Don’t let Yolanda (Haiyan) stop you from visiting the Philippines

I’m certain that everyone reading this post knows about the devastation supertyphoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan) brought to central Visayas and northern Palawan in the Philippines. It’s caused the deaths of thousands of people, displaced hundreds of thousands more, and caused billions of pesos worth of damage. The local and international, government and private communities have banded together to help out wherever they can, be it compiling information about the status of survivors for the benefit of their worried relatives here and abroad, collecting donations, delivering donations, giving medical care, or ferrying survivors from Villamor Air Base to their relatives in Manila. The response is overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and humbling all in one.

But what does this have to do with traveling? I decided to write this after a short chat with a high school acquaintance. He PMed me to ask about the situation in El Nido after Yolanda (I’m the only person he knows who is/was based in Palawan). He and his friends are scheduled to go to Coron (an island in the Calamian Island Group, located about 8 hours by boat north of El Nido ) in the first quarter of 2014 but they were thinking of canceling and going to El Nido instead. My first thought was “PLEASE DON’T CANCEL”.

haiyan overview map_edited

The map shows the path Yolanda took in and out of the Philippines. The main industries in these places are agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Yes, tourism. A resort owner in northern Cebu was interviewed recently. His establishment was thankfully spared, with only repairs needed for the roofs and dining area. Unfortunately, “Philippines” and “disaster” are now synonymous worldwide and he’s received cancellations for Christmas left and right. The peak tourist dates in the Philippines are Christmas, New Year, and Easter, and the industry relies on these times of the year to see them through the leaner months (June to August). No tourists, no money. Without money, how can he, his employees, the tour operators, the boatmen, the fishermen, the tricycle drivers, the jeepney drivers, and the host of other people involved in your holiday rebuild? He anticipates that business will pick up again by Easter next year. But Easter is four months away. What will be their source of income before then?

Of course there are considerations to be made before canceling your holiday. By all means, check with your hotel/inn if they’ll be ready to accept guests by that time. If they say yes or even offer a “maybe”, please don’t cancel your booking. Do not feel guilty about taking a holiday. The relief operations are just the start of the recovery process. The survivors will need a source of income to get back on their feet and they need your tourist pesos to do that.