Monday 18 November 2013

Shopping for All the Right Reasons on Authors for the Philippines. Plus a few thoughts

By Candy Gourlay


'Just give some money for god's sake,' Someone tweeted snarkily at the start of this mammoth endeavour. Sure. We did that too, thanks very much.

But moving on, there are only two days left before the Authors for the Philippines auction closes to bids.

I am touched and amazed by the numbers who stepped up to help the Authors for the Philippines Appeal. The job now is to get bids going. And I hope this shopping guide will help you find some treasure. If you know what you want, use the search bar on the top right of the website.

This is a long post so to make things easy I've put links at the top - if you're shopping click on 'SHOPPING' , if you'd like to read some thoughts on the storm click on 'MUSING'








STUFF FOR WRITERS! Books above are Lot 420 and Lot 351




I'm getting a lot of congratulations for setting up the Authors for the Philippines site. But it is totally undeserved because it was the decision to Just Do It came from young adult authors Keren David (left) and Keris Stainton.

When the horrendousness of the calamity was unveiled on the morning news, Keren immediately contacted Keris because it was Keris who led the UK book world in raising funds during the Japanese Tsunami.

In fact, on the day of Haiyan, I'd received a lot of emails from people saying, Candy, you should do something! I brainstormed with my family over dinner about what I could do - but the mountain felt so huge and I have this weird thing of not wanting to impose on anybody. I know, I know. I completely underestimated the wave of emotion that the storm raised in the UK.

I rather feebly decided to try to get a school visits for the Philippines thing going when I got an email from Keren inviting me to write a foreword for the site. I was delighted and relieved.

Keris had the website up in two days (two days!!! AND SHE HAS A YOUNG CHILD!!!). And THEN social media did its thing and suddenly there were hundreds of people wanting to get involved.

The whole thing turned into an informal bucket brigade - Keris manned the inbox - fielding emails from all over the world and handing entries to upload to an amorphous group of that included Susie Day, Keren, Diane Shipley and me. I would leave early to get a few hours of writing done at a cafe then get home to dozens of emails of donations to upload from Keris. After we uploaded the stuff, Keris indexed, numbered and catalogued the entries. Other writers like Teri Terry vociferously blogged and tweeted to promote the appeal.

After we closed the website to donations today, we turned our attention to trying to get some coverage from newspapers, which took a bit of energy since no, we couldn't seem to offer a hard enough angle.

It reminded me of the olden days when I was a journalist having to pitch stories to the foreign desks of newspapers over crackly overseas lines. ('Do you write in elegant English?' a deskman at the Independent asked me when I rang them from Pyongyang on the 40th anniversary of Kim Il Sung. Urgh - I never want to do it again.)


Friends from my days as a journalist in the Far East offered their wares.

Pulitzer winner Bob Drogin came up with a non-fiction manuscript review. Bob was there when Mount Pinatubo flipped its lid and became the second largest eruption in the 20th century. Here's a picture from his FB page fleeing from the volcano with a gang of photojournalists.

Pam Belluck, Humphrey Hawksley
And then there was a book by Pam Belluck (now a Prize winning New York Times journalist, which we enthusiastically headlined on her offer).

We got to reminiscing on Twitter about the bad old days. Pam's quite a musician and we used to hang out in Manila bars watching her jamming with bands on her sax. She told me she once sang I've Got You Under My Skin to a military officer to get him to take her a strategic island. Only in the Philippines! (Funny that, I once got railroaded into a karaoke session with a town mayor - in fact it was in Leyte - who afterwards tried to break into my hotel room - sheesh!)

The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley, who used to share an office with my hubby when he was the FT's Manila correspondent, offered  a ticket to the premiere of Carlos Acosta's new movie - including a ticket to the start-studded party afterwards. Hump continues to be a familiar face on the news - but he's been writing thrillers on the side. I don't know how he does it.


Meanwhile I've been following the news from the Philippines via my Facebook feed.

While my friends in the West are relentlessly posting appeals for donations, the feed from my Filipino friends started out the week with terrifying cries for help.

Photos of missing family members scrolled through my feed. 'If you are in Leyte and you see these people, please contact ...'

And then there were the calls for volunteers, opportunities to send help. 'we are packing goods at ...' 'There's a ship leaving in the morning ...'

But more recentlyit has turned into a political morass.

Blame, recriminations, grandstanding not to mention a gaff prone president ("But you did not die?" - this to a businessman who was held at gunpoint by looters) and who appears to be bewilderingly embarrassed by the death toll, trying to push estimates downward.

And then there are officials like our Vice President Binay, who takes the opportunity to brand donations so that the suffering masses know who to vote for in the next election. For shame!

Well that's appalling, Jejomar Binay. Yuck.

But while one is disgusted by the shenanigans of the few - the disaster zone is glowing with uplifting tales of dogged survival, kindness and generosity that knows no bounds.

I was moved by this first person account by Agence France Presse reporter Agnes Bun, who took that footage of that baby born in the aftermath that we saw repeated over and over again on the news everywhere.

During my six days there, I was impressed by the endurance, the generosity and also the pride of the Filipinos. Everywhere I went, people smiled in front of the camera, asked me where I was from, asked me if I was alright. Lessons in Life from the Hell of Haiyan by Agnes Bun, AFP

The Filipino online news site Rappler set up a base in Tacloban - and their feed is by turns harrowing and inspiring.

There are no words big enough to describe what is happening here. This is Haiti. This is Katrina. This is the Book of Revelations. Bang the drums for the four horsemen of the apocalypse. For tens of thousands of people, the world as they knew it ended in the morning of November 8, 2013, and they know the resurrection will be a long time coming. From The Long Road to Tacloban, Rappler
It's strange but the stories I've been hearing reminds me of the bad old days of the 1986 revolution that kicked the Marcos dictatorship out.

At the time there was an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the journalists who were telling the world our story. I remember how that felt in '86. I would have done anything to help a foreign correspondent get the truth out about my country.

When I made this tongue-in-cheek video chastising the BBC for mispronouncing Tacloban -

- a Filipino subscriber didn't see the humour. She chided me on Facebook for disrespecting the foreign correspondents. 'Just say Thank you,' she told me.

The fact is: journalists are just doing their job. And then they will move on.

Even though the reporters will no doubt soon be packing their parachutes to move on to other bigger stories, our story will not be going anywhere for a while.

Still: this week of abject horror has also been a week of overwhelming kindness.

So to everyone who got out of bed to do something - anything - THANK YOU.


  1. Well done, Keris, Keren and Candy!

  2. What a wonderful way to raise money!

  3. Such amazing suggestions! When I go shopping I usually clothing like a slob and I end up with all the problems you've described here. I find out it amazing that I never considered of these aspects before and they seem so obvious after you've described it. Thanks bunches!


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