Sunday, July 13, 2014

Just For The Record

There will almost certainly come a time in your life when you need to obtain an official copy of a vital statistics record that documents an event in your personal history, such as birth, marriage, or divorce, or for a  death certificate of a family member such as a spouse or parent. If you reside in the locale where the occasion in question took place, it may just require a trip to city hall or the county seat to get this document. But if you live outside that area, such as in another state,obviously it's not going to be so convenient. And if you live outside the U.S., as is the case with American expatriates, accessing these files from abroad can be a real challenge. However,  as you will see, there is a solution.

When my wife Lydia was applying  to regain her Philippine citizenship  for dual citizenship status and thought that she had completed all the steps to the reacquisition shuffle, out of the blue the Philippines Bureau of Immigration, decided to request a copy of our marriage certificate. We didn't think we still had it at hand as we were married 43 years ago, but after some digging we managed to find it. Our other concern was that since our marriage took place outside the Philippines that we might have to have our certificate validated locally, and whether or not that was possible. As it turns out, our worries about the latter  were for naught. And a few weeks after we submitted a copy of this paper (by email attachment), Lydia received her dual citizenship certificate. 

Nevertheless, that episode got me to thinking. Suppose the BI had asked her to submit the marriage certificate itself rather than just an emailed attachment. That would have meant surrendering our only record 
on hand that verifies our marriage. So at that point I decided to try to get another official copy of this form in the event that for whatever reason and to whomever  we are required to submit it. That way we would still have an authorized duplicate for own records.

We were married in Los Angeles, California. So I went on line to find out how to obtain the certificate. I googled my request and was directed to the Los Angeles County Clerk Registrar-Recorder website which furnished instructions about obtaining that form. But I had a few concerns that needed addressing before I could send in my order. One of them concerned  the recorded message instructions for the requester to furnish a self addressed stamped envelope along with the order. Where the hell am I going to get U.S. postage stamps in the Philippines?. The other issue was that the  required identification to be included with the request was a photocopy of a  California driver's license, which I no longer hold. So I phoned the LACCRR, and went through numerous prompts to reach a customer service representative. Alas,  I was never able to get through to speak with one despite making  about three attempts and waiting in queue for approximately an hour each time. What was I going to do?

It so happens that accompanying the LACCRR website, there was link to a private company called Vitalchek.com .  This  is a service that searches for and furnishes vital statistics records to the requester in a more streamlined manner than that provided by  the government offices themselves, such as a  faster turnaround.  As a result the fee charged  by Vitalchek  is more than the $15.00 assessed by  Los Angeles County . On the other hand, Vitachek accepts other forms of identification from the requester (including passport), and once they obtain the record from the government office in question, they then  forward it to the customer via UPS;  so no SASE or a driver's license worries.

Is Vitalchek an honest and  reliable organization? Well,when I googled their background, I found that the company did have a previous run-in with the Better Business Bureau over advertising and service issues. As a result, Vitalchek made some changes in its operations including its website, which I found very easy to use. So I took a chance and  placed my request for our  marriage certificate through them. I received my order in about  2 1/2 weeks. This is in stark contrast to the LACCRR which estimates a six-week waiting period for order fulfillment.. The cost for Vitalchek's services including the international UPS delivery of my document was $58.00 USD*. So I think that was a pretty good deal. And now that I know I have a source to look to for such important personal files, it makes my life as an expat a little easier.

*The cost of an order may vary depending on the quantity of documents requested and their accessibility.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Perspecitve on Gun Violence in the Philppines

In my other blog site "Towards a Rational America and an Enlightened Judaism", I recently wrote a post titled "Confronting America's Gun Obsession" in which I discussed the widespread  fixation in the U.S. on firearms and their associated violence.  The Philippines is also plagued with violence, and gun deaths are all too common here as well.  In fact while the actual rate of gun ownership in this country is less than in the U.S. (which is the highest in the world), the  homicide rate by firearms percent per 100,000 of  the population in the Philippines is 8.93 vs. 4.7 in the U.S.

