Hamilton Filipino community planning relief efforts

The small, but tight-knit, Filipino community in Hamilton is working together to help friends and relatives after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the country. But communication with loved ones is difficult.
Residents rush to safety during strong winds brought by Typhoon Haiyan that hit Cebu city. ( Zander Casas/Reuters )

Estella Guevarra has kept her television on all weekend, tuned to the Filipino news station.

To help Typhoon Haiyan victims:

Red Cross is accepting donations online, at the local office at 400 King Street East or by calling 1-800-418-1111.

GlobalMedic, Mississauga-based medical relief NGO, is collecting donations online for their on-the-ground efforts.

The United Filipino-Canadian Seniors' Association of Hamilton is collecting monetary donations by calling 905.309.9322.

Sagip Kapamilya, a humanitarian foundations run by the ABS-CBN News Network, is accepting in-kind monetary donations online.

The Canadian government will match dollar-for-dollar citizen donations.

“According to the news, they have no water, no food, no shelter,” said the past-president of the Filipino-Canadian Association of Hamilton. “I feel really, really bad.”

On Monday, the number of dead is 942 after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the southern Philippines this past weekend. That’s the confirmed toll, but officials say the number of dead could reach 10,000.

“There are so many dead strung all over the place,” she said. “They are leaving dead people because they can’t access the remote places for burial... the roads are so damaged.”

Government officials estimate about 9.2 million people in 41 provinces were affected in what might be the worst storm to ever hit the Philippines. The president declared a state of national calamity in his country.

My Filipino and non-Filipino friends are calling to say, ‘let us know what we can do.- Ruby Amog

The Canadian government pledged to match dollar for dollar aid from citizens to a registered charity until Dec. 8.

The tight-knit Filipino community in Hamilton of about 6,000 is coming together to collect donations for those desperate for help, as the daunting task of relief and clean-up began on the islands Monday.

Ruby Amog, a local Filipino community leader and member of the United Filipino-Canadian Seniors' Association of Hamilton, sent donation money to the Red Cross Sunday from the association's funds, and is working to get all community leaders together to come up with a plan to collect aid collaboratively. There are no firm plans yet and she says the community needs to determine the best way it can help.

“My Filipino and non-Filipino friends are calling to say, ‘let us know what we can do,” she said.

Rolly Tanglao, president of the UFCSAH, will ask the roughly 300 guests at the association's annual Christmas party on Nov. 30 to make a monetary donation.

"We're also getting canned goods gathered and clothing," Tanglao said. "How we're going to send it is another question."

Because of the damage and flooding, its hard – very hard, Guevarra said – to get any sort of aid to the people who need it most.

“Help is coming slowly because of accessibility,” she said. “There is no land where trucks can get in.”

People in Tacloban city, one of the hardest hit areas and the rest of the southern and central Philippines are desperate for food, shelter and water, she said.

People here in Hamilton and the surrounding area are desperate to get in touch with loved ones overseas. Calls, Amog said, are not going through.

No word from loved ones

“Communication is a problem. People can’t get through,” she said. “Its the waiting that’s the main problem here, not knowing what happened to loved ones.”

Tanglao knows some of his 260 members cannot get in touch with family overseas, and has asked his directors to figure out who they are and what they can do to help. He made that direction early on to prepare for the worst.

"The Philippines has big and small typhoons passing through every year and we did not realize how destructive this one would be when we heard the news," he said. "As the news got worse, we knew this is another one with hundreds, possibly thousands dead."

Guevarra considers herself “very lucky.” Her family is from the north of the country and didn’t experience the storm the same way residents in the south did.

“The felt high winds. A few trees fell on my brother’s garage,” she said. “Nothing like the south.”

A distant relative in the south had a different story to tell. Her house was promptly flattened, Guevarra said, by the storm and the roof atop the warehouse the family sought shelter blew off.

“They don’t have anything either,” she said.

On the TV in Guevarra’s home, the conversation between anchors turns to more problems.

“They’re talking about looting right now and whether its justified,” she said. “Looting food and water is justified for survival.”

And a second storm is expected to pass through, and without any shelter, it could be just as bad, Guevarra said.

The Hamilton Filipino Community Centre is holding a Wednesday open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to meet community leaders and make donations.


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