Over the past few weeks, I received a number of messages from different parts of the world – from fellow bloggers, Polish Police readers and even some of my favorite brands – asking if I was okay.
Thank you for thinking of me. I’m okay. And my friends and family are too. Yes, I’m from the Philippines but I live in Manila, a city that was spared by Typhoon Haiyan (or Typhoon Yolanda, as we call it here).
The whole country had been warned about the typhoon. We were bracing for it. Yes, we’re used to typhoons, but we were told that this was going to be an extra-strong one so we took precautions. Classes were suspended, events were canceled, many people chose to stay indoors.
On Friday, November 9, the day the typhoon hit, when all we got were strong winds and a little rain, many of us were relieved. “No casualties!” people announced on Twitter, giving one another viral pats on the back, thinking we had survived what was supposed to be one of the worst typhoons in history. We mistook the silence for serenity.
We were so wrong.
That night, we didn’t know that the silence meant that the typhoon was so bad, so strong that it caused massive blackouts and brought communication lines down. The people in the affected areas had no way to call for help or even tell the rest of the country about their ordeal. Even journalists who had been sent to the area before the typhoon hit were out of reach. For so many hours, they were cut off from us – we had no clue that cities were wiped out, homes were destroyed, bodies littered the streets and thousands were missing.
We know now.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve cried in the past few weeks – after seeing photos of the destruction, after watching news clip after news clip, after hearing about the horrors the people in Visayas went through.
But not all my tears were sad – because there has been an incredible outpouring of love and support not just from Filipinos but from people all over the world. There have been so many amazing and touching stories – little girls in California holding a bake sale to raise funds for the Philippine Red Cross, a six-year-old boy in Japan donating all the contents of his piggy bank to the Philippine embassy, a poor old lady in Cebu who gave half a pack of powdered milk because that’s all she had, street kids who used the money they earned from begging to buy canned goods and so many others.
Those of us in Manila are also doing what we could to help. After finding out that Rock Ed Philippines, a group I’ve been supporting for years, was collecting new underwear (an often neglected need in times of calamities) for the typhoon victims, I went to Divisoria (a great place for bargains) and bought dozens and dozens of panties and briefs for kids and adults. I posted on Facebook to tell people where to go for the best prices if they wanted to donate undies too. Soon, pledges began coming in – friends and acquaintances started sending me money so I could purchase more underwear on my next trip.
Then it hit me – Polish for Panties! if I could sell some of my nail polish fast, I could buy more underwear!
I’ve known for a while that a polish purge was overdue – my two Helmers are overflowing and I had boxes and boxes of polish stashed away at my grandma’s house. I started with just sixty bottles – most of them new, with some swatched on just one hand. I made signs and brought the bottles to my office along with an empty jar.
I let people choose the bottles and donate the amount they want – no set prices, no rules. I didn’t even watch over the bottles or the jar, I just put them on a table near my desk and let them have fun.
I went home with a jar full of bills. I counted the money and was amazed to discover that we had raised ₱6650 in one night.
I kept replenishing the stocks and the hardworking people in the office – Fran, Nel, Irene, Sara, Cam and Koko – pimped the polish while I wasn’t there, even bringing them to our other office buildings.
On the second week, Polish for Panties made another ₱11,588. (I almost cried.) And there’s more money at the office waiting to be traded for panties.
So far I’ve gone to Divisoria three times and we’ve purchased and donated over 6,300 undies for the typhoon survivors. I have started running out of nail bottles to trade – we’ve gone through several hundred by now – but I will go through my stash again. It’s been wonderful seeing the ladies in the office get excited over bottles of polish and also thrilling to watch dads, boyfriends and husbands get bottles for the women in their lives.
Friends and relatives also wired donations and we used the money to purchase relief goods – rice, canned goods, noodles, bottled water, biscuits – and spent the weekend repacking them into family relief bags. Rock Ed picked up the bags and the airline Air Asia Zest flew them to Leyte for free. (I love how the airlines and even resorts with private planes have been using their aircrafts to bring relief to those who need it.)
Our next project is putting together hygiene kits for the typhoon survivors.
The work is not over, things are far from normal but I know this country is going to be just fine.
We are strong people, a resilient nation, and, thanks to the outpouring of kindness and compassion from the whole world, we will rise from this tragedy.
Like I said in a piece I wrote for the paper, we’re heartbroken but we will never be broken.