Rallying to help

LIHUE — As Philippines President Benigno Aquino III declared State of National Calamity Monday in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan, Kauai residents had already been at work trying to raise relief funds for those affected.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families who have lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy,” Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said in a statement Monday about one of the most powerful storms to land on the island nation.

Kauai has deep ties with the Philippines, a nation of 7,017 islands. Filipinos first arrived here in 1906 to work on sugar cane fields. Today, there are more than 12,000 Filipinos on Kauai, making up about 18 percent of the island’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

County spokeswoman Beth Tokioka said Carvalho has been in discussion with various leaders of Filipino and other community to organize a candle-light vigil and relief efforts to victims of the storm.

And over the weekend, the Diocesan Congress of Filipino Catholic Clubs held its state convention on Oahu, when it adopted a resolution to kick start a statewide plan for a relief fund drive.

“We all addressed the situation and we offered our prayers,” said Ernie Pasion, who was just installed as DCFCC president. The resolution was initiated by him and other members of the organization’s Kauai Chapter.

On Monday, the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce hosted an event calling several Filipino organizations on Kauai to come up with a unified fundraising effort to send money to the Philippines.

KFCC President Marynel Valenzuela said she reached out to several Filipino organizations on Kauai, to the Kauai Chamber of Commerce and Kauai Visitors Bureau to come up with a unified plan.

“We have several people who will be joining us, so we can collaborate and join efforts,” she said. “We want to have a strong operation.”

What came out of the meeting was that money, rather than clothes and food, is what is mostly needed right now.

Oscar Portugal, board member of the yet-to-be-built Kauai Philippine Cultural Center, said participants will seek a plan that could be followed by the KFCC, the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, the Kauai Visayan Club, the Filipino Community Council and the Filipino Catholic Club to get the nation help.

Kauai Chamber of Commerce President Randy Francisco said at the end Monday’s KFCC meeting that he is hoping to plan a press conference by Thursday, and have a moment of silence then, because it will mark the one-week anniversary of the storm. The Philippines is one day ahead of Hawaii.

Valenzuela said the storm in the Philippines is a reminder of how grateful we are to live on Kauai.

“We want to count our blessings on Kauai and focus on Aloha,” she said.

Valenzuela’s idea is to call the campaign “Operation Tulong with Aloha,” or help with love.

“We want to tie everything; to create an identity with a logo to tie with a good intention,” she said.

Without reinventing the wheel, Valenzuela said the plan is to utilize the same blue print they have used for disaster relief for a flood in the Philippines years ago and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

And the clock is ticking, as people in the Philippines are in dire need of resources, there are many who are willing and able to donate.

Valenzuela said she has been receiving calls from people who want to help. The plan will take care of sending help to those who really need it, she said.

Virgie Cruzada, president of the Kauai Visayan Club, said the group had an emergency meeting with her group, and came up with different things they would like to do. She will now take the recommendations from the KFCC meeting back to the Visayan Club.

“Seems like it was the main target of the super storm,” she said of the Visayas, which along with Mindanao, were pummeled by Haiyan Friday, causing a death toll that has reached 10,000 so far.

The monsoon season runs from June through December and typhoons are an expected part of life, Cruzada said. But the storms never reached this magnitude.

“The devastation was just too much,” she said. “People are hungry and going without water.”

There is no law and order, and with communications and bridges washed out, there is not a way to contact loved ones outside the area, she added.

The Visayan Club had started a fund drive for an earthquake that hit the Philippines two weeks ago, and now, after Haiyan caused widespread destruction, the club will pursue donations more aggressively, Cruzada said.

“I’ve been on the phone all morning, and asked different businesses to place donation boxes,” said Cruzada, adding the target is to put at least 13 boxes. But if the demand increases, the Kauai Visayan Club is “willing and ready to make more boxes.”

Cruzada said Monday she was waiting on the outcome of the KFCC meeting to coordinate efforts with other organizations.

On Nov. 24, the club will throw its Thanksgiving party from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lihue Neighborhood Center, by Isenberg Park, when another donation will be available, she said.

Cruzada’s family is from Negros Occidental, where her sister told her there wasn’t too much destruction. Her husband was born and raised in Tacloban, in the Visayas, and still has family there, she said.

Mark Miranda said the Philippine Airlines just announced they will be offering grants to organizations to send cargo for free to those in need in the affected areas. Items that will be accepted include diapers, underwear, medical supplies and powdered milk, he said. No canned food will be accepted.

Francisco called the entire island to step up and help, regardless of ethnicity.

“Whatever we can do, we should just come together and say, ‘We are all from Kauai,’ whether we are Filipino, Japanese or whatever,” he said.

Hawaiian Telcom announced customers with long-distance service won’t be charged for call to the Philippines from Nov. 8 to 30. Customers who do not have Hawaiian Telcom as their international long-distance provider may call 643-0929 to designate Hawaiian Telcom, at no cost, then begin free-calling to the Philippines.

American Red Cross, Hawaii Chapter CEO Coralie Matayoshi announced Monday those wishing to donate to Haiyan victims can mail a check payable to American Red Cross and indicate in the memo line “Philippine Typhoon” (for Philippines specifically) or “Pacific Typhoon” (affecting Philippines, Vietnam, etc.).

They can also visit redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS. Corporate or larger community fundraising events should call 739-8133.


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