Well-placed Fil-Ams steer support for ‘Yolanda’ relief | Global News

Well-placed Fil-Ams steer support for ‘Yolanda’ relief

/ 09:10 AM November 21, 2013

Jane Po, left, who raised funds for water purification tablets via Facebook, is shown with Maria Songco Daluz of Paibare Legacy, a partner of Health Futures Foundation. Paibare underwrote the cost of the first shipment to the Philippines via air cargo. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO.

SAN FRANCISCO—Well-placed Fil-Ams have helped move resources toward relief for Supertyphoon “Yolanda” survivors from advantageous perches in local government and other institutions.

Cindy Domingo was among them. A well-known community activist in Seattle and the chief of staff to Larry Gossett, chair of the King County Council, Domingo helped marshal the Seattle city government’s response to the disaster in the Philippines.


Through an executive decision by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, city employees can donate the value of up to 20 hours of unused vacation time to the typhoon relief drive.  Seattle Shares, which handles employee giving and volunteer program, will designate donations to the American Red Cross for distribution in the affected areas in the Philippines.

Moreover, an emergency legislation by the County Council allows County employees to donate a one-time monetary donation, a monthly donation through the year, or unlimited vacation hours.


Domingo, whose mother’s family hails from Cebu, had helped raise money for typhoon relief for Santiago, Cuba, last year and was inspired by that country’s disaster preparedness and systematic response to rebuilding Santiago.

“How could I not do something?  After all, the Philippines is my parents’ country of origin and Filipinos are my people,” Domingo said. She’s also a member of the board of the Legacy of Equality, Leadership and Organizing (LELO), which is accepting private donations for Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) survivors.

In Los Angeles, Amado David, a former anti-Marcos activist and a top organizer for the United Healthcare Workers West, the local affiliate of SEIU, reported that the UHW-W has made a substantial donation to the Active Citizenship Foundation, a partner organization of Akbayan Party in the Philippines. David’s trade union, SEIU, is the largest in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico with 2.1 million.

“It’s important for us to see the kind of ground relief work our partner organizations in the Philippines are doing,” David says.  “We are impressed by ACF’s volunteer and relief distribution efforts in the Visayas.”


He also noted that on Monday, Nov. 18, the UHW-W issued a call to their 150,000 members to contribute $5 or more as part of their typhoon relief campaign.

Filipino-Americans active in online social networks used the Web as an effective venue for communicating the emergency needs. Jane Po, a longtime Bay Area resident, initiated a call on Facebook with her friends Lloyd Nebres and INQUIRER.net columnist Benjamin Pimentel to respond to the shortage of clean water in the hard-hit areas of Leyte, Samar and other Visayan provinces.

In a matter of 14 hours, their new group, Kaloob, was able to raise $2,500 for 150,000 Aquatabs water purification tablets (each tablet can purify one liter of water). The shipment will be sent to their partner group in Manila, the Health Futures Foundation, whose medical team will distribute the tablets in Samar. Jaime Galvez-Tan, a noted health activist and former secretary of health, leads the foundation’s medical team. The response to this campaign has been so enthusiastic that Po’s group is now preparing to send a second shipment to Manila.


Another activist, Terry Bautista, now programs manager at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, whose family comes from Ormoc, Leyte, one of the cities severely damaged by Yolanda, has been rallying support for survivors. She also personally volunteered several hours at an all-day telethon sponsored by CBS-KPIX in San Francisco. The event raised more than $370,000 for the American Red Cross’ relief work in the Philippines.

Edwin Batongbacal, a community activist for almost three decades and member of the Friends of Akbayan-USA, who has been conducting fund-raising activities in the Bay Area, noted the tremendous outpouring of support from the community and the general public: “From throughout the San Francisco/Bay Area, where over half a million Filipinos live, help is swiftly flowing out to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.”

Batongbacal lauded the quick response of the San Francisco city government, no doubt marshaled by Filipino community leaders and well-placed Filipino-American staffers in various branches of the local government.


Mayor Ed Lee, for one, is working with the Philippine Consulate and Fil-Am community leaders on a number of fund-raisers—Filipino food truck sales, film showings, musical benefits, etc. Lee encouraged San Franciscans and city employees to donate through organizations listed on the website www.sfgivesback.org).

While relief efforts continue, activists are now calling attention to the larger environmental implication highlighted by the Yolanda disaster. They are circulating online petitions calling on governments to mitigate the effects of climate change.  Many scientists have claimed global warming as a major reason for deadly storms like Sandy in New York and Yolanda in the Philippines.

Lillian Galedo, executive director of the Filipino Advocates for Justice, and other community activists in the Bay Area are now gathering endorsements for a statement aimed at Congress and the President Barack Obama, that calls for sustained support for the Philippines because recovery will take many years and demands that the US play a leading role in ending climate change.

Their call mirrors the impassioned speech of Naderev “Yeb” Saño, a native of Leyte and the chief negotiator of the Philippine delegation at the concurrent United Nations climate conference in Warsaw, Poland, who called on the delegates to act more urgently: “We can stop this madness, right here in Warsaw.


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