The Philippines has long been particularly vulnerable to extreme weather. But in recent years the nation has suffered from even more violent storms like Typhoon Haiyan. On average, about 20 tropical cyclones enter Philippine waters each year, with eight or nine making landfall. And over the past decade, these tropical storms have struck the nation more often and more severely, scientists believe, because of climate change. In addition, two factors unique to the Philippines – its geography and development – have combined to exacerbate both this threat and its devastating consequences.
Climate Change Displacement Is Not Hypothetical
Climate-related displacement is not hypothetical: An average of 21.5 million people per year have been displaced since 2008 by natural disasters, and thousands more have fled slow-onset environmental hazards. While migration can serve as a safety valve to adapt to changing conditions, few orderly, legal channels exist for climate migrants (also known as environmental migrants), as this article explores (Migration Policy Institute, February 2017).
1. The entire landmass of the Philippines is made up islands, making it the second-largest archipelago in the world.
In fact, the Philippines has approximately 7,500 islands with only 2,000 of them inhabited and nearly 5,000 still unnamed on global maps. (Source)
2. There are about 175 languages spoken in the Philippines, with 171 of them considered “living,” while four tribal dialects have no known living speakers. The country’s official languages are Filipino (based on Tagalog) and English, with Cebuano and Ilocano also popular in some regions. (Source)
But when Filipinos interact with tourists and foreigners, it’s easy for them to speak English since it’s the fifth largest English-speaking nation behind the U.S., India, Pakistan, and the U.K. (Source)
3. About 11% of the population of the Philippines – more than 11 million people – work overseas. In fact, the Philippines is the top supplier of nurses in the world, with about 25% of all overseas nurses coming from the country. In the United States, Filipinos are the second-largest Asian-American group behind only Chinese. (Source)
4. Filipinos are crazy about basketball! You’ll see makeshift hoops erected on every street corner, young men commonly wearing NBA jerseys, and local teams playing in every community hall. Their professional league, The Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) is the second oldest in the world after only the NBA! In fact, a good number of players with U.S. college and NBA experience come to play in the PBA. (Source)
5. Filipino’s also love boxing with a passion, and when their most famous native son, Manny Pacquiao, fights, it’s like a national holiday. In fact, Filipinos are so supportive of “PacMan” that every time he has a boxing match, the Philippine National Police report that street crime drops to zero in Metro Manila, and the same is true in most of the country. (Source)
6. The Philippines produces and exports more coconuts than any country in the world, shipping off about 19.5 million tons of the fruit (called “buko”) every year. (Source)
7. While most of their Southeast Asian neighbors practice Buddhism, the Philippines is the only Asian nation that’s predominantly Christian, with 90% practicing that religion (and about 80% of its population, Roman Catholic) because of its Spanish colonial influence. (Source)
8. Filipinos are very social, spending as much time as possible with family and friends. But they also stay in touch these days by exchanging a whole lot of text messages. In fact, it’s estimated that Filipinos send about 400 million text messages every day, adding up to about 142 billion texts per year, earning them the designation “the texting capital of the world.” (Source)
That’s more than the total number of daily text messages sent in the U.S. and Europe combined. (Source)
9. One of the most remarkable geological formations in the world, the Taal Volcano consists of an island (Luzon) that contains a lake (Taal Lake) with a smaller island in the lake (Volcano Island) with a lake on that island (Main Crater of Taal Volcano) with another tiny islet (Volcano Island) inside! (Source)
10. The Philippines population crossed the 100-million threshold in 2014, ranking as the 12th most populous country in the world. With an annual growth rate of about 2 percent, it’s also one of the fastest growing countries in the world. (Source)
11. Manila, the capital of the Philippines, ranks as the city with the highest population density in the world (and some of the worst traffic congestion!). In fact, Manila spans only 24 square miles but has 1,660,714 residents, giving it a population density of 55,446 people per square mile. (Source)
