North America

Filipino Americans gather funds for typhoon victims

A resident walks by toppled trees and electric poles after Typhoon Haiyan slammed into Tacloban City, Philippines. The country was ravaged by one of the strongest typhoons on record, as horrified residents spoke of storm surges as high as trees and authorities said they are expecting a "very high number of fatalities." (Photo: Aaron Favila, AP)As workers continued to assess the impact of Super Typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines, Filipino Americans across the country struggled for information and mobilized to get help quickly.
In many cases, people pushed past the stress of not knowing the whereabouts of their own family members to organize concerts, online campaigns and other gatherings aimed at raising money to help typhoon victims.
Terrence Valen, president of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, said Saturday that the organization was collecting donations for victims of Typhoon Haiyan using its website and a local church based in Southern California.
As many as 10,000 people were feared dead after the storm — one of the most powerful storms ever recorded — slammed into the central islands of the Philippines.
Valen was among those still waiting to hear how his own family fared during the storm. He has several aunts, uncles and cousins who live in Cebu where, he said, the eye of Haiyan went through. As of Saturday, he had heard nothing from his family members despite several attempts to contact them.
"I'm kind of on edge right now," Valen said. "We have a family Facebook group that we have, and I'm just not getting any responses to the questions I'm posting."
Despite the stress of uncertainty, Valen and others from the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, which has a presence in 23 cities, busied themselves with pleas for donations to help victims. The group hopes to start sending money to typhoon victims next week.
The task is a familiar one for them. Since 2009, the organization has been collecting funds for typhoon victims. Valen said the money goes to a network of non-profits based in the Philippines in an effort to make sure victims get direct help from people who know their needs.
Bing Branigin, of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, said her group is collecting money for the Red Cross. Friday night, the group, along with the Philippine Nurses Association of Metropolitan D.C., turned an already planned concert in Alexandria, Va. into a fundraiser. The groups raised about $7,000 as attendees listened to a Filipino opera singer, she said.
Saturday, Branigin traveled to Virginia Beach to help organize another fundraiser at the Philippine Cultural Center.
"There are still a lot of places the Red Cross has not reached because of the damage and the loss of communication," she said. "Families are worried so I told them to continue praying and raising funds."
Rev. Reuben Cedino also is praying and raising money. He plans to ask for donations during his Sunday sermon at the Filipino-American United Church of Christ in Richmond Hill, N.Y.
All day Saturday, Cedino fielded calls from distraught members of the church looking for news of their loved ones.
"The worry was: What is the news? And where is my family?," he said. "We don't have any information whatsoever right now except for what we see on TV. That's very difficult."
Cedino's church is made up of about 70 people, and many of them remained distraught as they tried to cope with news of the super storm.
Sunday, he hopes he will be able to settle some of the fears of his congregation through his sermon.
"The message tomorrow will be living as children of the resurrection," he said. "I will be exploring hope in the midst of death and disaster."

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