All posts tagged: Philippines

From My Journal: Trading the Camera for Pen and Notebook

I live in a tropical country – the Philippines – and every year during the last quarter, our 7,100 islands play hosts to thousands of birds migrating from other countries like Japan, Korea and China. The birds begin to arrive in October to escape the cold winter months. Our lakes, rivers, seas and land become temporary haven for these migratory birds. Many years ago I belonged to a small bird-watching group and we used to travel to the provinces armed with binoculars and field guides to watch the birds. Travels during the last quarter of the year were especially fulfilling because we were able to see some migratory birds as well. But these days it’s no longer necessary to travel to the provinces to see the migratory birds. They come to the suburbs as well and every October we see a few of them on empty fields or near lagoons. A flock of plumed egrets arrived in a field near our house last October. Just a small flock of about twenty birds, and they were in …

A Tribute to the Philippines’ Fallen 44

Today is a National Day of Mourning in the Philippines. The whole country pays tribute to the 44 gallant men of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force who lost their lives on January 25, 2015 in the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao. The 44 were part of the Philippine National Police’s elite corp that was entasked with the responsibility of serving arrest warrants to two terrorists:  Malaysian  Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir also known as Marwan, who is listed among America’s most wanted terrorists; and Filipino bomb maker Abdulbasit Usman. Marwan is believed to have been killed in the encounter. Update: On February 4, 2015, the The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Field Office in Los Angeles, California, officially confirmed that  preliminary DNA testing of a finger supplied by the Philippine National Police belonged to Marwan.   Marwan was considered the “Osama Bin Laden” of Asia, and was among Al-Qaeda’s top bomb makers. Thank you for your courage and loyalty to the country…you do us proud. “Is it worth it? One international terrorist, equivalent to 44 SAF troopers? …

The Pope, the Philippines and a Typhoon

But Rosanna, it’s January,” an American client told me this morning, after his therapy session. “I know,” I agreed, “I’ve lived here most of my life and a typhoon in January? It’s never happened before, as far as I can remember.” As we talked, Typhoon Mekkhala was bearing down on the  Eastern Visayan islands of Samar  and Leyte. In December last year, Super Typhoon Hagupit devastated parts of the island of Samar, and Tacloban City in Leyte was one of the places ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, when more than 7,000 people lost their lives. Earlier in the morning, braving the oncoming typhoon, Pope Francis arrived in Tacloban City,  on the third day of his visit to the Philippines. The Pope celebrated mass at the airport where more than 300,000 people – mostly survivors of Typhoon Haiyan – sat and listened to the Pontiff explain how he felt several days after the typhoon leveled most of  Eastern Visayas: “I wanted to come to be with you. It’s a bit late, I have to say, …

Praying through the Storms in Our Lives

All over our country -the Philippines- the atmosphere reverberates with prayers as millions and millions of Filipinos continue to pray over the weekend. The Philippines is the third largest Catholic country in the world, and millions of Filipinos head for the churches on Sundays. This Sunday though, some of the churches in 47 of the country’s 81 provinces are serving a different purpose, and people are praying specifically for their safety. Thousands have flocked to churches which are stable and sturdy enough to withstand the fury of Typhoon Hagupit. “The strongest storm of the year anywhere on the planet is zeroing in on the Philippines,” a CNN broadcaster announced, “and we’re talking about Super Typhoon Hagupit,” she explained. Foreign correspondents have begun arriving since a few days ago to cover the arrival, stay and departure of Hagupit, which has made its first landfall late Saturday evening. On November last year, millions of Filipinos prayed that they would be spared from the fury of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which, according to meteorologist Jeff Masters, was the strongest typhoon to ever make …

Falling

I’ve been enviously feasting on pictures of autumn featured in various blogs across the web. I love the splash of colors that autumn brings. We don’t have that kind of season here in the tropics – when leaves turn yellow or brown, they fall off and the trees go bald. Green leaves push their way through the branches just as the last dying leaves fall off. Tropical tress also have their own rhythms. We don’t have a season of falling leaves. Different species shed at different times of the year. The Talisay tree sheds twice a year: after summer and midway through the cooler months of the dry season.   Some trees shed completely and look like skeletons for a week or so, until the new leaves begin to dress up the trees again. Shedding is part of a tree’s life. It’s a dying of sorts that paves the way for new growth. People go through autumnal seasons as well, but the falling, the dying happens internally. Sometimes they manifest through the rituals in our lives. When the soul-based practices …

Writing through the Pain

“Rosanna, How are you even able to write and post? No matter how many pictures I see, I know I cannot fathom what you and your country are going through. I pray for you,” a fellow blogger, Nancy, commented after reading a blog post I wrote that was filled with pictures of the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan brought to the third biggest group of islands in the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, a super typhoon and one of the strongest typhoons ever to hit land, devastated the Visayas last November 8, 2014. I was at that time participating in NaBloPoMo as part of the Yeah Write group and even I was surprised when I was able to pull through the blogging challenge. I never missed a post. Not only that, I wrote more posts about Haiyan in another blog and in social media. I could not stop writing – it was as though the death of more than 7,000 of my countrymen and the uncertain fate of thousands of people left homeless and traumatized by Haiyan ignited a flame in me …