Metro Manila, comprising several other conjoined cities, stands at more than 12,877,000 people, making it one of the most populated metropolitan areas in the world. (Source)
12. The Philippines island of Palawan has been named one of the best island in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, and other publications, thanks to its jaw-dropping natural beauty. Visitors can explore white sand beaches, swim in lagoons, enjoy island hopping in Coron and El Nido, find some of the best scuba diving in the world, and even traverse the underground river in the capital, Puerto Princesa, a UNESCO world heritage site and the second longest underground river in the world. (Source)
13. The country suffered one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history on June 15, 1991, when Mt. Pinatubo erupted only a couple of hours from Manila. The blast was so powerful that it shot 10 billion metric tons of magma and 20 million tons of toxic sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, 25 miles high. (Source)
Mt. Pinatubo’s sent such a big mushroom cloud of ash into the atmosphere that it created a haze of sulfuric acid all around the world for two years, causing global temperatures to drop by 1 degree Fahrenheit! Tragically, the eruption killed at least 847 people, injured 184, and left more than 1 million people homeless, as well as forcing an American air force base to be abandoned and relocated soon after. (Source)
14. Jeepneys are a unique form of transportation that many people in Manila and other places in the Philippines use every day. In fact, jeepneys were born from the thousands of army jeeps that the U.S. military left after World War II. Resourceful Filipinos extended the cabs to accommodate about 18 passengers for hot, bumpy and dusty rides through the streets.
As time went on, drivers adorned the jeepneys in colorful and creative designs to help them stand out, with flashing neon lights, paintings of favorite superheroes, basketball stars, cartoon characters, religious sayings, and just about every other gaudy decoration you can imagine. Still costing only about 8 Pesos (20 cents U.S.), about 50,000 jeepneys run daily in Manila alone, billowing thick clouds of black smoke. They don’t have set routes, so passengers just jump on a jeepney going in their direction, pass a coin forward to the driver, and ring a bell when they want to get off. (Source)
15. Filipinos LOVE their shopping malls! In fact, they serve as community hubs since they’re clean, safe, and, most importantly, air-conditioned. Aside from the usual stores they also have countless food venues, gyms, grocery stores, banks, health clinics, nightclubs, parks, concert amphitheaters, and even churches inside their malls. In fact, the Philippines is home to three of the ten largest shopping malls in the world, The Mega Fashion Hall of SM Megamall (third-largest in the world, encompassing 5,451,220 sq ft), SM City North EDSA (fourth largest) and SM Mall of Asia (tenth largest). (Source)
16. Even among the countless natural wonders of the Philippines, the island of Camiguin stands out since it’s home to the most volcanoes per square mile of any island on Earth. Only about 14 miles long and 8.5 miles wide, Camiguin holds the distinction as the only island on the planet with more volcanoes (7) than towns (5). It’s now a great tourist destination with white-sand beaches and friendly locals, but don’t worry – the volcanoes have been dormant since the 1950s. (Source)
17. Travelers and vacationers flock to the paradise island of Boracay, known for having one of the best beaches in the world with powder-like white sand. Only 3.98 square miles, the island still receives about 1.5 million visitors from home and abroad every year, making it the most popular destination in the Philippines. In fact, Boracay has celebrated as the best islands in the world in a Condé Nast Traveler reader’s poll, as well as highlighted in Travel + Leisure Magazine, CNN, the New York Times Travel, and others. (Source)
18. Typhoons wreak havoc in the Philippines nearly every year, and in 2013, it was Super Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda locally) that ripped through the archipelago. Haiyan brought the strongest winds ever recorded at landfall as well as the strongest one-minute sustained wind speed of 195 mph. Sadly, it was also the deadliest typhoon in Philippines history, killing at least 6,100 people and displacing millions according to government reports (although locals estimate the death toll to be closer to 15,000, and a thousand people are still missing). (Source)
Coincidentally, I was living on Boracay when Typhoon Haiyan slammed the Philippines, and you can watch my home video of it here.
