Philippines typhoon hits close to home for some Whitehorse residents

·3 min read
Leziel Johnstone's uncle and his kids trying to get away from the flood as their house was carried by the water when Typhoon Rai hit the Philippines last December. (Submitted by Leziel Johnstone - image credit)
Leziel Johnstone's uncle and his kids trying to get away from the flood as their house was carried by the water when Typhoon Rai hit the Philippines last December. (Submitted by Leziel Johnstone - image credit)

Whitehorse resident Leziel Johnstone was at work when she first heard that a typhoon had reached Kabankalan, the city in the Philippines where her sister lives.

"I was terrified ... I just cried because at that time, I didn't have contact with my family," said Johnstone. "I still tried my best to concentrate at work, but my mind, back home, hoping they are safe."

Typhoon Rai battered the Philippines on Dec. 16, 2021, destroying homes, streets and the lives of many Filipinos.

The aftermath is still impacting many people, including close relatives of Yukoners.

According to the country's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, 407 people lost their lives, 66 are missing and thousands of people were left without shelter.

Submitted by Leziel Johnstone
Submitted by Leziel Johnstone

When she eventually reached her sister, Johnstone found out that to survive, her sister crawled on the ground to a safe place while her house was carried out by the strong winds.

"She lost everything she had, her house, everything, but she is safe. Her kids are safe, her husband is safe," said Johnstone.

Her other family members, including her six siblings, mom, nephews and nieces, who live in the small Filipino community of Barangay, are also safe.

"Everything is affected, not only the lives of people but also their livelihoods," she said. Her family lost the crops and animal they had at the farm.

Submitted by Leziel Johnstone
Submitted by Leziel Johnstone

Currently, Johnstone is sending money to her sister so she can feed her family back home.

Over the holiday break, the Canadian Filipino Association of Yukon (CFAY) raised $3,000 through raffle tickets, said the association's president Aurora Viernes.

It raised an additional $1,000 through carols. But the need to support those affected overseas is much greater since they don't have shelter, access to running water or food, and power.

Viernes explained since the money is limited but it will be divided and sent to one person per family. Members of the association had to fill out an online application outlining their family's situation to receive the financial aid.

"Most of the people are already poor, there's no money and they are surviving every day just to find food. This typhoon came and added more suffering for the people there," explained Johnstone.

She said her family, like many other Filipinos in the country, are struggling to find drinkable water and food as most establishments are destroyed by either the wind or the flood.

She asked her sister to spare some of the food with other community members.

"I was feeling so bad for them, but at the same time, I'm so lucky that they are alive," she said.

Others not as fortunate

Other Yukoners' families were not as fortunate.

Rex Paver moved to Whitehorse 11 years ago, but most of her family is still overseas.

"This is the first time that my family encountered this type of super typhoon," said Paver, who lost five family members to the storm.

"As of now, four of [their bodies have been] found, but not the youngest one, who is 10-years-old."

Paver said she's coping by praying and receiving support from her co-workers.

"We're just finding ways to collect some money for the people and their relatives because right now they're not well financially, emotionally and most of them, for sure, have trauma because of what they just went through," she said.

Submitted by Leziel Johnstone
Submitted by Leziel Johnstone
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