On September 23, 2009, torrential rains slammed the Philippines, as Typhoon Ketsana ravaged the small island country. Hundreds were left dead or injured. Not even a week after Ketsana dissipated, Typhoon Parma formed and struck the same area. Still reeling from the first shock, hundreds more fell victim. Many organizations have helped the Philippines in its time of need. Celebrities, too, have done their part.
Quentin Tarantino is donating the funds from the opening of his film, Inglorious Basterds, to help deliver aid, and apl.de.ap from the Black Eyed Peas performed at a concert in Manila to raise both funds and the spirits of the Filipinos. Surely, we would assume, TCNJ’s Asian American Association (AAA) has spearheaded a profound effort to help. So what has this effort consisted of? They started a canned food drive. That’s right – a canned food drive. In the Filipinos’ time of need, the skies opened, light poured down on their weather-torn country, and cans of Chef Boyardee’s ravioli rained down from the heavens.
AAA, a club with a large member base that annually receives a sizeable amount of funding for its various events, has started a canned food drive for the Philippines. I can only ask: why? A quote from the Filipino hero, José Rizal, answers this question. “Man works for an object. Remove that object and you reduce him to inaction” (“Indolence of the Filipino”). This canned food drive is a pseudo-humanitarian effort carried out by organizations with vast resources, such as AAA, so they are able to feel as if they have done something, no matter how small and insignificant. Then, afterwards, they can pat themselves on the back. AAA spends much of its funds throughout the year on hosting various events, yet cannot spare some money to lead a significant effort to raise money or awareness – their Mystique of the East show and semi-formals, apparently, are far more important. What is especially mortifying is that Filipinos comprise a significant portion of AAA’s membership.
We must ask ourselves what these faux humanitarian efforts actually achieve. The death toll in the Philippines has exceeded 500 and continues to rise. Others will survive, only to find their homes destroyed. When lucrative organizations like AAA host canned food drives for large-scale disasters, they trivialize the deaths and sorrows of an entire nation to a can of cream of mushroom soup. What the Philippines needs is money to help rebuild and restore what it has lost, as well as supplies of medicine to stave off rampant infection. Leave the canned food drives to the countless grammar schools that host them. Sacrifices are needed to truly make an impact. We can last one semester without a couple hundred dollars for a semi-formal, but a Filipino’s life cannot wait to be saved.