Thursday, October 8, 2009

From Toronto With Love

I have not been able to blog about Typhoon Ondoy as I was overwhelmed by helping in relief operations and by the misery that I saw in the conditions of so many.

I am posting instead this very touching narrative of my wife Charito from Mississauga and Toronto, Canada.

From Toronto With Love

by Charito S. de Vera

I have asked to "guest appear" in my husband's blog as I do not maintain my own, nor do I write regularly. In fact I do not write, period. Popoy & I just felt that my experience over the last few days needed to be journalized. Although this note was written by me, it is not about me. It's not a political analysis, it's not an opinion or a critique about something or someone. It is a story about everything and everyone, inspired by the events of the weekend of September 26, 2009.

There are and will be many stories about Typhoon Ondoy - thousands of stories of tragedy and survival, criticism and heroism, destruction and rebuilding. The story you're about to read is about hope, about family, about community, and about love.

Like many Filipinos who were not anywhere near Metro Manila when the typhoon wreaked havoc, I frantically searched the internet, social networking sites, TV and the newspapers, for ways to help and send assistance.

Thank God, I found out about the donation drive at Kapisanan Philippine Centre in Toronto. Kapisanan is a youth-led, Filipino community-based, multi-disciplinary art, and Cultural Centre that fosters artistic expression, professionalism, and positive cultural identification as a foundation for youth empowerment. When the devastation struck the Philippines, members of the Centre decided to help by sending balikbayan boxes filled with relief goods to typhoon victims. With permission from Kapisanan, I reposted their Facebook appeal for donation, and the following morning I went to work with the intention of sharing the Kapisanan link by e-mail to Filipino friends and colleagues.

I also spoke to the head of our corporate social responsibility about doing something for the victims. This Thursday, Oct 8, our company will be doing a dress down event, with funds raised going to the Canadian Red Cross special "Asia Typhoons 2009" fund.

The short e-mail to my work team and friends, entitled "Typhoon hit Philippines Needs Help" attaching a link to Kapisanan's article called "Charity is also our Second Language" was "heard" loudly, and literally moved people across office towers in Toronto. Within minutes of my plea, I received a lot of phone calls, I was arranging for pick up and drop off of food and clothing donation, and answering questions about what's urgently needed, whether they can send cash or cheque, if I would be willing to take their bags of goods, etc. and giving directions to Kapisanan.

It was overwhelming to say the least. I saw clear evidence of true altruism in people, some of which do not have relatives in the Philippines, or personally do not know any Filipinos for that matter.

The response from a very multicultural Toronto was a testament to the sense of community that's innate in all of us, from whatever part of the world we live in. We are all truly connected and we cannot deny that we experience part of our life every day through others. I have been introduced to and met many friends who prior to this donation drive were total strangers. Even the cab driver who took me on my first delivery to the centre, was moved by the cause, and promised to come back with his own personal donation. What resonated with me during this experience was everyone's genuine offer to help.

For the victims of typhoon Ondoy, the thoughts and actions of many benevolent Canadians may not offer the consolation they need for the grief, pain, losses and suffering . We can only hope that they can find healing with every donated goods they receive from caring citizens some 8,000 miles away - every piece of clothing they can put on to keep them warm and dry, every bar of soap for a clean shower, and every can of food to quiet their growling stomach.

I know for certain that the people who dispatched relief goods also sent their love and their hope. It sounds like a cliche but it is the truth.

During the four days I received and picked up donations, I saw in every person's eye and heard in every person's voice the sense of care and worry for the victims, especially the children. That's why we got cans and cans of baby formula and many boxes of children's medicine. Every tin of baby formula I received brought a happy tear to my eye as I imagine the tiny little mouths that it would feed.

It took two trips to the Youth Centre to drop off the donations that were piled high in my office. With painstaking precision, members of Kapisanan packed the goods and readied the boxes for delivery to the typhoon victims. Thank you to all the donors and thank you to Kapisanan for mobilizing the relief efforts.

This weekend we will be celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada. Although we have set a aside a special day to celebrate, the events in the Philippines and the amazing support of friends and colleagues, remind me that we should be thankful everyday - for the strength of community, the gift of energy, and especially for the power that is called love.

To the members of the Kapisanan army who have tirelessly collected, sorted, and packed boxes of donated clothes and goods - Bravo!!! I saw the video you posted called Typhoon Kapisanan vs Typhoon Ondoy, and for me you have clearly won. You're staying true to your mission and vision.

You're all role models, your parents must be proud. You have proven that with faith, with love and a lot of helping hands, you can really move mountains. I know you have all gained a lot from this experience because I apparently did.

Borrowing from a post on the Kapisanan website (or maybe this was their Facebook status from last night) "Bodies tired and in need of rest but hearts undoubtedly full".


Charito de Vera
Toronto, Canada
October 2009


  1. I could only render the snappiest salute to your wife, Ka Popoy. It is very rare at this age to see selflessness unfold before our eyes. May the rest of the world who may therefore be reading Ka Charito's piece find the reason to believe that there are amazing purposes behind tragedies and brokenness. And may they also find some moment to understand that greater than natural tribulations, the Author of this universe is in control to remind us of what it means to be truly alive and enjoy it to the fullest. Regards to Ka Chato, sir. FRS

  2. My family and I wished you had a safe and festive welcome of the new year. May the lessons of 2009 clad in your heart and permeate in all areas of your life as you prepare to take the new ones of the coming year. Thank you for giving time unselfishly, sir. God bless you. FRS