The last thing you expect to see while visiting a disaster zone is a kid on the side on the side of the road dancing Gangnam Style. If there were ever a more apt demonstration of the oft-talked about Filipino resilience, I'd love to hear it.
Typhoon Bopha, known locally as Pablo, ripped through the Philippines this week and has so far killed at least 332 people. It's already secured the title of this year's worst storm in Southeast Asia, but the extent of the damage is still a bit of a mystery.
As I passed through the island of Mindanao with my colleagues – the Plan Philippines Emergency Response Team, and me, Plan's web and social media editor in Asia – it wasn't just the Gangnam Style boy that stuck out. The east coast of Mindanao looks like it was levelled by a tsunami. The amount of destruction hasn't been widely reported because the truth is that not many people have been to the area.
We drove from Davao airport through Compostella Valley and on to Boston and Cateel (we didn't make it as far as Baganga, which was our intended destination). In all we were driving for about seven or eight hours. The devastation was immense. Entire banana plantations had been flattened. Endless rows of trees had been uprooted. Concrete pylons had snapped and toppled. Houses had been turned upside down. Great masses of earth had spilled from the hills onto the roads. It went as far as the eye could see in some parts.
We didn't think it was going to be as bad as it was. Schools ruined, homes wrecked, lives lost. When we reached Cateel we heard that residents there didn't take the storm warning seriously because there hadn't been a typhoon for 100 years. They didn't evacuate until very late on and one of the local schools they used as an evacuation centre ended up collapsing.
More than 100 people have died in Cateel alone. The local government is trying desperately to cope with the situation, but as they told us, they just aren't sure what to do next. They're in serious need of basic items like food, water, shelter and flashlights. Their resilience is inspiring, but it's being pushed to its limits.
While we were there, Mother Nature delivered a cruel jab to already-cracked ribs in the form of an almighty storm that began to drench the residents as we headed back to town for the evening. They need tarpaulins. Most of their homes don't have roofs any more. They also need child-friendly spaces so their children have somewhere safe to go. And psychosocial support is going to be essential for children and adults alike, given what these people have been through.
At Plan, we're putting together the first phase of our response to Bopha. It's going to include distribution of hygiene kits (soap, towels, nail cutters, sanitary pads, nappies, toothpaste and toothbrushes), water kits (jerry cans and hypersols for water-purification) and tarpaulins. We're going to work with the local government to help steer them on the right path so they can respond to the needs of their communities most efficiently. We're also going to set up those child-friendly spaces and offer psychosocial support.
That's the just the beginning really. The tricky part is that all of this costs money and to get that money we need to be visible. This is where social media and press coverage are invaluable. You can help by following us on Twitter, checking us out on Facebook and sharing what we're doing with your networks, if you think it's worth sharing. We believe it is because the response to Bopha needs to be huge.
So, whadaya say?