WRITERS PEN | REPORTINGS & ESSAYS

Help in the eye of the storm

Teresa Gumina

The Filipino-Australian community in Perth lends a helping hand to typhoon victims in the Philippines. An essay on the compassionate nature of Filipinos by TERESA GUMINA.

The many families and children of the small village go about their everyday activities. Running errands, socialising with their friends and neighbours, a contagious carefree attitude engulfs the air as they continue on with their day. The weather appears to be fine and they are gently caressed by a calm breeze swirling throughout the skies.

 

Typhoon
Photo credit: http://www.chinapost.com

Pacific typhoons, hurricanes or cyclonic thunderstorms – however they are referred to, they inflict damage, destruction and utter chaos on masses of innocent people. As idyllic as the location of the Philippines is for tropical getaways, it is also unfortunately in the prime location for the multitude of typhoons that occur each year.

The typhoon season is never-ending, one that occurs throughout the year, with the majority of typhoons occurring between May and November. The typhoon season is one that instils fear, dread and horror among the Filipino citizens.

The winds gradually increase speed and slowly it becomes apparent that something is not right. The sunlight disappears behind an abundance of dark grey clouds, and this greyness not only applies to the weather but to the overall moods of the innocent people as a hollow fear washes over them and the realisation that something horrendous is imminent.

With the gap between the rich and the impoverished becoming increasingly defined, it is those who do not have the means to support themselves that suffer the most. They lose everything that they own, must fend for themselves and their families and do not have possessions, financial support or forms of insurance to rely on. It is the kindness of strangers that provides the support and foundations of strength with which they can use to rebuild their lives.

Small communities embody values that are seldom seen within today’s society. We are often dominated by traits including instant gratification, impatience and selfishness, and as a result we witness the demise of the act of generosity. Occasionally there are those individuals who take incentive, through self-motivation that take the time to help others in need and practice selflessness. Two small communities from countries far apart, join and support one another in a time of need.

 

Typhoon
Photo credit: www.jakartapost.com AP/Bullit Marquez

Nenith Remoto was born in Sorsogon City in the Bicol region and migrated to Perth with her husband Jose to raise her two young children and create a life for themselves as Australians. She runs a small-business, an independent oriental store that stocks products from the Philippines for fellow Filipino-Australians – so they are able to satisfy their nostalgic cravings for flavours from the homeland.

When she first heard of the devastation occurring in the Philippines due to the typhoons, she wasted no time in setting up support for them. Having family who had personally been affected by the typhoons also contributed to how quickly she set up support. “My husband’s family was affected, and my two sisters – the water there reached the roof, it ruined their appliances, their two cars and their motorbike,” she explains. “It was the first thing to do, to help them financially just because we could. There were really a lot more other people who were less fortunate; the neighbourhood was just in an unlucky location.”

Within her small store, she set up a small charity drive asking for donations from her customers of clothing, tinned food and basic hygiene items, as well as taking in cash donations to provide relief for the victims of the devastating Philippine Typhoons.

“At first I wanted to just set up something for my circle of friends,” she explains. “I just did this so we could get together and do something, so we had a way to send a big box over to the people of the Philippines.”

Soon enough, not only were her friends and acquaintances donating, but customers of her small store were bringing in bags full of their own clothing; not only Filipino-Australians but people from all walks of life, contributing and donating with no intentions for profit, motive or gain.

After Nenith received a substantial amount of donations to send over to the Philippines, she sent it to one of the main TV networks of the Philippines: ABS-CBN, received via satellite in Australia – who were at the time running a charity and relief campaign, specifically asking for donations to send directly to the typhoon victims; “I chose to use an NGO so I knew that the money would go directly to those in need, especially with things like cash donations, you don’t know who to trust or where that money will end up.”

The compassion of Filipino-Australians does not stop within this one facet of the community. Global Macson, one of the leading air and seafreight cargo companies in Perth provides door-to-door freight delivery service to the Philippines. The company also stepped in and became actively involved when the typhoons in the Philippines occurred.

Run by Philippine-born Australian owner, Arnel Mendoza began his own relief efforts within his company by providing free freight service to Filipinos in Perth who needed to help relatives affected by the typhoon in the Philippines.

It resulted in many members of the Filipino-Australian community in Perth taking this opportunity to extend help by sending large crates of relief items to those who were in need and were adversely affected by the typhoons. Arnel also received cash donations from his customers; some even requesting that this money be used to buy items such as bags of rice here in bulk to also send to the typhoon victims. He also sent these relief items and cash donations to not only the ABS-CBN Network, but to the number one network in the Philippines GMA-7, as there were people working at this network who were specifically delegated roles to take in charity items from all over the world.

When asked if both the Philippine and Australian Governments have done a satisfactory job providing assistance, Nenith says she cannot say a bad word about them, especially the Australian Government, “They have been so generous, they have donated the most out of any countries that I know of. The Philippine Government has also been very good, but they can only do so much.”

She believes that the Philippine political system needs a complete overhaul, “There is a long story involved with the history of the Philippine Government, they need to know that it’s not about their reputation or the way the media represents them, it’s from within. If they’re good you see it in their character, and that’s how you know they are a good government.”

Both these Filipino-Australians are extremely modest when their generosity is given recognition. Arnel and Nenith maintain that there is nothing special about it, they understand the circumstances of those who live in the Philippines, and empathise with those that experience the calamity of the typhoons. “It’s already hard enough to live day to day, without these typhoons, and I help because I have the capability to help, because I understand what they are going through.”

These are two ordinary people, who have created fulfilling lifestyles that they are both extremely thankful for. They have come from modest beginnings, and only wish to share the goodness that they have received to those who are truly in need. It is these traits that unite communities and would have far-reaching implications if these sincere acts of generosity became the norm within society. It is this small act of compassion that makes a world of difference.

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