LOS ANGELES -
Philippine-Americans around the United States are collecting disaster relief for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which has displaced more than 650,000 people in the Philippines. In Southern California, home to the largest Philippine-American community, the response has been particularly strong.
Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines' coastal city of Tacloban on Friday. As the U.S. military and international aid groups struggle to move supplies, Methodist Pastor Nestor Gerente of Grace United Methodist Church in Long Beach, California, collects online donations from Philippine-Americans.
He has relatives in hard-hit Samar province.
“I don't really get any information. That's why it's so frustrating, and it's a little bit torturing for me because not knowing is worse than knowing," said Gerente.
Gerente's church houses the Filipino Migrant Center, an immigrant advocacy group. It has now turned its efforts to disaster relief.
At the Filipino Christian Church in Los Angeles, Pastor Einstein Cabalteja is collecting household goods that will be sold to raise money for victims. He says some have lost everything.
“What they really need is very basic needs - water, food and shelter,” said Cabalteja.
As relief workers try to assess the extent of the destruction, Philippine-Americans worry about the future.
“I am more concerned about rebuilding, the rebuilding efforts, because it's going to take years for these communities to rise again from the rubblem” said Cabalteja.
Food, medicine donations
Efforts among Filipino-Americans to assist with typhoon relief extended across the country.
In San Francisco, the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center, a nonprofit that serves underprivileged Filipino youth, stayed open overnight on Sunday to accept donations of food and medicine for victims of the typhoon.
The center collected about 700 pounds of canned foods and medical supplies, said executive director Rudy Asercion, a third generation Filipino-American.
Asercion said the supplies would be shipped this week to Cebu, where Catholic church-affiliated volunteers would distribute them to typhoon victims in hard-hit places like the city of Tacloban.
Maria Hellen Barber De La Vega, consul general for the Philippines in Los Angeles, said that church and volunteer-based relief efforts in southern California were well under way, including $10,000 raised over the weekend in part by a 5 kilometer fundraising walk on Sunday.
But she said the needs in the affected areas of central Philippines were nearly overwhelming.
“Right now we need medicines for cold and fever, food and water, but we really need treatment for bones. Many were caught in trees and hurt by flying debris,” she said. “The problem is access.”
Efforts to help extended beyond the Filipino expatriate community.
At the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops assembly in Baltimore on Monday, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, chairman of the board of directors of U.S-based Catholic Relief Services, urged his colleagues to take up a “second collection” from churches for relief efforts in the Philippines and Vietnam.
“We hope you can send those collections as soon as possible because the crisis is so imminent.”
Also speaking at the assembly, CRS President Carolyn Woo said her group had pledged $20 million in typhoon aid that it has not yet raised.
“It's important for people to be buying supplies,” she said, adding that her group hoped to help 100,000 affected families.
Philippines Airlines (PAL) also lent a hand, saying in a statement that it was offering space on its planes to ship certain aid supplies to the country free of charge.
Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.