“Rainy season” in the Philippines is no joke. For about seven months a year, the Philippines is riddled with perpetual downpours and frequent typhoons.
Since I have been in the Philippines there have been nearly twenty typhoons, most of them consisting of very heavy rains and mild flooding. My street is especially prone to floods – it is a commonplace for me to wade at least ankle deep to cross the street. Thus, living in the Philippines makes you quite accustomed to the type of weather that would be newsworthy in the United States. Usually, impending typhoons are rarely even talked about in the Philippines. It’s like this: “Hey did you hear another typhoon is coming through?” “(Apathetically) Oh yeah, I heard…” and then people go on with their lives as if nothing is different.
However, the last few days of September marked an exception to this rule. On September 27th, 2011, Typhoon Pedring (or Nesat by its international name) swept across the island of Luzon, devastating nearly 3 million people. Just three days later, before affected residents could recover, Typhoon Quiel (Nalgae, internationally), battered the same locations.
Due to intense flooding and winds, an estimated sixty people were killed by the typhoons and hundreds of thousands were displaced. In Cabanatuan, where I live, the streets were waist deep in water and we were without electricity or running water for nearly 40 hours. In the surrounding towns and provinces, many people remained trapped on the roof of their house for days. Typhoon Pedring, the larger of the two, caused an estimated $200 million in damage to agriculture and infrastructure (with agriculture bearing the majority of the cost), rendering it one of the costliest typhoons in Philippine history. (Click here for a breakdown of the damages inflicted by Typhoon Pedring and here for Typhoon Quiel.)
Over 12,000 ASKI clients were affected by the flood, in turn distressing ASKI’s outstanding loan portfolio to the tune of 192 million pesos (about $450,000). Largely dependent on agriculture, ASKI clients were some of the hardest hit.
ASKI was quick to respond, by linking with donors to restructure loans or to provide provisional funds to accommodate affected clients. In addition, ASKI heightened its fundraising activities to aid in typhoon relief efforts. As part of these efforts, ASKI staff travelled around to affected areas (those whose flooding had subsided enough to get to) distributing staple food items and water. I was fortunate enough to tag along on one of these expeditions.Through a conversation with ASKI staff, I learned that these relief efforts were not exclusive and aimed to help entire communities – not just ASKI cients. On the drive to the community, we passed many people wading through waist deep water just outside their homes; a week after the storm, many people were still waiting for their neighborhoods to dry up. When we arrived at the community, nearly 450 people were lined up to receive emergency supplies from ASKI. We also had a nurse on hand to provide medical assistance where needed.
An ASKI employee pulled aside a woman who had just received her emergency package and asked her to say something about ASKI’s relief efforts. The woman could only get out “Thank you so so much” (in Tagalog) before her face became flooded with tears of gratitude.
This typhoon relief effort is just one of the many ways in which ASKI stands out above other microfinance institutions. In fact, ASKI was awarded the Most Outstanding Non-Government Organization (NGO) during the 6th Annual SIPAG Awards sponsored by the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC)
I am proud to be a part of such a philanthropic organization!