Journaling Through Difficult Times

Typhoon Rammasun slammed through our country last week, leaving much of the Philippines’ capital region without electricity for several days.  Power was restored in our place during the wee hours of this morning, ending six days of candlelit dinners. Rammasun was the first major storm that sliced though our country this year,  and was by far the strongest since Super Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 7,300 people last November. Rammasun’s death toll continues to rise and is now more than 80. At least two Asian dailies have called our country “disaster weary.” South China Morning Post reported, “The disaster-weary Philippines braced for a second severe storm in five days yesterday as the death toll from Typhoon Rammasun surged to 77, officials said.” Typhoon Matmo followed in the heels of Rammasun, even as many of us were still wading through the debris left by the typhoon. Fortunately, it did not make landfall. “Mother nature battering nature,” was the only way I could describe the scene that I saw through my window a week ago, as Rammasun’s winds …

Emerging from the Shadows: Lessons from the survivors of Haiyan

It is cold and dry here in our part of the Philippines – December thru February are the coldest months in this country, when the amihan or trade winds blow through the archipelago, and the cold northeast wind makes life pleasant especially during the day. But the world’s climate is truly changing, because in the two other main islands of our country, there has been rain, a typhoon and much flooding. The very same areas – central Visayas – that had been devastated by super typhoon Haiyan last November, and Mindanao, which was hit by category 5 typhoon Bopha in December of 2012 had been once again inundated, when they too, should have been enjoying the cool and dry northeast winds. Filipinos in the island of Luzon are enjoying the blessings of the trade winds, while our countrymen down south are continually challenged by nature. It is such a paradox, and a few days ago, I wondered if it was right to enjoy our blessings while others so close to home are having such a …

The Changing Seasons

The nights are much longer now and even in a tropical country like the Philippines, evenings are much, much colder. We have no snow, no winter, but the cool, dry season from November to February gives us respite from the rains and typhoons brought about by the rainy season. The cool months are the most pleasant for many Filipinos, a stark contrast to the scorching summer days, which begin soon after the cool February days come to an end. The Philippines celebrates Christmas in a grand way – and for a long time. Stores and malls begin to display and sell Yuletide items as early as September. There are plenty of glitter and snow-themed displays everywhere. Many of the displays are so colorful, whimsical… and so western!     Poinsettias One of the more popular and ubiquitous displays during Christmas are the poinsettia flowers. Christmas in the Philippines is never complete unless there are poinsettia flowers – either real or artificial. The poinsettia is indigenous to Mexico and Central America, where the climate is cooler. …

The World and Beiber Continue to Help

In the Philippines, many companies have decided to forgo their Christmas parties. The amount they would have spent for the festivities are instead going to the people in the provinces hard hit by Typhoon Haiyan last November. This is admirable indeed, and understandable because after all, the people in the Visayas are our countrymen. Aside from the additional help from these local companies, the survivors of Haiyan will also experience the joy of receiving aid from many people who work in German companies that have decided to scrap their Christmas parties and donate the money intended for the parties to the people in the Visayas. Germany’s acting head of mission Joern Rohdesaid said that various German companies operating in the Philippines have provided assistance in kind and through donations from their employees. The German companies have also used their own funds and some have tapped into the resources of their headquarters and global networks. An early Christmas gift for the people of Tacloban was a visit from Justine Beiber, who flew in from Australia. Before …

UNICEF and Rihanna, “There for the Philippines”

Last November 25, UNICEF and Rihanna  launched “There for the Philippines,” Campaign to Help Children Affected by Typhoon Haiyan. “There for the Philippines” will support the immediate and long-term relief efforts for Filipino children and the families who were displaced by Super Typhoon Haiyan. UNICEF Supporter Rihanna helped kick-off the campaign and raise awareness of UNICEF’s relief efforts in the Philippines through social media.The singer, who has held concerts in the Philippines before, also made a $100,000 donation to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Other celebrities who graced the launch were  WNBA’s Skylar Diggins, MLB star Robinson Cano and actress Vanessa Hudgens. Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF said, “We are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support shown during this crisis.” She vowed that the organization will continue to support the people of the Visayas in the Philippines: “The effects of the strongest storm to make landfall have been devastating and the rebuilding process will not happen overnight. UNICEF will be there for as long as it takes to …

