While much of the world struggles to grasp the enormity of the catastrophic destruction from the super typhoon Yoland (Haiyan), the Filipino people are desperately trying to meet their most basic needs. By many estimates, over 9 million people are affected by the devastation, including 4 million children. The super typhoon has displaced over 600,000 people in its wake, and may leave a death toll of up to 10,000. With sustained wind of 175 mph, this historic typhoon has left behind immeasurable damages.
One can see that the Philippines and Vietnam are quite similar in many ways. Each year around October, the Filipinos and Vietnamese—especially those from Central Vietnam alike must endure the distressing effect of cyclones and typhoons. Many Filipino and many Vietnamese people also live in poverty. Yet, both the Filipino and Vietnamese people are bound to their respective motherland, to their homes, and to their ways of life for generations.
More importantly, in the last quarter of the 20th century, the people and government of the Philippines have reached out to help tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Vietnamese communist government. The Philippines, of all other South East Asian countries, was the most generous to the Vietnamese refugees despite the fact that many Filipinos were struggling with their own bare necessities of life. The Filipino people had generously shared their clothing, food and compassion to our “boat people” compatriots. Aside from Bataan, where tens of thousands of Vietnamese exiles found refuge, Palawan Island’s historic Vietnamese Village has also sheltered tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees.
Throughout the years that span decades after 1975, thousands of rafts have drifted in the open Pacific Ocean, carrying packed cargoes of starving, helpless and desperate Vietnamese refugees. Many Filipino fishing boats had rescued the refugees and helped to renew their hope in humanity. If not for these fishermen, the Cap Anamur waiting in the oceans off the Philippines, the Filipino naval vessels from Manila and the US naval ships from the Subic Bay, our fellow Vietnamese refugees would have been buried alive in the bottomless make-shift coffin of the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, while many refugee camps across other South East Asian countries were forced to close, the Philippines continued to shelter some of the Vietnamese refugees as late as 2012.
We, as Vietnamese refugees, owe a tremendous debt to the people of the Philippines for their kindness and generosity regardless of whether we sought refuge at the Filipino refugee camps. The Philippines and her people have reached across vast oceans to help us as a caring sister would in our most difficult and despairing times. There is an old Vietnamese proverb: one is there to support her sister when she falls.
Kindness and generosity rise from despair and desperation. Please join us in this important tribute to the Philippines government and the Filipino people as a token of our appreciation and to let them know that we would never forget their kindness and generosity. Reaching out to the Typhoon Yoland (Haiyan) victims is not only our Vietnamese traditional value and responsibility, but also a truly rare opportunity to extend our profound gratitude to the country that has opened her arms and heart to welcome our “boat people” compatriots. Although many of the Vietnamese refugees now enjoy a life of freedom and food security, we can never forget the make-shift homes in the Philippine refugee camps that sheltered us and gave us hope. As important, reaching out to the Typhoon Yoland (Haiyan) victims is our chance to let the world know that we, the Vietnamese boat people or refugees, will not turn our back while our brothers and sisters suffer.
Vietnamese Americans for Philippines Typhoon Yolanda Victims