After Typhoon Haiyan, LIers with ties to Philippines worry, wait

Members of the Filipino community gather together for Members of the Filipino community gather together for a prayer service for those effected by Typhoon Haiyan. (Nov. 10, 2013) Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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As Typhoon Haiyan continued toward Vietnam after devastating the Philippines over the weekend, Long Islanders with local ties to the Asian country gathered Sunday to pray, seek solace and plan ways to help the island nation.

Brookhaven resident Sue Japson went to a meeting of the Tanglaw Filipino-American Society of Long Island in Patchogue to talk about how to aid those affected.

She and her husband, Jaffy, have not heard from his family in Tacloban City on the hard-hit island of Leyte.

"It's gut-wrenching," said Japson, 55, a registered nurse. "My husband's brother and two sisters are there. We cannot locate them. They are not on the list of survivors so far."

Also missing are the three siblings' nieces, nephews and grandchildren -- about 15 family members unaccounted for, Japson said. Her husband's brother, Rudy Japson, lives in Cebu, but visited his two sisters in Tacloban to make sure their families had everything they needed before the storm. He may have never safely left Tacloban.

"We don't know if they're just injured, if they just don't have their cellphones," said Japson, who was born in Manila and moved to the United States in 1988. "I don't think they would not call us. We always communicate and they would know we're worried sick."

The Tanglaw group, which estimates more than 14,500 Filipino-Americans live on Long Island, traded ideas on how to use Facebook and the crowdfunding site indiegogo to appeal for money, and where to spread the word. They decided cash donations would be best, but that devastated Filipinos also needed the canned goods, gently used clothes and blankets and medical supplies.

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Meanwhile, Filipino-Americans in Long Island Inc., or FAMILI, turned their scheduled monthly meeting into an emergency Mass, presided over by retired Rev. James Dineros, 86, who moved to the United States from Eastern Samar in the Philippines in 1972.

"We remember them and pray for them that they may be able to survive," Dineros said to about 20 people gathered at the Holbrook home of Fred and Zita Pinero.

For the victims -- some estimates say 10,000 dead -- the group wished for eternal rest.

Dineros and his sister, Simplicia Dineros, also have been unable to reach distant relatives. They called a priest in Manila to see if he could contact anyone.

"There is no communication," Simplicia Dineros said. "The roads are unpassable, the people are starving and they cannot get to the places."

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"The airport in Tacloban is practically underwater," her brother added.

Renato Gega, chairman of FAMILI, said the group would fundraise to support relief efforts. "We hope we have the strength to help them and offer them what we can and keep on praying," he said.

Jaffy Japson, 64, who works at the St. James post office, Sunday traveled on his birthday to Los Angeles to be with two of his sisters. They have been calling family members to figure out a way to check on their family in Tacloban, Sue Japson said. They have discussed taking a boat there, flying a plane there and asking the military to check on the family home there, she said.

For many, the devastation is unthinkable. "It just got stronger and stronger," Tanglaw president Bob Zarate said. "When they told us there's a typhoon, I thought, 'We're used to it. There's always typhoons.' But this is a super-super typhoon."

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