Filipino Survivor Guilt

"Hey Dr. Sevilla, just wanted to let you know that we're praying for your family in the Phillipines. What a tragedy with that Typhoon..."

For the past week, I have been receiving messages like this from my patients, from total strangers, and from people on social media (Photo Credits). And, while I know these wishes are well intentioned, I cannot help but feel a little guilty hearing this genuine kindness & concern.

Yes, my heritage is from the Philippines, but my parents emigrated from there and I was born in the United States. The last time I was in the Philippines was about 30 years ago. I remember visiting my relatives and started to learn and understand what the terms "uncle," "aunt," "cousin," and "grandparents" all meant. And, if it wasn't for Facebook, I would not have any connection with my close and distant relatives who connect digitally.

For my parents, their homeland, on the map above, is north of the Manila area. This is well away from the typhoon impact area. It's kind of like the distance between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jacksonville, Florida - about 550 miles. It's kind of like saying, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Jacksonville as they try to survive after Hurricane Katrina." Everyone (in the United States) knows that Katrina went nowhere near Jacksonville. For the typhoon, it went nowhere near Manila and points north.

I know everyone out there is saying, "Hey Mike, people are just trying to be nice. Why are you overanalyzing this? Get over it." I guess you people are right. Just a quirky observation in the life of me. Sheesh....

Finally, you know I have to find the social media angle to any story. The image above is from a Facebook page from a Filipino news network. One of the cool things being done is that this TV station is posting pics of survivors on their Facebook page asking if anyone knows the people in the news videos. The news youtube site also has the actual videos so that views can review them and try to identify their loved ones. In addition, there is a google database being built of survivors along with missing persons in the area. Without social media, this process could have taken days, if not weeks, or months. Disaster situations are when social media communication tools show their strength...