Typhoon Odette and Relief Efforts Within the Bearcat Community

Written by: Erich

Edited by: Julia

Visual by: Mischka

On the 16th of December, just days before welcoming the new year, the Philippines was devastated by one of the most catastrophic typhoons. Locally known as Odette, and internationally recognized as Rai, it was recorded as the strongest typhoon to have hit the province of Mindanao in over a decade and was also regarded as one of the strongest hurricanes on Earth last year, being the sixth to reach Category 5: the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, which indicates a typhoon’s capacity for damage.

The super typhoon made nine landfalls over several provinces, primarily in the Visayas and Mindanao regions, before exiting the Philippines on the 18th of December. In its path of destruction, it left behind 420,000 hectares of damaged land and displaced around half a million people. The typhoon also caused $215 million worth of damage to the agricultural sector and about $330 million worth of damage to its infrastructural counterpart. Odette impacted over 7.4 million people in over 10 regions, but the province of Siargao, the first region to be approached by the typhoon, bore its brunt. With maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour, the approach of typhoon Odette had been anticipated by residents of Siargao. However, what they hadn’t anticipated was just how strong it was, for its strength extended beyond what they’d expected and prepared for; a great number of civilians were left vulnerable to the torrential rains, brutal winds, landslides, and storm surges that came with the hurricane. The warnings failed to attest to the severity of the typhoon because it had intensified from a mere tropical storm into a catastrophic Category 5 super typhoon just a few hours before it had made landfall.

Past Siargao, Typhoon Odette also made landfall in the provinces of the Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Palawan with matching levels of intensity, leaving plenty of residents and tourists without food, shelter, hygiene kits, and access to medical services. With over 100,000 homes destroyed and resources still scarce, humanitarian relief efforts were necessary for the speedy recovery of all impacted regions, to which certain members of the Bearcat community have contributed through fundraisers and donations.

An example of such efforts to assist victims of Typhoon Odette is demonstrated by Light The Way. Founded by ISM Juniors Sid and Jagat, Light The Way Philippines is a student-led non-profit organization striving to incorporate renewable energy within regions of the Philippines that need it. Their New Year’s Fundraiser, done in collaboration with One Million Lights Philippines, is dedicated to raising the funds needed to purchase a solar power station and solar lamp kits for the community at Lake Mihaba at the Agusan Marsh, which can help them overcome the electricity and signal shortages that they’re currently experiencing, as well as providing half a decade’s worth of clean energy. The ongoing fundraiser spans this entire month of January. Products like coffee, strawberry jam, and hot chocolate mix are available, and donations are accepted as well. Make sure to check it out on their Instagram page!

Besides Light The Way, The Wagon School (TWS) is another organization that has also put in its effort towards helping with typhoon relief. It is a student-run nonprofit organization founded by Reyn, a sophomore who aims to close the gap in educational inequality within the Philippines. TWS is geared towards ending the cycle of poverty by offering impoverished Filipino adolescents the gift of education. Last December, members of TWS partnered up with sophomore Bea to help raise money through donations that would benefit individuals in Bohol and Siargao. The funds raised were used to send over 300 packages of necessities, which included water bottles, canned goods, instant noodles, alcohol, and masks to these regions, to help them cope with the lasting effects of Typhoon Odette. 

Another ongoing ISM-based effort to assist victims of Typhoon Odette was made by the sophomore student council president Carrilyn, who has currently set up a Gcash account dedicated to raising funds that will be donated to Red Cross Philippines. More information regarding the fundraiser can be found on the Class of 2024 Instagram page!

The Philippines is slowly becoming more and more vulnerable to the effects of climate change as demonstrated by the severity of that damage caused by Typhoon Odette — primarily attributed to its geographical structure as an archipelago and its status as a third-world country. That is why it is of utmost importance that we concern ourselves, engage with, and help prevent climate change.

With the continuous emissions of greenhouse gases leading up to the increase of sea temperatures, we can only expect to see even stronger typhoons soon, for these typhoons would lack the mitigation that cooler-temperature water would’ve ideally brought. Despite our best efforts and intentions to contribute to humanitarian relief efforts, it isn’t sustainable to continue with such efforts if we’re not making any move in contributing towards the bigger picture of ending climate change. It is, by far, the larger factor behind why we experience typhoons as strong as this one. The significance of doing so lies within the fear that if the Philippines were to suffer from effects of typhoons just as devastating as Odette, there’s no telling just how irreversible the damage would be for the country and its people. 


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