19. Politeness is an art form in the Philippines. Most foreigners will be referred to as “sir” and “mam” no matter their age. You’ll see younger people refer to the women and men a little bit older as “ates” and “kuyas” (sort of like aunt and uncle, respectively).
Filipinos respect and cherish their elders, and that shows in many ways in everyday life. For instance, seniors are addressed as “po” after please, thank you, and other exchanges, with the younger person taking the elder’s hand and touching it to their forehead in a charming display of reverence called “mano.”
Elderly, disabled, and pregnant women even have their own line at banks, restaurants and taxi queues, allowing them to bypass the crowd.
However, their politeness can go a little too far, as you’ll rarely hear a Filipino come out with a direct “no” answer when you ask them a question, a trait that can create many challenging and hilarious situations for the foreigner! (Source)
20. Filipinos are warm, happy, and have a great sense of humor! In fact, the Philippines is one of the happiest countries in the world, ranking near the top on Gallup’s index. (Source)
Filipinos also have an uproarious sense of humor, as joking, lighthearted banter, and even singing makes every day in their presence a true blessing. As some Filipino friends have pointed out to me, it’s an inherent trait that helps them cope with such poverty, hardship, and natural disasters. No matter the reason, life in the Philippines is all about smiling, laughing and enjoying every moment with those around you!
These are just a small portion of incredible facts about the Philippines, which I find one of the most remarkable countries on earth.
Contact me if you’d like more information about traveling to the Philippines!
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th US President and overnight the United States changed its outlook to be more inward looking and having a more nationalistic stance. President Trump touted during his campaign to build a wall between US and Mexico. He recently enacted executive action limiting travel from certain countries but was overturned by the courts. He wanted to put America First.
Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) member countries (photo courtesy of International Business Review)
Firing Up Regional Brain Network of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Report February 2017
However, on the other side of the world the Philippines and nine other Southeast Asian nations that comprised the Association of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have a totally different outlook. The Philippines and ASEAN countries are opening up their borders, not building walls. They are promoting skilled migration, not enacting travel bans. They are promoting a slogan of unity “one identity, one community,” not “me first.”
The Philippines and all the ASEAN countries recently relaxed travel restrictions between them. Now they are poised to see a massive expansion of both the demand for and supply of skilled migrants that are willing and able to move.
ASEAN member states have recently signed to ease the intra-regional mobility of skilled professionals in the tourism and six regulated occupations (accounting, architecture, dentistry, engineering, medicine and nursing). Close to 15 million ASEAN workers are employed in these professions could be affected, accounting for about 5 percent of total regional employment.
“The convergence of these mega-trends represents unique opportunities for human-capital development and brain circulation, as this report explores and which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic integration among its members,” said Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Senior Policy Analyst Jeanne Batalova, the lead author of the report.
The report covered that whether ASEAN can enter the age of brain circulation is far from certain and that many challenges remain including ongoing brain drain to the US and other developed countries. However, I think that the Philippines and ASEAN countries are moving to different projection of growth and not following the lead of the Trump Administration of isolation and walls.
Given diverging demographics, rising educational attainment and wide variation in economic opportunities, countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations realize that they have to capitalize on their skilled immigrant workforce to stay and contribute to their countries’ growth. With the number of college-educated ASEAN emigrants in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries rising from 1.7 million in 2000 to 2.8 million in 2010-2011, brain drain is recognized as an obstacle to economic and social development. Brain waste, or the under-utilization of highly skilled workers, remains an unstudied issue in ASEAN.
Filipino architects in Brunei? Singapore engineers in Malaysia? Thai accountants in Cambodia and Vietnam? These skilled migration are already happening on the ground and will be expanded. Is the ASEAN recipe of promoting skilled migration a better formula for growth, prosperity and peace? Or is the Trump recipe of borders, walls and nationalism would win the day? Time will tell.
