Monday, June 23, 2008

Ilonggo Association of SoCal Rushes Aid to Flood Victims

Los Angeles: Weather stations in the Philippines, Japan, and China monitored a low-pressure area east of Mindanao June 16 which was upgraded to ‘Depression Frank’ two days later as a tropical storm. On the 19th of June, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) upgraded it to Typhoon Status. The People’s Republic of China submitted the offical name ‘Fengshen’ which is the Mandarin Chinese name for the God of Wind.

Gathering strength, ‘Fengshen’ made landfall in the Philippine island of Samar last June 20 in central Philippines. It pounded the area with wind gusts above 122 mph and carrying sustained winds averaging 90 mph. It moved quickly towards the island of Panay in central Philippines, downing power lines, blowing off roofs of houses and establishments and pouring down a deluge of torrential rain that caused severe flooding and mudslides.

A ferryboat bound for Cebu from Manila, the Princess of the Stars, capsized near the island of Sibuyan with more than 700 people unaccounted for. A U.S. Navy ship based in Japan with helicopters onboard is now onsite to help in the search and rescue operations.

Typhoon Frank packed a lot of force and left a swath of destruction as it moved its way towards the north-northwest passing thru Metro Manila and exiting the Philippines on its way towards Eastern Taiwan some 1,300 kilometers north.

The tropical cyclone (number 0806) being the sixth storm to hit Southeast Asia this year, left a few surprises behind. For the first time in history, residents of the capital city of Panay named Iloilo woke up to fast rising floodwaters. By early morning of June 21, more than 155,000 people were affected and hundreds and thousands climbed up to the roof of their houses or on top of trees to escape the rising floodwaters. It was too much for the rescue teams of the city to handle.

Many people were stranded. There were initial reports of 124 dead and 320 missing. Most of Iloilo’s 180 barangays (village) were under water and in some areas, only the roof of the houses are above the floodwater. The worst hit cities are in the provinces of Iloilo and Capiz with respective capital cities of Iloilo and Roxas being the hardest hit. World famous Boracay Beach was also affected by the typhoon.

Panay Electric (PECO) lost its powerplant in Dingle town which resulted in total blackout. Cell Sites were blown down and hampered coordination of rescue efforts. Cell phone users found their batteries dead and no way of recharging them. Landline phones of PLDT and Globe also were dead. The rest of the four-province island, namely Aklan and Antique remained disconnected due to power outage, road were washed out and destroyed bridges isolated many areas.

But the hardest hit was the metropolitan area of Iloilo City as well as the neighboring cities of Sara, Maasin, Cabatuan, Pavia, Sta. Barbara, and Barotac Viejo.

Last night, we caught up with President Elect Eduardo ‘Butch’ Zaragoza (top photo) here in Southern California who was busy coordinating monetary aid on the phone while his fax machine was working doubletime. He is the newly elected President of the Ilonggo Association of Southern California (Inducted May 17). They have sent close to P.5 million with the assistance of Mr. Roger Florete who rushed the aid to Iloilo city to buy food and water.

Amidst report of panic buying, people fighting over food and water, and the physical and emotional strain of a mass-casualty event of this magnitude, the best community spirit still breaks forth. Ilonggo President Zarazosa calmly instructed his Association members that the priority now is food and water. The monetary aid was entrusted to a popular public service radio station, Aksyon Radyo Bombo, in Iloilo City.

When we left Mr. Zaragoza, his wife Erlyn was busy coordinating medical mission trip as soon as possible to Iloilo, anticipating the need after the floodwaters subside.

If you want to send in your donation or to inquire on how you can help, please contact Mr. Eduardo ‘Butch’ Zaragoza at (818) 831-4158. Now is the time. Iloilo needs you.

Amidst the confusion, the fear, and the devastation, there is the will to survive, the will to help, and the will to rebuild. After all, these are the greatest strength of all.

Article by Jay Fermin (
Top photo by Jerry Ubalde (Frontliners Media Group)
Storm Tracking screenshot courtesy of Japan Meterological Agency JMA