Filipino community 'in pain' after typhoons devastate homeland

·2 min read

Elizabeth Sare hoped Typhoon Vamco would miss the city in the Philippines where her younger brother and his newborn granddaughter live.

Instead, they received a direct hit. Sare's brother lost power, his house flooded and part of his roof was torn off.

"He told me that they have no food to eat that day. He called me at 1 a.m. in the morning, and I feel helpless because I cannot do anything," said Sare, who runs a Filipino cafe and restaurant on Bank Street.

"I had my mom [on the call], and she was crying, and I was crying too. Because you cannot imagine."

As the country picks up the pieces from a pair of devastating typhoons, Ottawa's Filipino community is now doing what it can to help out.

67 people dead, 12 missing

Typhoon Vamco touched down last week, killing at least 67 people, with 12 people still missing as of Sunday morning. An estimated 25,000 homes were damaged by the storm, equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane.

Vamco slammed into the Philippines just 10 days after the southeast Asian country was hit by Typhoon Goni — the most powerful storm in the world this year, with winds peaking at over 300 kilometres per hour.

Videos of Marikina, the city where Sare's brother lives, show a thick coat of muddy water covering roads and discolouring houses and cars.

Sare said all she can do is pray and send her brother money to help with food.

Ezra Acayan/Getty Images
Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

'Hearts in pain'

Ernie Pinzon, a retired pastor at Ottawa's Filipino Community Church, said the devastation wrought by the wind and water are difficult to look at — even if his family back home wasn't directly impacted.

"It renders our hearts in pain," he said.

Pinzon said the church typically sets aside money to help families in need and will likely mobilize to offer assistance.

"We have had very intense, very strong typhoons in the past. [They cause] large-scale damage since many of the homes in the Philippines are made of very flimsy materials," Pinzon said.

Country will overcome catastrophe

Barrhaven resident Racel Bautista said her relatives, friends and neighbours were also all caught in the devastation of Typhoon Vamco.

Bautista said floodwaters reached the third floor of her brother's house, and people were climbing onto their roofs to survive.

The back-to-back storms were a shock, but Bautista is convinced the Filipino people will overcome the catastrophe.

"Everybody is feeling [traumatized] and they're exhausted," she said. "The thing that I'm thinking of right now is if we can give them any kind of help ... they need it right now."