Just open the local newspapers  and you will read of the numerous gun-related killings that take place daily,  especially in Metro-Manila.  As the above stats show, the percentage of such incidents far exceeds those in the U.S.   However, my impression is that there is a qualitative difference between the two countries when it comes to the type of culture that generates these shootings  in the first place. For example, as opposed to the imprecise wording of the U.S. Constitution about the  individual's so-called "right to bear arms, (the interpretation of which is often heatedly debated by Americans)  this right is clearly  limited in the Philippines: It's not  even constitutionally affirmed at all. And actually gun registration laws are strict (in theory anyway.  Due to corruption among officials and irresponsibility among the citizenry,  meaningful enforcement and compliance are  another matter.)

Another difference is that the usual choice of weapons for individuals here is handguns rather than assault weapons often favored in the U.S. Perhaps the latter are too expensive for the average individual to be able to afford in this third-world country.

Also in the Philippines unlike in the U.S.  where gun ownership is considered by many people as almost  a sacred  religion, there is no gun lobby or powerful pro-gun organization like the National Rifle Association along with its inordinate political power. Rather, the local preoccupations with guns  is likely the result of the machismo tradition handed down from the Spanish colonization period which lasted over 300 years and left an indelible mark on society.  This same type of attachment to such weaponry is also reflected in the culture of  Latin American countries which of course are also former colonies of Spain. However, to the extent that gun possession  here and in those other countries is considered a means of personal empowerment,  it's likely also a means of compensation for feelings of personal inadequacy, as may  well also be the case for gun fanatics in the U.S.

My other observation about gun violence here is that while many of these killings are randomly directed at strangers, such as in the commission another crime (e.g. robbery),  it seems that more of them are targeted  at those who are known to the attacker, including acquaintances, friends, and family members. The motive is often a hot-headed response to a real or imagined slight.  This oversensitivity  is usually the result of  personal narcissism which pervades the population here and is often compounded by alcohol consumption.  On the other hand, school shootings which are becoming increasingly common in America are almost unheard of in the Philippines.

But cold blooded murder is also common in this country, the targets for which are often politicians and journalists . The actual planners of these homicides don't have to dirty their hands by committing the act themselves. Hired killers are easy to come by and work cheap, a term which also describes  the overall regard in the Philippines for human life outside of one's family or circle of interest. Hence, taking the life of the "other" must be easy for these masterminds and hit men if they don't consider the victim as another person anyway.

As in any country, the roots of national character run deep in the Philippines. So it would take a sea change in society's mentality to overcome the destructiveness  that reigns in  this culture. And this behavior can only cease if the people  finally learn to respect each other as fellow human beings and to turn away from the love of violence, including  the  weapons that perpetuate it.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Choreography of Reacquiring Philippine Citizenship

When my wife Lydia regained her Philippine citizenship last week. she had a motivation in doing so that I wasn't aware of:  an end to the alienation that she had felt in living here for nine years without the full empowerment that comes with the privilege of being a full member of the society in which she was born and raised.  So in taking this step Lydia not only helped to resolve my visa issue, but she regained the rights that accompany citizenship and, equally important, peace of mind.  

As I mentioned in my last post, reacquisition of Philippine citizenship and thus becoming a dual citizen in the process is on the whole not a difficult procedure and may take only one trip to the Bureau of Immigration to complete. But applicants have to make sure that they dot their i's and cross their t's. And as in any instance in dealing with a government office, "expect the unexpected".   For example, Lydia originally completed the application form  for reacquisition  of citizenship (BI Form MCL-08-01)  that she picked up from the BI in March. She properly completed it at home,  had it notarized as required, and presented it along with the necessary supporting documents to Immigration for approval on April 23, only to be informed that the application form  had been revised in the meantime.. So she would have to fill out a new app, (BI Form 2014 01 005 Rev 0) (legal size).  Further, the requisite photos of herself that she brought along were also invalid  as the requirement for their size and background color had also been changed.  The other problem was with one of her supporting docs: proof of her naturalization by a foreign government: The BI officer who reviewed her papers deemed it to be inadequate. Fortunately, Lydia was able to correct all these problems during that one visit.  But it was very stressful to be blindsided this way. 

