By Henni Espinosa, Steve Angeles and Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
Nov. 11, 2013
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Super Typhoon Yolanda has finally weakened to a tropical storm but it left behind a catastrophe so far-reaching, so damaging to Filipinos back in the Philippines. Authorities said the death toll from this calamity is expected to rise, with more than 10,000 feared dead in the province of Leyte alone.
Thousands of houses have been destroyed and many areas are still without transportation, communication and power.
On November 11, President Benigno Aquino III declared a state of calamity. He toured parts of the country destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda. “We’ve been asking our Department of Interior and local government to go and talk to each individual, local executive, to get whatever data with the goal of determining which communities we lack information on and are isolated so that we can send the necessary response,” he said.
Amid the chaos, hundreds of thousands of survivors are trying to cope with a lack of water, food, shelter and medicine. Aid workers and government officials are working hard to get emergency supplies to hard-hit areas.
President Barack Obama has pledged to help the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. In a statement, the president said, “The United States is already providing significant humanitarian assistance and we stand ready to further assist the government’s relief and recovery efforts.”
U.S. Marines are already in Tacloban City, the hardest hit area. They are working with the Filipino government, international agencies and other branches of the U.S. military to help those affected by the storm as quickly as possible.
“We’re working hand-in-hand with the Philippines, both with their armed forces and their national police, and we will help them in their need. We have airplanes standing by. We have logistics assets standing by. We’re working closely with international relief organizations,” Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy of the U.S. Marine Corps said.
Another storm is coming to the Philippines. Typhoon Zoraida, which is expected to follow the same path as Typhoon Yolanda, is expected to make landfall noon on Tuesday. And kababayans here know more help should come their way.
Worried Over Loved-Ones
In Los Angeles, many Filipinos are worried over their families and loved-ones, who they haven’t been able to contact for days. “My family lives far out in the mountainous regions and there’s almost no way they can get the means to communicate there,” Alex Montances said.
“It’s very torturing not knowing how they’re doing but as a person of faith, I’m just praying and hoping that they’re okay,” Rev. Nestor Gerente of Grace United Methodist Church said.
The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns have already activated their donation drive to send money to non-profit organizations in the affected areas.
The Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia, Jr. was in Los Angeles over the weekend, assuring the community that help is on the way.
“Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has directed the Pentagon to provide aircraft and vessels to assist the rescue efforts,” Cuisia said.
Meantime, the Philippine Emergency Disaster Organization, PeDro raised about $8,000 through a 5K marathon. The walk was originally intended to aid earthquake victims but will not concentrate on Typhoon Yolanda efforts.
“It’s unbelievable how those people were all just washed away by big waters,” Techie Emperador Quiatchon of the Philippine Disaster Relief Organization said.
“This was not an ordinary typhoon. It means so much for us as Filipinos to demonstrate the kind of resiliency that we have as a people,” Maria Helen Barber de la Vega, Philippine Consul General of Los Angeles said.
Running for a Cause
Meantime, the bayanihan spirit was very much alive among Filipinos in the East Coast. In New York’s Central Park, more than a hundred triathletes, survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings and relatives for Super Typhoon Yolanda victims ran for charity Sunday.
The FilAm Triathlon Club, organizer of the four-mile Handog Tulong Fun Run, said they raised more than $3,500.
We’re doing this event to let people know that we can help even if we are far away,” Rolan Ocampo, a Boston Marathon runner said.
New Jersey resident Meggan Roth said what she experienced during Super Storm Sandy was nothing compared to what the Philippines is experiencing now. “You guys got hit by an earthquake…and now, a super typhoon. We went through something nothing as drastic,” she said.
Myra Bohol from Batu, Leyte is worried for her relatives back home. “We’re still waiting for whatever information we can have regarding my aunt and sister-in-law in Tacloban,” she shared.
In Jersey City, New Jersey, Mayor Steve Fulop and other city officials are organizing events to raise money. “My prayers go out to them and we want to do whatever we can to assisst people and support,” Rolando Lavarro, Jersey City Council President said.
New York’s Deputy Consul General Zaldy Patron said the fastest way to send help to the victims is through monetary donations. “It gives our officials the flexibility to buy the needed supplies. We may be sending them goods and they have these goods already in the Philippines,” he said.
We want to be sure that the donations coming from here will really go to the affected victims and not to the pockets of people. Just be sure that you give to reputable nonprofit organizations,” said Linda Mayo, PACCAL Program Director.
In the days to come, more events that would raise money are expected to be held in different parts of America and kababayans here said they need to happen fast to be able to send resources to the victims who are in desperate need of help.
For more information, you may contact Henni Espinosa at email@example.com, Steve Angeles at firstname.lastname@example.org or Don Tagala at email@example.com.
Just don’t let Jingoy handle the cash donations .