Typhoon Haiyan Eye of the Storm about to Hit Landfall (November 2013)
On November 2013, typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and it became one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded. The Bayanihan Foundation responded quickly and in two weeks, I was on the ground in Samar and Leyte distributing relief goods. It was one of the most intense and heartbreaking experience in my life seeing the disaster and at the same time the resiliency of the Filipino spirit. However, the biggest question in my mind – will it happen again? Will a typhoon as strong as Haiyan hit the Philippines again? A recent report said yes (Verisk Maplecroft Report, Natural Hazards Risk Atlas, 2015).
Debris outside the Tacloban City Airport after Typhoon Haiyan hit landfall (November 2013)
Of the 10 world cities most exposed to natural hazards, eight are in the Philippines, according to research which also showed that over half of the 100 cities most exposed to earthquakes, storms and other disasters were found in four Asian nations.
The study published by risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft analysed the threat posed by storms, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, volcanoes and landslides in more than 1,300 cities.
It said of the 100 cities with the greatest exposure to natural hazards, 21 were located in the Philippines, 16 in China, 11 in Japan and eight in Bangladesh.
Of the 13 countries deemed least able to cope with natural disasters, 11 were in sub-Saharan Africa, with Somalia coming bottom for the fourth consecutive year, the study showed.
Besides the risk of volcanic eruptions, quakes and floods, the Philippines is hit by more than 20 typhoons every year.
The biggest typhoon in recent years was Haiyan which struck the Philippines in 2013, leaving more than 7,000 people dead or missing. More than 1 million houses were totally or partly damaged in the aftermath.
“Natural hazard risk is compounded in the Philippines by poor institutional and societal capacity to manage, respond and recover from natural hazard events,” the report said. However, it added that disaster risk reduction strategies in the Philippines were improving after the “widely criticised” response to Haiyan.
Better communication and the evacuation of 1.7 million people meant that Typhoon Hagupit, a category 3 storm, killed only 27 people in December 2014.
The report rated the Philippines’ capital Manila with a population of almost 12 million as the fourth most exposed city in the world. Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, was considered most vulnerable to natural hazards, followed by Taguegarao and Lucena in the Philippines.
Port Vila, in Vanuatu and Taipei City, in Taiwan, were the only cities outside the Philippines to feature in the top 10.
Dale Asis of Bayanihan Foundation (center) joins Murat Kose of the Zakat Foundation (second from right) in distributing relief goods in Tacloban City, Leyte right after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan (Nov 2013)
So how can civic involvement, volunteerism and diaspora philanthropy help the Philippines in disaster preparedness? Or should donors from abroad wait to react and donate afterwards when the crisis hit? What do you think?
On January 27, 2017, US President Trump issued a temporary travel ban to seven predominantly Muslim nations in the name of national security. I can’t help reflect on the giving that the Bayanihan Foundation has made possible with Filipino Christians helping Filipino Muslims and moving the community closer to peace.
In August 2014, during the Muslim holy day of Eid Ul Fitr, the Zakat Foundation of America has partnered again with the Bayanihan Foundation and made it possible to distribute hundreds of food packages and providing much-needed food relief to over 1,000 men, women and children during the holy month of Ramadan. The Zakat Foundation of America, is an international charity organization that helps generous and caring people and reaching out to those in need. In 2014, the Bayanihan Foundation is honored to partner with the members of the Rotary Club of Iligan East who donated their time and helped put together and distributed the food packages. Filipino Christians giving packages to needy Filipino Muslims created the unintended effect of goodwill, friendship and the slow earning of trust among Filipinos of different faiths and is slowly moving island of Mindanao, Philippines closer to peace.
