to be examined and perhaps given some vitamins or Tylenol.

"Everybody was appreciative," Weil said.

His second greatest impression: the resilience of the stricken Filipinos. Though the challenges of reconstruction are huge, he found people hard at work rebuilding their simple homes and lives.

He often read and heard the exhortations "Bangon!" — Rise Up — and "Tindog!" — Stand Up.

"That's kind of what the people were doing. They were rallying. They were determined to carry on."

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