The Philippines are a Pacific Rim nation not often at the top of consciousness for most Pacific Northwest residents. But recent typhoon devastation is only one of the reasons this vibrant nation should take on more importance for us.

Filipinos have both strong historical and contemporary connections with the lower Columbia River. Though not as large a factor as Hispanics are in bringing some modest degree of racial diversity to our area, we have many Filipino-American neighbors who have struggled to make sure family members are well and getting the help they need in the smashed towns of the archipelago.

We should all be aware of the uncertainty and potential heartache of this situation and offer any help we can.

Like Superstorm Sandy, except multiplied by 100 in a place lacking adequate building codes, Typhoon Haiyan is yet another example of the savage impacts of heat-amplified storms in an ever more crowded world. Our North Pacific waters are, thankfully, still too cold to fuel typhoons in our immediate vicinity. But their aftereffects do at times impact us, as in December 2007 when the remnants of two tropical storms combined to hammer our coast for days, killing a woman in Seaview and inflicting $1.18 billion in regionwide damages.

All the people of the Pacific Rim stand to benefit from improved communications, planning and understanding of the commonalities that tie our fates together here on Earth’s greatest ocean.

One interesting shared trait we have with the Philippines is our strong connection with fisheries. A story in the online news source Crosscut makes the point that Filipinos long played key roles in salmon canneries, often in the face of rampant racism and discrimination.

Being aware of these problems and avoiding them in the future is important, but the Crosscut article’s main focus is cross-cultural pollination centered on fishing practices and traditions. Involving the University of Washington Burke Museum, Palawan State University Museum in the Philippines and other institutions, “Ancient Shores, Changing Tides” draws parallels between Pacific Northwest tribes and some in the Philippines that have fishing heritage stretching back 14,000 years.

Although the mouth of the Columbia lacks a surviving tribal fishing tradition, we could benefit from a better appreciation of the fact that tourists and seafood consumers are increasingly interested in learning about the sources of fish and the adventurous lives of fishermen.

“Done right, tourism can support traditional culture,” Crosscut’s story observes. “Tourists who want to watch people practice traditional occupations have given local laborers a new sense of pride.” The rural Philippines are “afraid of winding up like the Japanese villages that have been deserted by virtually everyone except the elderly.”

A lot of small U.S. farming and logging communities face the same issue. It’s up to us to find smart ways to deal with it.

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