Filipino community organizes typhoon relief

·4 min read

Members of New Brunswick's Filipino community are campaigning for typhoon relief for their home country.

Typhoon Vamco, known as Typhoon Ulysses in the Philippines, hit that country just over a week ago.

It's being called one of the country's deadliest storms, having killed dozens of people and displaced more than 350,000, as a result of severe flooding.

"Some of my friends ... had to climb all the way up to their roof, just to evade the flood water," said Kyle Tomagan, who moved to Moncton from the Philippines last year.

Most of Tomagan's family and friends live in the hardest hit Luzon region. It's the northernmost of the three main islands that make up the country.

Most of the city of Marikina is "basically a catch basin," he said, as well as being located near a dam.

"So when a typhoon as strong as Ulysses hits, it's easy for the dam to overflow and cause massive flooding."

Parts of Marikina were so deep in flood water, said Tomagan, many residents had to climb onto the roof of their home to wait for helicopter assistance.

"As for my family, they're all safe … no casualties from my connections so I'm really glad."

Tomagan works as the digital marketing coordinator for Sankara Cuisine — an online multicultural marketplace that operates in Moncton, Fredericton, Saint John and Halifax.

They are donating 10 per cent of the proceeds of their Filipino food box orders made by Chef Irene Mangubat from now until the end of December to a charity called Kaya Natin, which means "We Can."

Submitted by Kyle Tomagan
Submitted by Kyle Tomagan

The Filipino association in the Moncton area is doing its own fundraiser.

They are selling raffle tickets and splitting the proceeds between five local families, who will in turn send it to their family members in the Philippines who have been directly affected by the storm.

"It's sad," said Maridol Alvarez.

"Watching the news, listening to friends talking about it — it's heartbreaking."

"I never experienced that in my whole life. Just imagine the situation. And they have kids, you know."

Alvarez said one of the affected families will get a larger share because they are in greater need.

"The neighbour goes to their house because they have nothing to eat," she said.

Alvarez has lived in the Moncton area for more than 15 years and is actively involved in the local Filipino association.

After a friend suggested they do something to help, she reached out to regular donors in the Filipino community, including business owners and doctors.

"And they are really willing to help," she said.

Eight prizes have been donated, including something known as Balikbayan Box.

"When you go abroad like us, here in Canada, when we go back home, they call us Balikbayans," explained Alvarez.

It's common among the Filipino expat community, she said, to send a box filled with things like groceries, clothing and presents home to loved ones.

"They're usually sent in the summer or in September-October for Christmas because it takes about three months to arrive," she said.

Alvarez said she used to know just about everyone in the local Filipino community. But now she sees new faces all the time.

She estimated there are more than 1,000 people from the Philippines living in Greater Moncton.

There are also many people from the Philippines working in coastal communities around the province, she said, in the fish processing industry, as well as many students here on visas.

Tickets are selling well, she said.

So much so that organizing the fundraiser is taking up a lot of her free time after she finishes her 12-hour shifts as a seniors home resident attendant, where she cares for people who have dementia and Alzheimer's.

The draws are planned for November 30 at 5 p.m. on the Filipino Association of New Brunswick, Inc.- Greater Moncton Area Chapter Facebook page.

Meanwhile, a Filipino group in Fredericton is planning a charity event for next month for typhoon relief.

Gina Moreno said a local man has family in Manila whose home has been damaged by flooding.

Moreno is soliciting donations ahead of a Christmas concert that will be live streamed Dec. 19.