Philippines: 7, 107 islands, 7,101 islands, 6,998 islands …

Climate Change has already begun to hit the Pines in various negative ways with more doom and gloom in the post if we don’t turn this mother around.

With climate change will come water shortages and decreases in agricultural yield and food security which is already a major issue for the Philippines, especially with the latest typhoons hitting Luzon – a major agricultural hub. Health will be threatened by heat stress and increased chances of exposure to infectious diseases via mozzies and other nasties. The idea of Samar becoming any hotter makes me shiver in a puddle of my own sweat (being one of the only constants living here, back sweat my perpetual companion).

At the moment the Philippines is 7,107 islands – those living in low-lying coastal areas will become climate refugees as their homes are destroyed by rising sea levels and wild typhoons and storms. And tourism, an important source of income for many, will decline.

Climate change will also bring more extreme weather, from floods to droughts, forest fires to tropical cyclones. I must confess I get a perverse thrill out of typhoons, only because I am safe in a nice concrete home, not a palm leaf and bamboo hut in a rice field. For the rural poor, the experience must be terrifying. I feel particularly guilty when I hear the death toll after the event, usually caused by flooding and mudslides (illegal logging, forest degradation, down the dark spiral it goes …)

But there are some pissed off Pinoys that are sick of their government’s inaction and taking matters into their own hands. For further info and events visit http://www.klima.ph/ There are also some really innovative companies like Green Renewable Independent Power Producer Inc (GRIPP) who are involved in multiple green initiatives including electric jeepneys in Manila. 

As for the Australian government – 5% reduction target is pissweak. For a man to lecture the rest of the world at the UN General Assembly on the need to act now then set a ridiculously low target for one of the wealthiest countries in the world who has now over-taken the USA as one of the greatest producers of carbon dioxide emissions per capita. Pissweak … Not Happy Kev! Step up and be the Prime Minister I thought I voted for. 

Passionate? Angry? More information? Check out www.blogactionday.org

What a difference a day makes

Wednesday: Wake up in a twisted mess of sheets and sweat.

What time is it?
Shiver,                                 drift                     drift                   drift                              in and out.
The coolness of the bathroom tiles pressed against my fevered brow. 

I’ve got something serious this time…

Shove what I later discover to be a curious array of items into my backpack (must bring the pretty things as I may never return was my ‘logic’ at the time) with a disturbing lack of toiletries and underwear. To a startled tricycle driver; “Special Trip. Hospital.”

The emergency ward at the Provincial Hospital was like any other Catarman experience – giggles, stares as I blew my nose, questions about my life (not the reason I am at the hospital). In fact my doctor whom I met 5 hours after I was admitted seemed more interested in my Waray and Tagalog vocabulary than my symptoms (he seemed superfluous to the whole operation as I already had a drip in my arm and drugs in my system).

To say the hospital was basic is a gross understatement. I had to wait for my kasama (company) before I was admitted. You will not be admitted unless you have kasama because they are the ones who buy your drugs, water, food and provide you with care. My colleagues were amazing, bringing bed sheets and pillows, getting supplies and patting me down with an iced cloth when my fever spiked.

I joke that this is what Jewish people do with their dead, I am meet with multiple pairs of eyes and told that that’s not funny. Jesus, do I look that bad?

Rowe jokes that I am experiencing the real Philippines like a local, which is true until I am flown to Manila the next day and go to a top medical facility in Makati.

The first thing that strikes me about Makati Medical is that it smells like a hospital should, a sterile cocktail of antiseptics and rubbing alcohol. And it is clean, no mystery splattered brown stains on the walls or filthy toilets here.
I also have a very comforting chat will my insurance company nurses based back in Australia.

Thursday: Convalescing in a modern clean hotel in Ortigas (also covered by insurance) it also strikes me how as an AYAD you are ‘one of the people’, but not. Your cultural submersion can only go so far and your safety can not be compromised.

I not only have been caught by the safety net of the program and the swift actions of my In Country Manager’s team, I’ve had a fascinating glimpse into Filipino culture. The collectivism and the care of ‘family’, the obsession with appearance even when I could barely stand up, “Do you want to change your dirty t-shirt? (for the 23rd time…). I’m in a 3rd world hospital with a drip in my arm and no one knows what’s wrong with me, my t-shirt is the least of my concerns right now.

And what did I have? Theories range from a bad spirit to severe gastroenteritis, neither seem to encapsulate all the symptoms I had but I’m much better now.

Damo ulum, Dito uran (more food, less rain)

After extensive research* apparently there is no conclusive evidence that weather effects mood. Unless you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (with the amusing acronym – SAD)

But if the weather has stripped you from all your possessions, loved ones and the life you once had, I beg to differ. At the peek of the Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) 80% of Manila was underwater, with over 200 dead and thousands homeless.

Although Samar was not severely hit by last weekend’s typhoon the wet season has kicked in, and it kicks like a wounded carabao. Another typhoon is brewing, perhaps even a ‘super typhoon’, and no one seems to know exactly when and where it is travelling to.

Bad weather impedes your movement, with inadequate drainage the dirt road that I live on is a soggy, filthy quagmire of plastic garbage and dog ta-e (God I hope they are only dog turds). Like a refugee in my own opisina, I am huddled in a corner to escape the wind and rain (uran). My usually peaceful work vista of an azure blue sea and coconut trees is now a smear of washed out grey and military green.

There is also military green sitting on the corner of the street, with their AK-47s casually slung across their shoulders. They always seem quite jolly, and even happier when I pass in the morning (they’re only ‘uman as Kimmy would say). With the elections next year there has been ‘increased activity’ of NPA (New People’s Army), arson and extra judicial killings. ‘Increased activity’ being a euphemism for some heavy shit is going down in the hills of Samar these days and even in the towns.

I will be the one to keep a low profile (ha ha), listen to the not-so soothing rain and read a good book.

So as we pray for the rain to stop, help put rice on the table for an Asian family in need –  Asia Pacific Disaster Appeal – maraming salamat po. 

Destruction beyond comprehension

Destruction beyond comprehension

 *Read two blogs and the New Scientist online