So for those interested in regaining their Philippine citizenship, in addition to the above  Bureau of Immigration form, click here for the latest list of necessary supporting docs. Once you've finished the paperwork, assembled the file, and are ready to bring it to the BI in Intramuros, Manila, here is the "dance" you will likely have to do on arrival. I call it the "reacquisition shuffle:" But first a reminder: In almost any dealings with the BI, it's essential that you arrive there early in the day, preferably before 7:00 a.m. You snooze, you lose.

Present your completed file to the  Public Information Assistance Unit which is located on the first floor directly across from the building entrance. An agent there will scan your papers to ensure that you have the right forms. You can also pick up blank forms there as well.

Proceed to Window 14 where your application and supporting documents will be examined in depth.

If all is in order, you will be sent to the legal department on the 4th floor where a Bureau of Immigration attorney will administer the oath-taking.

After the oath-taking, return to Window 14 where the clerk will check your file for the attorney's endorsement.

Proceed to Window 15  where  your file will be reviewed for final approval.

After this authorization, go to the cashier at Window 21 and pay the P3,010 fee (ouch!)

Return to  Window 15  and  present  your  receipt for proof of payment.

You will then be directed to the "Air 21" Desk (not to be confused with the BI Cashier Window 21) where you will  pay a P100.00 delivery fee. The clerk will hand you a receipt with a tracking number and a delivery bag bearing your name and address. This is the envelope in which your approval for dual citizenship  will be sent to you within 30 days.

Take this envelope back to Window 15 and give it to the clerk. This is the final step in the "acquisition shuffle". Take a bow for your performance. You've earned it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

How My Visa Woes Were Finaly Solved

In my January 19. 2014 post "My Annual Report: Filing: An Unexpected Twist" I mentioned  the Philippines Bureau of Immigration's findings that my permanent residence visa was incorrect. The type that I should have been issued  when I originally applied in 2005 at the Los Angeles Philippine Consulate for approval to live in this country was a "13g". This visa is given to an applicant whose spouse is a former Philippine citizen, which was my wife Lydia's status at that time. Instead, that office mistakenly issued me a "13a" visa,  which is for an alien  whose spouse is a current Philippine citizen. Now, at the time I didn't know the difference, and moreover it wasn't really my responsibility to be aware of this distinction anyway. As far as I was concerned, I had completed the application that I was given accurately and in good faith, paid the fee, and got my clearance to reside  here.  And that should have been that. 

I have held this visa for over 8 years.  During this time I have conducted various transactions with the BI such as annual reports (yearly alien registrations); an application for and receipt of an I-card (the Philippine counterpart of an U.S.  green card)  along with its replacement when the original expired; and an exit from and reentry into the Philippines.. Not once in all these years did an Immigration official notice any discrepancy in my visa.  It was only at this year's annual report filing (which was more thorough than those in the past), that the examining officer caught the error.

And as I mentioned in "An Unexpected Twist" after  I followed up on the matter with the Bureau of Immigration visa section, I was led to believe that I might be off the hook and wouldn't need to take any further action. This was a relief. because in accordance with BI rules, changing my visa classification would likely have resulted in a downgrade of my status to that of a non-permanent resident  and an imposition of a P5,000 fee to upgrade it again, even though the necessity of making this change was not my fault but that of the Philippine government.

As it turns out, however, the issue at that point was far from settled. After going through various channels including the BI  executive office,  my case finally wound up in the legal department.  At that point I was informed  that I would have to present myself to an attorney in that division   When I learned of this disposition, I became extremely concerned as I had heard tales of irregularities about that office. But the lawyer who interviewed me was quite helpful. His advice was that the simplest way to solve my visa problem was for Lydia to reacquire her Philippine citizenship. In doing so, her status would be retroactive and would thus legitimize my 13a visa status. Further, this step would benefit her as well.  She would  then be eligible to vote in political elections here and enjoy other perks that Philippine citizenship confers.

