Saturday, October 3, 2009

Feed the Need

The aftermath of typhoon Ondoy led to various relief operations by both government and private sectors. The severity of the damage caused by the heavy rainfall last weekend still prevails today even with typhoon Pepeng (Parma) and typhoon Quedan (Melor) already within Philippine territory.

Calls for volunteers to help repack relief goods like canned food, instant noodles, rice, blankets, clothes, medicines, and bottled water were abundant to which many people wholeheartedly acted upon.

Yesterday, I met with friends from UST at TriNoMa between 10:30-11:00 am to help out in distributing relief goods to victims of typhoon Ondoy in the area of Pasig.

I was still undecided whether or not to join come the day itself. By nine o'clock in the morning, I began preparing for the relief operations albeit I knew it subconsciously because half of me wanted so badly to help out and half of me wanted to stay home as advised by my dad since typhoon Pepeng was reported to be hitting land by late Friday.

At fifteen minutes to ten o'clock, I left our condo unit all geared up for the mission ahead while the voice of the news reporter and other sounds from the television lingered in my ears. I rode a taxi going to Magallanes station of the MRT to make up for lost time but unfortunately, I was still met by heavy traffic along Chino Roces Avenue (Pasong Tamo Extension). I wasn't usually late for appointments. In fact, I don't like being late. However, the tug-o-war within me was simply taking a toll on my decision-making but, apparently, an inner calling prevailed.

There wasn't a single drop of regret when I have forsaken the safety of home to the risk of possibly endangering my life under such circumstances. It was a day I'll never forget.

The experience of riding inside a cargo truck on top of hundreds of relief goods on our way to Pasig was truly a concrete way of "putting oneself in other people's shoes" or as Vanessa Williams' song Colors of the Wind goes, "If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew, you never knew."

As the saying goes, 'Mahirap maging mahirap' (It is difficult to be poor). And how hard it must be! To see those people - young and old, men and women alike - struggling, no, begging for food will break one's heart to a million little pieces. They did not chose to be poor. Most of them were born poor... but a lot of times I wonder why majority of them chose to remain poor.

You might be thinking, "Surely you're not asking why. You know already know the answer/s to that question." Perhaps. But do I really? I can't say that I know what it's like to live in poverty because I haven't been there. On the other hand, I can say I do know why and refer to all the studies and resources supporting my claims. Technically speaking, there's a scientific/economic explanation for such queries. But then moments after, Ubuntu in African spirituality suddenly came to mind: "I am because of who we all are."

The truth is - the majority poor of our country is both part and product of the society we all belong to. They are who they are because of who I am, who the rest of us are.

Unsurprisingly, the outreach that day to 'feed the need' went both ways: the flood victims' physical needs were met while the volunteers' psychological/philosophical hunger was fed. The encounter with those people who were affected by the heavy floods gave me fraction of understanding, a glimpse into the dynamics of their lives, that I hope will push me more to be a better part of the whole.

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