Rebuilding the Philippines: 3 local initiatives you can support right now

When Typhoon Haiyan struck my homeland of the Philippines this past November, I was in Portland, Oregon where I now live. As I read about the mass destruction, I felt helpless being so far away. Tacloban, after all, was home to some of my family.

As the international community came together to help in the aftermath, it was quite moving to witness the generosity of people the world over. Much of the aid addressed immediate needs such as food, shelter, and medicine.

Now that the situation is under control, efforts to reinstate livelihoods and ensure a promising long-term recovery are the priority this new year. It’s true the Filipino spirit is resilient. But it’s the support of friends and strangers alike that keep us going.

These three grassroots organizations have sprung up in the Philippines to contribute to this work. If you’re still looking for a way to help, please consider donating to one of them.


Constructing a bangka on Bantayan Island, a boat typically used for fishing.
(photo courtesy Bangon Bantayanons Facebook page)

Adopt A Small Island Initiative

Started by a group of friends who all happen to be development workers, this initiative gives you the opportunity to directly help small island communities.

“Small islands are particularly vulnerable to typhoons not only because of their physical nature but also because a lot of small islands tend to face many socioeconomic challenges—hence the idea of ‘adopting’ an island or two was born,” says co-founder Monica Ortiz. “Recovery is very different from relief—it takes time! We also want to make sure it is sustainable and equitable.”

When you donate, you can help residents purchase a crucial tool for life on a small island: a motorized boat locally known as a bangka.

Bangkas are vital to these small islands. They serve several purposes: they link people to other small islands and the mainland for access to essential goods and services, and they are also a means of livelihood,” says Monica.

If you would like to make a donation, visit the Adopt a Small Island Initiative’s website. For updates on their progress, visit their Facebook page.


Project PAGLAUM is an initiative of the youth empowerment group, NEWGENRocks!, with the overall goal of helping displaced people get back on their feet and move forward.

Paglaum is the local word for hope—and this, simply, is what the project would like to give the residents of the Visayan province.

“In the aftermath of the Yolanda disaster, it is urgent to enable basic services to be delivered, assist victims’ self-help efforts to repair physical damage and community facilities, and provide support for the psychological and social well-being of the survivors,” says founder RJ Barrete. “The project serves as backroom logistics to match assets with relief provisions and enable rehabilitation and reconstruction.”

They also want to make sure devastation of this magnitude doesn’t happen again.

“The Project PAGLAUM team wants to build something better for the victims, and avoid another disastrous event that can put the lives of the Filipino people at stake,” says RJ.

For more information, visit their Facebook page. To give hope, visit their page on Publicus Asia.

Bangon Bantayanons

Bantayan Island was one of the islands greatly affected by the typhoon. The island’s poultry farms were all but destroyed, and 95% of homes lost their roofs. With your help, Bantayanons are determined to rise from all this devastation.

The initiative was started by an owner of a beach house there.

“I told my husband and sister we will help the island. They were really hesitant because it’s hard to do that and ask for donations. I told them there is nothing impossible if we really want to help,” says chairwoman Gail Roska. “So I messaged my cousins and put up a Facebook page.”

Within a week, the page had over four thousand likes with donations pouring in.”Honestly, I never really expected much response from the public,” says Gail.

But help from individuals is still needed. “The government can’t do it on their own,” she says.

For information on how to lend a helping hand, visit Bangon Bantayanons’ Facebook page.

If you’re unable to give financial help to any of these organizations at this time, a shout-out is also much appreciated. Share their information with family and friends, and leave a message of support on their Facebook pages. Salamat!

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More ways you can help the Philippines

Survivors stand amidst debris in the city of Tacloban.
(photo via Erik de Castro/Reuters)

Over the weekend, Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines. The death toll is estimated at 10,000 in the Leyte province alone, and there is widespread infrastructure damage.

The Huffington Post and CNN have posted roundups of organizations that are sending supplies, people, and more. Here are some other ways to help:

  1. Donate. The all-veteran disaster relief organization Team Rubicon is raising funds to send its vets to help with search and rescue efforts and medical assistance.
  2. Donate. The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) is currently accepting donations for community aid.
  3. Tweet. Micromappers is asking people to be strategic about tagging typhoon tweets so the UN can gain a better understanding of the situation.
  4. Hack. Geeklist is looking for developers, designers, and other techies for good to get involved with a hackathon for various projects, including building a relief coordination and survivor check-in app.
  5. Report. The social news network Rappler needs help reporting critical information such as flooding, road or building damage, or those who need rescue or assistance.
  6. Work. Merlin, a UK-based disaster relief organization, is looking to recruit emergency staff who can help long-term (three-to-six months).

Check your local Filipino-American groups or associations and the Super Typhoon Haiyan – Yolanda Recovery Facebook group for more ways to help. Please also leave a comment if you know of more opportunities.

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Idea File: Actions speak loudest when shared


Screenshot of actions on One Tama

Boyet Dy thinks it’s time for us to stop talking about changing “the world.” Instead, the Manila local is encouraging me to change “my world” — one action at a time.

The idea

One Tama is a campaign 26-year-old Boyet, a government employee in the Philippines, created to show how the little things add up. (Tama is the Filipino word for “right.”) The idea is that by simply sharing your good actions, you can inspire others to do the same. Using a nifty number counter, for example, the site shows 1744 completed deeds ranging from carpooling to listening, with over four thousand more in progress.

One Tama also encourages real world interaction by hosting Action Days, such as simultaneous use of recyclable bags at the grocery store.

Intentions to action

A couple years ago, Boyet was listening to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack when David Bowie’s “Heroes” popped on. The lyrics “Just for one day/We can be heroes” made him think about his fellow Filipinos. “That was the genesis of One Tama, and it’s really the notion of everyday heroism – that every single day is loaded with opportunities to be a hero for your country because there’s always a right action within your reach that can be done,” he says.

Boyet then presented the idea to a group of dedicated and diverse idealists he had been a part of since college. The group was enthusiastic from the getgo, and he found that their shared values was an incredible asset as well as their willingness to ask others for help. The website, for example, was voluntarily created by a nonprofit communications group he serendipitously met while building One Tama.

Replicability factor

Of course, the campaign is not without its challenges. One Tama is soley run by volunteers, and their current obstacles are to find more volunteers and funding sources.

But let’s say you like this idea and think you can address these challenges. What would you need to copy this in your community? An intimate, committed group to initially help get it off the ground, and outside experts to fill in the knowledge gaps. It also helps to have a succinct catchphrase to explain the idea and a firm belief that change can happen on an individual level. “At its core, the One Tama campaign is not merely a call to be a good Filipino – it is a call to be a good human being which makes it not only applicable but also relevant in other contexts,” says Boyet.

Have you done something small recently that counts as one tama?

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