However, ever since Lydia had become naturalized in the States several years ago, she was leery about taking any actions that could jeopardize her American citizenship. But as it turns out, the U.S. has accepted dual citizenship for several decades, and many Filipinos hold both U.S. and Philippine passports. Her other concern was that regaining her Philippine citizenship might be a big bureaucratic hassle. The BI attorney explained that this is now a fairly simple process involving a two-page form along with a few other minor requirements and usually only one appearance at Immigration. Thus he convinced her on the matter,. On  April 23, the process  was completed, and she is now a dual citizen. Needless to say it was a big relief for both of us to have this task out of the way and to know that my visa status is finally in compliance. I am very grateful to Lydia for making this happen, especially in light of the frustrations that she encountered  to regain her citizenship and which I will narrate in a future post.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

An Evaluation of Local Medical Care

I recently had  cataract surgery on both eyes and as a result, I no longer need corrective lenses except for reading.  After many decades of wearing eye glasses, it's a strange sensation to be able to see well this way. When I wash  or go to bed, through force of habit my hands still automatically reach to remove eye-wear that is no longer there.

The  cataract procedure itself is somewhat uncomfortable but takes only about 20 minutes and is done on an outpatient basis. Nevertheless, it is surgery; and as such it's still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it was performed at an eye center in a shopping mall. Alternatively, my ophthalmologist who is one of the best I ever had,  also has a practice at a well-known hospital here in Metro-Manila, and I could have opted for it to be done there instead. But in many ways, the former was more expedient. 

Importantly, the cost of the operation which came to about $1,200 per eye including the artificial lens was about one-third of what I was likely to be charged  in the U.S. for the same package of services.  True, at my age I probably would have been covered by Medicare, but that health care plan is not available for Americans living abroad.  On the other hand, I do have Philhealth and a private insurance plan that I expect will reimburse me for most of  my out of pocket expenses. 

Back in 2008 I wrote a post that discussed how various countries in this part of the world, including the Philippine, offer good medical care at less expensive rates than in the U.S.  Since that time, I have consulted a number of local physicians and have had state of the art evaluation tests and treatments at medical centers here for various conditions and ailments (ah, the joys of aging). On the whole,  I can say that my overall experience has been positive, and I am convinced that Philippines does indeed have the potential to make a name for itself as center for medical tourism. It may be just a matter of time before this country receives that recognition.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tragic Bus

As I have noted in previous posts, traffic in the Philippines if often a nightmare due to the recklessness and poor upkeep of public utility vehicles which include passenger jeeps and buses. In December, a bus fell off the Skyway, an elevated  roadway in Metro-Manila killing several passengers and the driver. The vehicle was speeding on bald tires causing it to hydroplane on wet pavement,  lose control, and flip over a guard rail crushing a van on the street below. Then this month, a bus  with switched license plates traveling in the northern part of the country fell off a mountain road into a ravine. Several passengers, including two foreigners, died in this tragedy which was evidently caused by mechanical failure.

And while not an "accident" as such, in 2010 a sightseeing  bus in Manila carrying Chinese  tourists  was hijacked by a lone gunman, a former police officer.  Several people died in the rescue attempt that was grossly mishandled, e.g. the failure of authorities on the scene failing to prevent bystanders from entering  the crime scene area while law enforcement personnel  were trying to get the hijacker to surrender, and immediately after the shootout  When the SWAT team finally stormed the bus to save the hostages, their attempt was disastrously haphazard and disorganized. This sowed only more confusion and delay during which time the gunman killed several passengers before he was finally shot and killed by police snipers.  The Philippine government paid damages to the victims' families but through now has refused the Chinese government's request for a formal apology on the basis that the gunman committed the crime as a private individual, not as an agent of the Philippine government. 

