Filipino community rallies behind typhoon victims

by Phil Ambroziak

A major typhoon that recently hit the Philippines has impacted countless lives in that country, as well as numerous others throughout the world – including Meadow Lake and other parts of the Northwest.

While tropical storms are not uncommon in the Philippines, the ferocity with which Typhoon Haiyan struck the eastern Philippine coast Nov. 8 was unlike anything seen in that part of the world in recent times.

“Typhoons hit the Philippines probably 20-25 times a year, so when I hear about another one, it usually seems like just another day,” remarked Meadow Lake resident Irving Berlin, who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines five years ago. “But, this one was a lot stronger. It was as if three super storms formed together into one – one of the strongest to ever hit land. I’ve seen videos of the storm that show coconut trees being uprooted and split while still in the air. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

According to reports, Typhoon Haiyan is unofficially the strongest recorded tropical cyclone to make landfall, with wind speeds up to 315 km/h.

Haiyan originated from an area of low pressure several hundred kilometres east-southeast of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia Nov. 2. It eventually made landfall in the Philippines at Guiuan, Eastern Samar. The majority of the storm’s devastation was felt on Samar Island and Leyte, with the estimated number of deaths being 10,000 or more. As of last week, humanitarian aid efforts were being organized, many on a grand scale such as nation-to-nation, and others much smaller in scope yet still powerful in meaning.

“Recently, the Filipino community in Meadow Lake got together to talk about the possibility of having donation boxes placed in local businesses as a way of collecting money for typhoon victims,” Berlin said. “We would give the funds to the Red Cross, which can send it on to the Philippines. This way, donations won’t just come from the Filipino community, but the Meadow Lake community as a whole.”
Berlin, who works at Schwing’s Meating Place on 2nd Avenue East, said donation boxes would likely be in place after organizers check with city officials to ensure any necessary permissions are granted.
“We want to make sure we’re doing it by the book,” Berlin added.
Meadow Lake’s Filipino community is currently more than 200 strong and – although none of his personal friends or family members were residing in parts of the Philippines that were hit the hardest – Berlin said there are people currently living in Meadow Lake who are still waiting for news from home.
“There are some Filipinos in town with relatives there,” he said. “They don’t know if they’re OK because there’s been such a struggle with communications. Everything went down. I know if my grandma, aunts, sisters or cousins were living in that part of the country, I’d be really worried.”

In spite of ongoing concerns and the lasting impact Typhoon Haiyan is likely to have, Berlin remains optimistic about the resiliency of his fellow countrymen.

“Us Filipinos, we always bounce back,” he said. “Whenever tragedy hits, that is when the Filipino spirit comes to life. We look out for each other and always try to help others when we can.”


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