Student - March 13, 2014

‘Even the poorest of the poor collected clothing’

Linda van der Nat

Who? Lisa Naus, third year BSc International Land and Water Management
What? Centre for Disaster Preparedness
Where? Manila, the Filipijnen

‘I have always been fascinated by natural disasters and I wanted to go to Asia because of the culture and the environment. In that respect the Philippines may have the worst location on the globe, because its residents are affected by almost every kind of natural disaster going. And yet what I saw was a population that is not easily defeated. Because I was in Manila I hardly saw the structural damage done by typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda locally), but I did see how sponsored walks were organized and how even the poorest of the poor collected clothing for the victims. The optimism is truly incredible. The strength to carry on and always keep on smiling.

My internship took place at the Centre for Disaster Preparedness in Manila. It was quite an experience to live in a megacity like that, with all its smog and very heavy traffic. The office was on the university campus, the only big green space around. There were no other foreign students in the organizations or the house I lived in, so I only had Filipino colleagues. I gave one of them the bag of salty liquorice I got for Christmas. She was so keen to make it last she cut them all into smaller pieces.

For my internship I joined the project called  Securing the Safety of Informal Settler Families in Metro Manila. This meant observing how the project worked, how it was implemented and how training was done. I conducted interviews myself too. One week I interviewed poor families in their ‘houses’, and the next I went to a conference to talk to city officials.

I did some travelling as well. On my own, which is fairly unique. Everyone was very curious and asked where my friend was. That led to a lot of nice moments. Sometimes I got asked out to lunch spontaneously, or I got a lift back to the village. Most Filipinos live in Manila because of the companies and facilities, but everything outside it is much more beautiful. Glistening white beaches, chalk cliffs and terraced riced fields as far as the eye can see. It doesn’t come much better than that.’