What all these bus incidents have in common is that they were the result of official ineptness The first two could have been prevented by closer supervision from the government agency,  the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, that grants the approval for businesses to operate public utility vehicles.  The LTFRB finally took punitive action against the Don Mariano Transit and the Florida Transport lines that were involved in the respective accidents after the fact. But for the victims by then of course it was too late.

In  the case of the hostage event, the Manila Police Department should have dealt with the crisis  in a more disciplined and professional manner with better trained personnel.  I formerly believed that the Philippine government  should not accept fault for incident on the above stated reasoning. However, after reflecting on the degree to which an official  agency lost and control and bungled ending the siege, perhaps an apology to China is in order after all. Similarly, anytime that tourists  in this country wind up as victims of harm or violence that is the result of civil authorities' negligence or inaction, the Philippines should pay damage their families and issue a public apology to the governments of the visitors' countries of origin as well. The international negative publicity  that repeated incidents of this nature generate may  discourage would-be visitors from this country. If that happens  to the point that such disregard by the Philippines for safety and human life while  tolerated locally is negatively impacting  foreign investment and tourism, that may be enough to  spur the  government to finally to take corrective measures in this area.Click here to see the reaction of one such foreigner whose father in law died in the Skyway accident.

The official Department of Tourism for attracting visitors here is "It's More Fun in the Philippines". But how much "fun" can it be for foreigners and their families if they come home in a coffin?  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Annual Report Filing: An Unexpected Twist

My wife Lydia and I arrived at the Bureau of Immigration on Wednesday at about 6:40 a.m. and there were already  several people ahead of us. The doors opened promptly at 7a.m. By then the queue of course was longer. At about that time a security guard directed annual report filers to the guidance area for help in completing their forms. That's where we should have gone right away, but due to miscommunicated instructions, we thought we didn't have to do so because we had already filled out our papers. 

But once we finally got properly situated in the AR interview area, it took about an hour including waiting time, which might have been less had we gone to that section immediately. Actually, it took even longer for us to assemble and photocopy the required supporting docs (I-card and passport validation page copies, etc)  in the days before the annual report, not to mention the expenses involved, including the notary service fee of P200.00 for each of us . The good thing is that completing that package and having it ready for review before we got there saved a lot of time.

Once the examiner approves the annual report form, there  are  two more stops  to make where another examiner who gives the approved forms a quick  once-over before sending you to the cashier. After the P310 payment, you're done. Be sure to hang on to the receipt as you'll likely need that for next year's AR. 

The unwelcome surprise that I received is that the original examiner determined that there was an error in my permanent resident visa, specifically that it's supposedly the wrong kind.  However,  rather than hold me up for possibly several more hours to get the issue straightened out that day,  he logged the matter and signed off on  my annual report with the understanding that I would address the visa situation ASAP.  The strange thing is that I got the visa in 2005 but it took Immigration nine years to determine that something was amiss(?).

So I returned to the BI on Friday and proceeded to the visa section. I explained my predicament to the clerk, who  took my passport I-card, and the documents accompanying my annual review  inside the office where she evidently conferred with her supervisor.  She returned a short while later with the good news that as far as that department was concerned, there was  no discrepancy in my visa after all. This was because of a technicality that the annual report examiner hadn't considered in his status evaluation. So I sent a notice relaying that outcome  to him.

Yet  I wonder whether he will let it go at that as during the initial interview, he was very insistent in his position.  I only hope that he doesn't pursue the matter further.  The last thing that any expat needs is to get ensnarled with Immigration in a bureaucratic hassle stemming from circumstances that were not of his /her making in the first place.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The New Annual Report: Ouch!

In years past I've written posts regarding the annual report, which is a yearly registration and head tax that runs from early January to early March and  with which most aliens residing in the Philippines must comply. Until a few years ago, this used to be a complex procedure but was then revised and made more user friendly.  During this time, the only requirements  were that applicants show up at  the BI main headquarters or district offices and present their I-card, the previous year's annual report payment receipt,  a copy of their  passport validation page, and a P310 fee. Seniors were exempted from having to appear and instead were allowed to  have a 3rd party present their data and complete the filing in their behalf.  