Songs for the Philippines

iTunes tweeted, “The music world comes together for Typhoon #Haiyan relief on Songs for the Philippines. http://tw.itunes.com/0As.” Several top artists/groups have contributed songs to the album “Songs for the Philippines,” which is available for download on iTunes. Proceeds from the sale of the 39-track album which cost US$9.99 will be donated to the Philippine Red Cross and will fund relief efforts in the Visayas, in the Philippines, where more than 5,000 people were killed and 670,000 people were displaced by Typhoon Haiyan. The anthology includes songs by top international artists including Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Adele, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and Madonna. Songs by famous bands like U2, The Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Fray, Linkin Park, Imagine Dragons, and Kings of Leon are also included in the album. List of Songs: 1. The Beatles – “Across The Universe” (UMG) 2. Bob Dylan – “Shelter From The Storm” (SME) 3. Michael Buble – “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” (WMG 4. U2 – “In A Little While” …

Witness to Courage

As we begin another week, I would like to pause and take this opportunity to pay tribute to our beleaguered countrymen whose lives had been gravely affected by the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the country last November 8. CNN has put together a special documentary entitled, “CNN SPECIAL: WITNESS TO COURAGE.” The half hour documentary has been aired and replayed in Asia several times.  In the documentary, CNN correspondents who covered the typhoon and the aftermath of Haiyan relate their experiences, share their insights and pay tribute to the Filipinos’ courage and sense of humor, which they found extraordinary. Recently, National Geographic published Ker Than’s article entitled, “Photojournalist Captures Resiliency in the Philippines After Typhoon Haiyan: David Guttenfelder documents hope and rebuilding after devastation.” Upon arriving in Tacloban, Guttenfelder reported, “It’s just a complete wasteland. It looks like a nuclear bomb went off and flattened the place. Nobody has power. There were bodies everywhere when I got here—on the road from the airport into town, just body after body.” Kher writes: Another major …

Finding Strength After the Storm -Anderson Cooper

CNN’s Anderson Cooper joined the numerous journalists from all over the world to cover the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan’s devastating spin through the Visayas group of islands in the Philippines last November 8.  We cried for our countrymen who died, and for those who survived but lost family members and everything they owned. This tribute from Anderson Cooper touched the hearts of many Filipinos. Maraming salamat din (thank you too), Mr. Cooper, for recognizing the strength, faith and courage of our suffering countrymen. Foreign broadcasters have repeatedly referred to the Philippines as a poor country. Yet we, the Filipinos, have always been proud of our rich heritage, of the indomitable Filipino spirit. It is our true wealth, something that no one or no catastrophe can take away from us. We can never repay the generosity of people and governments from all over the world.  We hope that the manifestations of courage and strength – the Filipino spirit –  will in some way help pay back the gestures of compassion shown to us. If only for a …

Authors for the Philippines

Originally posted on CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD:
Keris Stainton, friend and money-raiser-extraordinaire, has done it again. In response to the devastation Typhoon Haiyan has left in its wake, Keris has organized Authors for the Philippines, an online auction that hopes to raise money for the British Red Cross’ Typhoon Appeal. The idea is simple, but inspired. Keris has asked authors, agents, editors and all associated with the book world to donate items. These range from signed ARCs of books that aren’t out yet, to manuscript critiques, to signed special editions, to your name in a book, to a night down the pub with authors Andy Stanton and Anthony McGowan (for which bidding has become complex and hilarious, taking place in ‘bidding cartels’). Simply navigate to the post that describes the item you want to bid on, leave your bid in the form of a blog comment and then wait until the auction closes on Wednesday 20th November to see if you’ve won. Winners will be asked to donate the equivalent of their winning bid to the…

Thank You World: From the people of the Philippines

Last November 8, one of the most powerful typhoons to hit the Philippine islands wrecked havoc on the Visayas island group. Days prior to the arrival of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the local governments of the provinces expected to be hit by the typhoon evacuated 125,000 people. Contingency plans and emergency protocols were formulated to deal with the aftermath of the typhoon. But after typhoon Haiyan left, all the preparations and contingency plans were rendered useless. The local government officials and their families, who thought they were safe in their houses were swept away by the storm surge and had to fight for their lives as did thousands of others. Many evacuation centers crumbled and others were inundated with seawater, and many evacuees drowned.  The death toll has not yet been determined, but is expected to reach several thousand and corpses are everywhere, waiting to buried in a mass grave. Relief efforts are challenged by the amount of debris on the roads, and the sheer number of survivors who are in need of basic necessities. The …

Thriving in the Most Unlikely Places

Without any effort from humans, this plant sprouted from a crack between our concrete fence and the floor near our garage.  I have always marveled at how plants can grow in the most unlikely places.  And they don’t just grow – they bloom and multiply. It is past midnight in the Philippines.  I had planned to stay up late to do some work, because we don’t know what tomorrow will be like. I drank two cups of tea to keep me awake and as soon as I finished my second cup, the lights went off…then it came back on…went off…on again and then…it just stayed pitch dark. The rain poured. Yesterday, I wrote in my journal, “Rain in November, God is watering the plants.” The rainy season in the Philippines ends in October. Tonight, after the lights went off and the rain poured, I carefully went about the task of lighting candles around the living room as the other members of the family lit candles in their bedrooms.  I don’t know what was going on …