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Filipino-Americans of North Bay scramble to help loved ones

  • Survivors walk in typhoon ravaged Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. The Philippines emerged as a rising economic star in Asia but the trail of death and destruction left by Typhoon Haiyan has highlighted a key weakness: fragile infrastructure resulting from decades of neglect and corruption. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Miriam Arga, 47, who has lived in Santa Rosa for 12 years, said her mother and brothers were displaced when the typhoon flattened their house. She said she feels powerless watching the news coverage of her homeland.

"We can't do anything here," she said. "Sometimes I can't even watch the news anymore. I cry. It's really sad."

Father Alvin Villaruel, the Filipino-American pastor at St. Mary of the Angels church in Ukiah, said that some parishioners with family in the Philippines lost property but not loved ones in the storm.

Typhoon Haiyan

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For the past nine years, Villaruel has led community service trips to the Philippines for Cardinal Newman High School students, and he said next year's trip may be focused on the typhoon-ravaged region. His church will be raising money for disaster relief, he said.

"Filipinos are very positive, and a disaster will not make them lose hope," he said. "I'm encouraging people to help. Our family is extended, and we need to help one another, especially those in need during this difficult time."

Cachola, 67, who has lived in Sonoma County for 20 years, said she has family in the Philippines but they were not affected by the typhoon. The storm blew across the center of the island nation with gusts exceeding 200 mph. The death toll is expected to climb well above the initial estimate of 10,000.

Many North Bay Filipino-Americans are from the capital, Manila, which is in the north of the country and was spared much of the damage. Lean Alcantara, a Santa Rosa law school graduate, has been in touch through social media with his extended family in the Manila suburbs, and they are all fine, he said.

"I've been watching it on CNN, and it is really horrific," said Alcantara, 32. "I really feel for the Filipino people over there. This is the worst storm that anyone has ever seen."

Noah Alicdan, a Santa Rosa caregiver whose parents live near Manila, said he has donated money and three boxes of clothing and medicine to typhoon victims.

"I feel sad," he said. "That's my country. The people are suffering."


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