However, effective this January, some radical changes have been  instituted by the new Bureau of Immigration commissioner that have once again made  completing the  annual report more difficult than in quite some time. The rationale behind this revamping is supposedly a need to clear out the dead wood of improper and fraudulent registrations and to modernize the BI's records.  Yet when the biometric I-card was introduced by Immigration around 2008, its  purpose was to prevent these very problems and  others which had been prevalent under the old ACR/ICR paper filing system.

Here is a list of items necessary for filers to complete the AR
  •   The 4 page form which must be filled out beforehand and notarized, complete with thumbprints.
  •   The filer's I-card plus 2 photocopies , one side of the card on the front and the other on the back         of the page..
  •   2 copies of the filer's passport validation page and date of last arrival in the Philippines page. It's         also a good idea to bring the passport itself.  If it was renewed in the Philippines, bring the expired       one as well. Annual report evaluators sometimes want additional data from this source.
  •  1 photocopy of the  visa page in your passport. Again, if the visa is in an old passport, bring it along with your new one.  
  •  Last year's annual report payment receipt.  
  •  Two 2" x 2" photos of the filer taken in the last 30 days (bring a dated receipt).
  •  Review  the form for  further information, such as instructions that are particular to the filer's particular situation
Arrive early. At the Immigration headquarters in Intramuros, Manila, the doors open at 7:00, and queues start forming around 6:30. Naturally, the later you show up, there will be more people ahead of you and the  longer the process will take. BTW Seniors are no longer exempted from appearing, but they will receive priority service.

For those who plan to execute the filing at a BI branch office, call there first to ensure that they are equipped to deal with this new procedure.  Click here for a list of Immigration branch offices and their phone numbers.

In my next post, I will discuss my personal experience in filing the new AR.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December In The Philippines: "Winter" In Name Only

I recently read that a record low temperature of -135ºF  (-93ºC) had been recorded in Antarctica. I don't think this type of weather is likely to occur here in Southeast Asia anytime soon. But when I read about the winter weather in the other parts of the world, including places that are experiencing snow and colder than usual  conditions such as in the Middle East,  not to mention the cold weather in many portions of the the U.S at this is the time of the year, I'm especially glad to be residing in the Philippines. Here in Metro-Manila, December night time minimum low temperatures average is in the low 70º's F (low 20º's C).  Daytime temps reach into  the low to upper 80ºs-low 90º'sF (low 30º'sC). There are only occasional rainstorms, and so far this year, no typhoons have struck MM). The humidity in this quarter is also lower than other times of the year. So all in all,  it's quite comfortable now

But not all of the country experiences tropical weather in December. A popular resort and summer capital, Baguio City, which is in a higher elevation has cooler weather. The typical temperature ranges are maximums in the low 60º's F (20º's C) and minimums in the 50º's F (teens C). Summers there are  pleasant with daytime temps in the upper 70º's and night tmes in the low 60º's. 

The "real feel" in scattered locales even at sea level in the Philippines can also get chilly. My wife says that during December, she uses a blanket at night when she visits her home town of Gumaca, in Quezon province. This coolness might be the result of  breezes coming in from Lamon Bay next to which that locale is situated.

In the area of the Philippines that was struck by Typhoon Haiyan, such as Tacloban City, temps are similar to those in Metro-Manila. So at least after the storm passed, the weather was such that victims were able to cope better than refugees in other countries for whom inclement weather can compound their distress. As mentioned above, for example the Middle East has had cold, wet  weather  that which has only aggravated the misery of the Syrian exiles who are living in refugee camps under already desperate conditions. In Israel, Jerusalem was also blanketed with snow and at this writing some portions of that city have been  without electric power for 3 days. In contrast, partly due to more moderate climate conditions, the typhoon survivors in the Philippines may now be able to start rebuilding their lives. Imagine how difficult even thinking about moving on would be if they were still being battered by an ongoing  hostile weather environment.

