Park City’s Filipino community reaches out to countrymen
November 15, 2013
The horrific images of the devastation left in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan are particularly wrenching for Park City’s Filipino residents. Ruby Sison, who grew up in Manila and has been a banquet chef at Canyons for 14 years, remembers playing along the beaches of Tacloban as a child. "It was paradise," she said.
Tacloban was one of the hardest-hit areas during the typhoon which has been characterized as one of the most vicious storms on record. As of Friday, the death toll in the central Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan had surpassed 3,600 with many people still reported missing. The Philippine government also estimated that two million people were in need of immediate aid, including food and shelter.
Sison has spent much of the last week watching The Filipino Channel (TFC) on television in horror. "My heart is bleeding for them," she said.
Sison arrived in Park City in 1999 along with a wave of Filipinos trying to overcome their native land’s crumbling economy. Like many of her countrymen, Sison was forced to leave her children behind in Manila while she juggled several jobs in Park City. During that time she bonded with other Filipinos and helped to organize a group to share traditional celebrations and showcase their culture. Her children, now grown, have joined her here in Utah and while the club has not been active, Sison maintains her friendships with many local Filipinos.
This week those connections (now manifested on her Facebook page) have proved vital in reconnecting Filipinos in Summit and Wasatch Counties whose families have been affected by the typhoon and who are looking for ways to support the survivors.
One of Sison’s friends is Honey Lipiten, who lives in Park City and works at Good Karma. She spent two anxious days waiting for word from her parents and brother in Cebu Province. When Lipiten’s mother finally called, they both broke down in tears.
Recommended Stories For You
"She told me, ‘we survived the typhoon but I don’t know if we can survive this hunger,’" Lipiten said, adding her parents must travel for three hours to get supplies.
Another friend is Loida Alba, who works as a teacher in Heber. Alba’s extended family lives in Tanauan, just south of Tacloban on the island of Leyte, which was directly in the storm’s path. Five months ago Alba and her cousins gathered at her family’s ancestral home for a reunion. Photos from the celebration show smiling faces and beautiful tree-lined beaches, a far cry from the tragic scenes being broadcast from the same island this week.
"I can’t believe it happened to my hometown," said Alba who is working with other family members to find a refuge for her cousins. In the meantime she can only wait and hope some of the international relief reaches them in time.
Anton Austria, a former elected official in the Philippines, works with Alba and also at Canyons, among other local jobs. He has also been reaching out to other Filipinos in hopes of raising awareness of the country’s plight and finding ways to send relief.
"It is breaking my heart, but I know the resilience of the Filipino people. They always stand up and smile. We aren’t a rich country but we always reunite. It is something to be proud of."
Sison and Austria, along with Houman Gohary, the owner of Good Karma, said that in the coming weeks they hope to organize a fundraiser to help the people affected by Typhoon Haiyan. In the meantime, they are encouraging those who want to offer support to donate to one of the established international aid organizations.
HOW TO HELP
The most effective way to offer support at this time is to contribute to established aid organizations who have trained volunteers in place. To contribute to the Philippine Red Cross go to: http://ushare.redcross.org.ph/ or ‘Like’ American Red Cross on Facebook
"When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991 I experienced the wrath of nature. Morning turned to night, ashes with rainfalls, pebbles, sulfur smells and roaring thunder and lightning clashed together which shook the earth. At the outset, I thought it was the end of mankind. We survived I survived. This week, my country was slammed by the worst typhoon recorded in history. I cannot find the right words to express what I feel. When I saw the Tsunami in Indonesia and in Japan it got me. And now it’s my country and my fellowmen. It breaks my heart. Thousands lost and missing lives, children and adult alike confused and cries for help. It’s horrific and unfathomable.
I am so grateful to America and other countries for being there to help. With faith in God and our resiliency we can always bounce back.
On behalf of the Filipino community here in Park City I would like to knock at the door of your generous hearts to please extend a financial assistance. We are not asking you to pity on us, all we want is to comfort, understand, and help us through financial assistance. Prayers too can make a big difference. My sincere thanks and appreciation "