Canadian Filipino communities still "devastated" by tropical storm Sendong
By Aaron Epp | Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Tropical storm Sendong(Washi). Photo courtesy NASA.
WINNIPEG, MBWinnipeg's Filipino community is rallying together to raise money for aid work in the Philippines after a severe tropical storm hit the southern island of Mindanao, flooding it a week before Christmas.
Tropical storm Washi, known locally as Sendong, inundated coastal areas in the early hours of December 17. More than 1,250 people were killed, 8,000 families were displaced and at least 170 people are being treated for leptospirosis, a bacterial infection.
Fred Sebastian came to Canada from the Philippines in 1988 and is the senior pastor at Church of the Living Hope on Enniskillen Avenue. He says that when he first heard a storm was approaching the Southern Philippines, he didn't think much of it, because the area is not typically affected by such severe storms.
"Then we looked at the news and realized it was a really devastating typhoon," Sebastian says. "We thought, every time there's a calamity in the Philippines, our church will always send money and help."
During a Christmas Day service, Sebastian asked his congregation, many of whom are Filipino, to contribute to a special donation fund. They gave $2,222, which the church's board decided to match. The money has been sent to the Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches of the Philippines to help with aid work.
One member of the church, Gilbert Prado, has friends who died because of the storm. Prado moved to Winnipeg from Cagayan de Oro with his wife and three children in 2004.
"It was the first time a typhoon got that strong [in Cagayan de Oro]," Prado says, adding that a church he helped build in the city was also destroyed. "This time, [the people] have nothingthe basic things were gone. It's so terrible."
Like Church of the Living Hope, members at the Filipino Evangelical Church on Spruce Street have also been raising money for relief efforts.
"We are all devastated by it," says Hope Pabon, a long-time member of the church. Before coming to Canada, she lived in Dumaguete City, which was affected by the storm in December. "We have a new member here whose mother almost died because of the typhoon, so it's pretty close to us."
William Mercado, the member whose mother, sisters and niece were displaced by the flooding, says he is thankful his family is safe.
"Thank God there were rescue workers there from the government," says Mercado, who moved to Winnipeg this past June. "I'm very happy that we [Filipino Evangelical Church] can afford to send them money."
Within days of the typhoon happening, Mennonite Church Canada, also based in Winnipeg, approved an immediate above budget response to the situation.
The organization has two workers, Dann and Joji Pantoja, who live and work in Mindanao with Peacebuilders Community. The Pantojas are safe, but in an email they sent appealing for help on December 19, they described the situation as gloomy.
"Peacebuilders Community is currently organizing and mobilizing our brothers and sisters to help," Joji wrote. "It is a heartbreaking reality."