In short,  the overall climate in the Philippines tends to be fairly constant year round  without major shifts from region to region. And inasmuch as there are no extreme changes from season to season throughout the country, December here is more or less just another month.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Some Thoughts on Typhoon Haiyan

Unlike the earthquake last month that preceded Typhoon Haiyan (local name "Yolanda") , there was ample warning by several days regarding the path and intensity of the approaching storm. So I wonder why more supplies and emergency personnel including the military weren't pre-positioned in or near the locale where it was expected to--and in fact did--make landfall. This obviously would have saved time and lives  instead of having to wait for aid to be transported later into the affected areas under impossible and impassable conditions which prevailed after the typhoon struck. It's true that in the case of Tacloban City, the unexpected storm surge that accompanied the typhoon may have wreaked more havoc than anything else in this disaster. Yet, again, given the advanced data regarding the unprecedented  strength of  Haiyan, "forewarned" should have resulted in a better "forearmed".

***
As I have mentioned in previous posts, the national cultural  trait of family narcissism is a detriment to Philippine society. This is especially the case in situations such as the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan where the excuse for looting not motivated by understandable desperation from starvation and / or thirst is "I have a family". The fact that  victims of such a crime may also have families doesn't register with the perpetrator who is oblivious to anyone outside his circle of interest.

In a twist on this obsession here with family, especially nuclear members,   Michael Tan of the  "Philippine Daily Inquirer" gave an account of one of his staffed members who dropped everything to go one of the most storm-devastated towns to try to find her mother. Travel would be very difficult, and what little money that she was able to bring for her mother,and her own personal expenses might be stolen by desperate refugees, so she herself might wind up a casualty.  Further, she and others like her who are searching for family members might just get in the way of rescue operations being conducted for the community at large.   The employee ignored Tan's advice to wait a few days until conditions were more settled and thus her chances of learning her mom's fate would be improved.  As of Nov. 15, Tan has not heard further from her.

***

As a Jewish humanist  and permanent resident of the Philippines. I was interested to see the extent to which these sources would step up to the plate in assisting the victims of Haiyan. The answer was not long in coming. Several such groups are coming through. Among them are  Jewish Federations of North America, Union for Reform Judaism and American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The Jewish Association of the Philippines is also pitching in with donations and a project for repacking relief goods.  The State of Israel has furnished 100 tons of supplies and senior medical personal, and has set up a set up a field hospital in TaclobanHumanist Charities and The American Humanist Association are coordinating relief efforts through PATAS (Philippine Atheist and Agnostic Society). PATAS itself is seeking various donations from local contributors for this project.

Nov.19 Update: Humanist Charities has raised $25,611 in just one day in behalf of  PATAS for aid to the typhoon victims. 

***

Finally, as I mentioned above, government preparations for Haiyan were inadequate. But worse was the delay and bottlenecks before rescue efforts and supplies began reaching  the decimated areas after the storm  and which are now finally getting through to their destinations. President Aquino has taken  a lot of criticism for this debacle, and taking command responsibility into account, that was bound to happen. Moreover, effective leadership is essential at a time like this, and according to "Analysis: Hero to zero? Philippine president feels typhoon backlash", Aquino may well indeed have dropped the ball.
Yet in all fairness, based on the history of disaster responses both during and before Aquino's administration as well as  onespecially onPhilippine culture the botched response to the Haiyan was almost a foregone conclusion. Almost every time  there's a calamity in this country, there's a hue and cry about how casualties and damage could have been prevented, who's at fault,  and declarations by officials that such lack of preparedness and inadequate response must never happen again. But the fact is that due to a combination of such factors as  institutional inefficiency and corruption at almost every government level and locale, as well popular fatalism, it can't help but happen again and again. So will this time be any different? Will Filipinos finally demand improvements in disaster preparedness and response as intensely as they have, say,  to the pork barrel scandal?  Or will they eventually let the issue slide just as they have in the past?  If this happens, then next time there's a failed government response to a natural catastropheand given the Philippines geographic and geological particulars, there's bound to be a next timethe people will have no one to blame but themselves.