For Immediate Release
November 8, 2015
Daniel Valentin, President, Asian American Student Union at Saint Peter’s University
Joelle Eliza Lingat, Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey
Jersey City Community Calls to Relief, Rebuild, and Remember on Haiyan 2nd Anniversary
Various community and student groups held “Typhoon Haiyan Second Anniversary: Relief, Rebuild, Remember,” a special mass and a vigil at St. Aedan’s Parish on November 8, marking the second anniversary of super typhoon Haiyan. Participants called for the continued awareness on the ongoing struggles of typhoon survivors as well as the need for climate justice.
The mass was conducted by Father Rocco Danzi, Director of Campus Ministry, at Saint Aedan’s Church, a vigil at Panepinto Plaza, and a discussion in the Student Center’s Campus Ministry and the vigil was organized by the Asian American Student Union (AASU) of Saint Peter’s University, Anakbayan New Jersey (ABNJ). This commemoration is part of a national week of action called by the national Fil-Am youth and student relief network, Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network (KBKN).
On November 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in central Philippines.For the past two years, the world has stood in witness to the aftermath of one of the strongest and deadliest typhoon ever recorded. Typhoon Haiyan left an estimated 10,000 people, affected 11 million Filipinos and more than one million homeless.
“Jersey City, though half way across the globe, still remembers typhoon Haiyan and continues to stand in solidarity with the survivors. We join the call for justice for the victims of government neglect. We also call on our government leaders to act on the climate crisis,” said Laura Emily E. Austria, ABNJ. Jersey City is home to more than 20,000 Filipinos, one of the largest population of Filipinos in the east coast.
Throughout the mass, Father Rocco commemorated the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in song and scripture. During his homily, he remarked that unlike CNN and other mass media, the community must be committed to remembering the tragedy and acting in solidarity with the survivors that still struggle. Denise Yzabel Salonga Cateron, a student at Saint Peter’s University and member of the choir, offered a personal prayer in Tagalog at the close of the mass. $250 was raised in through a special second collection to contribute to the National Alliance of Filipino Concern’s Typhoon Lando relief efforts.
The vigil was attended by members of 350.org, Pax Christi, Gabriela New York, Food and Water Watch New Jersey, the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Saint Aedan’s Parish, and the larger Jersey City community. In addition to solidarity statements and personal testimonies, participants were invited to respond to a posterboard prompting, “How has ‘natural disasters’ impacted your life?” Responses connected the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy along the Jersey shore and persistent flooding in Wayne, NJ. The vigil was closed as Kate Angeles, Saint Peter’s University student, Vice President of Schola, and Jersey City resident offered the song, “Hindi Kita Malilimutan.”
The discussion featured a report back by recent missioners to disaster-stricken areas of the Philippines on the 2015 KBKN relief and rebuild mission. They shared photographs accompanied with stories of survivors’ personal accounts of the gravity of the situation on the ground. Although there is loss of livelihood, threats of demolition, and corporate use of No Dwelling Zones, the missioners also shared messages of hope. Peoples Surge, an organization of Typhoon Haiyan survivors, is leading a concerted effort to protest economic policies that favors profit over the wellbeing of the people and the environment through protest of APEC and the TPPA and appeals to the upcoming COP21 in Paris.
“I felt that the Discussion portion of last nights event affected me the most because it was the most informative and most intimate. I was glad we were able to have a short hand experience through the KBKN missioners on what life was like in the Philippines after the Super Typhoon, and how mentally traumatizing the events that occurred are, till this day.” said Daniel Valentin, President of AASU.
“Reflecting on my journey back to the Philippines, my exposure trip was the single most solidifying experience for me,” said Daniel Santiago, KBKN missioner. Going back allowed me to not only reinforce why I am fighting and struggling towards the liberation of our People, but truly were on the grounds living, experiencing, and hearing directly from the People. No media twisting, no political propaganda from the government, but hearing firsthand what the people are experiencing. From the landlessness and being pushed off of lands their families have worked for over a century, to the lack of governmental response and deficiencies of NGO’s after “natural” disasters, as well as the militarization of indigenous communities. Here we risk our comfort to support our People, back home they risk harassment, threats, and even death to fight for the human rights of our People. To truly see the true conditions that not only the Philippine government propagate, but the United States government has on our homeland. One must take the pilgrimage back home to have a sincere understanding that it is not just “More Fun in the Philippines” as tourism advertises, but that our People are struggling. If we are truly proud to be Filipino, we must take the good and beautiful aspects with the bad and the ugly to fight genuinely towards making sure our People and our land one day can see true independence and freedom.”
Despite the international clamor for support for Typhoon Haiyan survivors in the immediate aftermath, there has not been much progress in the past two years. “Typhoon donations get funneled to the Philippines through government agencies, therefore creating room for pilfering and disparity. What little is left is not distributed fairly to those most affected by disaster. Many are left with minimal monetary support and are forced to live in temporary housing on no-build zones. Often, monetary donations do not correspond to need, leaving many displaced and distressed,” said Devyn Manibo of ABNJ and Typhoon Haiyan commemoration committee member. “Two years has shown that the survivors will be in a perpetual state of disaster unless there is an overhaul of the government ineptitude,” Manibo continued. Most recent reports allege that survivors are dying in the bunkhouses and still lack access to social services as public institutions on health and education are being used for public-private partnership schemes.
“As AASU and ABNJ, we call upon on the Filipino American community to stand firm with the disaster survivors to intensify demands for justice and accountability and an end to the climate crisis. It is important that we, as youth and students, acknowledge Super Typhoon Haiyan as a warning for our world that will forever will go down in history. While they call it a “natural disaster” we will not be lied to by mass media. It is natural for an archipelagic nation to undergo periods of typhoons, but the extent of the most recent waves of typhoons is due to man-made causes. Global warming, carbon pollution, and social exploitation has entered us into the age of Super Typhoons and a climate crisis that will only continue to increase in severity. The warnings and candles are no longer enough, we echo the survivors’ calls for accountability, livelihood and justice now!” Laura Emily Austria of ABNJ concluded.
End the climate crisis!
Peoples’ survival is non-negotiable!