'We need help, there is no food in our town.' - Luz Tontilan, on what her brother relayed from the Philippines
It took a full four days for Luz Tontilan to get in touch with her family in the southern Philippines after Friday’s Typhoon Haiyan.
"Just last night, we received a text from my brother, he was able to walk to Ormoc City [over 30 km away from their town] where the satellite towers are and he wrote ‘call me,’” she said. “Over the phone, he said, ‘don’t worry, our family is ok. But there is only one thing we are pleading for. We need help, there is no food in our town.”
Tontilan shared her story at a fundraiser Wednesday afternoon to do just what her brother was asking for – collecting help.
The Hamilton Filipino Community Centre opened its doors for donations of food, clothing and cash to help friends and relatives in need in their home country.
Six days after what could be the worst storm in history to hit the Philippines ravaged it southern provinces, the death toll stands at 2,275.
“This is the only way to help,” said Bonner Villabroza, president of the Hamilton Filipino Community Centre and fundraiser organizer. “We made it a mandate in our organization that we have to help [when disasters happen.]”
To donate to the Hamilton Filipino Community Centre's calamity fund:
Visit the TD Bank at Upper James and Mohawk Road. The account number is: 191-5221540
Call the community centre at 905.544.2250 to arrange a drop-off donation.
Before she spoke to her brother, Tontilan was able to contact an old friend on Facebook and hear that her 21-year-old nephew was also ok, relief to her and her sister who were unable to contact him by phone.
Facebook has become a window for Fillipino-Canadans to see the real devastation in their home towns. It’s the only way Fel Marpa and his wife Lorie have seen images of the devastation.
“Our communication is from someone taking a motorcycle to Ormoc City, 54 km away to the south [from my town], that’s where the communication is,” he said. “They take pictures and relay it through Facebook. That’s the only way we can communication because the power is down all over.”
Fel Marpa’s family is from the town Carigara, about 50 km from Tacloban City where the typhoon hit the hardest.
“The devastation is the same,” he said, of his hometown.
He knows his brother and his family in Carigara are okay, but has not had a conversation with them yet – this is just what he hears from Facebook.
His wife, Lorie, is from the town Jaro, about 35 km away from Tacloban City. She also knows her sister is okay, but only by hearsay. She also knows there are dead in Jaro who haven’t been accounted for. She tears up.
Her husband interrupts to talk about the difficulty with aid.
“The aid is not really visable yet,” he said. “The aid is coming into Cebu and then it has to go by boat to Ormoc City.”
Ormoc City is over a 100 km to Tacloban, and many roads are not yet clear to drive on, Marpa said.
Connecting with churches
Villabroza’s plan is to send the goods collected to Diocese and Archbishops on the ground in the towns he knows aid as not yet reached. But even still, it will take about six to eight weeks for packages of food and clothing to arrive. Monetary donations, he said, are the best way to give help. That, too, will go to a church they have a connection with in the Philippines and directly to the devastated areas.
At Wednesday’s event, $4,000 was raised, along with four big bags of clothing and a table of food, Villabroza said to the crowd of about 30 people who have showed up to help.
Tontilan listens in. She just hopes the aid gets to people soon, because as she heard from her brother, her family has lost just about everything but their lives.
“I thank God they are alive,” she said.