Local relief efforts aimed at Philippines

11/13/2013

Filipino-Americans' thoughts on their homeland in wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

Filipino-Americans' thoughts on their homeland in wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

By KELTON BROOKS

kbrooks@gctelegram.com

In the wake of the super typhoon Hayain that swept through the Philippines, Filipino-Americans in Garden City have sent an extension of themselves through prayers and financial support to aid relief efforts of their hometown.

"It is frustrating sometimes to see that the people and places you know are devastated by the typhoon," Jonathan Aguilar, an extension specialist at Kansas State University and member of the Filipino-American Association of Southwest Kansas, said. "As I was watching the news on TV and reading in the newspapers, I find myself wondering, 'What would I be doing right now if I were in the Philippines."

Aguilar has been in Garden City for a year and said he has been in the United States for six or seven years.

He was born in the southern tip of Luzon Island in the Philippines' Bicol Region. The region is known to bear the brunt of most typhoons, with an average of 19 typhoons a year making landfall.

"Just as tornadic storms are common in Kansas, I am used to typhoon events," Augilar said.

He said his sister told him she and his family incurred minor damage in his hometown.

"When I first heard about the news, I was heartbroken and devastated," Auber Altamirano, president of the local Filipino-American Association, said. "The first thing that came to mind was my kids. I remember seeing a woman on the news saying she lost all five of her children. As a mother, that truly struck home, and I thought 'that could've been my family.'"

Altamirano is a registered nurse by profession and a stay-at-home mom. She has been in Garden City for three years.

She also said the organization has been coming up with fundraisers and reaching out to the nation and all news outlets to gain any help they can receive from the community and more.

The original estimated death toll was expected to rise beyond 10,000, but the president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino, told officials the final number would more likely be 2,000 to 2,500 deaths.

With miles and miles of damage, 580,000 people in the Philippines were displaced and a reported 2 million were in need of food due to the aftermath of the typhoon.

The founder of the Filipino-American Association of Southwest Kansas could only ask himself one question: "How do we respond?" Jonathan Galia, a chaplain at Tyson Fresh Meats in Holcomb, said.

"The association is receiving cash donations for water and medicine, and for clothing," Galia said. "We need a collective effort from the community to help our fellow countrymen and any who have been affected by this disaster."

Galia has been in the United States for 20 years and Garden City for 10 years. He also is planning to travel to the Philippines the first week of December.

Galia added that one of the major problems is the drop in lines of communication. He said his family is OK, but several members of the association still are waiting to hear if their relatives are alive.

That is where the Garden City American Red Cross steps in.

Carolyn Henry, executive director of the Garden City chapter of the American Red Cross, said the agency is "working diligently" in activating a Family Tracing Service to help people find their family in disaster situations. She said the American Red Cross has sent two highly trained specialists with satellite equipment to increase telecommunication.

"We are trying to get funds together to help support international relief programs," Henry said. "We have not designated an amount, but people in the Philippines need everything — water, food and clothing."

The Filipino-American Association of Southwest Kansas' purpose is to unite Filipino-Americans in Garden City, and to become an active body in the continuous nurturing and value in Filipino families.

Donations may be made to the Filipino-American Association by calling (620) 260-0647.

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