I researched about the reasons why people give. I found out three major reasons:
Bayanihan Foundation partners with the Zakat Foundation and the Rotary Club Iligan East to distribute food packages to need Filipino Muslim families in Iligan, Philippines
They Want to Help Others – Altruism
Intent to help others without benefit of one’s self
Willingness to sacrifice one’s welfare without reward
Feelings of compassion and duty
(far right) Dale Asis serving food to the homeless on Thanksgiving Day (Nov 24, 2011)
They Want To Feel Good/ “Warm Glow” Theory
Personal satisfaction that act of giving brings
“Warm glow” from making the contribution
Personal feelings of obligation and identity
Diversity and Philanthropy Book Cover (courtesy of Amazon.com)
They Want A Return on Investment
Businesses and corporations see it as a form of investment
They need some measurable return from their philanthropic activity
But I think diaspora giving decisions are motivated with their hearts instead of their heads. This is one of its strengths-and a potential challenge. This “feel good” attachment is combined with a larger sense of obligation, either motivated by social duty or community obligation.
Personally, I give because I wanted to help. It gives me the “warm glow” and good feeling that I’ve helped someone. I know that some people have doubted my motivations at times. They say that I have an ulterior motive; that I wanted to run for office; or I wanted to aggrandize my name. But for the last five years, what really motivates me to give is simple – I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.
Why do you give? Why do you help someone? Share your thoughts. I wanted to hear.
Lainer-Vos, D. (2012). Manufacturing national attachments: Gift-giving, market exchange and the construction of Irish and Zionist diaspora bonds. Theory and Society; Renewal and Critique in Social Theory, 41(1), 73-106. doi:10.1007/s11186-011-9157-1
Little, H. (2010). The role of private assistance in international development. New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, 42(4), 1091-1109.
The recent changing of the guard in both US and Philippine politics threw a dark cloud of doubt over my head. It made me question if my diaspora giving could continue to make a difference in this world of increasing cynicism, fear and xenophobia. Are donations from the diaspora now be considered suspect and have a hidden agenda other than altruistic motives? Aren’t those immigrants all “terrorists”, “rapists” and “criminals” anyway? (Trump Doubles Down Calling Mexicans Rapists, CNN News, June 2015).
“Women’s Rights are Human Rights” poster on Women’s March in Chicago January 21, 2017
On January 21, 2017, I joined hundreds of thousands of people in Chicago’s Women’s March for women’s rights. At that march, I was surprised to be greeted by rays of hope that encouraged me to continue my diaspora giving. That ray of hope came through a song. I was standing next to a woman in the march and she asked me to help her sing the song “This Land is Your Land.” I said yes. We started singing and all of the sudden, hundreds of people around me were singing the refrain: “…this land was made for you and me.” It was magical. I didn’t even know all the words to the song “This Land is Your Land” but hundreds of marchers helped me sing the song. This land was made for you and me – indeed.
Poster during Chicago’s Women March “The United States of immigrants, citizens, veterans, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Jews, Asians, natives, whites, blacks, Latinos, Boomers, Gen X, millennials, disabled, poor, middle class, LGBTQ” January 21, 2017
The march did not expect the hundreds of thousands of people who clogged Chicago’s downtown streets. Then a woman passed by carrying the sign: “The United States of immigrants, citizens, veterans, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Jews, Asians, natives, whites, blacks, Latinos, Boomers, Gen X, millennials, disabled, poor, middle class, LGBTQ.” In my many years organizing for the Coalition of African, Arab, Asian, European and Latino Immigrants of Illinois (CAAAELII), I have never seen such a hand-made sign being carried by a white, middle class woman. The world is changing for the better. I suddenly have hope.
As we marched further down through downtown Chicago, people started chanting: “Immigrants are welcome here, no hate, no fear”. I started to cry. I reflected back on my years working for immigrant rights. I have never thought I’d see the day when a sea of strangers – white, black, Latinx, young, old, LGBTQ, Muslim, Jews, Christians, atheists, would all be chanting spontaneously, “Immigrants are welcome here.” I am welcomed here. For a moment, the hateful rhetoric of current politics seem to fade away. For a moment, I belong. I was hopeful. In the end, I left the march feeling more resolved to continue my giving, locally and globally, and to continue to make a difference – one act of giving at a time.