Oklahoma Pinoys cling to faith as tornadoes rip through state

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – A devastating sight for many kababayans who live in Oklahoma: damaged buildings, torn off roofs, debris strewn across roads — as tornadoes tore across the state, slamming areas like Tulsa and Moore, where there are Filipino residents.

Tulsa County, where the city of Tulsa is located, has 1,700 Filipinos. While Cleveland County, where Moore is located, has 1,200 kababayans.

Wednesday’s tornadoes claimed the life of one person and injured several others. Tens of thousands of Oklahoma residents were also left without power.

Moore resident Susan Ponce only lives a block away from where a tornado hit. She related, “It was my first time being inside a shelter, to stay safe from the tornado. We could hear the strong winds outside. It was a scary time. We thought, ‘Was this it? Were we going to die?'”

Ponce said her faith kept her strong during the ten minutes that they were seeking shelter from the tornado. “We just prayed and prayed. I was praying for the Lord to push the tornado away,” she said.

Rhoda Blaskie, who lives five minutes away from where a tornado hit, said she and her family have always sought refuge in their shelter, each time there is a tornado warning. But Wednesday night’s threat was extra stressful for her, because her husband and her daughter were still outside when the tornado hit.
She shared, “I was trying to get a hold of them but we had no phone signal in the shelter so I was really nervous because we didn’t know what was going on outside. I was really nervous but I didn’t show it my other kids. I had to be strong for them.”

The Philippine Consulate in Chicago, which has jurisdiction over Oklahoma, said it has reached out to Filipinos in the area to determine if any of them were affected.

For now, Governor Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for 25 Oklahoma counties that were hit hardest by the storm.

The kababayans Balitang America has spoken to in Oklahoma said that during tornado season, when times get tough, they could always count on other Filipinos for support. They said they check up on one another, raise money if a kababayan is affected, and just make sure they are there for each other during these difficult times.

You may contact Henni Espinosa at henni_espinosa@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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