November 30, 2013
Los Angeles, CA


by Jerry Esguerra, Chair FACLA Disaster and Relief Commmittee

It is almost three weeks since the strongest typhoon that ever made landfall anywhere in the entire world hits the central region of the Philippine islands, but seemingly the state of relief and rehabilitation remains in a quandry according to many observers. There is no denying that Yolanda or Haiyan’s catastrophic onslaught is unparalleled, and to be fair, no organized society in the face of the earth could have ever been a hundred percent prepared, given the strength the typhoon had exhibited; but as many of us witness the ineptness of the Philippine government in dealing with the aftermath – one wonders if even before Yolanda ruthlessly pummeled TACLOBAN – the country was in a state of disaster already.


The calamity could have come in no better time than when the “pork barrel” scandal was beginning to gain grounds. Questionable use of public funds for dubious aims – a staple of real politik in the Philippines caught again the attention of Filipinos but in a much bigger way this time around. The anxiety that is grippping the nation is almost comparable to the magnitude brought about by wholesale corruption during the Marcos era – thanks to the rouge businesswoman Janet Napoles and a phalanx of disgruntled whistle-blowers.

The list of offenders coming from the Commission on Audit is a who’s who in Philippine politics: big names like Enrile, Ejercito, Revilla, Roxas and other personalities from both houses of Congress and key department heads.

Inarguably the rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts by the Philippine government are viewed in the same light as the pork barrel issue: rigged with corruption and political opportunism.


The response of the international community to the disaster is humbling to say the least. Countries from the poorest Bangladesh to the richest like Sweden, Hollywood and sports organizations funneled million of dollars and goods into the Philippine relief campaign.

Overnight, hundreds of organizations and self proclaimed do gooders sprouted. That is generally good for the victims but in the long run donation fatigue will set in, typical after big disasters like Katrina or Sandy here in the United States.

The question Tawid Baha is facing is how can we differentiate ourselves from the multitude. Embarking on sustainable projects is the way forward.

On the get go the project’s goal is premised in two demands: minimum and maximum. In the short term, the project should build its ability to respond quickly to a disaster and on the stretch; the creation of an educational program that focuses on prevention, mitigation and rehabilitation.


Responding quickly doesn’t mean building a stockpile of goods and cash for emergency disaster relief operation ready to be disbursed in a drop of a hat. This ability is practically the employment of governments and institutions like the Red Cross, FEMA in the US, DSWD in the Philippines, the UN or other venerable group like the Catholic Church.

Our quick response means opening up the floodgates of information pertaining to particular disaster. One good example is alerting relief providers in our network of available recipients in ground zero. It will require in our part to build a directory of providers and targeted recipients. This is where data mining is paramount.

It is also our right to be critical of the existing system when it becomes ineffective. We will serve as the voice of the people in times of disasters.

But to set the record straight Tawid BAHA has no intention of reducing the role of private donors into diminutive role. Far from it, TAWID will position itself in building a road map wherein private donors are partnered with legitimate recipients in the affected areas. Meaning turning donations into more efficient resource or make the yield to the victims maximum, dollar for dollar comparatively; not 25% or 75% but 100% in most instances.

Here lies where Tawid gives more emphasis on coalition rather than donation. Tawid believes that in doing so, generating funds will be consequential in the long run.


A day after Yolanda, Tawid Baha gained traction quickly. Banking on FACLA’S history as the oldest and the biggest Filipino American organization in the western US, Tawid’s media blitz was launched with confidence. Alternative media outlets like Pacifica Radio and even mainstream ones (Chanel 52, RT, Asian Journal, Tfc etc.) picked up on the idea. Branding came to us overnight.

Taking advantage of this new found notoriety and maintain momentum Tawid Baha is launching a series of events:

1. Makeshift Memorial for Tacloban – a partipatory art installation in memory of the victims and survivors of the Tacloban disaster.
A test run that lasted 3 hours was held last November 27 in front of the Philippine Consular Office in Wilshire Blvd. It was well received.

A second one is scheduled for December 23 at the same location. This time around it will be a full day event. It wiil run from 7am to 8pm and will culminate with cultural shows, speak out and a candlelight vigil. Tentative co-sponsors are Alliance Philippines, Bantay Pilipinas, Danza Azteca, ANSWER-LA.

2. Hip Hop Fundraising Event in partnership with a Latino coalition of rappers Voces Clandestino. We met the coordinator at the first Makeshift Memorial for Tacloban event.

3. Dinner Dance Fundraiser for Tawid Baha Scholarship Program. Contemplated last summer, it will finally happen given the momentum we are gaining. An ad-hoc is forming and the high profile event is slated for early February.


This is the flagship project for Tawid Baha.

Our goal is building an enduring legacy for the New Filipino American Community of Los Angeles.

The degree, the speed and direction of this project could only be determined with how big a stride we make in forging alliances.

The time to act is now.


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