The largest community of Filipinos outside their country – in southern California – is stepping up in a big way to respond to the devastation wreaked by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Meeting in churches and other civic venues, the more than 300,000 Filipinos who live in this region are holding auctions, concerts, and dances – and sponsoring events such as 5K walks. Many are holding news conferences to raise awareness for the relief efforts.
“It is devastating and my congregation is heartbroken, but at the same time it is heartening to see so many people coming together with one heart, one accord, and one focus,” says Einstein Cabalteja, associate pastor of Filipino Disciples Christian Church in Historic Filipinotown, a neighborhood in Los Angeles. His church held a rummage sale this past Saturday, and another is scheduled this coming Saturday. They are also planning concerts as far ahead as Dec. 7.
He estimates proceeds will exceed $10,000.
Meanwhile, residents are gathering at libraries, supermarkets, and parks to exchange their own stories as a way of establishing solidarity and expressing support for one another. On Monday, about a dozen residents were talking animatedly in front of Our Lady of Loretto Grammar School.
“Filipinos have a very strong sense of community and sharing, and we are pulling together in a big way over this,” says Cecilia Barthel, who travels to the island of Leyte to visit her family every three years. She says she and her neighbors have gotten detailed information from compatriots – or kababayan – using social media.
Asked if she feels other countries are stepping up to help, Ms. Barthel gives an enthusiastic, “yes,” mentioning that the US military has already arrived at Tacloban, one of the worst-hit towns. “People here in the US don’t immediately know how poor most of the population is that got hit,” she says. “When they find out, they are immediately more compassionate.”
Sitting in front of a painting of Jesus walking on the water, the Rev. Nestor Gerente of Grace United Methodist Church in Long Beach, Calif., on Sunday addressed a meeting of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. Across town, the Philippine Disaster Relief Organization (PeDRO) raised $7,000 from a 5K walk attended by about 300 people. The group is also sending several boxes of canned goods and other items, from shoes to toys.
“We’re one big family,” Bing De La Vega, president of PeDRO and husband of Hellen Barber De La Vega, consul general for the Philippines in Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times.
The Philippine Consulate has named organizations through which donors can aid typhoon victims: National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in the Philippines, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Philippine Red Cross.
According to the Associated Press, Brian Goldbeck, acting ambassador at the US Embassy in Manila, has issued a disaster declaration to provide an immediate $100,000 for relief efforts. Officials from the US Agency for International Development are deploying around the country to monitor the damage.
Following is information from the AP about groups working to provide relief in the Philippines and how you can contribute:
• Red Cross. The American Red Cross says it has deployed people to assist with assessments in the Philippines and has activated its family tracing services. It has asked those who want to support relief efforts to mail a check to their local American Red Cross chapter, with "Philippines Typhoons and Flood" in the memo line. Go to redcross.org for local chapter information, or to donate directly to the Philippine Red Cross, go to redcross.org.ph.
• United Nations World Food Program. This organization says it has allocated $2 million for the disaster response, and officials joined an assessment mission to survey damage in Leyte and Samar Provinces. WFP says it will send more than 40 tons of high-energy biscuits and work with the Philippine government to help with logistics and emergency communication systems. It asks for donations at wfpusa.org or by texting the word AID to 27722 to donate $10.
• UNICEF. The United Nations Children's Fund says its staff in the Philippines is being repositioned to help in relief efforts, and 66 tons of emergency supplies are being sent from Copenhagen, Denmark. An airlift set to arrive Tuesday will include water purification systems, storage equipment, and sanitation supplies. Donations can be made to UNICEF at unicef.org/support.
• Catholic Relief Services. This organization is accepting donations on its website, emergencies.crs.org, as it begins moving supplies and staff to respond to the typhoon.
• American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. This organization has begun collecting donations for relief efforts. To contribute, go to jdc.org or call (212) 687-6200.
• World Vision. This group says it is putting together resources to help 1.2 million people, including food, hygiene kits, emergency shelter, and protection. It asks for one-time donations to be made at worldvision.org.
• Mercy Corps. This organization says it has launched emergency response efforts to provide food, water, shelter, and other basic supplies to typhoon survivors. To contribute, go to mercycorps.org/typhoon or call (800) 292-3355.
• AmeriCares. This group is preparing to deploy an emergency response team to the Philippines. To donate, go to americares.org or call (800) 486-4357.