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Queens Chronicle

Queens rises to help Filipino storm victims

Churches, civics around Woodside’s ‘Little Manila’ leading the charge

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Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 10:30 am

St. Sebastian’s Parish in Woodside has been preparing its Nov. 23 fundraiser for disaster relief in the Philippines for nearly a month.

“But we had been planning that in response to the earthquake [on Oct. 15],” the Rev. Msgr. Michael Hardiman said. “Now they’ve been hit with this typhoon. So we’ve just ratcheted up the response.”

Hardiman’s parish serves Woodside’s “Little Manila” neighborhood, with a large concentration of the more than 40,000 native Filipinos living in Queens.

The earthquake that rocked the archipelago nation in the Western Pacific killed more than 200 people.

Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms in recorded history, is feared to have killed 10,000 when it hit the central Leyte region with 195-mile-per-hour winds and massive storm surges on Nov. 7.

The storm has left hundreds of thousands homeless and isolated many by destroying communications and damaging or blocking roads throughout the region.

Michelle Saulon of Flushing is a regional coordinator for the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, which is revving up Queens-based relief efforts through local organizations such as the Bayanihan Community Center on 69th Street in Woodside.

“I have family on my mother’s side in the Philippines,” she said on Tuesday. “We haven’t heard from some of them yet. We are being told that we might have news by Thursday. There are people we are still trying to find.”

She said the most important thing people can donate now is money.

“Money can be sent to organizations that already have people doing groundwork in the affected areas,” she said. “Right now people need food, water and medicine — just the basic needs.”

Hardiman said any funds they raise will go to Catholic Relief Services.

“They’re already in place,” he said.

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Queens Village also has a sizable Filipino population among its parishioners. The Rev. Mike Tedone, associate pastor at the church, said those in his flock appear to have been largely spared.

“I’ve been in contact with about 33 individuals from 25 families, and their relatives all happen to be in the northern part of the country up near Manila,” he said. “So far we haven’t heard of any losses.”

He said nevertheless that they are going through a hard time.

“The best thing you can do for them is listen,” Tedone said. “You can’t give them answers on these things, but you let them hear that God cares for them and you care for them and the people of their church care for them.” Hardiman said many people may be in split families.

“It’s not always the parents and children are here and the grandparents are back in the Philippines,” he said. “Sometimes one parent is here and the children are here and the other parent is back there. Whole families are being affected.”

Like Saulon, he said the lack of communication is devastating for those wanting to check on their relatives.

A typhoon is the same as a hurricane, which Queens residents have been forced to identify with in the last two years, first with Hurricane Irene in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy, which struck just over a year ago and left portions of the Rockaways and other areas virtual wastelands.

Tedone said that in Queens Village even Sandy for all her fury amounted to an inconvenience compared to what the Central Philippines is going through.

But Jennifer DeLuda of Ozone Park said she is trying to get to the affected area with one of the relief groups that are forming up.

DeLuda is a co-founder of the group Rockaway Recovery, which after Sandy set up a station in a parking lot in the Rockaways to distribute water, food and other supplies.

“I want to do whatever relief work is needed,” she said. “I’m a former EMT; I have medical training which people there need along with just proper healthcare.”

DeLuda is not put off by the likelihood that she would be confronting harsh living conditions for herself and those she would be working to help.

“I’m trying to join a group, so you really aren’t alone,” she said. “Plus, in the Rockaways I slept in my car in December [after Sandy] so we wouldn’t get robbed.”

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