In the spirit of Bayanihan: Disaster Recovery from Typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas
Canadian humanitarian interventions have been used to consolidate the country's imperialist interests in the times of humanitarian crises (Razack, 2007; Barry-Shaw and Jay, 2012; Albo, 2014). On the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (english name: Haiyan) in the Philippines, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit landfall on November 8, 2013, Canada was one of the countries to respond through the deployment of troops, disbursing aid through iNGOs, and temporarily expediting immigration applications from typhoon-struck areas. Canadian humanitarian interventions in post-Yolanda disaster recovery and rehabilitation signal attempts to strengthen its pre-existing geohistorical connections in the Philippines, namely labour migration, resource extraction and militarization. However, local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and People's Organizations (POs) in Eastern Visayas have found ways to assert agency over their own disaster recovery. Drawing from interviews, institutional mapping and review of news articles and reports, this paper documents how local organizations navigate the contradictions in the humanitarian aid industry by exercising prudence when selecting which iNGOs to partner with, specifically only collaborating with ones that respect their autonomy and working on joint projects that complement the priorities of the POs they work with. The POs, mainly in the form of peasant associations, and local NGOs, the Leyte Centre for Development (LCDE) and Eastern Visayas Rural Assistance Program (EVRAP), aim to foster local development through disaster recovery and rehabilitation projects, ultimately undermining neoliberal approaches to development. The spirit of bayanihan, meaning community unity, is evoked as a consistent motif in this paper: first, as the name of the counterinsurgency program that subjects POs and NGOs to military violence; second, as an Indigenous practice of labour exchange and communal farming that peasants return to, as a form of disaster recovery; third, as a virtue evoked through the humanitarian cooperation of iNGOs, local NGOs and POs in disaster recovery. This very unity with iNGOs that LCDE and its partner POs are able to establish, is what undermines the consolidation of Canadian imperialism in their region in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda. The research reveals how disaster survivors can act as active actors in recovering from not only from disasters caused by natural hazards, but from poverty and inequity that have made their communities vulnerable to disasters in the first place.